Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Unit 1 Part B: Work experience - employer's feedback

Unit 1 Part B

Work experience - employer's feedback

I ran a pop up shop for 5 weeks in a suburb of Manchester from 4th March - 6th April and knew that I would not be able to put in the hours required every day due to professional commitments. I considered asking one of the designers who were stocking the shop to help out but then realised that this would be the perfect opportunity for my daughter, Demitra, to gain some much needed work experience. As a home educated student she is missing out on the work experience opportunities offered in school. Demitra has helped me run stalls at craft fairs and street markets before so I knew that she would be able to do the job.

I found Demitra to be extremely efficient at her work. We took on different roles in the shop, no longer being mother and daughter, but now becoming employer and employee and this did not cause a problem. Demitra's creative ability means that she understands the processes involved in the various crafts stocked in the shop. She followed instructions immediately, volunteered her own ideas and suggestions about how to display items according to craft and colour schemes. She was punctual 100% of the time when arriving for work, was organised in making lists of enquiries from potential customers or crafters that had dropped into the shop and was completely reliable and trustworthy.

I feel that as an artist and actor Demitra learnt many new skills as well as a better understanding of how small businesses are run. She recognised immediately that being a sales assistant is all about performing or acting in a certain way and was able to adapt and alter her performance depending on whether she was dealing with an outgoing or a timid customer. I believe she learnt a lot about presentation as well as acquiring a greater understanding of what makes artists and crafters tick.

Unit 1 Part B: Getting involved in the arts world – work experience

Unit 1 Part B

Getting involved in the arts world – work experience

As part of my work experience for the Gold Arts Award I have recently helped to run a pop up shop in Manchester for 5 weeks. The shop stocked handmade arts and crafts produced by over twenty local designers. Handmade items included paintings, jewellery, cards, soft toys, baby clothes, hanging wooden plaques, soaps and lotions, hand felted gifts, craft kits and embroidered books. I was thrilled to have my handmade greetings cards on display and even more thrilled to sell a few of them.

I helped to display the items and dress the window before the shop actually opened. I then worked alone in the shop for 15 hours per week over a period of five weeks and have found this to be a useful experience for me with respect to working in the creative arts.

As part of my work duties I have not only interacted with customers but also the artists and craftspeople who stocked the shop. I have learnt to see issues from all sides – that of the retailer whose aim it is to sell, of the designer who wishes to be portrayed in a positive light and who wants their creative story told, and of the customer who is hesitant to part with his or her money but who can be encouraged or persuaded by pointing out the uniqueness of each handmade item and the time and skill that has gone into its creation.

My job in the shop has been to get the customer to understand the lengthy processes taken to produce the handmade items and the labour-intensive techniques used. To be able to do this I have discussed at length with some of the designers the creative process involved in making their items. I have discovered that not only does a customer want to own a unique piece of work but also wants to know the story behind its production or even the story of the artists' journey to becoming a designer. If I have not known this information I have been able to improvise to an extent. For example, I knew that one of the artists lived on a narrow boat but did not know where she was currently moored and because her paintings are mostly of sheep I was able to apply a bit of creative thinking. This, in a way, is a form of improvisation which is a useful skill to have in the performing arts.

My work experience has helped me considerably when producing and attempting to sell my own greetings card designs. Being present in the shop has enabled me to offer my own story to any customer who shows an interest in my designs. One customer who had bought one of my cards when I was not actually present in the shop returned the next day especially to meet me. I found this flattering and it was extremely encouraging to hear the buyer's comments, giving me encouragement to create new designs. I have also made sure that I have given praise and compliments to other designers involved in stocking the shop.

I realise now that to work in retail involves a certain amount of performance skills. You have to come across as friendly, eager to hear the customers woes and problems, seem enthusiastic, repeat your lines to each customer as if it is the first time you have spoken them, make the customer feel comfortable, at home and relaxed, and above all to be persuasive without being pushy.

In addition, I have learnt basic time management skills as well as how to deal with cashing up sold items and improving or altering the shop layout. The experience has given me confidence especially as my work has been displayed next to that of established designers not to mention being bought by customers who did not realise that it had been created by a 15 year old.

Unit 1 Part A: extend your own arts practice

Questionnaire – Carol Mowl, owner of Beetle Felt Workshops http://www.beetlefelt.co.uk

Following the fascinating and informative felted mask making workshop at Beetle Felt studios I asked Carol Mowl a few questions about her business and how she had achieved success.

How and when did you first get into crafts?
When I was four years old. I made clothes for my dolls on the sewing machine.

What career path did you take to get where you are today?
Art GCSE Embroidery, GCSE Dress, GCSE art and fashion and textiles A levels, and Art Foundation course, Fashion and Textile B.A.(Hons) Degree. Placements and I worked in lots of textile artists' studios.

What made you decide to start running textile workshops?
It was a dream I always had but was prompted by a sweat lodge vision.

What was the first workshop that you ran and when?
I used to run jewellery workshops when I was 12 years old with my friends and neighbours. I have taught textiles especially weaving at the Manchester Craft And Design Centre in 1987.The first one at Beetle Felt studio was in 2007.

What is your favourite craft and why?
Weaving. I love making order out of chaos.

What is your least favourite craft that you teach and why?
Sock monsters as it holds bad memories.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to go into the creative industry?
I did masses of training and courses on all sorts of bookkeeping and how to run a small business workshops etc. Just do it.

How do you finance your workshops? Are there any organisations that support you? If so, how?
I am supported by my customers who invest in the workshops by attending them and coming back for more quality teaching. I supplement them by living quite frugally and the overheads are low.

How do you continue to develop your skills?
I regularly go to Friday Frodsham Feltmakers and learn new skills all the time.