A Lammas Gathering | Ara’s first pop up
As I make to order and primarily operate as an online business, I hadn’t intended to venture into having my own physical presence for quite some time. Whilst Ara pieces have appeared at other brands’ pop ups and in-store, I hadn’t created my own display before. I knew that prepping a set up for Ara would be a pretty hefty undertaking, particularly mindful that it would be important to me to ensure the brand’s values were reflected in the right way, and with minimal environmental impact along the way.
BUT when the lovely Blue of Dohm Shop invited me to join her first collaborative pop up ‘A Lammas Gathering’, in her home town of Nottingham, I knew without doubt it would be the perfect setting for Ara, and it felt like the right time to dip my toe into this real life interaction malarkey.
A Lammas Gathering brought together a careful selection of women owned brands to hold a relaxed event with a focus on sustainability, self-care and pleasure, with donations accepted upon entry for Nottingham Women’s Centre.
Although I had a limited timeframe within which to prepare, I design for longevity and wanted to extend the same approach to the planning of my set up. It was important to me to create a display that I would be able to use again and again, that would easily adapt to different spaces. So I did a little research and gave myself a brief, to create a display that:
i) was first and foremost low impact
ii) was reflective of the brand and its values
iii) was practical for its purpose (and hopefully inviting)
To lay the table, utilising what I already had, I used the same linen and GOTS certified organic cotton that Ara’s low waste bags are made from. This provided a natural base from which to build the rest of my display.
I wanted to create a few main areas for my pieces to sit. On this occasion I only planned to display two styles but to ensure flexibility for the future I designed and made a series of blocks using FSC wood that could be used singularly, or stacked to create variation. For Lammas, I created a little set of ‘stairs’ on which to place or drape the Molten samples (to the right), and used a single large block to display the Phase adornment (to the left).
To add a little distinction between the offerings, I painted the boards different colours - the stairs a pale grey, and the remaining blocks a warmer blush colour, using water based paint, made in the UK.
A few practical things
I had a good think about what else might be helpful to have close by on the day. I packed a ring sizer (which came in really useful as I ended up taking three rings back to the workshop to resize), a sign-up board for anyone wishing to join the Letters of Ara newsletter, and small mallet and ring mandrel to make rings a little bigger in case the need arose.
As I decided to take a few gold pieces with me, I wanted something a little special on which to display one of the full moon pendants. Rather than buying something ‘new’ I was over the moon to find a pre-loved bust of Artemis (complete with a chip at the back) who I knew would make the perfect accompaniment. Interesting fact - when exploring brand names many moons ago, I toyed with the idea of ‘Artemis the Hunter’, with the notion of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, sourcing beautiful objects for the offering.
I knew I would need to have some kind of branding on the stall and, without question, it had to be an altar. David helped me to make one -again from FSC wood- using dimensions that follow the golden ratio (1:1.6...) which goes back to Euclid and was employed by the Roman architect Vitruvius. It was since used in Georgian and Neo Classical building, and also portrayed in Art (e.g. by Dali). So I knew my little altar would be in good company with this approach.
To incorporate my branding into the altar, we created a cloth overlay from European grown hemp, and the folks at one69a in Manchester screen printed my logo with soil association approved ink. To finish, I added a little offering of found natural objects to the top of the altar.
A little detail
I also took along the amphora that features in some Ara photography, which I found via EESOME and some postcards. To communicate Ara’s offering, prices, and an overview of the brand, I also made some little display cards using FSC accredited paper.
Mindful of the time that I had to prepare for Lammas alongside other projects -and very conscious to keep to my slow making approach- I made a small offering of recycled silver & gold Phase pieces and dusted off a pile of molten samples that, about 18 months earlier, I had created as part of the development of a collection that ended up taking a slightly different turn (keep your eyes peeled for that one).
The molten samples were all completely one of a kind, made using recycled silver scrap from my workbench, carefully positioned and heated until melting and solidifying into a molten form. They were really well received so -after some feedback- I might begin offering some molten pieces online.
The community was so welcoming, upon arrival the fellow women business owners were so lovely, we passed some Incasua incense around each of our spaces and I felt right at home in-between my lovely neighbours.
The same community feel was consistent throughout all of the folk visiting the pop up. It was such a pleasure to meet lots of like minded people, some of whom already knew about Ara which really made my day; it was so lovely to chat with customers in real life. I get so used to working in my own bubble so it was really encouraging to know there’s a place for Ara at this kind of event.
Keeping low impact
As usual, I took my water bottle and insulated pint pot with me to top up on the tea (it also helped that we were situated above a pub so were able to stay ‘hydrated’).
As I wasn’t sure what the food situation would be, I made a vegan grilled cheese sandwich to take with me which ensured I wasn’t creating any rubbish. In the end I was glad I’d done a little prep as once things were underway I didn’t want to leave my stall and miss out on chatting with the lovely Nottingham folk!
Logistics wise, I packaged all of my display things in some wooden crates, using blankets to protect the breakables.
The day absolutely flew by and the whole experience was such a pleasure. After a long day with a trip back to Manchester ahead of me, I grabbed some dinner with one of my lovely neighbours - the perfect end to the day.
I’m so grateful to Blue for inviting me to play, to the fellow women brands who made me feel so welcome, and to everyone who chatted with me about Ara, joined the newsletter or took a piece of adornment home with them.
Thanks so much for having me, Nottingham.