Only a Six Foot Table

It’s only a six foot table, isn’t it? It might have a bit of extra space round about it, but it’s still just a table. Why is it, then, that I spend such an inordinate amount of time agonising over how to fill it?

Yes, fair season has started for me., and with it come all the questions – Have I made enough stock? What should I take? How will I set it out? Which display props will I use? Do I have enough packaging/ business cards/ printed labels? All these questions start a good few weeks before a fair when I still have the illusion of having plenty of time to get organised.

At this point, I have a comforting mental image of a neat row of boxes, all packed with appropriate amounts of the right products, all smartly labelled and priced. My display props are all stacked ready to go, new batteries inserted, table covers clean and ironed, banner fixings securely attached. My stock inventory on its clipboard (I don’t even have a clipboard!) sits beside my pre-fair to do list, which is all smugly ticked off. Everything needed for the 2/3/4 days of the fair is already stowed away in the caravan. The car is fuelled up and ready to be packed. I am calm and smiling.

One day this will really be what happens, at least that’s what I keep telling myself. Reality is a little different.

As the fair gets closer, I invariably decide three things:

1. I need to make lots more of pretty much everything.

2. I really, really need to introduce a new product, which needs packaging I will now have to pay extra to have delivered in time.

3. This is a great time to work on that big project which I am bound to have time to I finish so I can take it with me.

This is despite the fact that back in January I took time to plan my year and what I would need for each event, allowing time for new developments. After all, that was January. What did I know then?

And so begins the three week frenzy where, contrary to the laws of physics, time really does speed up and my working day lengthens to try to compensate.

How many scarves/ brooches/ cushions / collars/ necklaces can I felt in a week? Can I finish that dress/ jacket/ hat? Surely I can squeeze in time for just one more felted fleece?

Have I made enough – or too much? Will I be bringing it all back? Have I too much of this and not enough of that? How will I display it all? Should I display it all? Will I use that six foot table or construct something freestanding? Do I need lights? Do I have enough lights? Where did we put the key for the clothes rail last time? Are the fairy lights detangled?

This is the start of at least ten sketch diagrams of possible display sets, one of which might even feature in the final set up.

The week leading up to the fair is a blur of last minute making, packaging, publicising, social media, coffee, late nights and mild panic! An afternoon will surely be enough time to label and price my stock, won’t it? I always convince myself it will, so am regularly surprised to find myself still tackling this job at midnight.

Departure day arrives and we’re off to the fair. Gertie, the caravan, is hitched up, Dog Mabel is in the car – somewhere – and Mr. Proggy and Tweed, my trusty roadie, is at the wheel. Me? I’m still worrying. Do I have enough change? Will my card machine still work? Did I pack my card machine? I’m still mentally ticking off ‘Items I Need’. These are the same items I always need and will be packed in the car, just as they were the twenty times I checked before we set off.

Why, then, do I always have that ‘I’ve forgotten something’ feeling? Could it be because once, just once, I arrived at a fair to find all my table covers still at home? It wasn’t a disaster; Mr. Proggy and Tweed drove back for them, but I’m always convinced something like this will happen again. It never has. I should stop worrying. If I don’t worry, of course, it’s bound to happen! I can’t relax, just in case.

Once at the fair I’ll set up. Then I’ll change things. Then I’ll change them again. Then I’ll run out of time and have to keep surreptitiously moving things one at a time throughout the day until closing time. Then I’ll change it all before the next day, when – well, you know how it goes by now. My longest fair this year is four days. That’s a lot of changing around. Maybe I’ll finally find a set up that I am content with.

So why do I keep doing fairs? Well, I really enjoy it once I’m there. I love meeting up with other artists and makers. We’re a diverse and friendly bunch; but that’s another whole blog post!

Fairs are a great opportunity to get feedback on my work too. Chatting to my customers about my designs and how they are made, about the wonderfulness of wool and the magic of felting, is a genuine pleasure for me. It makes all the pre-fair angst worthwhile when someone tries on one of my designs, looks great in it and goes away happy and smiling with something I have made.

Maybe this year that might be you? So, if you see me beside that six foot table, do come and say hello; and if I look relaxed and well organised, please don’t tell anyone it wasn’t always that way! It can be our little secret.

Proggy and Tweed will be at

22 – 25 June Royal Highland Show, Ingliston, Edinburgh

30 June – 2 July Scottish Game Fair, Scone Palace, Perthshire

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All photographs copyright Kim MacGillivray and Heidi Burton Photography 

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