Product Photography is not so easy

Whilst there are many people who love photography and take it rather seriously, when I was younger I was more a “snap” person, taking photos to have memories of places visited and people seen with a cheap camera. To own a camera that took good quality pictures was definitely an investment when I was young and developing photos an expensive process. Nowadays nearly everyone has a much better camera than back then in their mobile phone and so sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and Imgur are very popular for sharing photos.

canon_powershot_a2600_silver

Starting up the Didi Lou Crafts business I suddenly realised I needed to get, at a bare minimum, reasonable at photography in order to display the Didi Lou Crafts products online. I looked for short courses locally and only found photography courses for landscapes or portraits, not for objects. An untapped market methinks, although I am not the person to offer it.

lightbox

I’m finding my photography is slowly improving, although I do still find some objects challenging. I tend to do a batch of photos and then check them on the computer and go back and take any extras necessary. Having a proper tripod has helped greatly to keep the camera still. I now use a light cube with white lights. The late afternoon sun in the front bedroom seems to be the best for product photos. I’ve tried the kitchen too, under the fluoro lights, but that isn’t as good. I still take some “snaps” on my mobile phone of places and people, and when I have a new item to launch at a craft fair I will often just take one or two photos before the fair and then take a full set later, but for products it is much more involved now.

apple preserve jar_tn

What I find particularly hard is photographing glass and china, because the light shines off it. I’ve found closing the curtains is best for painted glass and china, but sandblasted glass is even harder and a coloured background is necessary. I uess you could say I am still working on improving my technique for glass and china.

pink flower mug 4_tn

I do make use of photo editing software to crop and resize photos. I will sometimes also rotate a photo slightly if necessary. Once in a while I find I need to brighten up a photo, but it is not something I have to do regularly. I have started cleaning up the background on one photo for my “primary” image on Etsy and I think it has made a difference for my sales. All I do is manually paint the whole background pure white using Paint.NET. You can see the difference with the boat below, it is exactly the same photo, just the background is changed in the second one.

boat card 1_tnboat card 1a_tn

This card and the mug and jar shown above are all available on the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy Shop here

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Risk Assessment for Craft Fairs (UK)

Risk Assessment

Be honest, you hadn’t even thought about risk assessment, had you? It really isn’t a big job once you know how. You probably need just two documents that you can then reuse for every fair.

What is risk assessment anyways?

It is a document that proves you have thought about the potential hazards and risks associated with an activity (in this case, the craft fair you are attending) and have done what you can to reduce those risks. You may need two documents, one for outside fairs where you provide your own gazebo and the other for indoor fairs. My understanding is that if you are attending a fair where the organisers provide the gazebo, the indoor fair document is valid as responsibility for the gazebo in those cases lies with the organisers.

So what does it look like?

Well there are lots of risk assessment templates available online. There are even examples to be found online. The government offer some templates and examples, but I found most to be not very useful for craft fairs. If you go looking for examples, it is best to try to find UK ones specific for craft fairs. In creating my own I did a lot of research, looking at schools and youth groups, outdoor activities and retail risk assessment documents as well as ones for crafting and craft fairs.

Didi Lou Crafts Risk Assessment

I did the risk assessment for Didi Lou Crafts to attend crafts fairs back in May last year and am happy to share a mock up of both documents here as another example:

OUTSIDE

Organisation/company: Your Business Name Description of activities: Craft Stall with gazebo at Fair/Market
Completed by: Your Name Date: DD/MM/YY Signature: Your Signature
Last reviewed by: Your Name Date: DD/MM/YY Signature: Your Signature
HAZARD OUTCOME PERSONS AT RISK MEASURES FURTHER ACTION LEVEL OF RISK PERSON RESPONSIBLE
Fire Burns, smoke inhalation Stallholder, general public No smoking allowed within the gazebo.
No flammable materials or electricity will be used in the stall area.
Organisers to provide general fire fighting equipment and marshals in the event of a fire on site.
Put up a no smoking sign in gazebo.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ fire safety procedures.
Low Your Name
Weather: high winds, heavy rain, thunderstorms Displays blowing over and hitting people Stallholder, general public Ensure gazebo is properly tied or weighted down and that any pegs and ropes are clearly visible. In extreme weather, displays should be packed away to prevent damage.
In high wind, double check ropes and weights.
Medium Your Name
Issues with gazebo Leaks Stallholder, general public If leaks develop, repair quickly. Have duct tape available for minor repairs Low Your Name
Issues with displays Tipping, blown or knocked over and hitting people Stallholder, general public Secure all display signs and furnishings well before setting up items for sale. Have extra cable ties, duct tape, etc to deal with minor problems. Medium Your Name
Slips, trips and falls Slips, trips and falls Stallholder, general public Avoid wires and cables that could be tripped over.
Keep areas tidy and store boxes under tables.
Take extra care in muddy situations.
Stallholder to ensure public cannot access rear of display tables.
Low Your Name
Tablecloths Trips, pulling off. Stallholder, general public Tablecloths will be positioned to not trail on ground and secured safely. None required. Low Your Name
Falling objects Bruising Stallholder, general public Ensure tables are stable on the ground before loading them with items. None required. Low Your Name
Breakable items Cuts from broken glass or pots Stallholder, general public Place breakable items away from the edges of the table.
Ensure table coverings are firmly attached to table.
Be prepared for cleaning up should an accident happen. Medium Your Name
Hazardous substances Inhalation Stallholder, general public No foreseen need of hazardous substances at this stage. None required. Low Your Name
Hazardous items Cuts and stabs General public Scissors, needles, etc, used for setting up and working in quiet times should be put away when not in use and kept away from the general public. None required. Low Your Name
Electrical Electric shock Stallholder, general public No foreseen need for electrical equipment at this stage. Lights at Christmas are battery operated. All electrical equipment to be PAT tested before use. Low Your Name
Manual handling Strains Stallholder Use trolley for moving heavy items.
Move items in manageable loads.
None required. Medium Your Name
Working in extreme weather Sunburn
Cold
Mud
Stallholder Stay under the gazebo.
Have sunblock and sunglasses.
Bring sufficient suitable clothing.
Bring sufficient suitable drinks.
None required. Low Your Name
Violence and threatening behaviour Threat Stallholder Keep calm.
Call for help.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures/staff. Low Your Name
Working alone Threat Stallholder Be aware of people around.
Keep money out of sight.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures. Low Your Name
Theft Threat Stallholder Keep a firm lookout on what is happening, especially if large groups are around. Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures. Low Your Name

INSIDE

Organisation/company: Your Business Name Description of activities: Craft Stall in Hall
Completed by: Your Name Date: DD/MM/YY Signature: Your Signature
Last reviewed by: Your Name Date: DD/MM/YY Signature: Your Signature
HAZARD OUTCOME PERSONS AT RISK MEASURES FURTHER ACTION LEVEL OF RISK PERSON RESPONSIBLE
Fire Burns, smoke inhalation Stallholder, general public No flammable materials or electricity will be used in the stall area.
Building owners to provide general fire fighting equipment. Event organisers to provide marshals in the event of a fire on site.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ fire safety procedures.
Stallholder to be aware of closest emergency exits.
Low Your Name
Issues with displays Tipping, knocked over and hitting people Stallholder, general public Secure all display signs and furnishings well before setting up items for sale. Have extra cable ties, duct tape, etc to deal with minor problems. Medium Your Name
Slips, trips and falls Slips, trips and falls Stallholder, general public Avoid wires and cables that could be tripped over.
Keep areas tidy and store boxes under tables.
Stallholder to ensure public cannot access rear of display tables. Low Your Name
Tablecloths Trips, pulling off. Stallholder, general public Tablecloths will be positioned to not trail on ground and secured safely None required. Low Your Name
Falling objects Bruising Stallholder, general public Ensure tables are stable on the ground before loading them with items. None required. Low Your Name
Breakable items Cuts from broken glass or pots Stallholder, general public Place breakable items away from the edges of the table.
Ensure table coverings are firmly attached to table.
Be prepared for cleaning up should an accident happen. Medium Your Name
Hazardous substances Inhalation Stallholder, general public No foreseen need of hazardous substances at this stage. None required. Low Your Name
Hazardous items Cuts and stabs General public Scissors, needles, etc, used for setting up and working in quiet times should be put away when not in use and kept away from the general public. None required. Low Your Name
Electrical Electric shock Stallholder, general public No foreseen need for electrical equipment at this stage. Lights at Christmas are battery operated. All electrical equipment to be PAT tested before use. Low Your Name
Manual handling Strains Stallholder Use trolley for moving heavy items.
Move items in manageable loads.
None required. Medium Your Name
Working in extreme weather Sunburn
Cold
Mud
Stallholder Stay under the gazebo.
Have sunblock and sunglasses.
Bring sufficient suitable clothing.
Bring sufficient suitable drinks.
None required. Low Your Name
Violence and threatening behaviour Threat Stallholder Keep calm.
Call for help.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures/staff. Low Your Name
Working alone Threat Stallholder Be aware of people around.
Keep money out of sight.
Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures. Low Your Name
Theft Threat Stallholder Keep a firm lookout on what is happening, especially if large groups are around. Stallholder to familiarise themselves with the organisers’ security procedures. Low Your Name

They are actually not so different, the weather issues and gazebo not included on the indoor one and the fire precautions now assigned to slightly different people.

gazebo

Now make your own risk assessment documents

Well you’ve read about them and seen the ones I use for Didi Lou Crafts, so now it is time for you to create your own. Hopefully you can now see they are not as scary as maybe you thought. It really is all about thinking of the possible dangers to you and to the public and doing what you can to reduce those dangers.

As I said above, I am very happy to share this so you can use this content for your own business, in other words you are free to copy and paste any and even all of these details in creating your own risk assessment documents for your small business. However, if you are using the details online, for example on your blog, I would prefer you to acknowledge Didi Lou Crafts as the source with a link to this post.

What do I do once I have a risk assessment document?

Keep the document safe. Check it from time to time to ensure it is still up to date. For example, if you start doing demonstrations at fairs you may need to add more sections. When I got new christmas lights, I added the small bit about them being battery operated. Print a copy of each version and add them to the portfolio you take to each craft fair, so if Trading Standards ever turn up you will have a copy to give them. Be sure to implement everything you have said in the risk assessment every time, so boxes stored away, breakable items displayed away from the front of the table, no smoking sign up in your gazebo, carrying boxes in manageable loads, checking fire exits, etc. You really should be asking the organisers about their fire and safety procedures each time too, something I admit I am lax about.

What if I organise craft fairs?

That is a whole different ball game, which I have not covered here. You are likely to need written fire and safety procedures, appointed fire and safety staff and, in some cases, parking attendants. Contact your local Trading Standards for advice.

Good luck with your craft fairs.

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Crafting Blitz Vacation

devoncraftsI have just returned from a full week at my favourite crafting hotel. My mother is on her bi-annual trip from Australia and we went to Devon together. We worked mostly on items for the store. I have come back with 4 engraved glass items, 4 painted glass items, 5 painted bisque Christmas decorations, 2 other painted bisque items, 2 Christmas cards, 3 other cards, 5 painted porcelain items and 2 silk painted items, which I will list on the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy store over the coming weeks.

bugmugsappteach

We also had fun, making a few craft items for our own personal enjoyment. We also spent time in the spa, which was nice. The photos here are just a sample of what we made for Didi Lou Crafts during the week and were “snaps” done on the camera on the phone. A proper photography session is definitely planned for some time this week. Some of the new items (like the male cards) will be added this week, others (such as the Christmas items) will not appear for a few months.

devoncardsxmasbisque

The good news is Christmas is still 229 days away, but UK Father’s Day is less than 6 weeks away. You can check the Father’s Day items in stock by going directly to the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy store Father’s Day Section here.

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A week away crafting

manorhouse

I went to my favourite crafting hotel, The Manor House and Ashbury Hotels, a few weeks ago for 4 nights. In that time I painted 5 bisqueware items, 3 silk cards and glass engraved 6 new items, all for Didi Lou Crafts to sell. I have already listed 7 of these items on Etsy and have 7 more to list over the coming weeks.

They are 3 star hotels, so don’t expect the greatest decor, but it is the activities that make the place, with their sports, crafts and spa treatments. They offer 7 18 hole golf courses, over 60 sport and fitness activities a week, a large variety of other sports facilities, 17 different crafts where you only pay for the base materials, 2 hydro spas and over 20 health and beauty treatments at an extra cost. Fully catered and not expensive, these hotels are popular with families and groups too.

All the items below are now available at the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy shop

apple preserve jar_tnbutterfly moneybox_tncitrus preserve jar_tncampervan moneybox_tnracing car moneybox_tntoy car moneybox_tnowl trinket pot_tn

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Storage

red desk tidy_tnyellow heart drawers_tn

10 storage solutions for crafts:

  1. At christmas time, Twiglets, Cheeselets, Cheese Footballs and other savoury snacks come in a tall round container with a metal bottom, cardboard sides and plastic lid. Cover the outside with a thin layer of white paper mache. I store jewellery threads and findings in mine. These then sit on top of the radiator, which is never turned on, behind my desk, within easy reach.
  2. Old shoe boxes, particularly the one piece style (rather than box and lid style). I store paints in these. I have one for silk paints, one for glass paints and one for acrylic paints.
  3. Larger amounts of Haribo sweets can be bought from Amazon and come in a large plastic box. I store washi tape in one and use others to store the offcuts of paper from card making.
  4. I have a flat screw and nail storage case, which I use for storing sequins.
  5. I use Really Useful Boxes for storing stock and take these to fairs. I have made covers for each of the 3 sizes which I can set up on my stall as safe stable shelves. I also use Really Useful Boxes to store items as they dry between each stage of work.
  6. I have a set of Really Useful drawers with packing items such as padded bags, tape, cardboard backed envelopes, etc in the garage.
  7. A multiholed pen holder made of papermache stores all the paintbrushes, pencils, glue, jewellery pliers, decoupage and normal scissors. A copy of this could be easily made using the centres of kitchen roll cut at different lengths and put upright into a small box, such as the bottom of a family size cereal pack.
  8. My sewing items are kept in the metal tins that come at Christmas time filled with biscuits.
  9. A Doctor Who rectangular metal pail from a past Easter gift holds plastic clothes pegs. Pegs are really useful for holding things together as glue dries or for hanging small decorations from while they are drying.
  10. I use a concertina file folder to store sticker sheets. I organise them by occassion and colour.

maroonbook pink shelves_tnIf you are looking for storage solutions for jewellery, pens and other items, why not take a look at the range Didi Lou Crafts produces at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts

 

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Metallics

The most popular craft that uses metal is jewellery making. Jewellery making is over subscribed in the area, so much so than often the local craft fairs state they will not take more jewellery makers. I happen to know that at least two people in the area who run multiple craft fairs during the year started running fairs because they were jewellery makers and struggled to find enough fairs to attend.

Didi Lou Crafts often uses metallic paints, stickers, glitter and other effects that sparkle or shine on items. Below are some examples, including decorated pots, wooden drawers, paper mache boxes and embossed and sticker cards.

metallicThe Christmas Angel Peg dolls sold really quickly at fairs, the silver ones first. I wanted to make more but couldn’t source the components again at such short notice, so perhaps I will make more next year.

doily angels_tnIf you head to the Didi Lou Crafts Etsy store you will find many of the items shown above still available to add that metallic shine or glitter to your day.

 

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Card Making

yellow tree card_tnteddy motorbike card_tn

I’ve been making cards for years. Homemade cards show special effort has been taken and my friends and family have really appreciated these cards, often framing them as little pictures for posterity. I have tried many different techniques, from stamping, embossing, cross stitch, glass painting, silk painting, tea bag folding, punching, decoupage, layering and aperature paper folding to quilling, string art and shaker, shaped and 3D cards.

pink cupcake card_tndaffodil glass painted card_tn

Didi Lou Crafts has a range of cards available and I try to ensure there are different styles and images to suit different ages and genders, although I admit there are more for females than males, just as there are more for adults than for children, but I will add more over time. I have been making Christmas cards over the last few weeks.

wisemen black card_tnrussian dolls silk card_tn

The Christmas cards are available at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts/Christmas and the other cards are available at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts/Cards

 

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Paper and Books

heart angel drawers_tnsquare rose card_tn

 

 

 

 

 

Paper is the traditional wedding anniversarysequin heart box_tn gift for the first or second anniversary, depending on which country one lives in. Whilst the modern world has tried to move away from the use of paper, with paperless offices and electronic mail, diaries and books, we still use a lot of paper and crafters are included in this. Card making can be a simple craft to start with and the range of papers and card available is amazing. Decoupage, decopatch, quilling, papermache, silhouettes, scrap booking, paper flowers, paper folding… all simple paper with a little embellishment. Book folding is a newer craft, one which looks interesting, but not something that Didi Lou Crafts will indulge in. Whilst I am all for upcycling, I am not sure I could bring myself to upcycle books, especially as I have a real love of reading, and much prefer the physicality of a book rather than some form of electronic reader.

barbie bag_tnMany of the items available at Didi Lou Crafts are paper based, from cards to the decorated boxes, some of which are papermache. Check out the cards at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts/Cards and the boxes at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts/Boxes on Etsy.

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Crafting for Kids

The summer holidays are a greatChildren_Playing_2 time to try some crafts with children, and they probably work out cheaper than a day at a fun park or going to the cinema. If you have the space, craft in the garden under some shade, or perhaps save the crafts for a rainy day when they are climbing the walls. Your mileage may vary on how much mess you can stand, so choose a craft you can tolerate. Obviously the younger the children are, the more they need supervising and the simpler the craft needs to be.

xmas-tree-clip-artHow about making all your Christmas cards early by having the children do painted hand prints for the youngest, Christmas trees, bells or balls can be painted or use ribbons, glitter and other embellishments to decorate pre drawn shapes. For the older children look for “fingerprint robins for christmas cards” in your favourite browser, e.g. Google, Bing, etc. Beading can offer age appropriate options, with younger children happy to make simpler bracelets with large holed pony beads, whereas your tweens and teens would probably enjoy making a zipper pull/mobile phone charm/key rings of a favourite movie or cartoon character from beads or even cross stitch. Teach your older children life skills they will need like sewing on buttons by making sock puppets for the younger children and then have them all put together a show for the family. Older children can be taught to knit or crochet. In fact, both are things you can ask their grandparents to teach them. For a community spirited project, as a group have them crochet a sleeping mat for the homeless from old plastic grocery bags. Look up “sleeping mats for the homeless”. You will even find videos on YouTube with instructions on how to do these.

Search through online craft pages with the tankchildren for many more ideas. Then look for the required materials on various sites. I find Amazon and Ebay reasonable, but sometimes good ideas at better prices can be found on sites such as The Works, The Range, Hobbycraft and Baker Ross. You may have difficulty finding ideas for older males, so look at model making and 3D jigsaws too, but don’t rule these out for the females either, space perception is a useful skill for all later in life.

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Upcycling

upcycle
/ˈʌpsʌɪk(ə)l/
verb
gerund or present participle: upcycling

reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.
“the opportunity to upcycle trash, or turn it into new products, was vast”

Upcycling is the process of changing something that would be considered useless by most into something more useful. I use recycling for the storage of craft items, so two old shoe boxes now hold the silk and acrylic paints, and I have papermached the outside of 3 old cardboard biscuit tubes to hold the glass paints, jewellery findings and jewellery wires and threads. Looking up at my shelves I also see that my two sewing boxes are actually old metal biscuit tins from Christmases past.

Creating some upcycled items for sale is certainly one aspiration of Didi Lou Crafts and there are a few items available on Etsy which already meet that desire. In time, I would like to do more, but it is finding the right ideas and having the right resources available, for example, there are some lovely planters made from old tyres, but I don’t have old tyres laying around to use, and I would like to upcycle some old drawers for sale as I have some nice ideas, but again I need to find those drawers at a reasonable price first.

fashion bag_tnfisherman card_tnembossed notelet set_tn

The examples I do have are the upcycled gift bags, made from the pages of catalogs, a few of the cards, made from an old writing set, and the set of notelets, which are new cards, but the paper and even the embossing powder are left over from my wedding stationery. You will find all these items at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/DidiLouCrafts. I’ve also reused the packing string from my weekly vegetable box on the back of some of the hanging items, so I have made a start, but I am sure there is more I can and will do in the future as I get the business more established.

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