This year was my first time visiting The Handmade Fair, and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last because I loved it!
Held over the middle weekend of September on the green opposite the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, The Handmade Fair is the brainchild of Kirstie Allsopp, and is a chance to meet and buy from small craft companies and independent designers and makers, as well as to learn from the experts and try out new crafts.
Mum and I headed up to London on a bright but cool Friday morning, and had a wonderful day wandering around the marquees of stands, watching demonstrations, chatting to exhibitors, sampling lots of yummy goodies in the artisan food tent, and enjoying the lovely atmosphere of a space filled with inspired and inspiring creative people.
In contrast to other events I've been to, The Handmade Fair showcases many more smaller and independent businesses, which I thought was fantastic - I talked to so many lovely people who are absolutely passionate about what they do, and make the most beautiful things in a whole raft of media.
One of my highlights was talking to Azra, who makes the most stunning paper flowers and foliage. She wasn't actually selling at the fair, but raising awareness for her Kickstarter campaign to help get her business off the ground. Judging by the quality of the display at her stand, I have no doubt that it will be a huge success, and I'm still thinking about her utterly gorgeous blooms - perfect for parties, just because, or the ultimate treasure-forever wedding bouquet.
It was also lovely to meet Kate of Grace & Flora, who I've followed on Instagram for some time, and have a chat about her experience at the fair. Kate's nature inspired jewellery is so beautiful, and so delicate - more delicate than I imagined based on photos alone - and I'm definitely adding one of her rainbow crystal necklaces to my Christmas list.
Of course I did some shopping while I was there - picking up a colour wheel of gorgeous yarns and a pattern to knit a shawl from The Loveliest Yarn Company (the yarn is by The Knitting Goddess), some stunning and bargain priced fabrics from The Millshop, gorgeous rainbow and multi-coloured design ceramic coasters from A Nouveau Creations, and a collapsible weaving loom from Hawthorn Handmade.
One of the big draws of The Handmade Fair is the huge variety of talks, demonstrations, and workshops on offer. One of the ticket options for visiting includes a Super Theatre session (a talk or Q&A with a visiting expert or Kirstie herself), a Grand Make (a half hour large group mini workshop), and a Skills Workshop (an hour session to learn the basics of a new craft). I decided not to go for this full experience for my first time as I wanted to be able to look round properly and get a feel for the event, however in the end I did book into one of the Grand Make sessions.
This was about 300 people in a large tent, sitting at rows of tables, being led through a quick technique. I went to a session on folk-style dot painting and created a miniature wreath design. I have to say, I really enjoyed it, and it was immensely satisfying to come away after half an hour with something quick, simple, but incredibly effective. And addictive too! Judging by the queue at the Folk It stand afterwards, I wasn't the only one buying the kits to keep experimenting at home! For someone who has often declared myself a non-painter, this is a really easy technique to get to grips with, and produces beautiful results, so I'm definitely going to be playing with this some more.
Obviously you can't walk around an event like this for most of the day without some sustenance, and there was plenty to choose from. We opted for freshly cooked savoury crepes, shared a portion of incredible triple-cooked chips, and followed up with a decadent triple chocolate brownie. We also meandered through the food market sampling various treats, including the intriguing, different, but actually quite pleasant Marmite flavoured sherbet from The Amazing Sherbet Company. Of course, if Marmite isn't your thing, they also had more traditional flavours too!
I had a thoroughly fantastic day, the weather was kind to us (for an outdoor based event), and everyone I met was full of enthusiasm and creative passion. I came away hugely inspired to try new things, and with some ideas to ponder for my own creative work and business going forward. My bank balance perhaps wasn't quite so happy with the results of the day, but I'm sure it'll recover!
I'm not sure if the dates for 2018 have been announced yet, but I would definitely recommend The Handmade Fair as a wonderful day out if you can make it next time.