Case Study:
TOBEN LEWIS: GO & SEE – LIVING CRAFTS

This May 2017, Emergents awarded book designer Toben Lewis (who is based on the Isle of Iona) a Go and See bursary to attend Living Crafts in Hertfordshire, read below a report of his time at the event. You can find out more about Toben and his work here: www.bailemor.co.uk

Toben Lewis – Go and See Report
Living Crafts, Hatfield House, 4–7 May 2017

When I was first awarded one of the Emerging Designer Maker places at this years Living Crafts, I was really very chuffed. To be chosen as one of twelve up and coming designer makers from across the UK was (and is) a huge boost to my confidence as a new designer bookbinder. I was so pleased, and very excited to attend the event. 

And then I looked at a map.

Do you know where Hatfield is? I did not. How about the Isle of Iona? I know where that is, I live there. To put it briefly, though, Iona and Hatfield are precisely nowhere near one another.

Fortunately after some pondering and some google-fu I discovered Emergents and contacted them regarding their Go and See Bursaries. And even more fortunately the kind folk there granted me one and I was able to attend Living Crafts after all.

Overcast grounds of event

And so it was that in the first week of May my wife and I packed up our very small car with a great deal of camping gear, display units, books, colouring books, postcards, business bookmarks (because why would a book designer have business cards!), and packaging supplies.

We set off on our two day trip down to Hatfield, making a brief stop at IKEA in Glasgow to buy a lap desk so I could continue bookbinding while Sarah drove, and then an overnight stop in Doncaster. We have a remarkable tendency to get lost when driving, which we managed to avoid during our drive south, only to keep the fine tradition alive when attempting and failing to locate the correct gate to Hatfield House, and then continued the tradition again once through the gates.

Upon finally finding the correct road into the venue, things fortunately became much more clear. Although Living Crafts is the largest event of it’s kind in Europe, and the field was covered with probably 20 or more massive marquees, numerous independent stalls, and a scattered sculpture garden, everything was clearly marked and we were easily able to find the Emerging Designer Maker Pavilion.

Binding books in cold morning tent

Having never been to a show like this, let alone exhibited at one, it was a fairly nerve wracking experience to enter the tent for the first time. But to enter a tent full of other newbies similarly anxious and working out their own displays made things slightly easier.

I’d packed all of my stock into rubber tubs to protect it from moisture throughout the four day weekend, but still did a dry run of my display that night and took a photo so I would remember where to put things in my nerve jangled state of re-setting up the next morning. And then we went off to find the exhibitors camping area.

Binding

Finished book and sold within minutes

To be honest much of the actual weekend is a bit of a blur — the four days of talking to people, observing, and selling all sort of blend together. Looking back on it, though, I have a few take aways. The first being that a four day event for an intense introvert is a very long time! The second being much more clear ideas about how to display my stock in order to entice people to stop and have a closer look, which I honed and tweaked throughout the weekend. Third, more clarity on where the intersection between the work I love to create and the work that potential customers are interested in resides. And fourth, confirmation that I may be sort of good at this whole book creating thing.

Stand display

Rare quiet moment in pavilion

Working away in my little studio on my little island, it’s not easy to get perspective such as this. Going to Living Crafts gave me the opportunity to see my work in a wider context, to understand more about marketing it, and to observe and learn from many designer makers at varying stages in their careers. I am intensely grateful for the experience, and also grateful to have discovered Emergents along the way.

Toben Lewis, September 2017

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