Judith Needham from Folksy shop Wove is a basket maker based in Farnham. As well as beautiful willow baskets and smaller decorative pieces, she also makes the most incredible fairytale playhouses and dens. We asked her to tell us more about the two sides of her business, and if she has any tips for other makers…
When did you start your business, and how has it developed since then?
I made the first playhouse for my daughter about eight years ago and was encouraged by friends to sell them. Since then the business has developed a lot. As the playhouse side of it is seasonal (I can only make them in the spring when fresh willow is available), I make smaller items during the rest of the year.
Do you work on Wove full time?
I work full time, but at the moment at least half of my time is taken up with teaching. I teach basket making and willow weaving to adults in Surrey and Hampshire.
How you promote your work?
I use Twitter and Facebook, of course, and have seen results from both. I think Pinterest has great potential, which I’m only just starting to explore. I’ve tried a bit of magazine advertising with zero success. All these things can take up a lot of time. I do believe in good old ‘word of mouth’. Just doing what you do and concentrating on doing it well and then letting personal recommendation do your promotion for you.
How do you sell your work – online, wholesale, markets?
All three! Wholesale is quite new to me, but I can now boast stockists in Oxfordshire, Kent and California! Many of my playhouse sales come from people finding my website. I also have two online shops and another online stockist. Markets are great for showcasing the playhouses in that people get the chance to try sitting in them, but I haven’t had that many sales of playhouses from markets and it’s a costly and exhausting business hiring a large van to get them there and back, so I haven’t done as many this year. But as I make quite a lot of Christmas decorations, markets at this time of year are great for me.
How do you price your work?
Pricing is the part of the job I like least. I tend to start with time taken plus materials used, then decide that looks too expensive and reduce it! Not the recommended method I know, but it’s nice to sell stuff so it’s very tempting. With basketry, people are used to paying very little for baskets made in the developing world and so assume they must be easy and quick to make. They are not! I find at the end of a basket-making workshop students have developed (along with sore fingers!) an understanding of why baskets made by craftspeople here have to cost what they do.
Have you got any tips for other makers?
- Teaching is very rewarding and is a good way to get some income coming in while you perfect your craft, develop products and hone your business skills. You also learn a lot about your craft through explaining it to others.
- Have a wide price range to your work so everyone can afford something. This works as promotion too. With more people owning a bit of your work, more people will see it.
- Make time to just ‘play’ – with ideas, with new materials. It’s often when you’re in the act of crafting that new ideas form. Sadly I rarely follow this advice myself, but when I do it always pays off!