This blog explores why you should visit the Craft Fairs in Tissington, Derbyshire. Written by Marianne, organiser of Tissington Craft Fairs.
The history of Craft Fairs in Tissington
Craft fairs have been a regular fixture in Tissington since the early 2000’s. In June 2019, the opportunity arose for me to take on the business and I jumped at the chance to hold markets in such a beautiful location. I’d been a regular stallholder at Tissington for several years by this point, which gave me a lot of first hand experience of the way different stalls were received by visitors. I was conscious that there can sometimes be negativity around small village hall markets so I was really keen to change that perspective and showcase the wide range of techniques and skills of today’s modern makers.
It was a very conscious decision to keep the more traditional name of craft fair. I had noticed that newer and usually larger events were now becoming Artisan/Makers Markets etc, in part to differentiate themselves from craft fairs and bypass any negative connotations. As we only have 11 stalls at each Craft Fair, I didn’t want to exaggerate the size of our event. I also felt we shouldn’t have to change our name to prove our worth and I’m very proud of organising a traditional craft fair, so wasn’t afraid to face the critics!
Craft Fairs during Covid
Our first six months in 2019 set the scene for my overall vision for our craft fairs, but as I had a mix of my own bookings and ones from the previous organiser which I had to honour, I was looking forward to spring 2020 when I could fully begin to put my own stamp on the event. Unfortunately, as we all know, that wouldn’t happen and Covid really hit us hard. When you’re already starting with only 11 stalls in a fairly small space, there really isn’t any wiggle room for social distancing!
Lockdown was spent refunding a full calendar of stallholders and due to all the continued uncertainties and changing guidance as we went through 2021, we really couldn’t afford for the same thing to happen again so in the end we decided to start from scratch in 2022. This has made me all the more determined to make our markets a success!
Our favourite markets
Without a doubt, my favourite markets are the ones we hold during the annual Tissington Well Dressing week. Tissington is the first Derbyshire village to dress its wells each year and still uses the traditional method of soaking the boards in the village pond before applying clay for all of the petals and natural materials to be pressed into, in order to create the finished image. The same boards are used each year and it’s fascinating to see the different themes. Each well takes a whole team of people and 4 full days to complete so from a creative point of view, I have a deep appreciation of the amount of work this entails. I also love the fact that Tissington still has its six original wells, which still function and although beautiful to see at any time, take on a real significance during Well Dressing week as you realise how vital they were to previous generations.
During the Well Dressing week, the village has a real holiday vibe and it’s exciting to see the number of coaches that bring visitors to see the wells from all across the UK. The craft fairs gain a whole new level of interest and a different set of customers from much further afield who may not have discovered our makers otherwise. It’s heartwarming to see a lot of regular customers who travel to visit the Well Dressings year after year and will come back specifically to find your stall! Of course, the Well Dressings are equally popular with local visitors and require one of the fields at the far end of the village to be used to accommodate the number of cars. All of the funds raised from the car and coach parking charges are donated to a number of local charities and organisations.
What makes the Tissington Craft Fairs so special?
At our markets we only have handmade/individually designed products, so there’s no food or MLM stalls and no imported giftware or vintage items. Also, despite being indoors, we are dog friendly. The Tissington Trail and Peak District are nearby, so there’s plenty around to make a great day out!
Curating our market is really important to me as I want customers to spot something new each time they visit. Each market day is different with some makers trading on single days and others joining us for the full weekend. The makers also vary from event to event, so you may see a maker in April who isn’t back again until October, whilst there are others who attend more regularly. However, if they are Pedddle members you can easily find them again an event!
The atmosphere of our market is pretty unique and I want to create a happy and inviting place for visitors. It’s in a much more intimate setting than you may be used to but it allows customers to take their time to chat and learn about the maker’s inspiration behind their products. Our stallholders always tell us about the lovely conversations they’ve had with visitors and it’s clear to see just how much it means to them. It’s a fantastic feeling when people appreciate the time and skill you’ve put into creating something and want to know more.
Why Tissington is great for stallholders
Many of our makers have turned their passion into a thriving small business, which is something I try to emphasise to customers as much as I can. I also like to include less experienced traders whose products show a high standard of workmanship and longevity, because I understand that we all have to start somewhere in order to gain experience. Above all, I want our markets to have a reputation for high quality products and attract customers who support our ethos.
We really want our stallholders to feel at home, so we’re happy to provide free tea and coffee for them to enjoy throughout the day. It’s important to me that each stall offers a true representation of the maker’s product range so we offer generous 8ft and 9ft stall spaces as standard and make sure there is a clear gap for each stallholder to easily get in/out so they don’t feel trapped behind their stall.
I want to create the type of market that I’d enjoy attending as a stallholder. I think because I’ve sat on their side of the table, I’ve already thought about the finer practical details that can sometimes cause anxiety when attending a brand new venue.
I always stay at the venue on market days so that I’m on hand to help with any queries and also because I enjoy chatting to the stallholders and visitors throughout the day. It’s an occupational hazard that I usually can’t resist making a few purchases myself!
It’s also a very welcoming atmosphere for stallholders and I put a lot of thought into the spot where each stall is positioned within the room as well as being mindful to minimise duplication of similar product types on each day, which means there’s never any feeling of competition amongst stallholders. They are all very supportive of each other and value feedback from fellow makers. It’s particularly lovely to see the stallholders chatting and often buying from one another.
I’ve had a few stallholders recently who have said they don’t usually do markets in the summer because people are away on holiday, but ours are in the heart of the Peak District so are popular with holidaymakers and daytrippers visiting the area. There’s plenty to do nearby too, with the Tissington Trail and Peak District on our doorstep!
Click here to see when the next Tissington Craft Fair is taking place.