Marieanne Cavaciuti of Damson Tree Pottery has always loved working with clay but for many years there wasn’t time for ceramics. So after her youngest child started school, she built a pottery under the damson trees in her garden and Damson Tree Pottery was born. We wanted to know more about how she has grown her business since then, and what her secrets are for successful selling…
When and how did you start your business, and how has it developed since then?
I started selling my work regularly at craft fairs in March 2010 and had a lot of positive feedback, but I didn’t like spending time away from the family at weekends. I heard about selling online from fellow makers, so began to research this as a possibility for my work. So I opened a shop on an online marketplace and spent loads of time researching other shops, analysing what made them successful. I read books and blogs on every aspect of selling online, and took thousands of photos of my work until things began to take off. I now sell my work all around the world.
Last year I opened my Folksy shop and love the way genuine handmade work is supported and promoted here. I attended one of the Folksy Business in a Day workshops in September and I am very inspired and encouraged by what I learnt and hope to put this into practice over the next few years to see my business grow further.
Did you consider your brand identity before launching your business?
I spent a lot of time thinking about this and it has really been something that has grown and developed with the business.
How and where do you sell your work?
I mainly sell online, but also through a few independent retailers and good Christmas Markets.
What’s been your bestseller?
The best-selling spot has been a real battle between anything ‘daisy’ and the cherry blossom soap dishes and coasters. I guess the real winner has got to be my daisy bobby pins, which have featured in a number of weddings and are loved by girls of all ages!
How do you promote your work?
I post photos and links on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr. I also give out business cards wherever I go and wear my jewellery and my buttons on my coat, which opens up conversations about my work.
Which social media channel is your favourite and why?
I love Instagram because it’s photograph based but also includes interaction. Facebook is a great way to connect with people I know and many have bought my work.
Is there anyone you think does social media particularly well?
I’m very inspired by Mr Finch who has a huge following on Facebook and loves to promote other people’s work as well as his own stunning fabric creations. He featured my water lily coasters and they had so many likes and sales as a result!
Have you got any tips for growing your following?
I try to take gorgeous photos of my work and the beauty in the natural world that inspires me. I also try to be myself when I’m interacting with other people online and in person.
Do you have a method for working out your pricing?
I add up the cost of materials, overheads, cost of time taken to make, promote and package, and profit, and double this for the retail price. Wholesale prices are a percentage of this and depend on the quantities purchased.
Do you do your own photography? How important do you think good products shots are?
I do all my own photography and think that good product shots are vital for selling online. No matter how beautiful a product is, if the photo is not good it will not sell successfully!
Can you share any tips for taking good product photos?
Light, light, light! I nearly always use natural light and photograph outside – the best time being a cloudy English day! My favourite background for my colourful ceramics is greyed rustic wood, which is a great foil for the colours and needs very little editing. I spend many hours rearranging my items for photographs and try to put as much creativity into the composition of the shots as into the making of my work.
What’s the hardest part about being a maker?
I guess for me it’s keeping up with the paperwork and admin so vital in running a successful business!
Do you ever run promotions, and how have those worked for you?
I have run a few promotions involving discounts or free shipping. These have worked especially well when I’ve joined together with other online sellers or as part of an organised promotion around particular calendar dates. I love it best when we all promote each other!
Finally, have you got any tips on how to pick up last-minute Christmas sales?
I would say make sure your descriptions and titles include the words ‘Christmas gift’ or even ‘last-minute Christmas gifts’ and other relevant keywords, so they can be found quickly when people are searching online. It’s a good idea to tell people about last ordering and posting dates on social media – most people are happy to be reminded!