Talk us through your collection.
Currently my collection consists of exclusively hand crocheted home wares including cushion covers, Forever Flower Garlands, pot holders, pincushions, Merry Mobiles, decorations and occasionally blankets. With every piece I crochet I’m always aiming to strike a playful balance between the fabulous retro style of the 1940s / 1950s; the simplicity of the Scandinavian aesthetic that I adore so much and creating fresh and modern pieces that would easily fit into our daily lives. I want people to see that this incredible traditional craft can be utterly beautiful and I want to help them to change their idea that crochet was something only their granny did! I crochet each of ‘my lovely ladies’ to an uncompromisingly high standard using pure cotton and wool yarns or recycled and organic fibres and am a stickler for the small details. Every lady is finished with a signature hand embroidered label and I hand finish their wee swing tags with crocheted flowers.
What made you take the plunge and start selling?
Before I began my crochet career I was a freelance textile designer working with a great agency that would sell my designs internationally. I designed prints, hand embroidered and applique collections for home wares, children’s clothing and women’s wear, which was a lot of fun. During that time I would often wonder about running my own wee business designing and making my own products but it took a long time before I discovered what that product was going to be. It wasn’t until I stopped designing that I returned to the skills my Mam taught me as a child, knitting and crochet, it was then that I began to form more solid ideas. Even before I had a full collection I had opened my first online shop to showcase my work, with the thought that customer feedback was going to be the best judge for it. It absolutely was and, luckily for me, it was very positive and very inspiring experience and I’ve never looked back.
Tell us about your practice and making process.
Hook + yarn + idea / peppermint tea + dark chocolate + great film = many happy hours of crocheting!
How do you plan your work – do you use sketchbooks or do your makes grow organically?
I never use sketchbooks to plan my ideas I’m very much hands on when it comes to experimenting with new ideas but not before I’ve thought them through. Often I’ll ponder over a new idea in my mind for a while (anywhere from a few days to several months) contemplating possible construction variations, yarns and colour combinations. All the time waiting for that epiphanous moment when all my thoughts come together and I can clearly picture what it is I’ve been pondering. That’s when I’ll pick up my hooks and start working on a piece. Often things turn out just as I imagined they would but if they don’t I’ll go back to my pondering and start again.
Do you have any tools unique to you?
I do have one tool that I’m particularly fond of and it’s the crochet hook that belonged to my Mam. It’s the hook she taught me to crochet with almost thirty years ago and today it is the hook I use to crochet most of my garlands with. It’s not much to look at really but it is very special to me, not just for sentimental reasons but because I ‘know’ this hook. It’s weight and balance. It’s flexibility and precision of it’s pointed tip. The comfort of it in my hand is like no other hook I own, I love working with it.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Colour is my biggest inspiration. Every moment of every day I’m watching the world around me soaking up all beautiful colour combinations in the simplest details. The way the sun shines through the yellow autumn leaves and makes them glow, the piles of pebbles and beach glass I collect while out walking my wee dog Spanner and even how the piles of yarn on my desk throw up unusual colour palettes. I’m particularly drawn to muted vintage tones and pretty floral colours so of course the fabulous array of charity and vintage shops around Edinburgh are hugely inspiring. It’s rare that I come home from such a place empty handed and I love to fill my studio with my favourite finds: coloured glass vases, vintage sewing threads, pretty patterned tins, Depression glass bowls, embroidered linens, kitsch plastic knitting needles, buttons and kokeshi dolls to name but a few! Surrounding myself with gorgeous colour in this space means I rarely feel uninspired and because I’m constantly rearranging my collections, adding and removing pieces on show to suit my colour preferences, it always feels fresh and gives me such great energy for my work. At the moment I’m completely in love with my collection of gold tins and have my favourites arranged above my desk to hold all my beautiful buttons and threads.
What item from Folksy is top of your Christmas wish list?
Goodness, only one!? I can narrow it down to three… The stunning ‘Cavern Pendant‘ by Helen Burgess Jewellery, Coo & co’s vintage inspired ‘Congregation‘ handbag or the adorable lambswool ‘Heart Shaped Knitted Cushion‘ by Jules Hogan Knitted Textiles. I love each of these and would be very happy with any of them!
Handmade goodies from Folksy at the top of Emma’s wish list
What’s your favourite book at the moment?
I actually picked up a really lovely old art book for a couple of pounds in one of my local charity shops a few weeks ago and can’t stop admiring it. It’s a 1962 copy of ‘Porcelain’ by Hugh Tait, the dust jacket is long gone but I love it’s sun bleached black cotton cover with beautiful gold lettering. I haven’t got to reading it fully yet since I can tear myself away from the gorgeous printed plates of the porcelain pieces themselves. Even after fifty years the colours are still so vibrant as though each page has been saturated with layers of intense colour and when you run your fingers over them you can feel the inks, much like a screen print. I absolutely love it and imagine I will be drawing a lot of colour inspiration from it’s pages.
Do you have a craft hero?
Wow, there are so many crafters I admire it’s impossible to pick out just one and recently I started a new board on Pinterest to showcase some of those ‘incredible designer makers‘. Each and every one of the ladies featured there inspires me because of their unique vision, their dedication to their business and above all their passion for their craft. They are all truly amazing!
Do you have one great tip for other makers?
Great customer service and creating personal connections with your customers. For me it’s one of the most important elements of selling your handmade art or craft and especially so when you’re selling online. Often when someone buys handmade they are choosing to do so, they are choosing to give their money to you the real person behind the product they love instead of to a large faceless company. Often they are choosing to have a more personal service or connection with their purchase. For me the best reward you can give your customer for making that choice, after your fabulous product of course, is great customer service.
After every sale I always thank each customer for ‘choosing’ my product with a friendly message and give them clear details about how and when I will ship their parcel. All of my products are gift wrapped free of charge with a handwritten thank you note. As soon as I return from a Post Office run I send my customers another message telling them their parcel is on it’s way and give them an estimated delivery time frame. Spending a just a few minutes doing this not only keeps my customers informed but also helps to reassure them that their choice has been a good one and hopefully they aren’t left with any unanswered questions or doubts.
In my experience this has helped me to create that personal connection with my customers and it’s especially lovely to hear feedback such as “your conversations are a delight–feels like I’m talking to a friend!” and I think that’s why a lot of my customers return again and again.
You have done very well in the press in recent months, could you give any advice to other makers seeking more exposure?
Um, to be perfectly honest I have never actively sought out exposure by approaching blogs or magazines to pitch my products to them. Many of the opportunities that have come my way recently have been a welcome surprise. But saying that I do think it would be wrong of me to say that I’ve been ‘lucky’ since I have worked very hard over the last four years to establish my name within our creative community. Keeping an up to date online profile through my blog, shop, Facebook page and Flickr pages as well as joining some other great communities such as UK Handmade has really helped. It’s also been great to establish connections, and in some cases dear friendships, with lots of peers within our creative community. One of the nicest ways I found of reaching out to people is by showcasing their beautiful work on my blog. Although it is never my intention these connections often lead to lovely things such as spontaneous blog features or requests for magazine contributions and occasionally wonderful interviews such as this. So my advice would be to keep an active profile within the creative community, support the designer makers you admire and forge genuine connections with them. Who knows where it might lead!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Wow, five years is such a long way off for me! I’m not a long term planner at all. At the moment I have a few new product ideas that I’ve been experimenting with and there’s a potential collaboration that could be really exciting, it will be great to have time to focus on them in the new year. I’m also really keen to develop my blog further in 2013 and have ideas for new features that I think my readers will enjoy. After that I’m happy for the wind to take me where it will… I know whatever is next for me will be a lot of fun, otherwise I won’t be doing it!
Browse Emma’s Folksy products here.