I had imagined that, by now, the Pannier Market Group would be up and running and that I would be taking part in regular micro-markets around the Island. Due to organizational difficulties, this hasn’t happened and – even if the few proposed events had gone ahead, the venues (outside farm shops) would not have worked for me.
With my ambition of setting up a ‘Tao of Scrumble’ stall slipping away, I became discouraged and despondent, railing at cruel fate for blocking my way. The Artist was unsurprised (been there, experienced that) and – on his advice – I decided to take a gap year from pursuing my dream to learn the art of Poi, practice my guitar playing and tend the garden. Scrumbling was relegated to hobby status and I focused on creating brightly coloured rugs and cushion covers for our home, not for sale.
Then my very good friend – illustrator and childrens writer, Jules Mariner – put me in contact with a lovely lady, who was looking for someone to crochet a christening shawl. Despite my initial reservations, I agreed to give it a go and – much to my surprise – I’m finding it a joy to work on.
Jules also invited me to take part in a craft exhibition at the Botanical Gardens in Ventnor, this past weekend. Although I hadn’t produced much ‘stock’, I gathered together as much as I could and – with some of The Artist’s work to fill the gap – went along, just for the experience. I was overjoyed to discover that another artist, Pat Clarke – whose fantasy pictures I collect – was also attending. In the past she has been very supportive of Martin’s work but – for one reason or another – we haven’t met up for at least three years.
Although a stiff breeze cooled the outside temperature, the rows of directional spotlights, combined with bright sunshine streaming in through the windows, made the room we were in hot and stuffy as the day wore on. Initially I was nervous and on edge, trying to determine the perfect balance between rudely ignoring onlookers and overwhelming them with too much information. But, as I fielded questions on technique and inspiration, repeating the same answers time after time, I became more relaxed in my approach.
By Sunday evening my back ached; my neck and shoulders were rigid and my brain-cell had seized up. The lift was strictly out of bounds to us, so carting heavy baskets back up the long, steep stairs to the car was a feat of endurance that we could all have done without.
So, was it worth it? Looking back after a couple of days, I can definitely report that it was. This was an experience all right – and one that worked on many different levels. I learned a lot, made one or two useful contacts and had more than a few laughs.
Despite being ridiculously under-prepared (and with a little practical advice from my fellow exhibitors) I managed to cobble together what I thought was a reasonable presentation. Last night, looking at the photos I’d snapped on my phone, I could see that the effect I’d created with my hastily assembled display was much better than I could ever have imagined. It invited people to look and touch and comment on texture and the use of colour, artistic ability and design flair. If I ever achieve a physical outlet for my craftwork, this is the ambience I’m aiming for.
I enjoyed talking to potential customers (there’s a surprise!), contributing to the buzzing atmosphere, alongside other talented artists and makers. There was a steady influx of local people and visitors to the Island and both days passed quickly, with scarcely enough free time to dash to the loo or grab a gourmet snack from the café on the floor below.
I put my handiwork on show for the all the world to view and although the feedback I received was unanimously complimentary, that’s beside the point. I am proud of what I did – and of myself for breaking through the barriers of self-doubt and inhibition. Of the many lessons that I learned from being willing to take a risk, that’s the most important one for me.