This month we are sharing a conversation between member Rosie Ward (Smitten Knits) and our Establish group coordinator, Ruth Singer. They both create (very different) textile work and sell through various online platforms. The variety of methods for selling just go to show how complex the craft and textile market is.
Ruth singer, interviewed by rosie ward
Rosie: How has the lack of face to face markets impacted your business?
Ruth: Luckily for me, I stopped selling at markets a few years ago so I haven’t lost that trade but I have lost out on exhibitions. Most of my work is created for solo or group exhibitions and sales alongside the shows in galleries and events (such as Festival of Quilts) has always been significant. The main impact has been a reduction in my marketing as well as sales because those events and exhibitions really helped to grow my profile which leads to more sales, commissions and invitations to exhibit and teach.
Rosie: What methods have you used to help generate online sales?
Ruth: I do most of my selling via my online shop which is linked to but separate to my website (I use Big Cartel). I have also experimented with selling directly to Instagram followers and others using the Artist Support Pledge concept created by Matthew Burrows in the early stages of the pandemic. His idea was to create a hashtag (#artistsupportpledge) where people could see and buy work directly from the artist, while galleries and other places to sell were not available. The artist pledges that for every £1000 of work they sell under £200, they will spend £200 on works from other artists. I did one round of this last year and it went really well and I was so happy to have a reason to spend a fifth of my earnings on other artists. It’s great for everyone. So I will be doing this more in 2021 too.
Rosie: Do you hold stock of products you sell online or are all your pieces one-offs/made to order?
I really only sell things that are already made. I do make to commission but I don’t really advertise this as it’s something I find quite hard as each piece I make is entirely unique with a personal story and antique textiles or tools. What I do have a lot of stock of is books, particularly my Criminal Quilts book which I self-published and have a large print run stored in my loft! I am trying to develop more digital products (techniques, patterns etc) so I don’t have the physical storage problems that come with print!
See more of Ruth's work here -
Rosie WARD, interviewed by Ruth singer
Ruth: Where do you sell online and how has each of those been for you?
Rosie: My main selling platforms are Not on the High Street, Etsy and my website (www.smittenknits.co.uk). The highest percentage of my sales come through Not on the High Street. I have had a good experience on there. They have a great support team who I have sought advice from on things ranging from product development to delivery issues. They have a huge online presence and are able to drive relevant customers to my storefront.
My experience with Etsy is that it has been more difficult to be found amongst the huge number of sellers on there. That being said there are many strategies that will help increase my visibility but I am still implementing these! They have a lovely community.
Over the past 6 months I have spent a lot of time working on my website as this is where I want to be driving most of my sales going forward. I have recently joined Amanda Perry's 'Ecom Growth Hub' after Amanda was highly recommended by Chloe Hardisty (founder of Cotton Clara) on her WebinArt event a few months ago. I'm so excited about this!!
Ruth: Do you sell different things in different shops and can you see a variation in what sells where?
Rosie: I generally offer the same product ranges on all selling platforms. I sell more high price point items (my patchwork blankets) on Not on the High Street. Bespoke orders mainly come through my website which I think is down to a small business website feeling more personal than just being a store front on a larger site.
Ruth: What has changed in the last year about how you sell your work?
Rosie: Since the first lock down last year I started making more sales through Instagram. I think people (including myself!) have been spending a lot more time scrolling social media which has been great for us online sellers! I started making wall hangings with knitted messages designed to be 'letter box gifts' to send to loved ones whilst we were unable to see them in person. Each time I posted these on my Instagram I would receive messages requesting lovely personalisations on the wall hangings to be sent to friends and family which really made me smile.
See more of Rosie's work here -