On Friday a friend and I went to the Handmade Fair at Hampton Court. We kicked ourselves when we missed out on it last year so my friend booked tickets for my birthday back in January. It was definitely worth the wait!
We were up at ridiculous o’clock to catch the first train to London and arrived at Hampton Court a whole hour before the fair opened! However this proved to be quite a good move as we were there at the front to see the fabulous Kirstie Allsopp arrive on a golf buggy decorated with fake flowers and bunting to open the fair. (J says it looks like I was stalking her from behind a bush in this photo, but I promise I wasn’t!)
The fair ground was predictably decorated with lovely kitsch handmade details such as giant paper poms, metres upon metres of bunting and pretty flowers in jam jars on the picnic benches. Even the food vendors had a very vintage feel, with airstream campers and lindybop singers.
The ‘Full Experience’ ticket option allowed you to book for 3 sessions throughout the day: a Grand Make, Skills Workshop and a session in the Super Theatre. Our first booked session was the Mollie Makes Mash Up with Deadly Knitshade and Momtaz Begum-Hossain. They were given the challenge of creating a decorated polystyrene wreath in 45 minutes and each chose very different styles, from sparkly glitter-tastic peacock to knitted alien! It was an entertaining session and the two competitors were fun to listen to, although I found the craft involved a bit basic (glitter glue, decoupage and stuck on bits of felt?!).
We were a little disappointed to miss out on a skills workshop led by the queen of chalk paint Annie Sloan, but we had a good mooch in her tent/shop and were tempted into splurging on handy project packs containing 2 small pots of paint, 2 types of wax and a brush. (I’m excited about transforming a shelving unit in my little craft room when I get a spare couple of hours.) We even bumped into the lady herself and loved that even her boots were chalk painted!
By far the most refreshing aspect of the fair, and the thing that sets it apart from other large craft fairs I’ve been to, was that the 2 large shopping marquees were full of gorgeous and unique handmade items from small businesses. There was little repetition, a nice mix of exhibitors and a few famous faces thrown in for good measure (apologies to Tilly and the Buttons for kind of stalking her!). Needless to say we spent far too much on fabric, tapestry kits and haberdashery. The Liberty fabric in this photo was a bargain £15 per metre! Another lovely aspect of the day was the friendliness of fellow creatives. I had a lovely chat with fellow crocheter Charlotte Amy Design, and got some good tips on possibly exhibiting at future Handmade Fairs from the lovely ladies of Little Tins of Loveliness, all while upping our sugar levels on Oatopia‘s awesome almond bakewell flapjack.
The Grand Make session we took part in was led by gift-wrapping guru Jane Means, who showed us how to make a rose decoration from a length of ric rac in a very speedy 25 minutes. To be honest, I found this session quite disappointing as it was very basic and felt rushed. At least I came away with a pretty flower in my hair!
We had booked for a felt flower workshop at the end of the day but were offered last minute free tickets to a Q&A with Kirstie and Emma Bridgewater – how could we resist?! Their very candid conversation was refreshing and inspirational, touching on business, childcare and, of course, their favourite pottery. When asked by an audience member how she juggled work and family, Emma said what most of us working mums are thinking: you can’t do it all! You have to accept the dirt and mess, and most of all look after yourself as stress can lead to illness (Emma has rheumatoid arthritis). Most of all, we all want to create: we just have to find the right medium for us and then we don’t want to stop! I will definitely be paying a visit to Emma’s factory in Stoke soon.
It was a long day, but totally worth the early start and the crazy journey (and we even avoided the rain!). There’s going to be another Handmade Fair in Manchester before Christmas so we might give that one a go in 2016!