Katy Livings – Shop Talk
Katy Livings is designer and maker of beautiful heirloom dolls. Her decorative dolls and rabbits are lovingly made using beautiful Liberty of London fabrics, wool and cashmere, and sold in her Folksy shop Stitch and Sprig. She is consistently making at full capacity, often working weekends just to keep up with orders. We talk to Katy about how she has grown her creative business and how Instagram has helped her dolls find a new and loyal audience…
When did you start your shop, and did you have a plan when you started out?
I opened my Folksy shop not long after my daughter started school towards the end of 2015. My plan was to test the market with a variety of products at different prices – pencil cases, bags, cushions and dolls.
As my business evolves I realise I will need to focus more of my time on promotion, marketing and staying on top of admin.
Where do you sell your work?
I sell solely online through Folksy, although I’ve previously exhibited my work at Top Drawer in London, Premier Vision in Paris and the British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate. I’ve had work stocked in shops and galleries in the past but at this stage my focus is on developing a made-to-order range and selling direct to customers.
As well as selling my handmade dolls I now also run doll-making workshops. This side of my business came about because Sally at Needle and Thread Workshops read my Meet the Maker interview on the Folksy blog! I’ve met so many lovely makers through these workshops and a couple of ladies have returned to do the whole class a second time, which is wonderful. The workshops sell out super quickly and that’s been a real confidence boost for me, and helped me focus on creating a range of doll patterns that I’m hoping to sell in the future.
Book Katy’s Doll Making Workshops here – https://www.needleandthreadworkshops.com/collections/workshops
There are so many elements of being a maker to juggle, so having an easy-to-use shop format gives me more time for making.
What do you like about selling on Folksy?
Being a designer-maker working from home can be lonely, so the sense of community from selling alongside other craftspeople is hugely reassuring. I love the ease of selling through Folksy and the support and guidance that Folksy offers. There are so many elements of being a maker to juggle, so having an easy-to-use shop format gives me more time for making.
As my dolls are so labour intensive, I can only work on a maximum of three per week.
How much time do you spend actually being creative – and how much on admin, social media, promotion etc?
I spend the majority of my time being creative, sewing or on product photography. As my business evolves I realise I will need to focus more of my time on promotion, marketing and staying on top of admin. Currently I spend all of my child-free hours making and leave admin until the evening. I’ve started working at weekends to complete orders so need to develop a working pattern where I set aside dedicated time for business admin.
I don’t have a pricing formula… I have aimed for a price point that strikes a balance between being affordable but not unprofitable. If I calculated an hourly rate for my dolls I believe it would make them too expensive to be viable.
How do you calculate your prices? Do you have a pricing formula?
I don’t have a pricing formula. If I calculated an hourly rate for my dolls I believe it would make them too expensive to be viable. The fabric I use ranges in price from £22/metre to £85/metre for cashmere (and more for hand-beaded fabrics that I can’t quite bring myself to use!). I have aimed for a price point that strikes a balance between being affordable but not unprofitable. I’m not sure that as a business it’s sustainable but I’m determined to make as many dolls as I can, if people are willing to buy them.
How do you sell your pieces? Do you make to order, list as you make or work on a set of pieces and then list in batches?
It’s been a combination of custom orders and products that I’ve listed for general sale. I have some lovely repeat customers who have been very loyal and supportive and I’m finding that custom orders are proving to be more and more popular. Having a product in my shop or on my Instagram feed generally results in an enquiry for a custom order.
I’m finding that custom orders are proving to be more and more popular.
How do you promote your work?
I solely use Instagram for promotion and am almost at capacity in terms of being able to fulfil orders, so I haven’t felt the need to pursue other social media channels or promote my work elsewhere.
I love Instagram because I can be an active part of a creative community.
I feel I owe Instagram a huge thank you, as most of my enquiries seem to come from there. I actually have to turn a lot of work down, which might seem crazy, but as my pieces are so labour intensive I can only work on a maximum of two to three items per week. I am trying to charge a higher price for my work though, to account for the limited number of dolls I can sew and make my business more feasible.
Having a product in my shop or on my Instagram feed generally results in an enquiry for a custom order.
You’ve grown a loyal following on Instagram. Have you got any tips about the best way to use it?
I’ve made a conscious decision not to post too many personal images and focus on products instead of my day-to-day life, which is more mundane and far less pretty! I try to post images that are carefully considered but probably post less frequently than I used to, but keep the emphasis on beautiful photographs rather than quantity.
I’m grateful for my very loyal followers for their encouragement and support. It’s lovely having customers who are collecting my work and keeping my sewing machine busy.
Read our Meet the Maker interview with Katy Livings here – https://folksy.com/shops/StitchAndSprig