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Selvage, Rachel Collins interview

Shop Talk: Rachel Collins from Selvage

Rachel Collins is a knitwear designer who describes herself as “a better maker and designer than I am a salesperson”, so selling her work directly through Folksy and wholesale through a small selection of shops up and down the country suits her perfectly. We caught up with Rachel to find out more about her business, Selvage, how she started, and her tips for standing out from the crowd…

When and how did you start your business?
I started very cautiously, keeping expenses low and pricing products at an affordable level because of the recession. I was so excited to discover Folksy and the platform it provides for makers to sell directly to the public, on however small a scale. It has been a great launch pad.

Did you consider your brand identity before you opened your Folksy shop?
Possibly not as much as I should have – sometimes it’s just more important to push on and get making and selling. I decided against using my own name because I had an idea that I might form a collective with other makers in the future. I also wanted to use a name that was not too specific and that would allow some flexibility should I need to adapt.

Rachel Collins, Selvage, Fair Isle Knitwear, Scottish designer

“My mind is always full of new ideas about products I could make”

How and where do you sell your work?
My preferred option is direct selling through various online platforms including Folksy. I also sell wholesale to small shops up and down the country. I am a better maker and designer than I am a salesperson, so distance selling and selling to shop owners suits my needs perfectly. I love taking part in the open studio weeks which run every year in Scotland – they are a great opportunity to meet shoppers and other creative people.

Do you ever develop pieces with a particular customer (or event) in mind?
I’m currently working on some Christmas Mittens inspired by Estonian style but knitted in Scottish lambswool. I’ve tried to keep it subtle so they have some longevity though.

Folksy Blog, Meet the Maker Interview, Rachel Collins, Christmas Mittens

Rachel’s Christmas Mittens – designed to be festive but in a subtle way so they have longevity

What’s been your best-selling piece so far?
The Fair Isle hot water bottles – people go mad for them at Christmas time.

Have you got a method for working out your pricing?
I price things based on the weight of the yarn used plus an hourly rate for my time. I also benchmark my prices against other web sites and adjust accordingly.

Do you work to commission? What are the good and bad points of working this way?
I have done, sometimes it’s a very enjoyable process if you find you’re on the same wavelength as the person you’re working with. Occasionally I’ve had a specific request for a colour or pattern I’m really just not keen on – it can be hard to say no, but probably better for your integrity if you do.

artist studio shed

Rachel’s studio, which you can visit at certain times of the year during Open Studio weeks

How do you promote your work?
I advertise in local newsletters but rely heavily on word of mouth and taking part in open studios and local events.

Do you do your own product photography? 
I do my own photography and rope in family and friends too. None of us have any great talent – we just take hundreds, then edit them down. I like to use natural materials like linen, stone or timber as a backdrop because they suit the look I’m trying to achieve. It’s extremely useful to have a studio with white walls and a lot of natural light, as that often doubles as a set.

knitwear photography, knitted blanket, scottish

Rachel’s studio often doubles as a photography set

What’s the hardest part about being a maker?
Stopping. My mind is always full of new ideas about products I could make – I could do it all day because I Iove it. I like to feel that I am being productive. On the other hand, I need to make sure I allocate time to doing the parts of the job that I find less enjoyable, like chasing up payments, keeping the books, and finding new sales.

Finally, what piece of advice can you give us on how to stand out from the crowd when selling online?
Try to pinpoint what it is that makes your work unique to you and don’t over compromise or be tempted to water down your ideas.

Read Rachel’s Meet the Maker interview and discover more about her work and inspirations >>

Visit Rachel’s Folksy shop >>


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