We spoke to Kate Clark from Gilbert and Stone about her business, picked up some simple product photography tips and found out how she has taken her hobby and turned it into a full-time job…
When did you start Gilbert and Stone, and what kind of things did you consider before setting up your online shop?
Gilbert and Stone has been going just over two years now. At first it was just a hobby and I joined Folksy to see if anyone would buy. I can still remember the excitement of my first sale (some ceramic bunting to a lady in Arizona). From there things evolved quite slowly and naturally – I sourced packaging and supplies as I went along, read as much about photography as I could and picked up lots of tips by lurking in the forums.
Is Gilbert and Stone your full-time job?
About six months ago sales had reached the point where I began to believe this could be my full-time job, so I spent every spare moment trying to grow and develop my business. Just last week I quit my day job and am now a full-time ceramicist. It’s so good to be able to say that!
How do you sell your work?
I sell on three online outlets and wholesale to a number of gift shops. I do the occasional craft fair too – they’re great for meeting other makers and getting your work known, even if you don’t make tonnes of sales on the day. In the future, I’d love to develop a larger wholesale range and take it to trade shows.
What channels do you use to promote your work, and which do you think work best?
I’ve got Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook accounts. I only set up a Facebook page for Gilbert and Stone at the start of the year and it’s already bringing in a steady stream of sales. I like to use it to keep people updated with what I’m up to and it’s great for connecting with other sellers.
How do you calculate your prices? Do you pay yourself a salary?
I’ve probably got a back-to-front approach to pricing. I look at the marketplace and aim to price myself at the mid-to-high end, then work backwards and take out materials and tax and see if I’m happy with what’s left! My wholesale discount is 40%, so I have to make sure the figures still stack up for wholesale. I take a small salary, but the majority of the revenue is reinvested in materials and equipment.
Do you take your own product shots? Have you got any tips for other Folksy sellers?
I do. When I look back on my first attempts I think I’ve come a long way! I’d say take photos outside on a slightly overcast day and use a plain unfussy background – I use painted wood and mountboard. I think using the same background for all your shots makes your shopfront look more cohesive and gives you a stronger brand identity.
How do you manage your time, and what do you do in an average working day?
I have two boys, so I juggle Gilbert and Stone with looking after them. I do a lot of work in the evenings when they’re in bed. A typical day starts with checking for new orders and updating the order book. I’ve usually got items at different stages of the process – making, drying, cleaning, firing and glazing – so I flit around doing a bit here and a bit there. I really like that aspect of ceramics – if I get bored with one job I can move on to another. It’s probably not the most efficient way of working, but it suits me!
How would you like your work to develop and grow?
I’ve started to see two different strands emerging: items (like my berry punnets and egg boxes) that can be made in large quantities and wholesaled; and bespoke, personalised items (like the christening hearts). So I’m developing new products along those two lines.
Is there anything you’ve learned along the way that you wish you’d known when you started your shop?
The whole process is one big learning curve, and I’m always making mistakes and learning new lessons. For example, once I messed up my international postage rates and ended up paying more for the postage than I charged for the item on five different orders! It was a harsh lesson to learn, but I made sure it never happened again.
Have you got any tips for other makers?
Keep on keeping on! Sometimes things seem to be at a standstill and it’s easy to loose heart, but use the quiet times to work on new products and promote your work. Value your work and be confident with your pricing. Keep on top of the paperwork too – it’s really easy for it to get out of control!