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Advice from a veteran handcrafter and co-founder of ARTE – Miriam Walsh

BY Jan DSa, September 9th, 2010
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Miriam Walsh, Co-Founder of ARTE and a talented felter

Last year I interviewed Miriam Walsh, the First Lady of felt and the co-Founder of the only handmade group in Dubai (Artisans of the Emirates, ARTE), for the FRIDAY magazine. Miriam shared with me how to organise a handcrafted fair.

For the purpose of this blog, I thought of interviewing Miriam on various aspects of ARTE, with regards to selling authentic handmade goods.  She advises artisans to make both ARTE and their time worthwhile. I am also a big fan of Miriam’s lovely felt and feltwork. Subsequently, her lovely business cards holders, I now use them for holding my own business cards (photo attached).

Listen to Miriam’s advice.

“We are so in demand by potential vendors. If you want to be part of ARTE, your products have to fit the following criteria.

  • No commercial products
  • No products bought locally or internationally for the purpose of reselling
  • Only high quality, unique, one of a kind, well made products that resonate art and / or craft
  • No products that may clash with what is in the stores in the Dubai Festival City Centre mall complex
  • Products are Handmade in the UAE. 

 Jewelry:

We are inundated with new jewellery stalls, as well as existing vendors branching out into jewellery. ARTE has now reached its quota and we are now focus on jewelry vendors whose collection:

  • strongly presents an identity
  • has a personal style
  • has a high quality level and
  • shows an interesting and unique approach.

 Pricing Structure:

Look at your pricing structure. A bracelet of Dhs 10 still has the following components: design time, making time, time in transport,

Pretty felted flower barretts © Miriam Walsh

 parking fees, petrol costs, time in the shop, material costs not only in the form of beads, wire and locket but also the tools, the needle, scissors. Do you have a helper assisting you? Then calculate her time too, it would only be fair. Add all of the above together, work out your profit and then tell me if this is a good reflection of who you are. Surely your time and effort and design is worth more than Dhs 10 for a bracelet?

Here is a good example. A friend of mine in the artisan’s business, thought she was making a good profit, but when her husband asked her to keep a proper profit and loss spread sheet she sadly realised that she was making a nasty loss by the end of her year. And after years of working, she decided that her time was up and they closed the craft business.

Discounts:

A part of our community thrives on discounts.  However a buyer who truly appreciates the uniqueness of your design would not dream of bartering you into the ground and making you feel cheap. I recommend you kindly decline and I encourage you to stick to a fixed pricing policy. If we all do, we will wean out the non-appreciating buyers and draw a much better quality visitor to the market.  

Customer Quality:

We are not a flea market, and we do not wish to draw the interest of those types of buyers to ARTE. Again, if we have to select vendors we will exclude the ones that are selling cheap items and focus on the true artisans who appreciate and respect themselves and their work. In this way we will build the ARTE brand and draw a higher quality clientele to the Market and Soukh. 

To know more about Artisans of the Emirates, ARTE, please visit http://www.arte.ae/

Follow ARTE on twitter.  Join ARTE fan page on facebook

Felted Nuno Shawl and Felted jewelry © Miriam Walsh

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