Meet: Helen Clark of Ivy Dean Designs
How long have you been making your work and how did it all begin?
I’ve been crafting in one form and another since I was a child so quite a long time! My maternal Grandma – Ivy Dean, was a serial “maker” she knitted, crocheted, sewed and baked and I was encouraged from a very early age to do likewise. I started making jewellery to sell a couple of years ago after buying a kit to make a knitted wire necklace for my Mum. The kit didn’t work out too well and I decided that I could do better so sourced the materials and made one that I was happy with and that Mum loved. I began to be drawn to bead shops and started building up a huge collection of beautiful beads and findings. I enrolled in a two day jewellery making course that really helped me to hone my basic skills and techniques and have recently completed a wire wrapping course, the rest I’ve taught myself through trial and error.
What processes & techniques do you use in your work?
My favourite material at the moment is wire so I use a lot of wire wrapping techniques and have just perfected a wire wrapped bangle that is proving very popular. I also use traditional techniques such as stringing and knotting but I’m always trying to adapt techniques to suit the material or designs.
What are you inspired by?
The seasons have a strong influence on my work as do my very favourite places: anywhere by the sea, the rugged East coast of Scotland and the gentle hills of Devon. I am also inspired by the materials themselves. I can often sit and look at my glass jars of beads and a design will pop into my head.
Do you have a work space or studio? What is it like?
I have a summer house in the garden but am limited by it’s leaking roof so that’s a very fair weather place to work! I do most of my work on my dining table looking out onto the garden. The whole room has been taken over by beads, semi-precious gems stones, wire and pliers so it’s a good job I don’t have time for dinner parties!
Where can people buy your work?
My main outlet for my work is through jewellery parties which I hold either at friends houses or at my own. I am planning some “open house” type events where people can come along and browse my current work but also have a piece made on the day or learn to make their own jewellery. I also hold regular “buy and donate” events at work where a percentage of the sales value is donated to our corporate charity. I mustn’t forget my Folksy shop which is a great platform to showcase my work. Since joining Folksy in October 2010 sales have been steady for me (31 sales to date) and I am always so delighted when someone who I have never met is tempted to purchase from me. I recently sold an item to a customer in America so I guess I can say I have a global business!
How do you promote your work?
Promotion for me is probably the hardest aspect of running my business. I work full time as well as run Ivy Dean Designs so there just aren’t enough hours in the day to devote to promotion as I’d like. I do try to post on the Folksy forums as much as possible and I have a blog where I showcase my new designs but I have to say I prefer showcasing the work of some of the really talented people that I’ve come across via Folksy. My best promotion is to wear my jewellery. When I’m designing a new range or prototyping an idea I will wear those items to gauge reaction to them. I once sold a necklace to a lady who was behind me in a supermarket queue for example! I have business cards and will use any opportunity to hand them out!
What goals do you have for the future?
Given the time constraints I’m under with having a full time job and the business, my goals are limited to the short term at present. My focus is on creating wearable, unique pieces that have a place in the market and are of great quality. Long term – how I would love to give up the full time job and devote all of my time to Ivy Dean Designs!
What advice would you offer to someone thinking about turning their craft/art into a business?
If you are confident in your product and see that there is a market I would have to say “go for it”. I was brought up to always try, if it didn’t work out I was encouraged to try again. Before you launch your products onto the market make sure that you’ve got the “backroom” sorted, for example: do you have envelopes that are suitable for posting your items in?, what sort of packaging are you going to use?, what is your brand identity and how are you going to build one?, do you have the time to do all the necessary admin as well as make your items? and how much time do you have to devote to the whole running of your business?
A few of your favourites (just for fun)….
Colour: Black – my entire wardrobe is full of it!
Animal: Horse – such solid, loyal companions.
Season: Spring – so full of new hope (and better weather to get out on my motorbike).
Person: My Dad! He’s my hero.
Food: Oooh, how do I choose? I suppose it would have to be freshly baked bread (with lots of butter).
Website: I am biased but it would have to be my Folksy shop – www.ivydeandesigns.folksy.com I am so proud of having my own little piece of the internet!
Thank you for sharing your jewellery with us Helen, I wish you lots of success for the future. Freshly baked bread with lots of butter is one of my faves too!!
Helen also has a blog which you can read here.