Diana and Dave run Pygmy Cloud from their east London studio. We caught up with them for a chat about how their shop developed and how they promote their work, and also managed to grab a whole load of top photography tips…
When and how did Pygmy Cloud start?
I started Pygmy Cloud in 2011 when I started making little felt decorations. When Dave joined we started making toys based on his illustrations – mainly grumpy bears and beardy plushies which they proved to be really popular. Since then we have been bouncing ideas off of one another, collaborating on making a range of products, from stationery to toys to home decor.
Are you both full-time designer/makers?
We are both self-employed and have other work alongside Pygmy Cloud. I am a freelance photographer’s assistant and retoucher. I’m lucky to work with some very talented photographers who photograph a range of things from products and food to interiors. It’s a varied job and an inspiring industry to work in – I am never short of inspiration shall we say! Dave works as a freelance illustrator under the moniker of Hatch. The illustrations he produces are very different to what he does for Pygmy Cloud, but we like a bit of variety in our lives!
How do you sell your work – online, wholesale, markets?
All of the above! We base ourselves mostly online – through our own website and a few select outlets such as Folksy. I feel selling online is the centre of our business and is the hub of our promotion and branding. We connect with our buyers through the various social media sites, so it’s only natural for us to concentrate our efforts on our online shops. We took the leap into selling wholesale last year and Pygmy Cloud is now stocked in a few boutique shops in England and France. It was quite a challenge making our products ready for wholesale, but well worth the effort.
We sell at a few craft fairs in London, mostly around Christmas time. I find that it’s really good promotion in terms of getting our name out there, and increasing our sales offline as well as online. It’s great to be able to meet fellow crafters and engage with customers. The feedback we get from customers is essential for progressing our business.
What tips have you picked up for selling at craft fairs?
Markets are a great place to meet other designer-makers. I learn a lot from the friends I have made at fairs, so remember to keep in touch with them via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. Lots of makers work from home which can get a tad lonely, so it’s always nice to stay connected with the craft community. Setting goals is a good way to make the most of your day. Perhaps you want to get feedback on a certain product or get people to join your mailing list – having goals in mind will help achieve a little more than selling your wares – bonus!
What are the good bits (and the bad bits) about selling wholesale?
The great thing about selling wholesale is that a company or boutique shop feels confident enough to invest in buying a bulk lot of your products to sell in their outlet. It’s great to be able to sell a larger quantity in one go rather than individually. It’s good brand awareness to have products stocked in other shops and you’re reaching a new and wider audience. The difficult part of selling wholesale is getting the pricing right. Shops tend to take quite a large commission, which was a bit of a shock at first. I had to really think about which products had a future and where the sums just didn’t add up. A good friend of mine told me ‘don’t be a busy fool’, which is very true. If you want to make a living from your work, your products need to be profitable for the time they take to make.
Your product shots are simple, but fabulous and fun. Do you take them yourself, and how do you decide how to style your shots?
I take all my photographs myself. I studied photography at university and before Pygmy Cloud I wanted to be a professional photographer, so I have my own photography kit which turned out to be very handy! I try to keep all of the photos bright and airy looking, so tend to use white backgrounds. Rather than having a paper backdrop, I like to add a bit of texture such as having a rustic brick wall in the background or some wooden boards painted white when I can. I think it adds a bit of interest and suggests a location, which feels homely without being distracting. Sometimes I add a few props such as paper trees for fun or a cup to show the coasters in use.
Have you got any tips for other makers who struggle with product photography?
Using natural light and tripod is always a good place to start. If you’re taking photographs indoors, chances are it will be quite low light. Having a tripod will keep the camera steady so ‘camera shake’ is less likely and the images will be more crisp. Keeping the camera in the same position makes composing the shot easier too. I keep nudging the products and props around until the image looks right – sometimes this can take several shots. If the shadows looks too heavy, bounce light back into the shot using white card placed on the opposite side to the light source.
How do you promote your work? And what do you think work best?
Instagram in my favourite social media, because it’s visual instead of text based. We like to vary our feed to keep our followers interested, so we post pictures of works in progress, places we’ve been, fairs we’re selling at, as well as our products. We like to interact with our customers too – I love receiving pictures from our happy buyers and see our bears and wares new homes. We even started our own Instagram hash tag #pygmybearselfie – our bear loves taking selfies to show what he’s up to! We also have a Facebook page and Twitter account, which reach different people. These two are easier to link to our online shop. Next on the list is a newsletter to boost our promotion.
Are there any people you think do social media really well?
Sketch Inc does social media wonderfully – her pictures on Instagram are inspiring! Becky has created a well-rounded and recognisable brand for herself and her images make her products really shine.
Has your work received any press coverage, and what effect has that had on your sales?
We’ve been lucky enough to write craft tutorials for Whole Foods Market, Mollie Makes magazine, Gathered for Mollie Makes and Crafty Magazine in the last year. As well as creating fun content, it was great exposure for Pygmy Cloud. We saw a good increase in sales after the features as well as more interactions with fellow makers on different social media channels – hooray!
• Read our Meet the Maker interview with Pygmy Cloud