Jane Archer – The origin story

Jane Archer is one of the quieter members of our group.

But don’t let that fool you. Beneath her calm exterior lies a super fast wit and a ready infectious smile that will have you grinning back before you even realise it. She is the first to admit that she’s not hugely comfortable with having the spotlight turned on her (something I can attest to when trying to take her picture – finding one when she’s not in the middle of telling me she hates having her picture taken was slightly challenging!)  Yet this initial reticence slowly melts away when I get her talking about her love of art.

I went to visit her in her temporary ‘home’ in St Gregory’s Church in Offchurch. She’s currently exhibiting her stunning work along with three other artists at the church, adding to hundreds of other local artists dotted around the county-wide event.  It is, of course Warwickshire Open Studios, and this wonderful celebration of local artistic talent is in its 14th year.

Walking in from the bright sunny day outside, I spot her at the top of the church surrounded by her gorgeous display of watercolours and life drawings.  And it is indeed gorgeous.  The range of colours, shapes and depth in her work can be seen from across the church, and one cannot help but be drawn to it.
“In my family, I was the youngest of three girls, and if you wanted something, you made it yourself.”  She goes on to explain how the whole family was creative; from her architect father to her mother who created all the embroidery for the local church, amongst many other accomplishments.

Jane took art A level, then went straight on to art college for four years.
“It was a broad course, but I ended up specialising in textile design. I thought for a long time that my medium would be pottery, but then found a love for printing and textiles”

These early years immersed in all forms of art stood her in good stead for the future, as next came a family and her painting became a more of a hobby as she concentrated on being a mum.  During this time, she worked for the family business which was in fashion retail.  Jane found a happy outlet creating fabulous window displays and organising fashion shows for the independent shop.
It was the early 90s when Jane moved into primary school teaching, and it wasn’t long before she was stretching her creative limbs devising and running amazing sculpture classes for the children.  She recalls spending hours on displaying the children’s work on the walls of the school, even finding these small tasks satisfying.

These days, she’s in full artist mode, as can be seen by her impressive collection of original watercolours, giclée prints, life drawings and greetings cards.  She even has a range of jewellery and in the festive season has a lovely range of ‘tipsy’ angels which go down very well with the locals!
I want to ask her about her process these days.  How does she work and where does she get her inspiration from – a question artists must get tired of answering, yet we as admirers, never tire of hearing their answers.

She’s at her happiest when she’s painting in her house in the south of France. “I put the radio on and sit at the dining room table and take advantage of the light.  It’s hard to explain just how good the light is” she smiles wryly.  She takes lots of photos of many varied aspects of daily life that inspires her, and is always looking to find the beauty in ordinary things.  She goes on to mention her favourite Georgia O’Keeffe quote:

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”

Jane then carefully tries to tell me that she doesn’t want to come across as a ‘floaty artist-type always talking about the beauty in a flower’, but that she does believe in really looking at our surroundings and capturing them for us all to enjoy.
Watercolour is her favourite medium.  “It’s a challenge.  It does unexpected things – random effects that you gradually learn to anticipate and play around with.”  Something which I think you can agree she is highly adept at.

Just one of Jane's stunning watercolours

Just one of Jane’s stunning watercolours

Yet watercolour isn’t where it stops. Jane also has a notable collection of life drawings to her name.
“It’s a passion of mine.  For me, it is art in its purest form – nothing compares to it.  The human form is so familiar and yet so complex, that for an artist, it provides a constant challenge.”

She attends a local life drawing group, and mentions how even now, she has to concentrate fully every time.

“It’s completely absorbing.  The first mark on the blank sheet is always the hardest.  And then that lucky moment when the marks you are making begin to flow and your two dimensional drawing starts to take life; it’s an immensely rewarding experience.  I can be feeling tired and stressed when I get there, and then there’s suddenly no room in my head for anything except for light and shade and form.”

An example of Jane Archer's life drawing.

An example of Jane Archer’s life drawing.

Jane mentions how she wouldn’t be brave enough to be selling her work today if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement she received from all of us in the first two years of the Christmas pop up shop (where the friendships we’ve taken through to Love Handmade were first formed).  I personally think she would, because she might have exploded in a big ball of multicoloured paint without being able to have that all-important outlet for her work, but she maintains we gave her the confidence.  This of course might have been something to do with us all oohing and ahhing over her work every day…

“I was terrified to start with. You feel as if you’re putting yourself on show – this is what I do, does anybody like it?”

We like it, Jane. In fact, we love it. I’ve started my Jane Archer collection with an original watercolour.  My mum (another of the cooperative) has two.  I’m already eyeing up my next piece, so I think we can safely assume that there’s one or two fans out there!

Warwickshire Open Studios runs until the 13th of July.  All of the details are on their website, and Jane will be back at our fairs again in September.

I’m off to really look at the flowers in my watercolour painting again. There may be some more appreciative oohing and ahhing going on!

Jane with some of her work in the church

Jane with some of her work in the church

One Special Piece Of Perfect.

A perfect description!

The wonderful Kate Creates.

Part of the beauty of our LHF craft cooperative is sharing our many combined years of experience. A couple of weeks ago, I received a message from a brand new crafty lady who was looking to hire a stall with us, and she was feeling a little bit down.  She’d done a craft fair in a different area, and hadn’t sold as much as she thought she might.

Well, I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing a version of my reply to her on our blog here.  I found it really interesting because she sounded like me, four years ago.

Here’s the gist of it:

So, you’ve had a great idea, you get cracking on it, produce it to a high standard, take it along to a fair, then wonder why people aren’t snapping your products up?

Yep, that was exactly how I felt when I first started.  It took a good few months to relax into it, choose venues more carefully (eg not doing school Christmas fetes unless you’re a tombola stall!) and try and get into your customer’s heads more.  But above all, it’s the realisation that although you love your products and can’t possibly think of any scenario where someone else wouldn’t, there will be many people out there who have differing views on design, finish and especially price!

As handmade craft stallholders, one of the things we constantly have to battle against is the misconception from the general public that because it’s handmade, it should be cheaper than anything they might buy from a ‘normal’ shop. This is very definitely not the case, yet they don’t see what goes on behind the scenes:  All the hours thinking carefully about colours, textures and design…..all the while fitting it all in between jobs, children, husbands, dogs and the odd bit of sleep!

So one of the main points I would make to you is don’t give up just yet. Think about when you walk into a shop. You might buy something, but leave 99.9% of the products there for someone else to buy. It’s the same for a craft fair.  Some people come in purely to browse, but then another might come in and give you a commission.

My mum comes with me to most of my events, and I constantly have to remind her that we can’t force sales on to people, however much we might wish to!  She still occasionally gets indignant and says things such as ‘well what’s wrong with these people, why are they rejecting us?’

But I’m more laid back.  If at the start I had gone into it thinking it was going to make me the next Alan Sugar, I certainly don’t think of it now!

Yesterday, one of the things I sold was a £25 necklace.  The time before that at a different craft fair, I hardly made any money at all.  So people do spend money, but in reality only a small percentage per number of visitors at each fair.  This is where as large as possible numbers for footfall comes into it.  We are a new venture (being only three months old) but we have had encouraging numbers through the door at all of our events so far. We have roughly 2-20 (ish) people visiting us at any one time, continually throughout the day.  I know this doesn’t sound like a lot, but I have been to some events where it has been horrendous with only 4 visitors the whole day, and two of those were the husbands!

People also respond to just the right amount of friendliness from the stall holder.  Pushy crafters scare the customers away, but conversely, sullen-looking ones always seem to have less interest too!  Now of course I’m not at all suggesting that you’re either of these types, having never met you, just simply that there’s as much of an art to being a stall holder and running a small business, as the art itself!

So there you have it – the first of probably many insights into the minds of the crafters we have with us at Love Handmade Fairs.  Of course this is just my opinion. But one who shares some of my views (and illustrates it in THE most beautiful way possible) is a lady called Kate, who has very graciously let me feature her beautiful work on this blog.  I think you’ll agree with her if you’re a creative person, and if you’re all of the lovely people out there who buy our creations, we hope you agree too!  I hope that when you’re next at a craft fair, you find your own ‘special piece of perfect’

Support independent sellers.  Support handmade!

Thanks Kate!  And thanks for reading,

Jenn, LHF


The origins of Love Handmade Fairs

Welcome to the Love Handmade Fairs blog!

Some of you may have stumbled on to here, others probably meant to be here all along.  Whichever category you fall into, welcome!  Many people have been asking us how we have come into being, so below is the story of our creation….

Well it all started when we all answered an advert two years ago to hire tables at an exciting new Christmas Pop Up Shop in Warwick town centre.  There were many different stall holders that year, and we had a ball.  We had such a good time that the organiser decided to repeat it for Christmas 2013 too.  There were 9 of us who had regular stalls and got on so well, that we thought it would be a cracking idea to carry it on through the whole year.  Love handmade fairs was established!  We are a fabulous team of creators, and each of us bring something different to the table….

From Nicci’s enviable skills on the computer working on all of our branding, to Jane’s beautiful artwork which forms the basis of those designs.  From Julie’s talent at keeping us all on track at meetings and her near-supernatural powers at remembering what was said, to Nicola’s experience of running the pop up shop for two years and the myriad challenges involved.  From Anita’s essential knowledge of what people want, how to get it to them, and her wonderful design style.  From Tricia’s unparalleled ability to network and market our brand, to Susan’s support and venue scouting skills (and her cupcakes!)  Then there’s me.  Well I like writing – almost as much as I like talking, so I do all the emailing and booking in of the stallholders!

We’re doing alternate months in Warwick and Leamington, in St Nicholas Church in Warwick, and Dale Street Church Hall in Leamington.  They’re great venues because they’re big, so we can fill the room with lots of lovely goodies for people to choose from.  Our fairs are generally the first Saturday of the month, but there are one or two exceptions, so it’s a good idea to check our Facebook page or the website which is coming soon.  There’s also a tea room serving scrummy handmade cakes, tea and coffee; so it’s a great place to come and put your feet up with a cup of tea before you look round at all of the tempting handmade items.

Yesterday, we had 19 different small businesses for everyone to browse through, from hand poured scented candles, to sparkly jewellery and gorgeous hand painted water colours.  We’ve got stuff for dog and cat lovers, fab wooden items for the home, and loads of other items too numerous and fantastic to mention all of them here!


There’s loads of opportunity to order bespoke items from each of us, so if you’re looking for a specific birthday present or the perfect gift for your mum/aunt/sister/gran/neighbour’s dog or even the postman, then we’re sure there will be something for everyone!

We think it’s really important to ‘shop local’, so as much as possible, all of our stallholders are from the Warwickshire area.  The quality is really high, so don’t just think it’s all plonking a sparkly crystal on a jam jar and shouting “ta da!”

We are aiming to have one stall per month run by a local charity; our first month was The Warwickshire Air Ambulance, as worthy a charity as it gets.  We feel that it’s an important chance to acknowledge the reality of all of these local charities.  They all need the awareness for their causes raised as much as possible.  So if you’re a local registered charity and would like the chance to run a FREE stall for the day, we’d love to hear from you!

We’ll have an ever changing selection of artisan goods each month too, so we really are hoping to build up a good customer base, where people feel it’s worth coming back to us every month.

So that’s it!  A short(ish!) informative(ish!) account of who we are and what we do.  Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and most importantly, in person at our fairs!



Jenn, Love Handmade Fairs