The Curse of the Craft Fair – An Open Letter to Organisers and Crafters

Making a living as a crafter is hard. Ask any crafter and they will tell you that.

The cost of materials only ever seems to go up, the price people are willing to pay for your work only ever seems to go down. The time it takes to make your work seems irrelevant to many people. Yes, it is definitely a hard way to make a living.

And that’s assuming everyone trying to do just that is playing on a level playing field. Unfortunately, on too many occasions, that’s not the case.

And that’s where the curse of the craft fair comes in. In an ideal world a craft fair would be the ideal place to show off your work and make sales. But increasingly, that’s not what a craft fair is; not somewhere to show off your handcrafted work and sell to people who appreciate both the quality and the time it took to make. These days, finding a good craft fair is hard. “Craft fair” has come to mean selling fair, where handcrafted goods make up a small proportion of the goods on sale. There will be lots of handmade things of course, but many of them aren’t what you could call crafted. Yes, I am being snooty about what hand crafted means.

Worse than that this though is the huge amount stall holders who are making it harder to make a living as a crafter. Their prices are low – unfeasibly low; sometimes charging little more than the cost of the materials. And of course buyers want the best price they can get – we all do. But when someone charges a pittance for their work, it can make genuinely crafted, honestly priced goods look expensive. It drives expectations of what buyers can get for their money.

And that would be ok, except for the wonky playing field I mentioned earlier. How can they get their prices that low? Well, they have few overheads of course. Perhaps this is a hobby, so they don’t feel the need to charge for their time, or they are making items to sell for charity and are donating their time.


Well, there’s an issue, right there. People who are trying to make a living from their craft can’t afford to work for free. They have to charge for their time, and even then, the majority are working for well below minimum wage.

And there are other overheads – public and product liability insurance. It’s not a huge cost for most crafters, but it adds up. Plenty of part-time, spare time, hobbyist crafters go without, or don’t even realise such a thing exists. Thankfully, most people will never need to call on their insurance, but what if one day they do? If, Gods forbid, an item you made caused injury and you were sued, damages could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. If you can’t afford to pay that from your own pocket, you need insurance!

Then there’s the thorny issue of tax. If you’re making items to sell, you must register as self-employed (unless you’ve set your business up as a limited company). You must be registered, even if you also have a job. You have to declare the income you make from your craft, even if it’s just a bit. Even if it’s below the personal tax allowance. You have to be registered as self-employed once you are offering items for sale, even if you never sell anything.

And what else do I see people skipping? I regularly see handmade toys that have never been near an EU safety test. In the UK, if you sell handmade soft toys, or something that looks like it might be a toy, or something that would appeal to children, you have a legal responsibility to test those toys against the EU safety regulations. It’s not expensive, it can be done at home. It’s a bit of a faff, but it’s illegal to sell toys in the UK without that paperwork. 

All handmade toys should carry the CE label showing they have been tested for safety. Photo credit: Erica Martyn at Odds & Soxlets

All handmade toys should carry the CE label showing they have been tested for safety.
Photo credit: Erica Martyn at Odds & Soxlets

Most handmade toys I see at craft fairs are in breach of this law. A good many of them would never pass, as you can see the stitching isn’t strong enough even with a quick glance. Many of the people selling them are unaware of the regulations surrounding them. Here’s a great article about the process of testing, with links to lots more information, to take the legwork out of getting yourself ready to test.

And then the one that gets up a lot of people’s noses: copyright infringement. Minions might be cool, and might be a popular thing with the kids right now, but that doesn’t mean you can draw, paint, stitch or stick their image on anything and sell it. You don’t own the rights to their images, and you can get into a lot of trouble for doing so. The same goes for most things you didn’t create.


Yes, Disney sells. Disney also sues. And they don’t just go after the big guys who use a Disney image without their permission. They go after the little guys too, and they win (how could they lose – what defence is there to using someone else’s intellectual property without permission to line your own pockets?). And when they win, they will get the money you’ve made thus far, the stock you have, the means of production (your tools and materials), monetary damages. And your lawyer will take what’s left. More than one crafter has lost their house over selling items which infringe someone’s copyright. So why do it?

Of course, I’m not the first person to say any of this and I won’t be the last. But there is something more that can be done. Organisers, it’s time to step up.

You want to organise a great event, with great stalls, lots of people attending, lots of sales. Happy punters all round. You can help make that happen. You can help create an environment where crafters can make a living selling quality goods to people who appreciate quality handcrafted goods.

When you take bookings, insist on public liability insurance from every stallholder. Insist that they give their UTR (Unique Tax Reference) when they apply for a stall – this proves they are registered as self employed and are not dodging tax.

Insist that any toys on sale at your events are EU safety tested (all toys that pass these tests must carry the relevant EU safety label, so it’s easy for you to see – no label, no selling).

Insist that anything which infringes copyright is taken off sale (hint: if it’s Disney, Warner Bros, anything currently in a film etc it infringes copyright – along with a great deal besides).

It’s in your own best interests to do this – apart from getting a reputation for quality events, you are keeping yourself safe. If a claim is made against one of your stallholders and they don’t have insurance, you are next in line. Your insurance company will love that (you do have organisers’ insurance, right?).

If someone is selling copyrighted goods without a license, you are also liable to be included in any legal proceedings for allowing it to be sold.


So this is a heartfelt plea on behalf of all the dedicated crafters out there, the ones who are trying to make a living out of their work, the ones who meet their legal obligations, pay for insurance and generally work in an ethical and professional way to please stop accepting bookings from those who don’t. Don’t drag the handcrafted “industry” into the gutter by allowing poor quality or illegal goods at your event. Insist on the proper paperwork from your exhibitors and when you say you are holding a craft fair, please don’t accept bookings from non-craft businesses. 

And if this is the kind of event you already run, thank you! And if you are also based in the East Midlands, please contact me – I’m looking for great events where artisans and designer-makers can sell their wares.


Leave a comment

Leave a Reply to Lesley Cancel reply

213 comments on “The Curse of the Craft Fair – An Open Letter to Organisers and Crafters

  1. This is one reason I don’t make toys! I do have insurance, and it does cut into your margins, but not as much as being sued for liability would 🙂

    The number of people who don’t follow any of the regulations, or barely give lip service to them, is one reason we stopped doing small markets though. Even ones aimed directly at crafters are usually full of people who make stuff as a hobby and are just looking to cover materials costs. Fine for them, but not for those of us who actually need to make any sort of living from it.

    We do have different tax rules here though, which make things interesting, but we need an ABN (australian Business Number) to get the insurance, and to book a stall at the larger cons.

    • yes, smaller fairs do seem to be more a problem. I’m not in a position to pay the huge fees for larger events though – some of them wanting nearly £300 for a craft stall. I dream of the day when I can make and sell enough to make that cost worthwhile!

      • Yes, we only managed to get started due to a tax refund after I was laid off. It’s between $800 and $1000 for each stall we do (roughly half that in GBP). We can only keep going as long as we get reasonable sales – each stall covers the cost of the next, and the restock.

  2. Thank you, this article was really helpful

  3. Traditional ‘proper’ craft event at coombe abbey September if you might be interested? Xx

  4. UTR’s are only required for the Construction Industry – and it’s not really the craft fairs business, or problem, how people handle their tax affairs.

    • no, they are given to everyone who registers as self employed. I’ve been asked for mine when doing work for a local authority – they wouldn’t go ahead with our agreement until they had the number to prove I was registered.

    • I think you may have misunderstood a UTR number is Unique Tax Payers Reference number which every business in the Uk has to have, this is given to you when you register with HMRC the construction Industry reference numbers are competely different!

    • Jayne Dawson on said:

      UTR’s are required if you are self employed. NOT only in the construction industry.

    • Debby Craine on said:

      UTR’s are needed by anyone who files a tax return not just the construction industry.

  5. And dont forget soaps and bodycare/cosmetic products need to be safety assesses and comply with EU regulations – which is costly and time consuming.

    Not to do so is not illegal with a possible on the spot fine of £10,000 and a custodial sentence

    • yes – whilst I see some excellent bodycare stalls out there, with knowledgable makers, full list of ingredients etc, there are just as many at the opposite end of the scale, not even knowing themselves what went into a product!

  6. Hear! Hear! There are also legal regulations covering clothing, food, cosmetics, toiletries, candles and goodness knows what else. People who don’t adhere to the regulations and requirements are breaking the law, and those organisers who allow these people into their selling events have some responsibility for this. My craft work is a hobby, but I have the necessary certification to covering my particular work, pli and am registered with HMRC and I always have been.

    • yes – sorry should have mentioned al of these! How many cupcake stalls do we see who don’t display their food hygiene rating, which is a legal requirement too. Anyone going into business should know what their obligations are – and the only to know is to do research before you begin! And it’s good to know there are are hobbyists out there who take pride in being legal – didn’t mean to imply that all hobbyists are the same!

      • Just to clarify that it’s not a legal requirement to display your food hygiene rating, but companies are encouraged to do so. Some home bakers are exempt from the rating scheme as we’re classified as low-risk – myself included, as I don’t work with perishable products – even though we have been formally inspected by the EHO. I suspect a fair few hobby bakers at craft fairs are lacking PLI though.

        • Ahhh OK, thanks for clarifying that! I think I combined the situation in Wales (where they have to be displayed) with the requirements of one of the events I attended, where the organisers insisted on ratings being displayed on the stalls.

          • This will be as a means of ensuring that the food makers are registered with the local authority which is – in Manchester – at least – a condition of the market rights licence.

  7. A good article and covers a lot of points we’ve been concerned about as well. I’ve shared it a few places so hope you don’t mind.

    I think there is another valid point to add as well. So many times recently we’ve booked into what appears to have the makings of a good craft fair, but running up to the event Google searches have found only the promotion we’ve done (We always add events to our own website and promote them on our facebook, twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts, or the original adverts trying to attract stall holders etc. We’ve even seen it where the organisers fail to add events to their own pages!

    Getting a venue and stall holders is not “Job Done”, job done only comes at the point where there are customers, or at least potential customers, turning up to the event. Organisers need to actively market their event. The difference is noticeable to us stall holders… We can see on-line marketing, we know if leaflets have been distributed, we can see footfall even if we don’t always see sales!

    Good luck with finding some good fairs to attend.

    • oh yes – thankfully there are many orgnaisers out there who know how crucial marketing an event is, but there are too many who fail in this step. Tumbleweed is the last thing you want to see at an event when you’ve soent time making stock, packing, unpacking, setting up ….

      • mark mcloughlin on said:

        I, in conjunction with Torbay council, have started an Arts & Crafts Fair in Torquay recently.
        I advertise In local press (which I find is expensive, and not always a good way to reach people)
        I also have a facebook page, where I keep crafters up to date with weather, cancellations, and also a steady stream of picture of stalls featured, and I post ads on the various ” for sale in” sites, within a 80 mile radius.
        I would very much like to contact would be Crafters, but would like to do so without “poaching” other CraftFairs in the area.
        only two weeks ago, a Craft fair organisor from just a few miles away came on my fair site, giving out flyers and generally “touting” my sellers.
        So come on you lot, I have a wonderful venue, along Torquay Seafront, how do i get more sellers, whilst being fair and ethical?

  8. Ann Parker-Griffiths on said:

    This was very interesting reading. I have just got back into running craft fairs and had my first one at the end of October. I did insist on all products being hand made by the seller and for PLI but what is news to me is the kick back to the organiser if the seller doesn’t have insurance. I have my own for when I change roles and sell, which is my only income at the moment, so the peace of mind in having insurance is costly but a must have.
    Thank you for writing this and I really appreciated being made more aware. 🙂

    • thanks for commenting and good luck with your events. Once upon a time I ran some events for a PTA and found out then that we needed all stall holders to have insurance so as not to open the school up to risk. I also found out then just how glib some stall holders can be about insurance – we had some people wanting to sell makeup, henna tattoos and glitter tattoos – and none of them saw the need for insurance, even though some of them would be applying substances to children’s skin!

  9. Ann Parker-Griffiths on said:

    Sorry noticed a few typos would you please alter for not on / all not ass ooops!!

  10. Just one note on toys, keepsake bears, these are.not toys, should never be sold as toys and due to the manufactureing nature can’t be tested. I’m talking about one of a kind bears made from clothing or blankets. And antique style bears with glass eyes and metal joints. I make them and have confirmed with the CE testing page on Facebook that you can sell them. They have to be displayed carefully with clear signage that they can not be sold to under 14s, are not toys and not tested. I’ve been told off by other crafters before and made out to be breaking the law. You have to destroy a sample of each model of bear you make so one offs are not testable.

    • I have read it as keepsakes need to be on a fixed platform or priced out of the toy range (whatever THAT means)

      • that would make sense – there must be something that takes them out of the toy arena, otherwise it would surely come under “looks like a toy” category. Toy price range though – I hate to think what that might be, given the astronomical prices of some toys around!

    • I make Handcrafted artisan teddys. And have insurance, full materials listing and have them clearly marked as collectors items only.
      My prices range between £25 and £250 per bear so definitely not in the toy range category lol. I honestly dont understand how some people can get away with it as the inspectors seem to make a beeline for me when I do craft fairs and seem most disappointed when everything is in order lol.
      I am struggling like everyone else is though at the moment to try and find fairs not overpriced to trade at but where the expected cost of an item is more then £2.99.

    • Sophie on said:

      Thanks for this! I did make keepsake bears alongside my other crafts then stopped because of CE testing because I thought they’d come under ‘looks like a toy’. I’d seen other people say on their websites they aren’t a toy or CE tested but didn’t realise they are actually exempt as long as you do this. Really useful to know! 🙂

  11. Very good article and comments. I’ve certainly been at a craft fair next to someone selling ceramic bowls with glaze unsafe for food use and she didn’t even know there was such a thing as glaze that was unsafe for food….
    Another point to add is the so called ‘Craft / Handmade fair’ where the organisers permit electronic gadgets and brought-in items to be sold – grrrrrrr

  12. Great post. As a soft toy maker who fully complies with all the rules it’s so frustrating to be continually undercut by people not even accepting the rules are serious despite being made aware of them.
    Unfortunately the buyers are often also as unconcerned.

    • I think people would take them more seriously if Trading Standards were more visible, advising people where they aren’t compliant. And as a parent, I want to know that what I am buying is safe!

  13. Thanks for this! It is so frustrating to go to fairs that have ‘made in China’ clearly printed on items sold as ‘handmade’! And to find vintage and crafted mixed up too.

  14. Brilliantly written article. I gave up making to sell last year due to these reasons. I now focus on my teaching which I love, but I still see this happening ALL the time!

  15. Hannah Ablett on said:

    Couldn’t of said it better myself!
    Well done, a fab blog post.

  16. I am going to be a pedant and point out that the Minions Et al issue is trademark rather than copyright and that if the company does not take action then they lose the rights to their own image, you see a lot (mostly on FaceBook) of people complaining about “big greedy companies”.

    Pedanting over, you put this so much better than I manage to and I will be sharing all over the place. Thank you.

  17. Absolutely! I see SO many makers selling their wares for a pittance, SO many character hats & copyright infringements, SO many soft toys that clearly haven’t been tested. I have insurance & I refuse to sell toys or character items, & I’m scraping a living that’s well below minimum wage. It’s disheartening to see others not bothering & devaluing the crafts we all love.

  18. Thank you for an excellent and important article. My only comment is that it is entirely up to event organisers to decide whether they want to run a ‘craft’ fair or a ‘craft and gift’ fair, or a ‘craft, gift and whatever fair’. The really important thing is not to mislead the public and the traders with the description of the event.

    • Absoluteky – I have no problem with a fair being mixed, as long as I know that is what it will be – then I can make a decision about whether or not I want to be there. The problem, as you say, is when someone is not upfront about what the fair will be, or don’t really know the difference.

  19. Here here, excellent read!! More definitely needs to be done, I did a school fayre last week and although specifically not craft related it was still disheartening to see all the illegal makes as well as the non tested toys.

  20. With all the expenses you’ve listed, I think it would be very challenging to make a sustainable living with a craft. Making items to sell has a inherent flaw – you can only sell that quilt or cabinet one single time. Also what if you get sick? You can’t show up to sell or make new items.

    But if instead you designed your own jacket or necklace, you can sell the written pattern thousands of times and never have to part with the original. You also only have to do the work one time – write the pattern, shoot the photos, list the materials, etc – and you can make money on the pattern for the rest of your life.

    • True, and that’s an area I’m working on too. But for many crafters, I suspect, the joy comes from making the actual item. In many cases it will be something that most people couldn’t do at home even with the pattern/instructions. Whilst I love to crochet and like to sell my completed works, I also see the value in selling my original patterns. BUt for someone who carves or turns wood, or sells fused glass art, for example – those are things most people couldn’t achieve.

      I’m sure it must be possible to make a living crafting. I hope it is.

  21. What a fantastic read, and full of information for all ‘crafters’. I have issues with ‘craft fairs’ and other fairs ie Collecters, Antique etc that are not advertised, even within the locality around the venue. Customers come in saying,” I didn’t know this was happening today!! My other issue is the rise of ‘party plan’ type of products. I have no issue with people making a living from selling these products but when an event is listed as a Craft Fair then that is what should be for sale.

    • I used to be in a direct sales business – a top European leader for 6 years, until I stopped earlier this year, but I still agree, a craft fair should be for crafts. A craft and gift fair has a wider remit but even when I was in DS I got tired of seeing the same kind of party plan/direct sales goods on offer everywhere.

  22. Sorry for spelling mistakes!!

  23. Well said, I am a crafts person amongst other things and am registered self employed. I am also a member of a local arts and crafts association and we have a twice yearly selling exhibition. Everything is handmade and there are some really lovely things and some which are not so. However it is all a matter of taste. What really annoys me is that there are one or two who sell at really stupid prices. a hand knitted hat for £5.00 and a pair of mittens for £5.00. A hand knitted lace shawl for £30.00. I have my own handspun, dyed and knitted things for sale and charge at least £200.00 for a lace shawl, obviously the great unwashed public look at mine well finished, beautiful colours and properly blocked, then look at hers, horrid acrylic and just hung up straight off the needles and buy hers. I can’t make people prefer a £200.00 piece of art against a £30.00 dishrag but if she were pricing according to the time taken to produce then people would appreciate the time factor and have a better appreciation of the craft work involved even if not the material. We have all but given up even going to craft fairs to visit because of the abundance of the buy it and stick it brigade.

    • quite. I saw a beautiful crocheted lace shawl on sale in a craft shop recently for £15. £15! The yarn it was made with is particularly tricky to work with too, so I expect it added to the time it took to make. Not to mention the cost. How can that be sustainable? I’d be surprised if it even covered the cost of the yarn.

    • Agree with the pricing – I did a Christmas Craft Fair and Market yesterday and was so disappointed to see many customers walking straight past my stall where I was selling bespoke, handmade, embroidered cushions – they were clutching their “bargain cushions” from the stall round the corner who had literally taken nasty cheap fabric (frozen, minions, marvel – but poor quality stuff) and stitched two squares together and put a token amount of stuffing inside. Compared with mine price wise they were a bargain £3 instead of the £15 I was charging – and frankly my price was a special one for the event as they are usually £18 plus postage! I sold two cusions, a few embroidered face cloths, and some embroidered bags of “100% edible reindeer food” – and don’t get me started on the person who thought that bunging a handful of porridge oats into a plastic freezer bag with some craft glitter (craft glitter, yes!!!!) constituted a “craft”. I made a little bit, and gave out some cards and order forms for personalised stuff, but even though the cushions I was selling got lots of ooohs and ahhhs, and “how beautiful” – they were passed up because “there are cheaper ones in the other room” ……. sad 🙁

    • I am sorry but I think you are being very rude. Statements such as ‘ the great unwashed public’ and classing someone’s item as a ‘£30 dish rag’ is a dreadful attitude. Customers are free to spend their hard earned cash with whom they choose. Perhaps your £200 items are best NOT being sold at Craft Fairs but via some other means.Being rude about what other people make isn’t an answer to the problem.

      • Agree

      • Zoe Fowler on said:

        I agree with you about not being rude about others work! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder so they say! We are all in the same position as craftspeople that the time we take in making an item cannot be ideally added to the cost of what we sell without it becoming very expensive as well as adding the cost of materials. I don’t think people should be critisized for buying cusions made of cheap fabric as those people may not have a high income and be able to afford a £15 cushion which may not be to their taste anyway. At the end of the day as a seller it is also your duty to know your target market and the type of craft (gift) fair you are selling at. I do find that some sellers can be very snobby about their own work and I have seen very expensively priced things that have not been well made too!

    • I think seeing your customers as the great unwashed is probably one reason someone wouldn’t buy from you. That attitude shows when you are selling

    • Caroline on said:

      I may be crazy but maybe, just maybe, not everyone can afford to spend £200 to spend on a shawl?

    • Alison Heath on said:

      If you refer to your customers as “the great unwashed public”, I am not surprised they don’t buy your products, have some respect for them and they might respect you .

  24. ninaycrochet on said:

    This is very informative as a new craft seller. Thanks. I just got a quote on PLI but I still have lots to learn about selling my craft. Do you know any information about safety issues when selling crochet wool items?

    • It depends what you make. My items are crocheted too. I don’t make toys (well, I’ve made some for my children, but I don’t make them to sell or to give away as gifts). If what you are making needs to bear weight, then I guess you need to make sure it will do that. I have product liability as well as public liability insurance. If you’re making children’s clothes then there are some saftey requirements which you’d need to look up

  25. Hi I am an event orgainser of Christmas Markets, Wedding Exhibitions and Family Fun days.
    As Crafters what would you say was a bad footfall at an event?
    I have just done 2 events at a very large venue with high cost to hire, staffing, insurance etc and the cost of radio, local paper advertising, flyers, road signs and banners – the cost to have a pitch was £72 and attracted 3,754 visitors would you say this was reasonabe pitch fee?

    The second event was £48 and attracted 328 visitors, we had lower venue hire fee but all the other marketing as stated above was done for the event apart from the radio as there was no budget left for this.

    Would ove your feedback

    • personally, I would say the footfall for the higher priced event was good – I would be happy with that. In a different business, I used to do weekend events where the cost of the stall was £250ish and footfall of 4-5k was always a good number. Unfortunately there were times when the footfall was less than 1k, for the same costs, and that was never good!

      I would say the footfall for the second event was low personally. Difficult to know why one would be so much lower than the other.

  26. Thank you Mahaa, yes we are at a loss as to the footfall for the second event.
    At both events some traders did not make enough to cover their pitch and as an organiser this upsets me but I also lost money on the second event as we use all the pitch fees to promote and staff our events. We shall not be using the second venue again but I am at a loss aso as to why some stall holders at the large event faied to make their pitch fee back and as an organiser what to say to these peope 🙁

    • Hannah D on said:

      I sing in a choir, which I know is wildly different, but we outnumbered the audience in an event in the summer which unfortunately clashed with England playing in the rugby world cup. Have a look at what else was in nearby that day, if you still can’t work out what went wrong with your other event.

  27. Sorry Mahala, the l on my computer is playing up 🙁
    Also I was trying to say as an organiser I am at a loss as what to say to the people that didn’t not sell any items or cover their pitch fee?

  28. Honestly, I think this is a brilliant post but as you said, you’re not the first to have said these things and you certainly won’t be the last either.

    I personally am bothered by a lot of these things, especially the copyright issue!
    Though I do think it is important to note that there are a lot of things that you can make that do not infringe on copyright. Things inspired by old classic novels for example where the copyright has ran out (such as dracula).

  29. Great article! It’s so so hard to find a good craft fair where you can charge a proper price for items! As much as I love all the hobby crafters at some of the fairs I do, it does drive me potty that they undercut others!
    Thanks for the link to the CE marking blog post I did for a handcrafted marketplace 😀 xx

  30. Great piece. I’ve attended a number of craft fairs where the ‘craft’ part was whatever could be produced in a Chinese factory for 2p. ‘Sterling silver’ for £7 a bracelet, Scentsy reps, Forever Living and other such mass produced tat. One was so poorly advertised that we had 2 people visit all day.

    Don’t forget scented candles now need special labelling to cover sensitisers in the fragrance oil. I’ve given up attending them now, they are a total waste of time and money.

  31. A great post Mahala. So many important points raised.

  32. Thanks for this very informative article. At present my crafts are limited to things I do for myself and my own home. I have been known to give a few bits as presents (all of which have been made from fabric using patterns that are not copyrighted-I always check), but this has been as a one-off for each person. I’ve also made a point of saying that the items are for decorative use only, plus I’ve researched how to care for the fabrics and made up a flyer that I’ve given with the gift.
    I’ve considered selling, but have been put off by the difficulty of finding clearly explained articles that set out what sellers need to do. I’m so glad I found this. I still don’t know if I will try to sell my creations, but at least I have a clear idea of what I need to sort if I do. Thank you.

    • thanks for your comment. Fabric is an interesting one, because as you say, there is fabric around with images that are licensed, so they are allowed to produce the fabric.

      Interestingly, that license doesn’t extend to anything made with the fabric in most cases, which doesn’t affect you making gifts and for your own use, but would be something you’d need to look into more if you do decide to sell.

      • Some fabrics are copyrighted. You can make items for yourself or as gifts, but not for sale. If you look at the selvage it will tell you there whether or not it is copyrighted. I recently made a Spiderman quilt for my grandson and it clearly said in the selvage that items made with it could not be sold.

        • and yet I think very people who sell fabric items realise this.Or maybe they do and ignore it.

        • I two craft fairs at the weekend… Both organised by local government linked bodies… At both fairs there were toys on sale not CE marked and at one at least I saw Super Mario brothers and Pudsy Bear … They were what I saw, there may have been more.

          Don’t get me wrong, I reckon all the hand made toys I saw would have passed a CE test with flying colours… and one stall in particular they were beautify hand crafted.

  33. Excellent article! Wouldn’t it be good if all the rules and regs regarding craft and food fairs were made available by local trading standards, before anyone set one up. Not too official, but some some good general pointers,. I make food stuffs and the rules are pretty tight and so they should be, but I do wonder about food uncovered, long hair, dirty nails and a dog under the table!

    • yep. These rules are important so it makes me wonder why they are not more easily available.

      I was at a fair in a lovely pub this weekend (really lovely pub, with gorgeous looking lunches being served) and there was a stall selling home made desserts etc. No hygiene rating on show (I doubt they had one to be honest) and the pub’s cat doing the tour of lots of the stalls, in and out and under ….

  34. Bravo! Also organisers need to be 100% clear when organising and booking stallholders for a ‘Craft Fair’that it is indeed a Craft Fair. So many times we have booked and paid for events, only to get there to find the place full of pheonix cards, Bodyshop at home, Younique, Usbourne books etc etc etc. Franchises have no place at Craft fairs. The presence of so many only dilutes the event…it also puts people off attending as franchises have become a staple element of many too events. I would rather the craft fair be re-branded as an artisan makers market or something along those lines.

  35. great article ! i personally am so frustrated at spending so much money and time handcrafting cushions, buntings, tablet covers /cases, cosmetic bags, purses, xmas stocking and santa sack etc to a high quality using lovely fabrics and various sewing techniques. I spend the table money , set up my stall and sell next to nothing! maybe my prices are set too high..and thats me cutting my prices as much as possible. people want something for nothing and while they look at my stuff and complement it they don’t spend. I have only done a handful of “craft” fairs and calling them “craft fairs” is a loose term best. After another crappy experience the other day there at one i was so down hearted i was thinking of packing it all in.

    • yes, I’ve had the same feelings at times … is it worth it? It’s lovely being told my work is beautiful, unusual, well worth the price etc, but if no-one buys it, it doesn’t pay the mortgage does it?

  36. Ceolred Monger on said:

    Thanks for this. Compliance is not as daunting as it appears – you just have to prove that you are aware of the regulations, any issues and have made your toys appropriately.

    Two things to ponder
    1/ I make around 40%-60% of what I have on my stall. Other items are bought in – most of it I retail for other craftspeople. A small proportion is from fairly traded sources abroad. Under your rules would this be allowed?

    2/ I have had issues with retailing other people’s work – I was refused a stall at a ‘handmade’ fair in fairly insulting terms. On attending I found one of the approved stallholders ‘handmade’ clocks by buying movements and clock faces made in China. By gluing them together they conformed to the ‘handmade’ label. Where does the line get drawn? n.b I mostly deal in historical costume and artefacts, I know how problematic drawing an ‘authenticity’ line is.

    • Well, I don’t run events, so not sure my thoughts count, but for what it’s worth, I would not mind you selling on behalf of other crafters, but although fair trade stuff is usually hand made (I sold a lot of fair trade instruments in a past business), I would class that as belonging to a gift fair rather than a craft fair.

      As to where to drawn the line, that’s always contentious. Personally I think there’s a big difference between handmade or handcrafted and hand-assembled, which is what I would class the clocks you mention as, as well as the large amount of keyrings and such which have bought in charms added to a bought in keyring. The same goes for the current scrabble tile craze in my opinion, but maybe I’m just being snooty. I think if someone didn’t make any of the components, but are putting together several bought in components, then it’s not handmade or handcrafted.

      *runs for cover*

  37. I’m glad to see all this written down as I see so many people breaking all sorts of rules and regulations at craft fairs that I sometimes wonder if I’m the only person who is even aware of the rules. I think many people start their businesses unaware of the regulations surrounding what they are doing and don’t even realise that they are doing something illegal. It would help if event organisers were more clued up so that they can prevent these illegal businesses turning up over and over again. Or if Trading Standard people went round some of the larger events, looking for issues. They don’t need to come down heavy handed but at least tell them to sort out various issues before doing any more fairs. It would frighten the life out of most people who would either give up or get the regulations in order before continuing. I went to one event 3 years in a row where someone was embroidering copyright protected characters and football club logos onto towels etc. and in the second year I even asked her if she thought she was breaking copyright law (she said she didn’t think she was). I also sell on ebay and get asked all the time if I can make things with famous characters on them (even though I say in my description that I can’t). Some people are understanding and ask for something more generic instead but others never get back to me so I guess they must shop with some of the other people out there who do offer character items at cheap prices. Every now and then I report them to ebay but I could spend my life trawling through ebay reporting copyright infringement products. Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

    • I would apply everything in this post to Etsy, Folksy, Facebook, Ebay and every online selling platform too. I think there’s no excuse for those platforms to allow CI products to be sold.

  38. Great article, I find it is best to ask the Organisers about what they allow at their events. I recently had an event that only accepted 3 types of one craft, I turned up and there were 6 including me,organiser said they thought the event could handle the extra! Without informing anyone. I do feel for jewellery folk, as they seem to get a rum deal when there are limits to the amount allowed, as we all know the word “jewellery” covers many things! Better vetting of all those that wish to sell, with a photo of the making process or the maker actually making would show that they actually do make the items should be encouraged to be provided to organisers.

  39. Many thanks for this very informative document. My friend and I are both retired and knit and crochet for pleasure and sometimes we sell to friends and family. We have accumulated quite a wee stock now and were thinking of selling at a local Craft Fair. We live in Northern Ireland and this is the first time I have heard of these regulations….Good to know!..Can you tell me where I would find the appropriate regulations for childrens’ cardigans, hats and baby blankets as this is all we do.

  40. Thank you for a very informative article. I live in Johannesburg, South Africa, and we have all those problems here too – and plagiarism is rife. I do not participate in craft fairs at all, because people openly copy your stuff, take photos, etc. (even when you have signs up asking them not to) and at the next fair there are several other stalls offering your ideas. And you must see the attitude if you dare say something about it! Not only that, due to the collapsing infrastructure and economy of SA, crime is so rife that you have to stand over your goods and cash box like a Rottweiler. Materials and supplies are mostly imported and are becoming more and more scarce too, as suppliers close down, It is becoming increasingly difficult and more expensive as the Rand weakens against the $ and GBP daily. We have about 3 large craft expos her in Jhb and the stalls are about 50% “made in China” and other bought in stuff. Thank you for “listening” and I wish all the crafters out there a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  41. Jacky O'Callaghan on said:

    Very interesting. I was doing craft fairs back in the 1970s and nobody ever mentioned PLI. My guess is that it’s come from the US where suing is a way of life…What with that and product insurance too, I’m inclined to advise my grandchildren to go into the insurance business because that’s where the money is! I started craft fairs again a few years ago, and find that some venues are covered by PLI so the fair organisers/stallholders don’t need it, some organisers already have PLI which covers stallholders and is reflected in the stall fee, and some orginisers require each stallholder to have PLI. Sometimes it isn’t mentioned at all and organisers don’t seem aware of it. I found a good cheap one in a.n.artists – google their website.

    Nobody mentioned the curse of bric-a-brac at an event. That kills any sort of craft stone dead.

    I make semi-precious bead jewellery. A few years ago it sold really well, but since the advent of jewellery-making tv programmes and the internet, the world and its wife makes jewellery and most craft fairs are over-subscribed with it. This includes the imported tat.

    And yes, some organisers seem to think a poster or two is enough to bring in the punters. I know one local organiser who stipulates that every stallholder takes flyers and is given a designated area to cover with those, and posters. It does work. Takes time and dedication of course. It’s the organisers of course, who get the stall fees, so they make money even if nobody else does.

    Websites are another thing. I had two websites, one for my paintings and one for the jewellery. But it’s no good just having a website, you have to get people to visit it. So not only do you have to design your pieces, or do the painting (which involves years of trial and error, training etc.), research and source materials, make the items, research and source packaging etc., you also have to write articles and blogs to bring the website to the notice of the public – one marketing ploy is to “give away something of value to get people to come back and order” – so you write free how-to articles, telling people how to make what you’re trying to sell…

    Sorry if all this sounds jaded and cynical – that’s because it is! But I still do it…

    • Lisa on said:

      It’s not the US it’s the EU and all their rules and regulations and wanting to kill off anything that is not mass produced in a factory. Hand/ Home made has been around for longer than I can remember and Ive never heard of anyone being killed by anything produced that way.

  42. R K Ripp on said:

    It seems a bit contrary to have written this article (well-done) but at the bottom also post info about creating ‘Harry Potter’\ knock-offs. Even for your personal use, I don’t feel that it should be done as you too are infringing on Trademarks.
    If you must then do so privately – and then don’t proudly write about how well you did at copying an original (they may not actually be a manufactured item). But it’s the name association that’s illegal….

    • making for your personal use isn’t illegal or infringing copyright, unless you do or parade them infront of people in order to gain exposure for your business. I have never done that. If you’ve visited the about pages of this blog you’ll know that this is a personal blog, not a business one.

      I didn’t post the info at the bottom of the post either – it’s a WP generated link to posts that might be of interest.

      And finally, does the wand in question look like a real Harry Potter wand? No. It looks like a hand crafted, lovingly made wooden wand made by a father for his Hogwarts-obsessed son as a gift. I was proud of my OH for making it, and still am and am entirely within my rights to write a post about it on my personal blog. My son has also asked me to crochet him an enormous minion. If I do, and it goes well, you can bet I’ll write about it on this blog, because it will be an achievement. Will I mention it on my business page, blog or website? Absolutely not.

      But thanks for the praise on writing this post.

  43. Giles Fitzherbert on said:

    I went to the ICHF event at Penshurst Place earlier this year. It’s a 3 day affair and a table costs about £300. Copyright infringements all over the place, particularly ‘Frozen’ and Marvel characters. If ICHF don’t bother to check what their stallholders are selling what hope is there?

  44. samantha on said:

    Thank you, I am organizing small Christmas craft fair to raise money for the village primary school PTA, I took over as chair from someone who used to organize it each year and her from someone else. i had know idea that we would be libel if someone uses something there are not meant to or that the hand made toys had to be tested. its to late to use you ideas for this year as its on Saturday but i will be asking next year!
    I noticed also someone mentioned advertising by the organizer, well its hard , people say they will help put up posters then don’t! Wednesday morning i will be dragging my 2 year old round the village forcing leaflets in peoples doors, but all my posters have more a less blown away but face book is my main advertising tool.

    • I don’t about others, but I find far too many event organisers think advertising on Facebook is all that needs to be done. It’s quite ineffective in terms of getting people in through the door. There are many ways that an event can be advertised, even with little budget, but it does take work. But then, that’s the reason stall holders are paying to be there.

  45. I’ve virtually given up on fairs; I’ve found the costs involved versus the time and effort are not generally worth it. I see it as a ‘getting your face out there’ rather than a money making exercise as people do see me on Facebook etc and then say that they have seen me at X or Y rural show. I’m very careful about what items I make and who I target them to (not kids) in order not to have anything come back and bite me on the arse either and steer well clear of anything with copyright issues! Luckily my business has grown mainly through word of mouth and most customers are respectful of the fact my materials are difficult to source, not cheap and my products are very unique so will pay for a special gift for example. It’s not easy though and I rely on my other more corporate type business to prop up this one or the mortgage wouldn’t get paid!

  46. Hi,

    Thanks for an interesting article. I have to confess to being the exception here and not agreeing with large portions of it but it was nevertheless thought provoking…

    I should add now that I’m a sculptor, none of my work involves CI images and I’m fully legal (registered and insured). Just in case anyone suspects I may have ulterior motives….. 🙂

    Price in particular is my issue. I see this argument in crafting all of the time yet we seem to be one of the only industries who have a real issue with it. Take supermarkets for example: LIDL and co base their whole strategy on being cheap. By comparison Waitrose and M&S seem extortionate. Yet LIDL hasn’t put the more expensive shops out of business. It’s about pitching to the right market. Understand your customer and go to events where they will be. Market to these people. Find a USP and sing about it. The person who makes for charity just wants to shift what they’ve made and raise some cash in the process for a good cause – why shouldn’t they be allowed to do so? My craft pays my bills so I understand the pressures. I just feel uneasy about insisting someone else charges more because it would suit me better….

    Half of the stories Disney use are knock-offs from somewhere else – and the sales from the little guys make no difference to them. And in many cases crafters are selling things you can’t buy at the Disney store. I don’t do it, I’m not interested in it in the slightest but to be honest, I’m not fussed if others do. And the problem is created by our society – children are raised wanting the Disney Princess, the latest superhero outfit and so on. A beautifully made alternative simply won’t cut it. These crafters are simply responding to market demand and trying to put food on their table in the majority of cases. I’m not going to begrudge them that.

    I think efforts are far better focussed on looking at quality and safety. You raised some really important points over CE testing, and then reading through the comments lots of other great points about soap, skin products, candles etc. These things really matter. I’d rather see the focus from TS and other bodies on making sure goods were fit and safe for sale than fussing about other stuff which isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things. I’d like to know that the goods being sold are well-made and safe and other than that I’ll just focus on what I’m doing…..

    I’m not wanting to sound hostile or argumentative, I just think it’s interesting to view things from another perspective. Neither makes any difference to me personally……. 🙂

    Best wishes.

    • The trouble is, while your point of view regarding copyright infringement is certainly a valid view on things (copying a bought CD for backup; converting bought music from CD to MP3 without additional payment spring to mind) – the Law disagrees with you. The Law says quite clearly that if someone owns something, you can’t copy it without penalty. Disney doesn’t own the rights to the Cindarella story, or Beauty and the Beast; but they do very much own the images THEY CREATED around those stories; and re-using them without permission is unlawful.

      The other thing is, Disney are unrelenting and vicious about their chasing down; anyone using their images or likenesses in their work is running a real risk to themselves and their families of life-changing lawsuits. So yes, to an extent I agree with you that there are bigger problems, and the Law is an ass in some cases; however we have to deal with the Law as it is, not as we’d like it to be. I’d rather compete with people who operate legally than people who don’t; at least my work is then stacked up against people on the same playing field as me.

    • As Tom said, Disney employees spend thousands of man hours developing the image for certain characters and copying that likeness is just not remotely creative, plus Disney may make an example of the infringer, as they are well known for doing. I mainly see this being done by hobbyists, t’would be an awful thing to lose ones house over a crochet minion hat. I’ll admit this next bit is more of a pet peeve, but to have acquaintances visit you at a market and say, ” oh that lady is selling decopage Princess Votives, you could do that”. Yes, yes I could but if I ever attempt to sell that stuff you’ll know I’ve been body snatched.
      Also as someone who sells online I find Etsy to be awash with copyrighted images that bury handcrafted and artisinal items in a barrage of princesses, movie quotes and mass produced pieces with a solitary button attached (therefor making it qualify as handcrafted). They dilute the market, they make the site look trashy and seeing crap like that can scare aware the customer wants quality.

      • yes, yes and yes!

        The other half of your pet peeve is when someone comes to your stall and says to their friend “here, Mavis, you could make that!” (in my case) pointing out a one-of-a-kind freeform crochet handbag to Mavis, who has just about mastered the crochet basics, and they then go to ask about the process. I love telling people the process behind my bags, but usually people are asking because they appreciate to work that has gone into it, not because they want their friend to copy your designs and make them one for a fiver.

  47. I work for a craft fair organiser. We put on professional craft fairs where all exhibitors are professional makers – they make their living out of their craft. They exhibit with us because they are exhibiting alongside makers at the same level as they are and we do not allow any imported or bought in work (which would simply devalue what the professional British craft makers are doing). There are many many craft fair organisers who allow bought in and/or imported work at their events which is another great problem. We advertise our events widely with a large online and offline campaign for each event. However, this is not cheap to do and the costs of this are included in the stand fee. However, we do have a large following and visitors who appreciate the high quality of work presented at our events and are prepared to pay for this work. But exhibitors need to do their bit too – it’s like the shopping centre advertising their existence and the shops within the shopping centre also shouting they are there! Some exhibitors expect to turn up and think by paying their money for their space everyone will know they are there.

    • yes, it should definitely be a partnership between the organiser and exhibitor. Well organised events make that relationship much easier. Yours sound great!

    • When we book a show / event one of the first things we do is put it on our own website, share it on facebook and twitter, plus linkedin and google+…

      But it is amazing how often we don’t get even a pdf or jpg sent through from the organiser to help boost the event!

      One recently I asked for a pdf when I sent in the application. In the mean time I found one on-line and put it on our site etc. The email I got back from the organiser said they would send one as soon as it was ready… About 2 weeks later I got an identical pdf through… If I’d not acted myself that would be 2 weeks less promotion for the event.

      And that’s not the worse one… I can tell more…

  48. Joyce jennings on said:

    If you are not claiming benefits or tax credits you do not have to declare your earnings unless they are over 5k maybe more now . Look it up

    • Not sure where you have got that information from.

      From the HMRC website:

      Set up as a Sole Trader:

      Register as soon as you can after starting your business. At the latest, you should register by 5 October in your business’s second tax year.


      If you start working as a sole trader between April 2014 to March 2015, you should register before 5 October 2015.

      If you register later than this, you won’t get a penalty as long as you send your Self Assessment tax return and pay your bill on time.

      Taxable Income:

      Income Tax is a tax you pay on your income. You don’t have to pay tax on all types of income.

      You pay tax on things like:

      money you earn from employment
      profits you make if you’re self-employed – including from services you sell through websites or apps
      some state benefits
      most pensions, including state pensions, company and personal pensions and retirement annuities
      interest on savings and pensioner bonds
      rental income (unless you’re a live-in landlord and get £4,250 or less)
      benefits you get from your job
      income from a trust
      dividends from company shares

      You don’t pay tax on the first £10600 you earn each tax year (from whatever source), but you still have to declare it.

      • I admit you worried me with the tax comment, I thought maybe things have changed, so I’ve been in touch with the tax office this morning (took a while!). I’m sure that most people won’t fall into this category, but it remains the case that, if you earn less (by whatever means) than £2500 in a year, you do not have to have to have a unique tax reference number or declare earnings. Above that, you do, even though you won’t be paying tax until you reach £11000. I didn’t check today, but I think filling in a tax form kicks in at about the £5000 mark.

        • filling in a tax return kicks in as soon as you are registered as self employed – there were plenty of years in my early days of being self employed where I earnt less than that in a year, and I’ve had to fill one in every. single. year. Well, I say “I” have had to …. my MiL is a tax accountant, so she does all my tax returns!

    • Absolute hogwash. You MUST declare ALL earnings (even some benefits but not all) to the taxman; and if you earn less than £10600 per year you will not receive a bill for tax.

      Misinformation puts people in prison. Saying “Look it up” without any substantiating information or links to it makes you look a little silly.

  49. Your article is interesting and makes a lot of relevant points.
    I live on a small Scottish island, and have made all manner of things for sale over the last 40 odd years, from clothing to currently jewellery – there are regs. which apply to the components used in it too – and painted wooden items and cards.
    An Environmental Health officer visits our markets from time to time to ensure that we are all complying with the various regulations that apply to the variety of products we’re producing. Perhaps that’s not so common elsewhere.
    One of the markets I attend is hand made only items, the other is a village market. We have a lot of tourists visiting during the summer, and whilst some appreciate the craft and work that goes into our makes, others don’t, and can’t distinguish between mass produced and hand made, and are only looking at the price.
    It is virtually impossible to compete with the 2nd hand stalls and cheap mass produced items sold by one or two of the stalls, but we just do our best to produce good quality items which people will appreciate. If people prefer to buy cheap tat, then they’re unlikely to value your products anyway. The real crafters and artisans here do value their work, and price accordingly, we don’t under price, and that’s not really an issue for us, though I know it was for me many years ago when I lived on the mainland and was trying to sell patchwork items.
    It is soul destroying when you’ve not made your stall fee – which is low at both our fairs anyway – but with a finite customer base here, that’s something we here just have to accept.
    Yes, it can be an issue with lack of advertising from the organisers, but as someone has pointed out, they get their money in from the stall fees whether or not any member of the public attends the venue.
    My jewellery is all one off pieces, and I would take issue with a couple of the comments made above re using charms and such bought in components in these items.
    Most craft jewellery makers do not make every component of their jewellery. They don’t make the semi-precious stones or glass or porcelain beads that they use, they use chain, jump rings, fastenings that are pre-made. I only know one person who makes their own lampwork beads, and she used bought in earring findings. The majority of folk making and selling jewellery use the already available findings for their pieces. A trained and qualified silver jeweller makes beautiful pendants, but buys in the chains, does her work not qualify as hand made? I do make some pieces which are totally made by me, but that raises the price considerably and my market here just doesn’t fit with that price scale.
    I had a discussion with a customer some years ago, who looked at what I was making, then said “you just assemble things then”. I pointed out some pieces which were completely hand created, even down to the chain, but then asked him if he thought that other pieces I had created using bought in components (each of which is also a one off piece that I’ve designed) which took time, effort and creative abilities, using a variety of beads, charms, chain, leather, etc. etc. could be considered unique pieces of jewellery too, or were “just things I’d assembled”. He looked round, and decided that no, none of the pieces I had for sale looked like quickly assembled, or mass produced items, and apologised for his comments!
    I don’t think that just because you may make use of existing components, that doesn’t mean to say that you’re not hand making an item. I think that the way that components are used, is to some extent what makes a hand made or created item. Where do you draw the line? If you think everything has to be made by you to qualify as hand made, on that basis, if you sell items made from fabric, then you should be weaving and printing the fabric too, and probably spinning the threads as well! I think that the design, quality of work, and skills involved, are more relevant, than if you’ve made every single component that’s been incorporated to your item.
    This last year we’ve found that folks money has been tight, there are fewer visitors, and they’re spending less. Our customers here have to buy in cash as due to poor connectivity on the island as a whole, we don’t have the option for any credit/debit card payments, and that’s affecting our businesses as well.
    It’s definitely getting more difficult to make a living, and whilst the current rash of tv programmes promoting hand made items are getting the attention of the public at large, they’re also encouraging more folk to make their own craft products – and set up in business selling them too – rather than buy from those of us who’ve been making them all our lives.
    With the help of a friend, I’m just starting to set up an online business, as for me, that’s got to be the way to go, then at least if I have business cards available at the markets, people can buy from me when they’re not on the island. Big learning curve for me though, and I need to get to grips with it! I’d far rather be making things for Christmas markets than struggling with trying to make posts on it!

  50. Can’t believe one response I’ve just read…

    As someone who has just had their work plagiarised which has resulted in the company that has broken the law making a very large sum of money, I have to say that anybody saying it’s OK to use anyone else’s intellectual property is totally and utterly wrong! No matter how big or small the original copyright holder is…

    Disney and their like may have used ancient (un-copyrighted / copyright expired) stories as a basis for their work… But that is not what people are copying… They are copying the work by many talented artists (be that by hand or by computer generation) who have created graphics around the story… Disney cannot stop you selling a snow white storey book following the original story with your own illustrations in it, but why would it not be right for them to stop you selling copies of their artwork?

    Big or Small… Copyright theft is THEFT!

  51. This was so helpful!

    I have a question though – I have an Etsy shop to sell fale nails and people request fandom nail e.g ‘Harry Potter’ nails or nails with a photo of a celebrity/character on. I know in nail salons they do this a lot too. So is that not allowed?

    If I were an artist and someone asked me to paint Shrek, I wouldn’t be able to?

    Thanks for your time!

    • Anything that is copyright is not allowed. A celebrity is aruably allowable, though you technically need permission from the owner of the copyright of the photo. Characters come under the copyright rule too

  52. Oh HERE HERE and VERY well said!!!
    This definitely needs to be shared, excellent blog post xx

  53. As far as I’m aware you can use trademarked images as long as you haven’t produced the image on the item.

    For example, you can buy pre-printed ribbon or Lego figures etc as it is the original creator of the item (ribbon) that should have secured the licence.

  54. You’ve totally hit the nail on the head!
    I think many organisers don’t realise that they are responsible for allowing people to sell products at their events. They can be fined etc just for allowing the sale of illegal goods.
    My bugbear is skincare. All cosmetics (basically anything you put on your skin – from soap to hair spray) fall under very stringent eu regulations. Each recipe has to hold a Cosmetic Safety Assessment (from independent cosmetic chemist) and every item has to be registered on the EU Cosmetic Products Notification Portal (CPNP). This is costly and time consuming and I see so many non-compliant items for sale. I know suggest that all Organisers ask for a Screenshot of their CPNP registrations. This Portal is accessible to the Poisons Centres – so if someone was to try to eat a bar of soap (YUCK) then at least they’d be able to find out exactly what was in it. By the way it’s also illegal to sell products (of any type) which look like food – this is covered in the Food Safety Act. Now just think about how many candles, bars of soap etc you see which look like cupcakes!
    I was at Country Living fair last week and saw a lot of products which I know wouldn’t be deemed as safe. People have died when skincare products haven’t been preserved properly and I see a LOT of unpreserved skincare at craft events.
    Something else is CANDLES – did you know that all candles/room fragrance etc now comes under CLP? There are so many candles out their without the proper labelling and I’m pretty sure that they’ve not been properly tested either. Imagine the consequences if a candle was over fragranced and so caught fire and burnt someones home down!
    CLP labelling is a bit more like your Toy labelling – a case of looking to see if it’s on the label! It would be more difficult to confirm that proper testing of the candles has been done. I do tell people when I see they’ve not labelled correctly that they need to look up CLP and start complying – it’s new (I think it came in In July) so there’s usually a very short period of grace for manufacturers to use up old stock etc, but that doesn’t last long and I’d hate to see a small craft business going under simply because they didn’t know what they should be doing (although I would find that strange as most of us try to keep up with the latest developments within our craft and most suppliers will give info about new rules and regulations)

    So yes I share your irritation of people not charging proper prices, the unfairness of not charging for time and other overheads, what annoys me more is the people who disregard safety and just sell what they want with no consideration of what damage they can do.

    Sometimes I wish Trading Standards would turn up at Craft Fairs and close any stands which don’t follow the current legal guidelines, telling them to go away and get themselves compliant before selling anything else!

  55. I am repeatedly telling people who post thing for sale about the safety side of things sell. Dummy clips are a particular bug bear of mine. Sure it’s nice to have your child’s dummy on a nice beaded thing with their name on. What happens when they chew on it, the end comes off and they inhale those nice beads? Choking? Death? One woman was positively rude to me about it, in fact her & her daughter no longer come in my shop because of it. She didn’t even seem bothered that it is breaking the law. Thought I was being picky and what does it have to do with me. There are a lot of home crafters/makers/furniture fixer uppers who post on the page. I’d hazard a guess that only one or two are above board, tax registered & declaring. It’s very frustrating!

  56. An emphatic yes on all points!
    I sell jewellery, I make a living and it’s my business, it’s hard work getting seen, and pushes you to make the best product you can so that you stand out, but craft fairs are so hit and miss, and competing with lower priced and/or lower quality items kills my business, and sets the wrong idea of what a craft fair is. I had a friend at a high end maker fair last week who heard someone at the next stall being asked ‘will you do 2 for 1 on this?’ – something she handmade from scratch.

  57. A very interesting post with great comments/feedback and I would like to add my ‘bit’. Not necessarily answering or picking up on points but just how I see things. I wear two hats: one as a crafts person and one as an event organiser – sadly the event organising is so time-consuming that the ‘making’ hat often gets put away.

    I have been registered as self-employed for many years. Why? Because I knew that as soon as I sold something I became a business and because it is a legal requirement. We all know that HMRC have people out and about at craft fairs and they really don’t wear big badges saying ‘I am on the look out for tax dodgers’. However, I doubt there are any posters on here who have not heard those ‘it’s only a hobby, I am not a business’ or ‘I only charge enough to cover the cost of materials’ comments. Sadly, both types of seller (and I know there are many other varieties) fail to realise they are undermining those of us who really are a business. Because ‘it’s a hobby’ or ‘covering material costs’ means they charge considerably less for their work than those of us who are legitimate and it really is foot-stampingly unfair.

    Wearing my event organising hat Now. I insist all stallholders must have PLI and I am surprised that many tell me other event organisers don’t require it. More fool them! Apart from the fact that my event insurance stipulates that all stallholders must have PLI, when a stallholder says they don’t think they need it, I ask them if, in the event of an accident on/at/around their stall, are they prepared to possibly lose their house, business, savings, etc to pay the costs of a lawsuit. A stallholder has to have their certificate with them at my events and cannot set-up until I or one of my helpers have viewed/logged the expiry date. In addition to event insurance, I also have PLI for my craft business – insurance is rather like shapewear pants, you would love not to have to wear them, but you feel a lot happier and confident when you have them on.

    One point I did pick up on and will comment on is event advertising. Am I wrong to expect stallholders to help promote an event they are taking part in? I am always disappointed at how few stallholders actively take part in event promotion. With the exception of the last two events I have run, I always post two/three pics of stallholders work with a couple of sentences about them on Facebook one or two weeks before the event. I ask stallholders to visit, share, like, etc – do they? No! About five regulars do and I appreciate that very much. But why don’t the others? I know some hate Facebook, but it is their business they are promoting, not mine. Time permitting I post pics of the event after it has taken place and in my ‘thank you’ email to stallholders, I advise them of this. I once had one stallholder send an unpleasant complaining email saying I had not included a pic of her work in a post-event montage – I apologised for this and asked if she had visited, liked, shared, etc the pre-event pics. She didn’t reply – but I knew she had not helped with the Facebook promotion. In addition to Facebook, I post on Streetlife, Twitter, local radio, local authority websites, tourist websites, deliver flyers to homes and shops, put up banners and posters in the area of the event. I also post and email flyers and posters to stallholders, friends and family. On the day I have people out and about if the area of the venue encouraging visitors to the event. However, worth mentioning that up to the day of the event, it is only me (and I know there are many solo event organisers out there) out there working on the event and there are only so many hours in the day.

    Footfall is a pain for everyone involved in an event. I was once told I had the wrong sort of person coming into the events. Er, if anyone knows how I can tell the difference please let me know! Means testing? Asking people where they live? I, along with many event organisers, work very long hours on the events we organise and we do not have the magic formula to convert visitors into customers. We work to get people into the event but after that I hope stallholders will do their part and speak to customers, smile at them, share with them the love they have for their beautiful work?

    I am sorry this has turned into a long comment and I don’t want to high-jack Mahala’s excellent post, but look forward to reading any comments on what I have written.

    • you sound like exactly the kind of event organiser we all wish for Jill. I agree with you that stallholders have their part to play and I can understand your frustration when they don’t.

  58. What a great article. My biggest issue at fairs is people charging below cost price which means that I won’t sell a thing. I’ve also had customers walk past and say “gosh, that’s expensive” and on one occasion actually challenged the customer (in the nicest possible way of course!) and they condescending agreed that I did need to cover my overheads etc to make a living!! I don’t have an issue with healthy competition, but people who are selling as a fun hobby outside of their main job, are letting us all down. Plus I don’t really understand why – when I started selling at fairs, I had ludicrously high prices, thinking people would pay for hand-made work. It certainly never occurred to me to sell work for peanuts. And completely agree with spot checks from Trading Standards and any other checkers required.

    • “Outside of their main job” does not necessarily mean someone is letting anyone down… I have a “main job” job that earns me more money than my craft… I wish it was the other way round… Whichever way round though, I’m self employed in both jobs!

      There is a category of people like me called the 9 to 5, 5 to 9ers…

  59. I’ve not had time to read through your replies yet as there are so many, so apologies if this is duplicate information re East Midlands fairs but I’d like to recommend the Chesterfield Artisan Market, last Sunday every month. There are also small ones in Derby several times a year.

  60. SUCH a great article! I have done so many craft fairs where people are selling their ‘crafts’ for barely anything and its so annoying. They dont get the sales because their work is awful (sorry but seriously) but people see those prices then see mine and wonder whats going on! These people are obviously not registered self employed too – its so unfair. I now do one fair exclusively a year in my little town, £50 fee (then you know its serious) and i usually take about £1000. Im hoping to move up the ranks to renegade and the like – but yes school hall fairs are a thing of the past for me because the unprofessionals drag expectation down like you say 🙂

  61. Maree McMann on said:

    Hi, I was just wondering where I can get public liability insurance?

    • just Google Public Liability insurance … It depends what you sell sometimes as to which is the best company to go with. If you do a lot of fairs, you might find the National Market Traders Federation a good bet – you get free insurance with membership. If you are art based you might find n-a membership the best bet

  62. Just wanted to say first of all that it’s been great to read comments from so many like-minded people. Sometimes I think I’m the only one that cares about items being truly ‘hand-crafted’, properly priced and compliant. As well as making my own items I have my own shop where I sell my items, as well as other beautifully, hand-crafted, one-off pieces from other British designers. I’ve lost count how may times people have turned up their noses at the price of my cushions, for example, and have told me that they can buy cheaper in the likes of Dunhelm Mills or online. I try to point out that my products are lovingly made from quality, natural materials and often take many hours to make. Cheap cushions are just that, cheap and won’t last two seconds. And worse than that, the person that made that cheap cushion was only paid a few pence for their work. Would they feel comfortable being paid so little for their job? I doubt it. I believe in true fair trade where everyone in the world gets paid a fair price for what they produce. Why as a craftsperson should I be paid less than the person buying my items? And what about ensuring that we retain skills in this country. It seems absolutely bonkers to me that we pay people in this country to be unemployed and yet pay someone on the other side of the world to make tat that we buy in this country, make some people in China very wealthy, so that they can then buy premier, quality products from us. Ludicrous. We buy rubbish so that others can buy the best!!!!

    And don’t get me started on compliancy. Like stall holders, I have to pay an enormous amount each year for insurance policies, as well as rates, a big loan and lots of general bills. I sell beautiful British made furniture made by master craftsmen. However, on a regular basis I will get women that come into my shop (without making an appointment – they always just turn up!) saying that they ‘do up’ furniture and would I be interested in selling their chairs. When I ask them about whether the fabrics used are fire compliant they just look at me with a stupid expression and come out with some rot which shows they don’t know what I’m talking about. I try to make them understand that if someone buys one of their chairs and then a child dies in a fire caused by that chair not being fire retardant, then they are responsible for that death. They usually just don’t think it applies to them. Saying that, we have several shops in our town that sell ‘shabby chic’ furniture and again it’s not compliant. One shop owner had the cheek to say, ‘I’m not an interior designer like you so my things are not as good as yours’. She doesn’t understand that what she is doing is illegal!

    I think at the end of the day, whether you are selling via a craft fair, through a gallery or retailer, or online, you really should care that your items are well-made, hand-made, compliant, and are priced fairly to reflect the time, effort, skill, materials used and design of your products. You have to believe that you are worth the prices you ask and keep searching out good customers that truly appreciate what they have bought. I’d like to finish on a comment a client’s husband made when he came in to pay for a cushion I had made for his daughter: ‘I thought that the price was high for a cushion until I saw it – it’s not a cushion, it’s a work of art and worth every penny!’

  63. Great article, you raise some good points, especially about copyright issues. As a designer and illustrator of greeting cards and gifts myself, I get very frustrated seeing people copy my designs, but in particular I get frustrated with those crafters/designers/small biz owners that copy or use really big assets or brands for their own gain, as in the example you have given of using Disney minions. I can’t believe that anybody thinks it is ok to do this on any level, yet so many do it, and they often build quite a big name and following from it.

    • Unbelievably, I went into a local museum yesterday and saw some items from local businesses on sale there. There was a large display of felt keyrings, which included minions in every costume, batman, Peppa Pig, Angry Birds etc. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing in a museum.

  64. Janice Gill on said:

    Great post.
    I have taken a year out of selling at craft fairs because the time could not be justified. I find the competition from all areas just too much. It’s not just the like for like comparisons of my glass with another stalls glass but price comparisons with all the other products. After all we only have a limited purse and most purchases are impulse buys.
    I’d love to hear from some Handcraft only fair organisers too.
    I did attend a gift fair last weekend to support a friend. One stall was selling hand knitted and crocheted items at prices I couldn’t even buy the yarn for. It was a stall to raise money for charity so the items were donated. I just hope the people who made the items didn’t see the prices and how undervalued their hard work was!

    • I was at one recently where hadnknitted toys were being sold at £1 each and hand knitted children’s jumpers for £1.50! Of course, the toys weren’t tested.

  65. A great article, the amount of times I’ve turned up at a craft fair to be met with dodgy shoddy items or crafters undercutting and not charging good prices. I’m also based in the East Midlands so would love to hear about quality fairs that I can have a stall at

  66. Hi, what a fabulous article, I totally agree and bang on about this often hitting my head on a brick wall as I am tired of those getting in fairs with hand crafted stuff and half their stalls are full of copyright issues or Chinese bought rubbish which is obviously not hand made. No disrespect to the Chinese.
    Haven’t read all the comments so someone may have said it but can I point out one thing.
    I don’t have a job and only make a profit of around £1,500 at the moment. I called the HMRC to register as a business and they told me that to police my business would cost more than I was making. I’ve declared my work, got it checked by trading standards but I don’t need to register as a business. So if organisers forbid me to attend that’s wrong information.
    i am not a hobbyist I too am trying to make a living.
    Thank you for reading.

    • yes, the £2500 threshold has been confirmed by someone else today. I stand by my comment about asking for UTR though. OK, so you don’t [i]have[/i] to register, but there’s no downside to doing so, except completing a tax return. And if you have another job, completing said tax return might even bring you a refund if you’re earning so little from your business. I would still encourage organisers to ask for the UTR.

  67. The tax laugh is when you make a profit – rarely, it is classed as a business but when you make a loss, every year, it is classed as a hobby!

  68. PS and I’m paying Public liability premiums too, so it shouldn’t be classed as a hobby.

  69. I find there are so many people trying to make money out of setting up far too many craft fairs, with no or little advertising,
    the craft fair’s are swamped, spoiling it for all the stall holders.

  70. Fab post. It made me think. I take my self published book to events for signing and have just got my PLI in case I use a gazebo. I have bought a minion innocently from a neighbouring stall but will check it carefully after reading this before giving it to my grandchildren. My book is popular with grandparents and mums buy for the children to give Nana for Christmas or birthday. But a lot of people pass by and make shoulder-shrugging comments such as ‘I write poetry’ as if anyone can produce something like I did. It took 16 years to compile all the experiences and months of editing and polishing to get the quality. Luckily I have lots of buyers who appreciate the content and quality but I am not sure that when they pay £6.99 they realise how much work there was in it and at some events I may only sell 4-6. I have only been asked for my PLI at one event, the organiser asking for it to be emailed. I wonder how many people did that especially if they were inside? Lots of food for thought Mahala. See you at a Dorset event I hope. Di

  71. Pingback:Let’s keep things fair at the fair! | Rainbow Craft Events

  72. Arlo's Friends on said:

    Fantastic article thank you. I have been selling my CE tested toys for just over 2 years. Pricing is so difficult especially when it comes to Christmas fairs when there are so many hobby crafters selling untested soft toys at silly prices. I often get told my toys are too beautiful and too expensive to give a child. Yes, they will not fall apart they are made with good quality safe materials! I for one will not be dropping my standards. We have to keep the high standards up.

  73. Thank you. Nothing here that I don’t already practice, but it is good to see such a good write up for those who are in any doubt. I see far too much copying, Kath Kidston, Disney, minions to name a few. Then there are the people who use patterns, whether dress patterns or from books, these are copyrighted too. However, the law is stepping up now and it won’t be long before craft fairs are vetted. Xx

  74. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I thought I was the only one who cared. I hope it is ok to share this post. X

  75. Dianna Ellson on said:

    Totally agree with all that’s been said. However you missed one important issue! How can Tropic, Forever Living and numerous other’s including cards and books from well known names ever be called Crafts! Yet at more and more events I am seeing them! Organisers seem to just want the stall money with complete disregard for the type of event.

    • I did mention that somewhere, and I agree – if it’s a craft fair then that’s what the stalls should be. If it’s a gift fair, then I expect to see other items, but not a craft fair (and I say this as someone who was previously with a book company for 6 years)

  76. I have been a craftsperson for the past 6 years and an organiser for a 6month running pop-up shop in the middle of a busy city centre for the past 2 years.
    Public Liability for 5million is a necessity. You CANNOT trade without it.
    With regards footfall figures……it doesn’t matter if you have 1,000 or 50,000 you need all stallholders to make money from their pitches. In good events 90% of stallholders will break even + on poor events it will be more like 40%. The main thing that can be done as an organiser is to choose carefully their artists. I believe that all of the items on sale should be handmade (locally) with an emphasis on locally sourced components where possible. That way you are also selling the concept of shopping local and redcucing carbon footprint etc. If people are to be properly sold the idea of locally crafted goods, then what makes your goods better?
    I feel a lot of craft fairs are off putting as behind each table there are 2 x pairs of eyes looking at you willing you to buy their items. I feel the way forward is to communicate with local councils and shopping centres to negotiate short term licences on empty shops for the use to support multiple local businesses. I have done this for the past 2 years and have organised 2 very successful pop-up shops which resulted in the empty shops both being permanently let out to mainstream businesses and with an increase in footfall to the high street where we were located. The response to the shop was great, it put a more modern feel to the traditional craft fairs.
    Going into a shop is the opportunity to get the businesses away from the ‘hobbyists’ and to ensure that all legislation is complied with.

    • that sounds amazing! We have so many empty shops here, but seemingly, unwilling landlords 🙁

      • they are starting to get more receptive here in the south east. One of the local councils have just bought a failing shopping centre and are offering it to local businesses for low rents. Another area has opened a charity shop where they are selling local crafts where they charge a commission to sell the goods and the commission goes to charity. The tide will change, I have a book full of customer comments saying that this is what people want…..unique, independent shops that give something that the rest of the high street does not offer. Collaborations are the way forwards…….as a little moan to a few crafters I have met along the way at craft fairs….. the other stallholders ARE NOT your competition they are in it with you! You can all learn a lot from each other and help each other… said above crafting as a business is tough why make it harder?

        • I love the idea of crafters collaborating – a great way to gain extra selling power and support. As you have said, crafters complain that competition is fierce – okay, you may find someone selling something similar at an event you are taking part in and I agree that is frustrating, but use it as motivation to be different and ensure you stand out and make an impact at your next event.

  77. I liked your article (and it has a lot of parallels with musical performance, which is something I also do).
    I am a hobbyist, but that means I can tell the difference between proper hand-crafted work and cheap mass-produced things. I understand the value of pricing work that is truly handmade and have tried to price mine in that area – I don’t want to detract from people who are making a liviing from it.
    I’ve only done a couple of craft fairs, which were disastrous and have really put me off trying again. I make mainly jewellery as a hobby, but there comes a point when I end up with lots of finished works just sitting around in boxes – this is why I want to sell things.
    So, should I set up as a private business with insurance etc, etc just to sell a few surplus pieces. I don’t have time to do much and it is definitely a hobby, very hit and miss as to when I can find time to do any.
    It seems to me that this is far too much, and the only alternative is to stop creating…

  78. Thank you. Thank you Thank you.
    I started as a hobbyist and later turned my crafting into a business (complete with insurance and tax to pay) I have now given up on craft fairs because of the pricing practices. People turn up looking for an ebay like bargain now, because that is what they have been taught to expect. Some of the sellers don’t realise that not only are they devaluing their own work by undercharging, but the hand made market as a whole.

    My advice to sellers is that if you haven’t attended a small business training course, that you attend one. Even if you only ever plan for this to be a hobby. If we all price right, then every one will be able to make decent money from their makes regardless of if they are a “proper” business or a hobbyist.

  79. Hi. I may be interested in having a stall at your events. Am based in sheffield.
    My website is
    Great article too. Thanks.

  80. Jan knox on said:

    Totally agree with you x

  81. Darren on said:

    Below is a link to the correct CE format, unfortunately the Chinese Export market are adding CE marks to everything they produce and duping unsuspecting buyers!

  82. Just found this and I hope you don’t mind, but I’d be vary wary of disclosing my UTR to anyone who isn’t my accountant or working for HMRC – you can never be too careful these days…

    • in some cases you are to – when I ran some classes for children for a local council, they insisted on having my UTR before they would pay me.

  83. I did my first ‘proper’ show last week-end, after being so put off for years, by the two ‘crap fairs’ I’d previously suffered.
    What a lovely surprise!
    The ‘Artisan’s Market’ at the Palm House, Sefton Park, Liverpool was a real pleasure to attend.
    Every stall was different, every stall was unique and had ‘proper’ prices showing. It was well-organized and not too expensive (tables were £50.00 per day including the supplied table).
    I only broke even on sales, so still in deficit all told but was happy with this for a first event where my brand isn’t known.
    I’ve signed up for a further event with this organizer for the May Bank Holiday in Croxteth Hall Park, a stately home in Liverpool, and am actually looking forward to it with enthusiasm, not dread.
    Reps to you The Artisan’s Network! You absolutely rock! 😀

  84. Many good points brought up here, I make and sell Hand Sewn Collectable Bears, these are not toys and are never sold as toys, One of a kind bears bears cannot and do not have to be tested as the item has to be pulled apart and cut into to test. I advertise as collectable bears only, I use cotter pin joints rather than plastic joints which have to be used in toy making. I am registered as a business so do have a UTR no and obviously public liability insurance but I know there are plenty of people doing craft fairs that have neither.
    What annoys me the most …those craft fairs that allow stall holders to sell bought in goods, many craft fairs nowadays are like markets selling cheap mass produced items and like the article states those of us who put hour after hour in creating hand made items cannot compete. However, not everyone wants to buy cheap mass produced items, my customers have proved that, they love the quality of hand crafted one off pieces and are disappointed when they attend craft fairs selling anything but, so let the crafters do craft fairs and those who want to sell mass produced do Market stalls, they really should be kept apart!!

  85. This was an article worth reading. Thank you. I will most definitely share. I am based in South Africa. Sadly our Craft Fairs have more “imported” goods than genuine hand made, hand crafted items. The only people making money from the Craft Fairs are the organisers and they honestly don’t care about copyright or who adheres to the legal requirements. The more “crafters” the more money they make.

  86. What a great article – one that will resonate for a long time.

    We are full-time craft sellers and we have found it impossible to make enough products to sell only our own hand-made items. Therefore we have to buy in other items to fill our stall and generate enough turn-over to survive. It works out that we make about 50% of what we sell, but we do our best to ensure that as much as possible of the other 50% is hand-made, ethically sourced and fits in with the ethos and values of our business.

    I find it harder and harder to find a real “craft fair”. Almost every event that we see advertised is a craft and gift fair or a food fair. (Although we don’t sell food, we are doing more and more of these.)

  87. Wow, So many wonderful comments!

    I am partway into the year now of taking booking for a large event that is happening at Coombe Country Park in September.

    We have stipulated that we will only take Craft items on every event listing we have. We have still had over 35 applications from Forever Living, Phoenix Cards, Usbourne books etc. I have turned every single one down.

    The Festival of Craft aims to be just that, A celebration of all things craft.

    We have a few demonstrations happening, including a local Tree Feller, the Local Radio Amateur club, A sculpter, Woodturners, Storytellers, Glass Workers but all of these are these peoples Crafts. (You may argue that the local radio Ham Club is not craft but if you have ever had a partner who has managed to produce a working half wave antenna from a few bits of wire and a rusty biscuit tin you would agree its an art!)

    On a personal note, my biggest bugbear about ‘craft’ fairs other than the bought in goods, is that the organisers tend to just book in on a first come, first served basis.

    I am trying to do it differently. I have a set amount of stalls per craft. no more than 5 of the same ‘type’ will be booked in, stallholders are asked to list their products and to please not deviate from that list unless previously approved via email. It makes it fairer to those people that are booking in and it makes it so much more diverse for the people visiting.

    We had over 2000 visitors to our event last year and that was a poor weekend weather wise. This year we are hoping for so many more!

    The event if anyone is interested by the way it is the Coombe Abbey Festival of Craft. You can find us on

    One final point I would like to make on behalf of the Organisers that do care. We ask for PLI. We make sure we have it. We make sure our events are insured and advertised to their fullest. Unfortunately the voices that are heard the loudest on the day tend to be the Haven’ts ‘I haven’t seen any advert’ ‘I haven’t heard the radio advert’ I haven’t been personally told by the queens butler that this event is happening’. Sometimes posters may get taken down by the council (did you know that you need permission from the council to put up posters and that some charge £1000 for every single one they find?), Sometimes the people you have paid to flyer door to door dump their flyers and are never seen again (i speak from experience from 6 years ago) and sometimes folks can be blind to what is right in front of them.

    The festival is full for jewellery already, and we are well on the way for stitched goods. I am still actively seeking folks for the event though. And by active I mean, Facebook messages, Etsy messages and Ebay. I am not waiting for folks to come to me. I am looking for the best craftspeople and artists I can find.

    I want this years event to be the best yet, for the attendees, the vendors and the Air Ambulance who we are raising funds for.

    Thank you for reading and I apologise for my long Ramble.

    Lyndsay Latimer

    Festival of Craft

  88. kirsty parkinson on said:

    Great thread. I had planned to run a one off charity craft event later this year so found this really helpful. But it sounds like I would need organisers insurance? Don’t quite know where go look for just a one off.

  89. Hi Mahala,

    Fab post – I have joined an Etsy resolution Facebook page and find the pricing is a huge issue. It makes me so mad when people don’t charge for their time as it does make those of us who do it for a living look ridiculously expensive.

    I too am very much on the lookout for decent and not crazy expensive fairs in the West Midlands and would love to know if you have found any you believe to be worth attending.

    Thanks so much,


  90. I have sent you a message Mahala 😀

    Everything you say is spot on! For anyone reading this I am organising an event for next year 12th &13th August 2017 …. It will be something very different to all craft fairs. For a start the profit of the fair go to the stall holders and just about everything that was pointed out in this blog will be implemented.

    Not to mention the whole thing is aimed at raising awareness about handmade crafts and the costs of doing so. We are trying to change the publics perception.

    You’re all welcome, just search The Great British Craft Event on Facebook and you should find us x

  91. I think all organisers of events that sell handmade work are trying to change the public’s perception – sadly an uphill struggle. I am intrigued that you are returning any profit you make to stallholders – a very generous thing to do but does it mean you take no income from the event at all? Organising an event is incredibly hard work and whilst the small-event organiser makes very little profit, it is nice to have something to show for the hard work.

  92. Alison clarke on said:

    We organise craft fairs in warwickshire and northamptonshire. Our facebook page is Handcrafted Delights 🙂 contact details are on the page ☺️Thanks for the brilliant information.

  93. Well written and I totally agree with you. I’ve stopped attending ‘craft fairs’ and carefully select where I go mainly by getting to know the organisers that have these principles.

  94. As a artist and crafter myself, I have always understood these issues and more. That’s why when I run fairs insurance, hand made, abiding by legal requirements and original work are all written into the contract. I have turned down 2 people this week who have franchises for large firms. I’ve also turned away people who I know infringe copyright of other local artists as well as big multinationals. In doing so I am turning down revenue, but I’d rather have the reputation of supporting artists and crafters and providing quality fairs than gain an extra few quid. The fairs are guaranteed great quality,no one feels annoyed. One of the big bugbears I had when I set up the fairs originally was how little work fair organisers did for the money. Two years later I have to say how much work is involved in organising a fair and how little one earns from it. Especially if you put in the hours of graft on social media, pounding the streets with my sandwich board and generally making sure that everything runs smoothly. It’s hard work. I don’t know why I do it. Ah, yes I do, it’s because I’ve done too many crap fairs in my life and I wanted something better for myself and our art and craft community. I’m afraid we’re not based in the Midlands though!

  95. Christine Liken on said:

    I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say but unfortunately people (buyers) don’t want to pay for your time and commitment. I know there are people who unscrupulously sell “home made” items without any thought of legality and yes I agree Organisers need to be a bit more committed. I’ve attended lots of Craft Fairs and agree that some of them are organised just to make money for the organiser; they don’t ask about your liability insurance or whether your goods need to be tested and bear the relevant labels. But it comes down to what people are willing to pay. Some of the fairs I’ve attended were not cheap to do (cost of stall) so when that is factored into the cost of my items I don’t get any sales and yes my goods are well worth what I ask for them. I don’t sell toys of any description because of the paperwork involved and the subsequent costs to be passed on. But yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

  96. I disagree about UTR. Im registered as self employed crafter and i have to send them loads of papers to proove that i sell REGULARLY. For somebody who atends few craft fairs a year or sells acationally i dont think is nessasary.

  97. Jacqueline on said:

    Do you have any information regarding insurance or testing for toys pleas

    • there are links in the article that give lots of information on testing for toys. I don’t make toys, so I would suggest reading the links – they will give you better info than I can.

      For insurance, I would just google public liability insurance – there are quite a few companies out there that are competitive, but the best one for you will depend on your own circumstances.

  98. This is why I set up my business to offer low cost craft fayres to support the smaller businesses, I also offer free monthly networking sessions for businesses in the wedding and craft market however my issue is a lot of the stallholders don’t feel they need insurance, I insist on it and I have lost many sales of stalls due to people not wanting to purchase insurance or seeing it as a waste of money. This respect for each others businesses has to work both ways. I offer low costs for crafters £10-20 per event, highly advertised and I expect public liability insurance certificates so I can see them.

    My other issue is the businesses that think ‘oh we will have a coffee morning and a few stalls’ or the schools that may not ask for insurance, these stalls are £5 or £10 and they have no interest in advertising them as they made an exra £50 pretty much for doing nothing then the crafters go away disheartened about not selling anything.

    • I wish there were more organisers who insist on insurance; the “hobby crafters” would start to realise that it’s not a hobby if you’re selling and that they need to be insured. It would be a more level playing field.

  99. Thanks so much for posting this. Actually since I make knitwear, my problem is more with customers who pull my stuff around (sometimes with dirty hands when they’ve been eating ice lollies), exclaim about how nice it is, and then don’t want to pay more than £5.00….For a hand-knitted Shetland Lace Shawl. The question of copyright is also a problem for textile designers,there have been several occasions on which independent designers have seen a design that closely resembles one of theirs being marketed by a large retail chain. There are procedures for pursuing this through the courts, but it is very expensive and time-consuming.

  100. Well written. I’m getting very dishartened being at events where people all around you are disregarding all the rules going and making cash in their pockets at other people’s expence

  101. Simple. Don’t do poorly organised events.

  102. Thank you for writing this as I have run fairs in the past and people will not believe me when I tell them ‘that jumper with Micky Mouse on the front cannot be sold,’ they think I’m just trying to cause trouble. The truth is you don’t know who that next customer, who looks interested in your goods, is.
    Another thing to be wary of is endangered species. At one of my fairs a man was selling woodwork and forestry items he had crafted. Among them was a birds wing he had made into a fan, not my kind of thing, I was approached by a gentleman who was aware of which type of bird this come from. It was an endangered bird of prey, the stallholder had innocently picked up the wing and explained where he had found it but, he couldn’t prove it and the fine would have been anything up to £1000 +. Luckily it was just a warning and the item was removed from the stall.
    I do have insurance as an organiser and a crafter as I cannot afford to trip up.
    All of the above advice was well said and needs to be spread.

  103. Sally White on said:

    So agree with all that has been said, The craft fair is dying as it is overdone with many franchises that are not true craft. Time we got our act together this has been coming since the 80s at least.

  104. I organized and ran BRECON CRAFTS FAIR for over 19years. It was a Great success at that time. I had up to eighty people exhibiting the things they made. NO BOUGHT IN GOODS. today at fairs I see things from third world country`s. I think the Fair may be still running I handed it on to another maker, who I believe has handed it on again. Back in the mid seventies, when fairs were new, people came and appreciated the good work on display. But sadly since that time, things have changed a lot. Flee Markets, Car boot sales and all the little village halls around the country, trying something for the thousands of charities that have sprung up in hard times. Good Quality work will always be appreciated and sell. Its a lot harder these days. I have now retired from full time work, I made my living from Timber and turning wood for some fourty odd years. I feel I was in the best times.

  105. As a crafter for fun and personal gifting, people ask why I don’t sell my work. Mainly because I’m too lazy to comply with everything “real” crafters, trying to operate a business, must comply with. As a lawyer, I know what non-compliance can mean.

    This is a great letter. I used to love craft fairs. These days, that love is waning, because Arbonne, Scentsy, Forever Yours or whatever it’s called aren’t crafts. They’re not handmade treasures made with love, care & attention. And then that’s before you get to the “homemade” stuff. That is just that, stuff. There’s a real difference between homemade and hand crafted. Lots of fair organisers don’t seem to realise this, and it puts off those of us who actually appreciate hand crafted treasures, who would be prepared to pay the actual value of the treasure.

    Organisers who open their doors to anyone claiming to be a crafter are very short-sighted.

    • I love this comment. I did a fair at the weekend that was billed as a quality craft and food fair. I was next to a Body Shop lucky dip stall, with a tombola opposite me. I saw lots of handmade toys which would not have passed a CE test …. There’s a long way to go to get back to proper craft fairs, and I am very close to giving up on them altogether.

  106. Great article! I’ve been to a mix of fairs this year, and the best ones by far have been the two that match up to your expectations listed above. Better quality of stalls, better influx of customers, and better sales to match.

  107. I would also like to add anyone making and selling cosmetics should also have a cosmetic product safety report done on all their products, as a formulator of my own product range I get increasingly fed up of the unfair playing field I appear to be on when up against people clearly not following the current legislation in this matter! That includes all soaps bath bombs etc…..

  108. Cracking blog, Thank you. I agree with all that has been said especially to those who don’t price correctly (too cheaply) therefore bring customer expectations down.

  109. And if you have anyone selling get dog treats they have to be registered with trading standards and DEFRA if they contain meat and everything has to be lab tested for analytical content which must be displayed. Organisers should know the rules of everything going on sale at their events.

    • Tracey on said:

      As someone new to all of this, I’m sorry to say I’m a “hobbier” who is more interested in trying to work out how to produce quality items. I also confess to not being fully aware of Trademark versus Copyright issues. I was actually looking for Trading Standards/regulation advice on glass tea light holders made from recycled food jars. Apart from making sure they are fit for purpose (I’ve tested them myself at home), I can’t seem to find anything else at the moment, just a lot of information about candles. Does anyone know?

  110. Pingback:Craft Fairs – and why I don’t sell at them… | Through The Looking Glass

  111. Mary Tunney on said:

    I’m a bot confused surely the “looks like a toy” thing applies to everything that looks like a toy whether its a keepsake item or not. I make desk pets for my work mates but have never sold because of the regs

  112. I love this. Everything you say is right. I am one of three craft fair organisers for Chase Handmade and we live by these rules – because we are crafters ourselves who KNOW the damage done by those who organise and don’t care. A wonderful piece, thank you so much.

  113. Gillian Smith on said:

    Brilliant article. I’m fully insured and registered self employed Fluffologist (needlefelter) and draft fair organiser… I don’t earn enough to pay tax but it’s no hassle doing my accounts to keep legal…. a simple cash in, cash out system with receipts is more than enough and can be done daily, weekly, monthly to suit. I’m also careful to purchase from registered, insured UK suppliers and I use PayPal for secure online purchases. Protect yourselves and fellow crafters!

  114. on said:

    Excellent article. I would also like to add that people must also have safety assessment for their handmade soaps, balm, creams etc. Many don’t, and for those of us that have done the work and got the assessments it is very frustrating. I have never been asked by an organiser if I have safety assessments – I so wish they would ask me – and everyone who is planning to sell these products. It is against the law to sell without the safety assessment.

%d bloggers like this: