Design Trust Workshop

This post is not directly textile related but I hope it will be useful for anyone wanting to market and sell their hand-made work.

Last week I attended a workshop with Patricia van den Akker from the Design Trust. The main focus was on marketing and was a godsend for me, I have read all the articles and often thought, “yes, makes sense, I should do that” but never actually did it! I am a terrible procrastinator and really need someone standing over me to make sure I do the difficult / less fun stuff like writing a business plan (not as boring as it sounds), working out what my brand is and who my customers are.

While I can’t cover the whole workshop in one blog post I hope you will find the following highlights a useful place to start… As Patricia said at the start of her workshop, “this is a workshop, and you will be doing the work!” 🙂

Have you got pen and paper ready? Try to answer each question before you move onto the next. Let’s get started….

What is your business dream?

What does success look like for you? Holidays in the sun every year, time to spend with your children/family, earning a specific salary, winning a design award, having a team of employees etc.

Think about why you chose your craft. Who are your role models? Why do you look up to them, what have they achieved?

What do you want to be known for? What would you like to be said in your eulogy? What is most important to you?

Marketing

This is communicating the value of your product for the purpose of selling. Try not to think of it as advertising, more as a conversation with potential customers and clients.

Marketing has 3 inter-related purposes:

  • increase your profile
  • increase your credibility (trust)
  • brings you clients

Why do you do what you do? Is it just art therapy for you or do you have a wider philosophy you want to share with the world?

Effective marketing requires that you understand your client’s needs when designing your products, what problem are you solving / need are you satisfying for them? What makes you different from your competition?

Who is your ideal client? There may be several different people and it can help to write a profile for each, think about:

  • their age
  • gender
  • who lives with them
  • do they work?
  • hobbies and interests
  • where do they go on holiday?
  • why do they buy your product?

Brand Identity

Have you ever looked at a piece of work and though, “that was made by so-n-so”? Or described something as being “very Warhol”, you have unwittingly absorbed brand identities. If you want your work to be recognisable it helps to think about what make your work look or feel different to other crafts(wo)men in your field. Take a look at the photos in your online shop or create a gallery of your work and try to come up with 5 words to describe your collection. It helps to ask friends an family for their input on this, if you are selling face to face you could even ask your customers which words they would pick.

You might end up with a description like, “Bright, flowery and floaty scarves” or, “calming and expansive textile landscapes”, this is your brand identity.

Try to be consistent with the brand image you present, use the same image and text on website banners, business cards, stationery. Is your website banner / business card image and text consistent the 5 words you came up with from looking at your gallery?

Make a Plan!

What business (and personal) goals do your want to achieve this year? Try to be specific, if it is a salary – how much and by when? What sales would you need to make to take that salary? If it is a holiday, where? how long for? when? If it is to make sales, how many and by when?

Then break your goal down into monthly targets, what needs to happen each month to achieve your goal by the date you set?

Review your targets/goals at least once a month and look for alternative courses of action if you are not on target.

If you have an Etsy shop, read the Etsy Handbook, Patricia recommended 2 hours of reading and 2 hours of action per week, personally I am finding I need to take action as I read each suggestion, and I am spending 2 min reading then 2 hours updating my listings!

Patricia also offered a reality check about how much time we should expect to spend on making vs marketing. As a new designer-maker you should expect your time to be spent:

40% on marketing

40% on making

10% research and professional development

10% admin

Design Trust

There is a ton of really useful information on the Design Trust web site (start in the “free resources” section), I can thoroughly recommend it, but be prepared to stop and answer each question posed, taking notes as you go, before moving onto the next paragraph, you will get much more out of the site if you really engage with it and stop to think about what each question means for you and your business.

These are just my highlights from the workshop, if you get the chance to work with Patricia, take it, she manages to make marketing fun and the face to face interaction makes it less easy to gloss over the harder the questions and only focus on what you are already good at!

Do you have any tips on marketing or selling your work?

 

I feel very conscious that this post is all words and no pictures so here is the finished “Michael” wall hanging, finally framed and ready for sale this week 🙂

Bags Galore!

Over the past year I have been working on a series of bag tutorials for the Felting and FIber Studio online bag class that will begin on May 24th. I am so excited this long-awaited class is almost here! 🙂

The first week will cover the techniques to make a spectacles/phone/pencil case that uses only felt for the closure (no buttons or magnetic snaps), to date most of my pouches have been cats with bling, so this weekend I have been making a giraffe to illustrate that you can choose any animal you wish, it could be beloved pet, a friend’s pet (they make very personal gifts), a wild animal, or even an imaginary monster, the choice is yours! 🙂

In each case below, the tongue of the animal forms the tab that closes the flap over the pouch opening.

 

 

The second week will be about making a bag with adjustable straps and internal pockets, adding a magnetic closure and how to shape the bag so it has a flat base that will sit on the ground without falling over.

 

Finally in week 3 we will look at how make a backback with large internal compartments and multiple pockets, choosing the hardware and making adjustable straps from either canvas webbing or wool. Consideration will be given on how to make large bags durable enough to carry a heavy weight without being heavy themselves.

The red backpack is my bag, it gets daily abuse from me and this is what it looks like after 6 months, they are pretty sturdy bags!

The pale green/yellow slit you can see on the back of the green backpack is a large pocket, I will add a zip when I get a spare hour 🙂

The great benefit of online classes is that you can work at your own pace and at times that fit in around you and your other commitments. Although the class nominally runs for 3 weeks, the forum will be open and I will be there to offer support  and answer questions for an additional 2 weeks in case you are unable to make a bag one week or would like to make more than 3 bags and share photos of your wonderful creations with the rest of the class. 🙂

The PDF tutorials from each week will be yours to keep after the class has finished.

For more information and to register your interest in the bag class please follow this link and complete the contact form at the bottom of the page. I will be in touch by email just before registration opens at the beginning of May.

Hats with Zsofia Marx

Last weekend was spent with the beautiful ladies of IFA region 2 in the New Forest and the delightful and generous Zsofia, Zsofia makes the most gorgeous and stylish hats, do check out her facebook page if you aren’t familiar with her work.

 

She shared some interesting techniques, some of which I confess I found alarming but everyone came away with a stunning hat, so clearly I need to be more open to the alternative ways of making felt. 🙂

If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend taking a workshop with her, she has a natural talent for shaping hats to suit different face shapes that is a true joy to watch.

I take my hat off to you Guildford!

Wow, what a week! Last week saw the second module of my FDAD course at West Deam, it was an incredibly intense 6 days, I was a zombie by Wednesday but made it to the end and I am so glad I did, it was well worth it. I will post about that when I feel a bit more recovered!

I got back from West Dean on Friday afternoon and had to pack the car for an Etsy Local fair in Guildford, at the time I was so exhausted I questioned if I would make it through to the end of the fair but the wonderful people of Guildford carried me through with their fantastic sense of fun and laughter 🙂

A slightly smaller space than the last fair but it still attracted plenty of attention.

The people of Guildford really surprised me, I expected to sell a couple of my more conventional styled hats but it was the really quirky ones that everyone wanted to try on and buy!

The horned hat was very popular…

But the prize for the best reaction had to go to this gent’s youngest son, his delighted laughter when his daddy turned around to face him in the hat was the most endearing and honest response I could have wished for, his wonderful reaction had us all laughing along with him 🙂 And that is how the horned hat found its forever home! I hope to see it out and about around Guildford 🙂

Almost as soon as I put the alien hat on display to fill the spot vacated by the horned hat this lovely lady came along and snapped it up!

Well done Guildford, I was pleasantly surprised by your willingness to embrace the unconventional, I will bring more of my wacky hats next year! 🙂

Everybody was in such good spirits, there were a lot of conversations along the lines:

Friend 1: “Ooooh that’s lovely, I really like that”

Friend 2: “Oh no, that wouldn’t suit you at all!” while nudging me or giving hand signals to say, “could you put it aside, I will be back to buy it just as soon as Friend 1 can’t see me getting it for him/her”.

This was a very successful event and one I would gladly take part in again, the only snag is I have sold about 25% of my stock, I need to get making again! 🙂

Lastly (thank you for reading this far), the new dates for the FFS online classes have been posted on the FFS website, and I will be hosting a new class on making seamless felt bags, from small pouches to rucksacks, please check them out and drop me a line if you have any questions.

 

Art Box Christmas Stockings

I spent a fun but exhausting day last Tuesday with art-centric holiday club, Art Box. Approximately half the children took part in the autumnal themed felt picture making class in October, so already had a little felt-making experience. All the same, I think it was a little ambitious to have 22 children making felt over a resist with only 1.5 teachers (Wendy, who runs Art Box has made a few pieces of felt before but not over a resist). Most of the children did very well but some of the stockings had holes or came out an odd shape (I can only imagine they laid all their layers in the same direction) and some of their decorations came off during fulling. On the whole, I think the children were happy with what they had made but I suspect if I had been working with a smaller group, their stockings would have been better quality, I think it might be prudent to spend a few hours training the assistants before the next session…. we live and learn 🙂

As always the ideas the children had for decorating their stockings were amazing and blew me away!

I’m afraid I only managed to get photos of about 2/3 of them amongst the mad dash to clean up at the end of the day.  The first 2 were made by friends who wanted to have matching stockings… how cute is that?! 🙂

I hope you are having a wonderful day and enjoying the holidays.

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