Tis the season to….

…discover rather a lot of campaigns asking you to support local independent shops and creative small businesses!

Question is, do they make a difference to sales in the UK Craft industry?

I happen to think they do. Every single reminder that there is an alternative to buying the mass produced ‘land fill’ on offer at this time of year (and all year) has to be a good thing.

However, I also agree with The Design Trusts Patricia Van den Akker, in her recent post, that campaigns such as Small Business Saturday, #Just a Card, and most recently Not On The High Street Founder, Holly Tuckers #campaignshopsmall, only go so far in making a real difference….so much still has to be done to make the message effective.

My business isn’t particularly seasonal so the normal festive rules don’t apply, (I only make and sell between 10-12 of my original handwoven pieces of floor art each year), but I’m fully aware of the responsibility I have as a maker to tell my customers why I’m worth investing in.

So, here are just 3 reasons to buy handmade and local from smaller businesses this Christmas (and all year!)

  • Firstly, for every £1 spent on a small business 68p stays in the local economy*. I often retort at Contemporary Craft shows I’m participating in, that every sale of one of my niche handwoven rugs directly benefits at least 4 Craft makers as there are always at least 3 other pieces I can’t bear to leave behind at shows if I have any spending power!
A few of the treasures I’ve picked up from fellow makers. L-R ERADU Ceramics, Abigail North Ceramics and Jen Orm Ceramics. (Yeah, ceramic jugs are my weakness and I’d rather have these in my home than the takeaway meals didn’t have in order to be able to buy them!-)

  • Secondly, you are absolutely making a difference to a business. They run on tight margins and every single sale counts. I often see on social media that when you buy from an independent Craft business, a maker does a ‘happy dance’. Sod that! I’m not too proud to say that every sale I achieve generally results in a full on Salsa with a few par terres thrown in for good measure. Yes, they make me very happy!

Each sale means my business is growing and will carry on. Each sale means I get paid for the years I’ve invested in building up my practice and developing my original style. And each one means my daughters get to see their Mum succeeding in the job she loves, which is hopefully inspiring them to follow their dreams.

I’m thankful to have exceeded my targets for the first time this year, and if any of my customers are reading, you already know how much I value your investment. Thank you.

What you might not know if that this has enabled me to take my business up a gear. I’ve recently outsourced one of my designs to be handwoven oversea’s which means I can reach out to new customers with a limited edition rug.

Not too long ago I felt daunted by this idea and yet here I am, preparing to launch this new product, all because enough of you really wanted to brighten your home with a burst of my handwoven colour.

Has there ever been a finer example of a mutually beneficial relationship between that or a Craft maker and a customer?

Photo: AP
Prang – Detail
Photo: Yeshen Venema
A few of the pieces that have flown the nest this year. Photo: The Forge
  • Thirdly, you’re buying so much more than just the product. When I can, I buy handmade from makers I know because I totally value the skill and passion that goes into each piece.

I love the small arrangements of craft in our home and the beauty they bring to that part of our often chaotic house and I love getting similar feedback from the people who’ve bought my work.

Whilst the core of my business is niche handwoven rugs, they are also so much more than rugs. They’re 20+ years of weaving for the love of it with designs that just fizz out from me! They’re partly a legacy to my late tutor, Susan Foster, who taught me to weave rugs. And most importantly they’re statements that bring uplifting bursts of colour to your living space and give your home the unique and original style you’ve been looking for.

To sum up, buying from makers is the ultimate way to make these campaigns make a difference, but there are, however, other ways you can help. Talk to one person today about the things I’ve mentioned in this blog post and maybe share a few of the posts about buying local on social media.

Also you can keep up to date with your favourite indie businesses by signing up to their newsletters. I’m pretty sure most of us don’t have the time to send as many as the corporates and it’s useful to be in the know about new designs and special offers etc. My newsletter subscribers will be getting a very special loyalty early bird offer on my new limited edition rugs when they go on sale soon. You can sign up below if this might be of interest. (Almost made it though without mentioning a #BlackFridayesque deal eh?)

Finally,(really) huge thanks to those who work tirelessly and voluntarily to support UK makers through their campaigns.

Thanks for reading.

*Joanne o Connell. The Guardian 2013.