Ruth Robinson set up her Folksy shop Ruth Robinson Ceramics in July 2013. She sells handmade porcelain and stoneware treasures because “some mornings I wake up wanting to man-handle a sculpture, or I may spend months obsessing over a couple of button designs – sometimes it drives me a little mad, but mostly it keeps me sane”. We asked Ruth to tell us a bit more about her shop, her pricing and her great product shots…
When and how did you start your business, and how has it developed since then?
Over the years I’ve had a go at making and selling pewter castings, mohair bears and being a freelance artist, and although clay has been in and out of my life for the last 20 years it wasn’t until six years ago that I plucked up the courage to show my ceramics to the world. I joined a local art group, Artsxstra, and started showing my sculptures and water-etched porcelain in local group exhibitions. They were massively supportive. Four years ago I challenged myself to have a go at selling online and developed a range of buttons and brooches which could be easily posted. I was surprised by the positive international response and everything has snowballed since. Last year I was accepted into The Peak District Artisans, a group of professional artists that I was in awe of when I was a student, and I finally joined Folksy. I’ve not quite managed to quit the day job yet, but I have cut down my hours and now consider myself a full-time artist with a part-time job on the side.
Your product shots are great. Do you take them yourself and how important do you think good products shots are?
When selling online good product shots are vital, but they don’t have to cost a fortune. I take my own and I’m continuously learning and developing my methods. The most important thing for me is natural light and keeping it simple so as to not detract attention from the product. My current photos are my simplest yet. I made a gradient image in Photoshop and printed it out on my old inkjet printer. I love the effect it gives in the background, and all it cost was an A4 sheet of paper and some ink.
How and where do you sell your work – online, wholesale, markets?
I sell online and take part in joint art exhibitions. I’ve dipped my toe into the world of craft shows too, and once a month I share a stall with fellow artist Jane Cummins at Treacle Market, which is an artisan market in Macclesfield. I don’t sell wholesale at the moment as it would put up the retail price considerably and I like my work to be priced so that it’s affordable to everyone.
How do you promote your work?
Promotion is one of my weaker points. I’m on Facebook but I’m terrible at updating it. I’m ashamed to admit that a year after starting, my website is still half built, and I can’t get my head around Twitter. Instead, I’m a big fan of business cards and pop one in with every sale, I regularly update stock online, and at the Treacle Market I have a billboard I use to advertise new designs, which works really well.
Have you got a method for working out your pricing?
I take into consideration:
- the time it took to design and make
- material costs
- the space it took up in the kiln
- whether it’s a one-off piece or a press-moulded piece
- packaging costs
- online commission fees
- and lastly, the easily forgotten but important clean-up time (some of my work, like wheel throwing, can get really messy).
Do you have any exciting plans for 2014?
I’m developing a range of work which involves inlaying porcelain into stoneware, I love the contrast of the two together and the texture of the fired unglazed clay. I’m also planning to list some of my larger work online, starting with clocks and tea lights.
Have you got any tips for other makers?
If you’ve been erming and arring about selling your work online, take a leap of faith and just do it. You’re not going to know whether your work will sell or not unless you actually put it out there for someone to buy. Accept that perfection doesn’t happen overnight – you have to start somewhere and even the most successful maker has had to learn from their mistakes. Cost wise, it’s free to set up a shop on Folksy and then with a £10 budget you can list your stock and still have enough left to buy yourself a bottle of wine to celebrate having finally done it!
Visit Ruth’s Folksy shop Ruth Robinson Ceramics
Read our Meet the Maker interview with Ruth