Cat Brown is a ceramist based near Brighton and owner of Cat’s Ceramics. We asked her to fill us in on the story behind her Folksy shop, how it’s developed, what she thinks are the secrets of a great product shot, and what she’s learned since she started…
When and how did you start your business, and how has it developed since then?
I started selling my work very tentatively at first, getting my work stocked in a couple of galleries and taking a stall at some local fairs. I remember being petrified that nothing would sell and nobody would like my work. But once you start getting a good response and people like your pieces your confidence grows and you can take the next big steps. Since then my range has grown so much and my competence as an artist and business person has increased tenfold. I’ve learned a lot!
How and where do you sell your work?
I sell online on Folksy and elsewhere. I stock some great galleries and shops across the UK and I also do fairs and events whenever I can fit them in. I think it’s best to use all the selling avenues you can, so as to even out any seasonal highs and lows. Plus it keeps your fingers in all the different pies. I’ve started doing a lot more commissioned work too, which I’m thoroughly enjoying.
How do you promote your work?
Luckily, living near Brighton there is a great artistic community and I do regular fairs at the Maker’s Boutique and participate in Brighton & Hove Artists Open Houses twice a year. They are great places to get your work seen and meet fantastic, creative people at the same time. Promoting my work online I use my Facebook page and blog as regularly as I can. I’m a huge fan of handing out business cards, whenever and wherever, to anyone who seems interested!
Your product shots are really strong. Do you take them yourself, and how important do you think good product shots are?
The majority of my photos I take myself but my partner helps with the technical side of things and does all the processing. Good photographs are so important not just for selling online but also for your business in general. Particularly for something as tactile as ceramics, if people can’t handle the pieces, the photos are all they have to go on, so I try really hard to convey the accurate size, texture, and colour as true as possible. Equipment doesn’t have to cost the earth either, but a descent camera is a must.
Have you got any tips for taking good product photos?
I’m still learning so much with product photography, but getting the lighting good and even makes a massive difference. It’s also good to have a clear idea of how you want the end results to look. I often see how the piece should be photographed before I’ve even finished making it! I think props can be good, but only if they bring something useful to the shot and complement the product. After all, you need to let the product speak for itself.
What’s the hardest part about being a maker?
The problem I have is that I’m a perfectionist, and I ask a huge lot of myself. I’m constantly trying to be better and always pushing, so it can be stressful at times. Having to juggle every aspect of the business can be bewildering too. I’ve promised myself to give myself a break once in a while and that it’s OK to slow down – fat chance of that really happening though!
Is there anything you wish you’d known when you started?
That is such a good question! I had no idea it would take such a long time to develop the product ranges and to build up the brand of Cat’s Ceramics. Nothing comes quickly working with ceramics, and there is a lot of ground to break before being able to really get your teeth stuck in. What is it that they say, though? Easy come, easy go. So I know it’s all worth it in the long run. I only feel like I’m really getting stuck in now after three years of working at it!