Monday, July 9, 2018

What is it like to be part of a pop-up shop?



This time last year I was part of a group running a pop-up shop in sunny Penge, south London. I’ve put together my thoughts on involvement in the project, firstly as a reminder of the experience to myself and secondly, in case it might help anyone thinking of taking part in a similar venture.



Saturday 17th March, the Pengetout pop-up shop opened to literally crowds of shoppers in Penge, south London. A group of nine local artists, craftspeople and entrepreneurs had joined with Sally Williams from Retail Revival, supported by Bromley Council, to open this year-long venture. I was part of the team and had signed a six month licence to sell framed prints and cards in the shop for a small monthly rent, plus a day each week working on the shop floor. In return I had a designated section of wall space, and later table space, to sell my work in the shop.

Opening day line-up at the official opening by the Mayor

The starting line up of traders were:

Mary Gordon Smith, selling paintings, prints cards and pottery
Yolanta from 'Hatome Studio' selling prints, cards and cushions
Lois from 'Jewellery by Lois' selling handmade jewellery and scarves
Claire from 'Taylor and Abel' selling haberdashery and sewing classes
Tracey from 'All my Style', selling clothes, accessories and jewellery
Lucy from 'Retrolution', selling mid-century furniture
Carina, from 'Alice & Bert' selling a variety of handmade bags
Rachael from 'Fox and Willow', selling individually upholstered chairs and stools
Plus ‘shop’ items from Sally at 'Retail Revival'

I was able to demonstrate how I worked in watercolour whilst working in the shop

Early days
There were quite a lot of meetings in the first few weeks as the traders got to know each other and develop a format of how the shop was going to work in practice. Sally was at the helm, but it was soon obvious that each of the traders were going to have to put in a lot of work to make the shop a success. We had a huge amount of goodwill from the local community which was fantastic but we also need to build on that and let people from a wider area know about the shop. In addition, we were able to access a series of business related workshops held at the shop.
It had been a while since I had worked in a retail environment, and even longer since I had worked as part of a team, so working in the shop was a great challenge. As well as selling handmade products, some of the traders wanted to demonstrate their skills whilst in the shop and I decided I’d like to draw and paint each time I was there. I hoped that by seeing me at work it would be a talking point for customers and practically it would give me a chance to work on current projects.

Some of the traders at the Business Design Centre

Visiting a trade show as a ‘Buyer’
In the middle of May, the traders from the shop visited the “Pulse’ trade show at Olympia with Sally. I’d visited these events before just to get an idea of trends in the stationery and gift field but visiting as a buyer was a new experience. Each of the traders in the shop had a strict list of products that they could sell within their licence so each of us focussed on different products.

I soon realised that in order to make the project financially viable for myself, I’d need to extend my own product range and/or buy in stock from other suppliers. I knew there were quite a lot of artists locally producing excellent prints and cards so started to place some orders. I’d also seen lovely products at ‘Pulse’ which I thought would sell in the shop. My buying strategy was to buy things with local interest or products that were not available in other shops in Penge. Here’s a list of people I bought from and their relevant links, all of whom I’d recommend if you are looking for great paper-based products!


Final sale
My licence ended on 22nd September and I decided to leave the shop at this point. It had been a really positive experience and I’d learnt lots. Working within a team, learning what our customers were looking for and how much they were willing to spend, was valuable information.



3 important areas if you are planning to be involved in a pop-up shop:

1. Communication
In general, I think we all got on pretty well considering most of us didn’t know each other before the start of the project. Early on we had lots of meetings and although we didn't all agree, views and suggestions were openly given and discussed. As time went on, it got increasingly difficult to find times that were convenient for everyone and we let that side of things slip. We did have a ‘What's App’ group to help with customer inquiries and staffing, but I feel it would have been useful to sit round the table at least once a week and catch up with new products and services we were offering and reflect on any events from the previous week. The limited amount of conflict that occurred centred around two areas. Firstly, the crossover of products that each of us could sell and secondly working out a fair rota.

2. Publicity and marketing
Sally set up a website for the shop along with a social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Individually we all used our own social media to let our customers know that we were trading in a bricks and mortar shop on the high street. We also were featured in the local SE20 magazine. However, there always seemed to be people discovering the shop for the first time so we obviously didn’t reach all of our target audience.

3. Have a good range of products
Having been used to displaying work in gallery situations where a selection of work can hang for a month or more, it soon became obvious that I’d need to ring the changes with the prints that I had in the shop. Customers who came in each week would be looking for ranges to be refreshed so I needed to develop and expand the range of pictures and prints that I was selling. As the involvement with the shop had happened so quickly, I hadn’t any plans for new work so this is an area where I struggled. I had hoped to develop products too, outside the paper area, maybe using fabric or ceramics but didn't manage to progress quickly enough in this area. Retail is quite fast moving and if I had the chance to be involved in something like this again, it would be an area I would focus on. Also enjoyed demonstrating watercolour in the shop and could have developed this into offering workshops.

Decorating carrier bags to spread the word about the shop

What I realised…

  • I enjoyed being part of the team
  • I don’t want to be a shop keeper but would like to sell in bricks and mortar retail shops
  • Pricing for retail is different to pricing for galleries
  • There is a limit to the amount people spend in shop as opposed to gallery
  • People like buying cards
  • I need to have a range of collections



And one more thing...
It's so difficult for small retail businesses to make their numbers add up and survive on the high street. Do support them whenever you get the chance!



Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Park Hill Park Illustrated Map


Here is the finished map of Park Hill Park which, if you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me working on earlier in the year. The park is only five minutes walk from the busy East Croydon Station and is a lovely place to spend a sunny lunch hour or have a break from the busy town centre.


Rough stage
I’ve put a series of images below showing how I worked through the process with the Park Hill Friends group who commissioned the piece. First stage was to create a black and white line rough based on the brief. I went round the park with them and took photographs of particular places that they wanted to be included.





B&W Rough


Creating the artwork
Once the rough had been approved, I moved on to the artwork stage. I painted each of the elements separately so that I didn't have to worry about the sizes being too fiddly to draw. I then scanned the images and put them together on Photoshop, placing each image on a separate layer so that I could move them around and make changes.




Additions and corrections
This is the first artwork I sent. You can see there are a few differences from the final one at the top. The newly instated cycle path had to be added, an addition road name plus more information relating to social media contact information.




Friday, June 15, 2018

Berlin - Sightseeing


I was given a list of ‘must see’ places to visit when I went to Berlin in April. Here are photos, sketches and brief descriptions of some of them, and if you are heading there too, you might like to check them out.



Berlin-Hohenshönhausen Memorial

A former Stasi prison now open as a memorial. I bought a ticket for a 90 minute guided tour in English for €6. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is a little way from the centre but easy to reach by tram. A really chilling insight into the darker side of life in the former East Germany. Many of the guides are people that were held there, so the stories are very personal and really resonate.



DDR Museum

The museum is by the river opposite the Berlin Cathedral. Lots of memorabilia from East German family life which on one level seemed to be very like life in Britain in the 1970s! Quite a compact collection and very interactive, including a chance to ‘drive’ a Trabant. Information in German and English.



Alexanderplatz

For me forever linked with the ‘Bourne’ movies. Shops, a main travel interchange and of course, the TV Tower looming over it.


The Jüdisches Museum

The architecture of the building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, is stunning here. It’s like being inside a piece of art. Not to be confused with the Holocaust Memorial and Museum.



The Holocaust Memorial and Museum

The Museum is tucked away under the Memorial which was designed by Peter Eisenmann. Entrance is free but I bought an audio guide in English for €3, which I recommend. A very moving and emotional experience.



East Side Gallery

An outside gallery on the longest surviving piece of the Berlin Wall.


Potsdamer Platz

Big buildings. I think I missed the good bits! Nearby, the Mall of Berlin, a big shopping centre, open until 9pm, Monday to Friday with a food court on the top floor. I found it a handy place to stop off when it rained and to use the loos!



Brandenburger Tor, ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ and the Reichtag

The Brandenburg Gate is impressive both during the day and at night. Checkpoint Charlie less so. The Reichtag is a huge monumental building. Unfortunately I didn’t realise that you had to book well in advance to go inside, so just seen from the outside.


KaDeWe

A big department store with a very swanky food court on the top floor with great views across the city. I drew the Gedächtniskirche from the window of one of the coffee shops.



The Käthe Kollwitz Museum

I’ve always loved Käthe Kollwitz’s work after seeing it quite a few years ago in an exhibition of German Expressionist prints. Her bold work is in black and white, mainly drawings and prints, and focuses on the themes of war and hunger. The collection is shown over several floors and also features photographs and information about her life, friends and family, in English as well as German. There are several sculptural pieces too including a life size sculpture of her head. It stands on a plinth so could stand right in front of it and look straight at her.

The museum is in a stylish old house next to the equally lovely Literaturhaus café, where I had lunch of beautifully presented veggie cannelloni in their ornate dining room. Do go!



Bebelplatz

The sun was setting and the shadows were long by the time I reached here. The only place to sit was a bench placed directly opposite the Hunboldt University building so I tried to capture a little of the scene. Figures in the centre are the people who sporadically stopped to look at a small memorial in the centre of the square, reminding us that this was the site of the infamous Nazi book burning in 1933.



U-Bahn

The underground system was pretty easy to navigate. I had a Berlin Welcome card which once I’d validated it, I could travel anywhere within the city. Unlike London, there are no barriers at stations which seemed to make travelling quite simple. Lots of the U-Bahn routes are overground so great views of the city too.



Kaffee und Küchen

Lots of this! Chocolate shops too.



Pipes

The pink pipes that I first thought were an art instillation but were in fact a way of the utility companies dealing with building work in the city. Each utility has a different colour so I saw blue and grey ones too. For some reason, I found them fascinating!









Thursday, May 17, 2018

Berlin - Drawing Museum Island


Whenever I visit a new place, I’m filled with two opposing thoughts. Firstly I want to pack in as much sightseeing as possible, secondly I want to do as much sketching as possible. As sketching requires a certain amount of stillness, striking a balance can be a difficult decision. On a trip to Berlin last month, the hotel where I was staying was in the Spittelmarkt part of the city, quite close to the intriguingly titled ‘Museum Island’ and I had the luxury of a whole day to explore it in my sketchbook.

First stop was Berlin Palace, ‘Berliner Schloss’. Or rather the scaffolding and huge advertising signs which are currently adorning it as is being rebuilt for opening as the ‘Humboldt Forum’. Just like London, Berlin seemed full of cranes and building developments at the moment.



I walked on further to the Bode Museum, which nestles on the end of the island. Handily placed stone seats opposite provided a good view of the imposing building.



It was a lovely hot, sunny day so I stopped for a drink at one of the riverside cafes, where all the music being played seemed to be the soundtrack of my life! In fact, during the whole time I was there, I only heard one German language track and that was a rap song coming from someone’s speaker in the park.



Trying to find some shade where I could sit and draw the cathedral, ‘Berliner Dom’, I perched on a concrete slab in a grassed area to the side of the building. The discovery that the local ants also favoured this spot led to the sketch being curtailed and the swift closure of my sketchbook resulted in the pages sticking together and a slightly torn image.



The last drawing was the old National Gallery, ‘Alte Nationalgalerie’. While I was drawing, a wedding party were taking photographs amongst the grandeur. It was such beautiful weather that I must admit I didn’t venture inside any of the museums that day! 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Website spring clean!


I've spring-cleaned my website and it is now at liswatkins.com
It was designed on the Squarespace platform and should work well on desk tops, tablets and phones.


It is a mix of watercolour illustrations, hand drawn maps and reportage drawings.

A special thank you to Tom Dunkley who took the photographs that are on the website.

Would love you to have a look and I always welcome feedback and comments!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Leaving Crocus Valey


A demolition site in the centre of Croydon has been the home to a pop-up saffron farm for the last two and a half years. The heritage project, initially started with a crowd funding campaign, was kept going by donations and an army of volunteers. It’s been a real community effort led by Ally McKinlay who had the idea in the first place, inspired by the legend that the town’s name originated as ‘Crocus Valley’.


These are the drawings I made on the last weekend before the developers took back the site. All the plants and containers were given away to community groups and schools with local people coming along to collect the rest. Some of the remaining gardening equipment and water tanks are being stored, in the hope that a new, more permanent site can be found in the future. I’m hoping to continue drawing there and follow the progress of the new concrete growth on the site, as four tower blocks take the place of the tiny corms.