The last few weeks have been extremely busy and exhausting, but also very exciting for Japan Crafts! Since Man and I opened our Retro Kimono shop in the Red Brick Market, Birmingham, we've been truly welcomed into the 'Red Brick Family' and have made so many new friends as well as coming up with numerous ideas for the place.
Once we knew Retro Kimono was going to be a success, I suppose it was somewhat inevitable that I would end up having a shop in the market for Japan Crafts, too! Especially since there was a space right across the aisle which wasn't even being advertised as a shop as it had some grubby industrial pipes and housed a couple of large bins...
Luckily, Man is a whizz at DIY so she knew exactly how to box in the pipes...I'm more of a help at holding/fetching things and making sure we are both fed regularly. Together we make a great team. A friend helped with some of the painting, too.
My main dilemma was what look to go for. Should I go for traditional and tasteful like an old Kyoto shop...
...Or modern and funky like Shibuya? Or try to mix the two? Cue sleepless nights worrying about flooring, neon signs, the cost of it all and whether it would look any good!
In the end I went for a simple, whitewashed look and let my fabrics do the talking. After we levelled the floor, we laid vinyl in a traditional, wide floorboard design. We painted the walls (including brickwork) white, and had signs made in katakana as a nod to modern Japan.
Goodbye horrible pipes, hello beautiful bijoux boutique!
For the main display, I framed up sashiko samplers and put the corresponding kits for sale underneath. It is probably the first time many visitors to the market have seen sashiko, so they need to be able to see each sampler clearly and get an idea of how it works. I can change the display fairly easily to show new designs in future.
Samples of the bag kits are hung on the wall, again with kits underneath. I need to make a sign saying 'bag kits' so people can see from a distance what they are.
The 'pick and mix sashiko spinner' gives people options if they want to make a kit with different coloured threads, or to top up their sashiko supplies. Pre-cut metres, fat quarters and charm packs are displayed in a special tray unit. Again, I need a sign for them on top!
I've also made some pretty fat quarter bundles and boromono-style fabric bundles which will make lovely gifts.
The market is very eclectic and mainly visited by people with no specific shopping list, but I do hope that some of my regular website and show customers can come and visit. It's open 7 days a week and you are welcome to browse around all the shops, picking up your purchases as you go before paying at the front desk. Most shops aren't 'manned' except when their owners pop in to restock, so if you want to meet up with me or see anything particular from the website, you need to get in touch to arrange it first.
A lot of customers have asked which shows I will be at this year, and the answer is that I'm giving them a miss for the rest of 2021.
My main source of business is (and probably always will be) website sales, so I need to continue to focus on these in the run-up to Christmas. My only source of income during the last 18 months has been the website, which has been incredibly busy, and for that I am grateful to each and every customer. However, this means I no longer have a huge 'show stock' of pre-cut fat quarters, charm packs, kits etc and it will take me time to build this back up again. I realised just how much time and energy it takes to make this sort of stock, while I was building up the shop as well as keeping on top of the website! But I am hoping to return to at least a few shows a year in 2022 as I appreciate how many customers like to see and feel before they buy x
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I started Japan Crafts in 2006 and have been bringing wonderful fabrics and techniques to people in the UK ever since.