Article by Alyssa Randell
Keepsakes are very emotional and precious objects which are intended to be treasured for life. Most of us have probably bought a keepsake at some point, anything from a handmade greetings card, a personalised blanket for your little one or even a decorative family photo collage to be displayed in the pride of place in your home. Creating keepsakes is an emotional journey for everyone involved, including the ‘maker’. They will have no doubt spent hours or even days carefully creating the perfect piece and then no doubt spent longer worrying if you are going to like it. Keepsake crafts are becoming increasingly popular simply because they are unique and are wonderful mementos of a special person or past event.
The Guild of Keepsake Artists has been launched as a platform for a community of artists and crafters who can share their experiences, get feedback for their new creations and promote their bespoke handicraft. The facebook page is always being updated with innovative ideas and the artists and crafters regularly return to the page as they like the interactivity and that there is always someone around to offer help and advice.
I asked some of the guild members why they started creating what they do and the answers mainly came down to an emotional interest. The most popular keepsakes are children related and most members started up their business after maternity leave as they wanted to do something to fit around their little ones. Leah from Mrs H Makes said that “I really believe us WAHM’s are helping the economy by leaving some jobs for those that want them” The advantage of working for yourself is being able to work flexibly. Clare from Loire Valley Angels has 3 children and works around what they need “Some days I work for 3 hours and others I do 3 hours a.m., 3 hours p.m. and carry right on into the night after they go to bed I guess if you add it all up I am on full-time hours.”
From Hobby to Career
Craft businesses often start out as a hobby making things for family and friends but it can soon develop into a part time or even full time career. Tamiya, creator of Tammels told us that “it was a hobby but people love my work and buy it so I keep making it and want to live from it somewhere in the future” Most say that it is a part time venture that they are planning to build and grow into something much bigger even though it can seem daunting giving up the day job. Clare from Neverland Keepsake Creations is one of the busiest guild members and her success has been down to a strong marketing strategy. She regularly gets her work featured in articles online and in print and she confirms that her sales inquiries go through the roof when she gets published. She was even shortlisted for the mumsclub Business Awards 2011 and its not only due to her persistence with the media but her dedication to networking and also the emotional connection she make with her customers.
Having that connection is the key to operating a successful keepsake business. Clare thinks you should “share some of your personal life so your ‘likers’ get to know you” tell your story on your blog, website, Facebook. Elizabeth from Lily’s Patchwork memories says “we build a relationship not just an order number” and it’s a good attitude to have, as keepsake orders can often be of a sensitive nature. Rebecca of Rebekah Heyburn Jewellery says “I have made some memorial pieces. I feel privileged to have been asked and it’s lovely that they get comfort from it.” So as an artist it can be worthwhile getting involved as it really can be rewarding.
Facebook is now perceived to be one of the best marketing tools for small businesses. To anyone new to networking it may seem a overwhelming but you can start to see benefits from it very quickly. It can be a bit of a numbers game, you need to get your ‘likers’ up on your page to reach as wide an audience as you can. You may even if you have likers who aren’t interested in your products but don’t dismiss them, you never know they might know someone who is and that is the whole point to networking. An excellent tip from Clare at Neverland Keepsake Creations is to remain positive on your page, speaking from experience she says “nothing sends me to the “Unlike” button quicker than people being down about decreasing likers, begging for sales, complaining about lack of sales or starting slanging matches on their pages!!”
Online networking tips:
- Regularly post photos of your commissions and your experiments with new products- remember that most people respond to visual stimulus.
- Get customers to interact with your page by holding special promotions, competitions or even just asking for feedback on your latest project
- Brand yourself correctly. Spend a bit of time getting ‘your look’ right- you want to attract the right target market. Choose a business name that suits you and is memorable. It’s also a good idea to keep it general incase you change the nature of your work then you don’t have to start all over again.
- Interact with your fans in an upbeat and positive way and share snippets of real life so they know you are a ‘real’ person.
- Join any relevant art/craft groups, pages and forums, although remember that sales can often come from the most unlikely places. One of our members; Amber at Fingertips has recently been accepted as one the top 100 UK Wedding FB Pages and this have proved to be an excellent networking tool.
- Remember your social networking etiquette; if someone visits your page and leaves a comment it is only polite to visit theirs to return the favour, however don’t be bullied into liking a page if you genuinely have no interest in it.
- Only likes from personal profiles count towards the like total, however its worthwhile liking from your business profile as well and hiding the pages from your personal one so you can keep the two separate.
Outside of the world wide web one of the most popular suggestions for promoting yourself is business cards, they might seem a bit old fashioned but they are still effective. Cathy from Pretty As a Picture and Stephanie from Polkadot Pumpkin both suggested carrying business cards at all times and giving a stack to family and friends who can in turn pass them on. Also look out for places to advertise locally such as shops, post offices, libraries, nursery/ school notice boards, customers are often more likely to order something from a local person.
One of the most interesting but potentially challenging parts of being a designer/maker is always having to be creative but one of the advantages of being a keepsake artist is that your designs can be primarily customer-led. Dianne from Little Hands, Little feet says “I am led by customer requests and try to be innovative, keepsakes are widely available but I try and come up with a twist to keep it fresh and customers coming back for the new style” Most of our members operate in a similar way, they often have an album full of ideas but as Laura from Ring of Roses says “I also have customers coming to me with ideas which just need a little help to develop so they can be realised. It’s great to work in collaboration with customers like this, so they get a piece which they really want – and it gives them a sense of ownership too.” In the keepsake industry it is almost impossible to stick to a set pattern as the very nature of the work suggests that no two pieces will ever be the same.
If the idea of starting up making your own keepsakes or turning your hobby into a business appeals to you then it is worth popping over to The Guild of Keepsake Artists and asking for advice as there are lots of members willing to share their experiences. If you are already a keepsake artist then we invite you to come and join our community, we currently have a very busy Facebook page which is growing day by day, a blog for sharing the latest news and featuring artists. We have also recently launched a website with a shop. The “Keepsake Shop” is added to nearly every day and we hope it will become a ‘one stop keepsake shop’, this a great tool for those without their own e-commerce websites as they can direct customers somewhere to allow them to buy safely and securely online.
Since launching less than a week ago we have had a huge number of visitors to the site and this is down to the guild members working together promoting and believing in the work of the Guild. The title of this article ‘the process of creating is good for the soul’ was quoted from Elizabeth of Lily’s Patchwork Memories and it really sums up the ethos of The Guild of Keepsake Artists and it will continue to do. For further details please visit the following links:
Written by Alyssa Randell
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