Angels, Emotions & Selling
I took #EnchantedEngland to Oxfordshire last week and stalled out my wares of fine art, cards and gifts. This takes a good hour and by the time I had unpacked, parked the car and walked back to the charming 18th century town hall, I was ready for a cup of tea and a lie down frankly.
Tom, the fair organiser, has no such luxury in mind. He sets out the emergency exits, where to find the toilets and then gives us stall holders a pep talk. ‘DON’T JUST SIT THERE – ENGAGE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS!’
Honestly peeps, I have been up since 6:30, performed the equivalent of a half marathon up and down two flights of stairs (marble) ten times and yet the real hard work still lay ahead.
During the morning shoppers trickled in but seem unenthusiastic about the whole concept of buying.
Nevertheless I concentrated on building up the energy in the area around the stand. All are welcome and greeted; they too have had to walk up two flights of marble stairs to get here. A woman pauses and looks carefully at Felicity, my dancing angel. Felicity is hanging out in a very smart black and orange frame that picks out her line colour. Felicity has also proved to be popular in my fine art print range. She floats on creamy, 100% cotton rag paper, a simple, fluid line drawing. I came out from behind the stall and explain all of the above, that she was a rapidly produced picture that flowed from the end of a gold pen one autumn afternoon. Felicity does dance, but even so my fine art printer had surprised me by selecting her as one that should be included in my normally more colourful range of prints.
‘I absolutely love her,’ said the woman and then she turned on her heel and walked away.
Deflated I returned behind my stand and gnawed my lip. But sulking is no good, so I bounced out again, engaged with my customers and sold steadily and with more confidence for the next two hours. Then there is a small commotion at the stand.
“Is this it?. Yes, I see what you mean. She is lovely isn’t she.’ I turn to find the woman has returned along with a friend. Together they decide that Felicity needs a good home and they are the people to provide it. They enthuse over Felicity and glow at finding her. Without a quibble they hand over cash and also buy a second open edition print for good measure.
The emotion I am struggling with as I wrap the frame with bubble wrap is a huge and unexpected desire to burst into tears. I have made a good sale, but what has made it emotional is that complete strangers have reacted so positively and warmly to Felicity – a little line of ink that has made people joyful.
I managed not to cry, handed over the pictures (remembered to help them out to their cars) and they go on their way – happy.
Thankfully there is time for coffee so I grab one and return to the stall and return to my default sales position: people watching.
A man in his sixties passed the #EnchantedEngland stall, clearly in the hall on sufferance, following in his wife’s wake. But somewhere just in front of the my cards of Hampshire wildlife, he glanced up and paused as if thunderstruck. He stepped towards the cards, turned away from the stand, then came back again. He looked at the cards and looked and looked and did not move.
He seemed so struck, that I came out to see what had caught his eye. I explained the background to the cards and how all the animals are based around the River Test. He nodded as if released from a spell. ‘My brother,’ he said ‘was a wild life artist.’ I nodded and waited for more, for more there must be. ‘He died’ said the man. I assumed from his age that this was a recent loss, but no. ‘He was 26,’ said my visitor. Shocked I had to check this information with him. A little nod of the head confirmed it.
That must be a hard thing to carry for all these years, I thought to myself and then realised I had said it outload.
Another small nod of the head acknowledged the remark. He seemed to be lost in memories, the last ones he would expect to be disturbed in small market town-hall on an ordinary, slightly rainy Saturday afternoon. Suddenly and with decision he reached into the card rack and pulled out some cards, almost at random and paid for them
‘Thank you,’ he said, ‘Thank you’ as I handed over his wrapped purchase.
We both knew he wasn’t referring to the cards.
‘HAD A GOOD DAY?’ asked Tom at the end of exceptionally busy eight hours. ‘TOLD YOU TO ENGAGE WITH THE CUSTOMERS!’, he beamed happily. He works very hard to encourage people into the hall and he likes to see it pay off.
Well, it has paid off but in more surprising, thought provoking and enriching ways than he probably had intended.
So thank you to everyone who came to the craft fair last weekend – you were all lovely.