Frankly, The Folksy Magazine

Meet the Maker… Emma Verner-Webb, The Cotton Potter

by Emily. Average Reading Time: almost 5 minutes.

Emmabirds with branch

How long have you been selling your work on Folksy?

I started selling on Folksy in August 2009, so three years now – where has that time gone?!  After a little break I returned recently with a range of made-to-order birds.  I missed the community-friendly feel of Folksy and it’s lovely to be back.

Tell us about your work?

The Cotton Potter arose from my background in ceramics combined with my love of textiles. It began with designing and making cotton covers to disguise jam jars, tin cans and bottles as decorative vases.  This is still a major part of my business, but recently I have wanted to express my more artistic side and satisfy my passion for the birds that visit my garden.

Cotton Robin
Cotton Robin £45

I am constantly inspired and mesmerised by both their fragility and tenacity and I try to convey this by reproducing their delightful characters in fabric form.  Happily I discovered the beautiful range of Tilda fabrics which with their subtle colours and tiny delicate patterns make them ideal to represent the birds’ colouring and markings. I feel as if I am bringing each bird to life with the addition of hand painted details, accurately shaped beaks, carefully positioned wire legs and its beautiful beady glass eyes.  I make a prototype of each bird, refining details over and over until I’m happy with it – As a result I am surrounded by fabric friends perched all over my little cottage.

What is your favourite piece of work?

At the moment my favourite piece is my Kingfisher. Finding the perfect fabrics and creating him from scratch came together without a hitch; it’s very rewarding when that happens.

Kingfisher £45
Kingfisher £45

When did it all begin for you?

As the child of creative parents in the seventies, I was indulged with a constant supply of handmade dresses, knitted jumpers and gorgeous toys. In turn, my family were dutiful recipients of my pictures, clay models and felt egg cosies along with the essential Blue-Peter inspired Christmas and Birthday presents.  Eventually I went to Art College and settled on a degree in Ceramics, and have continued to make things ever since.

Tell us about your work space/Favourite place to make?

I have a lovely workshop/shed at the bottom of my garden, but the reality is that I work between there and the kitchen and sitting room leaving a trail of threads, pins and fabric behind me. My workstation of choice tends to be my ironing board where I can find myself standing for hours at a time.  We are building an extension on the cottage which will enable us to have a dining room and I intend to claim that as my new work space!

work space
Emma’s Work Space

Describe your day as a maker?

I have another life during term time so my ‘Cotton Potter days’ are largely limited to weekends, days off and school holidays.  Time is precious, so I like to start first thing in the morning becoming completely engrossed in what I’m doing and continue through to evening, subject to the normal family distractions.  I’m not really a night time person, so I relax most evenings by sourcing supplies and catching up with what’s happening in the arty/crafty world on the internet.

What three tools could you not live without?

Well, apart from my macbook, I would say my three most essential tools are a water soluble fabric marker, a bamboo point turner and sewing awl – very boring, but they make my job much easier.

What gets the creative juices going?

Watching the birds from my kitchen window, discovering a new fabric  or simply being absorbed in the making process will often generate new ideas. The wonder of Social Media means I am seeing fabulous creations popping up from really talented artists on a daily basis which is inspiring and so exciting.

How do you feel that your work/skill continues to develop?

The busier I am, the more ideas keep coming and I’m always thinking ahead to the next project. I try to keep up with current trends and although I don’t follow any of them religiously, I like to think that I continue to produce work that has a contemporary feel. I do hope birds don’t go out of fashion!

Bird House
Fabric Bird £45

Are you inspired by any artists from the past or present?

I wouldn’t say I’m directly inspired by any particular artist, but I really love still life paintings and am quite envious of the talents of artists such as Elaine Pamphilon, Vanessa Bowman and Emma Williams . Recently I discovered Lesley McClaren through Facebook  and I adore her work. I’m quite intrigued with the idea of my little birds forming part of a three dimensional still life.

Where would you like to be in five years time?

I am so enjoying what I’m doing right now, making special pieces to order, I would like to explore working on more ‘one-of-a-kind’ and commission based pieces. I think you really have to work in a way that fits in with other important aspects of your life and for me this feels like the way forward.

The Cotton Potter packaging

 What would you say to makers starting out?

Try to strike a balance between the enjoyment of making a product, the time involved and the pricing of it, so that you continue to get pleasure from the whole process and give credibility to your work. Do get involved in Social networking for inspiration, useful advice and to keep in touch with your customers.

Browse & buy Emma’s lovely work in her Folksy shop The Cotton Potter.