The Crafters’ Expo: Behind The Scenes With Varah Musavvir

Jan 7, 2015 by     No Comments    Posted under: Spotlight, The Red Carpet

KARACHI: The Crafter’s Expo, a project of Firefly and The Crafter’s Guild, took place at the Royal Rodale Club on Sunday, 21-Dec-2014. A platform that brings crafters and their potential suppliers together with customers, this is an initiative that has the potential to permanently change the marketplace.

Our correspondent had the opportunity to take a one-on-one with the person behind the entire initiative: Varah Musavvir.

Varah and her team at the Crafter's Expo 2014. Photo credit: Varah Musavvir

Varah and her team at the Crafter’s Expo 2014. Photo credit: Varah Musavvir

1. Could you introduce yourself please?

“Hi. My name is Varah – I’m Varah Musavvir. I run the brand Firefly and I have a sister organization called the Crafters’ Guild; under these two we hold the Annual Crafters’ Expo, which you are attending today. It started about 3years ago and this is the third one that we’re doing. Every year, the number of participants and the size just seems to grow. We started with 55 vendors in our first year, we had a 102 last year and this year we’re at a 142 vendors.”

2. How did you get the concept for this?

“The idea was actually to have a bunch of us crafty people get together and host a small sale with our work, after one of my workshops. Now fate had it that my workshop, in that session, did not get the participants that I wanted. So I ended up asking my friends and other workshop participants that you know let’s do this as a one-day thing; it’s only fair you get more people to come see you rather than just 5 or 7 attendees. We decided to host it as a one-day event, and we chose the same venue and picked out a date in September. Overnight we had like 20forms and by afternoon the next day we had about 20 registrations paid for and everyone was onboard – within 4 weeks we literally had the town up and about, talking about the Crafters’ Expo. It was crazy! We had around 3000 visitors in our first year; I don’t know what happened but I guess people really responded to this idea. The Crafters’ Expo is a very novel idea around here, because it’s not just about your rural, ethnic crafts but you have crafts of all kinds – paper crafts (that follow the western inspired), you have crochet, you have knits, you have other creative textiles, you have tie-die, then we have wire jewelry, dough jewelry and other handmade jewelry. Then we have participants who’ve made designs, and constructed truck-art, metal based clutches – I mean that’s pretty awesome! So we have a lot of fun stuff happening here… and it just seems to keep growing each time.”

3. Did you ever expect such a response when you first started? How do you feel about today’s event?

Never! I never thought that this would be this big. I freaked out (about today) initially, because we’ve had a lot of trouble in the city and everyone’s been scared… there was a power failure this morning, yet despite all of that we’ve had a decent turn out.”

4. Is it very difficult organizing such an event?

“It’s not difficult organizing such an event. It’s actually difficult motivating all the participants who are on board and encouraging them to come forward and follow through the whole process. We don’t ask you to pay for a stall and just show up on the day of the event; we follow up on you. We promote your work and build your confidence in it – we train people. We hosted a workshop where we had a designer, a social media expert and a photographer come in to talk about the dos and don’ts and tricks of being an at-home, budding crafter and potential business owner. We work at that level and I doubt anyone offers that to their participants. For us, this is more like a community building effort: we have an online forum where all the participants engage and interact with each other. Our Facebook group for the Crafters Expo is constantly updating its members with regards to new developments; there are about a 132members on there and it was (initially) difficult getting all of them on, because not everybody is social media friendly or active, and we would post our updates, our registration deadlines and much more.”

5. Did you ever think that this would become a platform for women, in particular?

I didn’t think of that when I first started. Everyone had become an online celebrity through their work and this was just an attempt to get them all together on the same platform and have fun. And it grew and it was soon like a meet-and-greet thing; you finally got to meet the hands behind the work. I guess this is one platform where even if women don’t exhibit in other events, they opt for the Crafter’s Expo as the first expo you’re a part of, because the training, the exposure that you receive here, everyone claims that they don’t receive that elsewhere. 95% of our participants are women, 80% of them are young people, our volunteers include both boys and girls who are really enthusiastic about this event – a lot of them have been with us for the last 3years…they’re like a part of my family.”

6. Can you please talk a little bit about Firefly?

“Firefly’s my baby – it started a little over 4 years ago; it will be 5-years-old in March 2015. It started as a very whimsy attempt to take my journal expression and portray it onto a medium open to the public. The journal I write in, I’ve named it Firefly; so anything that inspires me, anything that’s creative, anything I like – it’s in there.  So since I launched Firefly the brand, my journal entries actually became less, because whatever I create actually goes up on the page or is an order from the client. Everything is heartfelt. It is very therapeutic for me.”

7. What is the latest trend right now for Firefly products?

“My mini-albums and photo books have always been popular. Despite so many other beautiful options available in the market, people always come to me for them. Apart from that, when it comes to our Digital Range – our truck art stuck is simply crazy. People flip for it!  I don’t know if it’s the minimal local imagery and the fact that I actually doodle or the colors that makes it work… but we always have a very positive response to that.”

8. What would you have to say to people who are creative but hesitant to come out and showcase their work, since it’s not very easy to do so in our current environment?

“I would say that even if you’re a part of the biggest show in town, or the country, if you’re going to sit there with a sullen face and worried expressions you’re not going to be able to attract people to come and see you (and your work). Your display, your inventory – everyone works very hard towards this show. We’ve been at it for 8months…. The last 6months have been drilling and the last 3months have been especially mindboggling because of all the people we’ve had to saddle up for the event etc.”

9. What would you say to people who say that you should hold more than at least one event per year?

People say I should hold more than one event a year – we tried doing a smaller show (The Indie Arts and Crafts Show) in August – but I believe that the Crafters’ Expo will always stand out because of its name, because of it caters to and because it has kind of built itself to be the platform – it’s home. Craftpreneurs, crafters, hobbyists, people with a thing for crazy weird looking/ pretty things will come out here. It’s that one platform where you can connect and network – not just with buyers, but also with potential collaborators and suppliers. You have corporations that come by to see your work, business opportunities…. We have people from very large organizations here. It’s a whole another platform – it’s something for everybody. You’ll always go home feeling: okay, I did this, I introduced myself to the world.

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