This week’s featured maker is Kirsti Brown from Kirsti B Ceramics. We were intrigued by Kirsti’s two ranges of work that co-exist alongside each other – one aimed at galleries and exhibitions, and the other specifically created for selling online and through craft fairs. We asked her to tell us more, and share her selling tips…
When did you start your business, and how has it developed since then?
I set up my first ceramic workshop in 1996, three years after graduating with a degree in Contemporary Crafts from Manchester Metropolitan University in 1993. Although I specialised in ceramics and metalwork, I knew by the third year that ceramics was where my creative skills and passions lay. The work I make as Kirsti Hannah Brown Ceramics are hand-built vessels influenced by figures and landscape which are developed from drawings, paintings and photographs. The range I am currently making as Kirsti B Ceramics gives me an opportunity to work with more decorative methods and influences. I also wanted a range I could sell online and at craft fairs that was quite different to the bottles which I supply to galleries.
How do you promote your work?
This is one area that I could definitely improve on. I used to attend the British Craft Trade Fair every year until the children were born. This was the most successful way to reach galleries and shops, as buyers would visit from across the country and they were always looking for new pieces. Recently, and with some hesitation, I’ve joined Facebook – but it’s far too early to tell if this is going to work for me. Social media does appear to need a dedicated amount of time, and I sometimes feel as though I’ve spent all day on the computer rather than making. It’s a matter of altering my mind set a little!
How do you sell your work (online, wholesale, markets)?
I’m looking forward to three weekends of Christmas craft fairs this year, because I enjoy meeting customers face to face. It also gives a wider context to the work as buyers do like to meet the maker! The only online selling I’ve tried so far has been firstly Etsy, which I felt was too large. I decided to focus on Folksy as my online outlet – I like the fact that there is only British Craft on the site, everything is handmade and vintage doesn’t feature at all. The new shop fronts are fresh and there are some excellent makers featured on the site. It is still early days for me and online selling, and I need to keep up the promotion, but I believe this is the best option for this range of work.
Is there anything you wish you’d known when you started out?
I wish I’d applied for more competitions and opportunities when I was younger, and taken a few more chances and risks. As commitments with family life take hold it becomes harder to take chances, but on the other hand one is more confident.
What one top tip for making and selling would you give to other Folksy makers?
I strongly believe that enough time should be given to the full design process – from looking for inspiration, sketching ideas, trying them out and refining them through to the finished product. I also believe in the importance of what you make being your own idea and origination, because this will always give you a niche in any market.