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Market makers: Ipswich craft promoters, I Make Fun Stuff!

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Market makers: Ipswich craft promoters, I Make Fun Stuff!

The team behind I Make Fun Stuff, Ipswich’s cool alternative to the traditional craft fair, give us the lowdown on life as entrepreneurs, where to get inspiration and how to find your own style as a creative.

It’s been five years since I Make Fun Stuff was established. How would you describe the journey of taking the business from scratch to success?
To be honest it’s been a very exciting five years. We started small, to test the water, and held a little market of just 10 stalls in the Town Hall’s Gallery 1 space. We felt that went really well and the stallholders gave very positive feedback, so we held a slightly bigger one in the Council Chambers four months later. It was shortly after that when our friend, Cathy (owner of Love One and now part of the IMFS team), asked if we would consider holding a market on St Peter’s Street to help promote the independent shops and businesses of the Saints area of town. Luckily we were able to team up with Ip-art who helped us book pop-up canopies, get the road closed and promoted the event and it’s all grown from there, really.

The cost of holding the street markets has gone up considerably over the years, which is why we moved back inside; there are less overheads for the indoor events, so the pitches can be cheaper. This year we are holding six events for the first time – four indoor markets in the Corn Exchange and two markets on St Peters Street, as well as opening a pop-up shop in Tower Ramparts. So, we really are busy!

It’s been a lot of hard work but it has definitely been rewarding. We have seen some stallholders grow considerably over that time and we like to think we played a small part in that. It has also benefited St Peters Street too, and made people more aware of the shops there.

I_Make_Fun_Stuff_Love_One

I Make Fun Stuff is quite a quirky name. How did you come up with it?
It wasn’t much of a process really; Jess came up with it pretty quickly. We’d talked about holding the markets for quite a while so when we finally decided to give it a go we thought about the kind of stallholders we’d be looking for. ‘People who make fun stuff’ was what we thought of, so it came from there really. Just the people we are looking for!

How do you cope with juggling careers and running this business alongside?
It doesn’t really feel much of a juggling act, really, because we love doing it. Obviously there are parts that are less fun, but our roles seem to be pretty clearly defined – though we’ve never actually written that out formally! Jess basically looks after the stallholders, corresponds with them and organises the administrative side. Chris does all the graphic design work along with the website and social media, and Cathy does the liaising with local businesses, companies and council representatives, and she also often finds stallholders, thanks to her fabulous shop. We have regular meetings so we all have a say on a lot of the decisions that are made, and luckily we are all good friends so we trust each other to make a lot of decisions singlehandedly.

Are there any significant artists or crafters that regularly take up a stall at your craft fairs?
I would say that all our stallholders are significant, that’s why we choose them! However, we must mention some particular people for their unending support. Firstly, our good friend Chris Mason who trades as Bulldog Vintage and sells lamps made from vintage fire extinguishers and film projectors amongst many other things!

Danielle Hopkinson, who has a stained glass studio on Stoke Street makes beautiful contemporary pieces and has always supported what we do.

We also have some exciting young talent who join us who we must talk about because encouraging young artists to sell their work is so important to us. TrulyBoo is an incredible illustrator who specialises in drawings of cats, horses, deer and pretty girls. You can buy original prints and drawings, handmade brooches and postcards from her. Katrine Macklin is super cool. She prints and illustrates cards, notebooks, t-shirts, tote bags, pin badges and original artwork with kooky drawings of birds, cats, octopuses and other patterns. And Shedquarters joined us for the first time at our April market and sold huge A1 screen prints of photographs, as well as handmade and printed bags and hand-stitched notebooks.

What kind of art or crafts can we expect to see when browsing the stalls at one of your fairs?
We like to think of ourselves as the alternative to the usual craft fairs. We started holding markets because Jess was making her work and it didn’t sell at typical craft fairs – the customers just didn’t seem to get it and it didn’t fit in with traditional crafts. That’s the formula we now run with. So, for example, when we choose our stallholders we pick people who make work we have never seen before, that’s unique and stands out. We have stallholders who make contemporary handmade silver jewellery next to illustrators who make zines, textiles designers who hand dye, print and make accessories and vintage clothes and jewellery too!

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‘The seaside’ is often a prominent theme for artists in Suffolk. What else would you say that our county has to offer in terms of inspiration?
Well, all three of us are big fans of the county we live in, and Ipswich too. That’s one of the reasons we started holding the markets in the first place. We would say that a lot of our own inspiration and that of our stallholders comes from town/city life. Obviously some of the makers/artists have studied in places other than here and spent a lot of time in cities, so we think that would have an obvious influence on their work. So many of our local towns and villages have interesting architecture and unique buildings and shops too. There are some great artist walks happening in Ipswich on which you can explore local history, sculptures and architecture.

What advice would you give to budding local artists who might be unsure of where to start with selling their art?
Our best advice would be to be original. Gather as much inspiration as you can and then find your own style and pay attention to detail. Don’t be afraid to explore how other people make their work. But make sure, in the end, that it’s your own.

Then, road test your work at one of our markets – the Town Hall events are a really cost effective way of getting feedback and refining your selling skills! You may have a great idea but you need to be able to sell it or convince someone else to sell it! We’re always happy to offer feedback to people on their products and give advice about selling.

I Make Fun Stuff is opening up a shop in Ipswich town centre this year. Watch out for our coverage of the event – coming soon!

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