one of my constant sources of wonderment is the products arts and design students or graduates decide to sell at school fairs and xmas markets. it seems little recycled cosmetics bags, quirky jewelry made of old toys or beads and felted wool are something that reoccur without leaving an imprint and not arousing a desire to buy. i am not alone – at least anu has lamented on the matter before. i mean how many cutesy little pouches does one need? (many, but let's not dwell on that, now shall we...) sometimes, if you're lucky, you might find a strangely shaped clump of glass or a tilted/distorted photo.
we've seen it all already and keep on seeing the same. it's not that artisanal fairs should not sell whatever comes out of the hands of people who are skilled at crafts. my curiosity is directed towards students of our colleges and university of design. the same trinkets are presented on their sales tables every xmas and these are supposed to be the foremost creative minds of our country. what gives?
i have entertained the idea that design students fear that their original ideas will be stolen by others – some sort of mass production espionage – if they present them at public fairs before they have the opportunity to produce and sell them. it would make sense, really. somehow. maybe.
i have been told that the students often have very little time to prepare for the fairs and shows and, therefore, they just quickly put together something to sell. sure, makes sense. kinda.
additionally i have heard the claim that people are not willing to spend money at these seasonal markets, but are rather on the lookout for something inexpensive. they consider buying student work "charity", and are willing to invest just enough to show that they are into new design. therefore, the students do not offer work they'd have to ask a decent price for. this also makes sense. sorta.
a vicious circle really, it seems these events provide nothing interesting to anyone involved – assuming you're not on the lookout of yet another toy brooch or recycled cotton pouch. if i've understood correctly there aren't many opportunities for self-promotion for design students. at least cheap ones and ones that reach the general (buying) public.
needless to say, there are competitions for which entering demands quite a bit and publicity is, even for the winner, modest. sending out portfolios to manufacturers is probably important later in studies and after graduation, but hardly grows the knowledgeability of the consumers. one is lucky if they make it on the pages of a respectable magazine; many careers are made by just the simple preference of a magazine editor.
therefore, ignoring opportunities like school fairs and sales baffles me. the short term benefits of selling a dozen clumps of glass or a few cosmetics bags seem irrelevant when there is a free opportunity to make an impact on random people you might never reach otherwise. what is a hundred euro for thirty pairs of button earrings, if someone sees and remembers the amazing piece of dress jewelry you designed and orders it for the red carpet somewhere and makes it to a magazine?
my modest example is here.
i visited sprouts young designers 2009 last spring at stockmann's. this particular fair was a collaboration of better known and already established young designers and newcomers. nonetheless, nothing there really struck me as entirely impossible to realize with just graduate students.
i remember screening the room and my eye focusing on a piece of metal on the wall. a clean-looking yet funky shoe rack called me and i recall thinking "one day i'll need one of those..." i grabbed the business card.
when we moved, i realized that we had the perfect spot and the need for a shoe solution just like the one i saw. i had lost the card in the process of moving and could not remember the name of the designer. after some serious googling, i found it. the item in question was designer martina carpelan's "shoe shelf." i contacted the vasa born, central saint martin's educated designer and a fortnight later fetched the shelves from a few blocks away.
i needed two to be placed on top of each other and here they are: the perfect hallway accessory. promptly filled, they are a streamlined way to present the best of the sneaker freak's collection.
i am not saying my personal purchase was much value to the designer, but feel brave enough to suggest that i am probably not alone in spotting items that leave an imprint strong enough to create a desire later when a need emerges. at a later time i might be willing to spend more on something i need rather than dishing it out right there at the fair. the benefit of showing something worthwhile may not be instant, but if you're planning on making a living in your chosen field, what's the rush really?
i, among many others, visit design fairs regularly, and if even half of the times i left with at least one designer or design worth remembering, there'd be a possibility of future transactions taking place. unfortunately, in the past years i cannot recall a single designer from the graduate sales or fairs of the university of art and design, and i truly consider it a shame.
if you are a student in the abovementioned fields, can you explain why it seems sales have very little original design on offer? if you're just an avid follower, have you bumped into anything memorable lately? any young designers who have made an impact on you?