Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A conversation with Sue Graham

This article was first published on Work your Art:

Hello there! What’s your name and where do you live?

My name is Sue Graham.
I am originally from London, but currently live in the middle of the beautiful countryside in County Cork, Ireland.

Is being an artist your day job? If not, “what do you do?”

I have three day jobs actually. The first is the running of my animal sanctuary for farm animals and birds. We currently have a horse, three donkeys, a goat, 13 sheep, a goose, six hens, six ducks and six lovebirds.
The second is the running of my online shop www.amazingbeads.net and its Etsy counterpart www.etsy.com/shop/amazingbeads. This involves searching the Internet worldwide for different beads and beading supplies. I try and buy different because there are so many bead shops on the Internet and I see no point in selling the same as everyone else.  Of course you have to have a certain amount of basic stock that is the same or similar, but I try very hard to find interesting beads in the vintage, gemstone and handmade ranges too, so that my shop will stand out from the crowd.
The third day job I have is designing and making jewellery, and sourcing vintage jewellery. I always have lots of ideas floating around in my head, but the first thing I do is to draw a rough sketch of the idea, and notes about the beads I might like to use.   After that I lay the beads out onto a beading design board and play around with the design a bit more.  I must say that the design on the board once it is ready to make is often very different to how it started out in my head.
I love vintage jewellery and started selling that on my website too. It’s been very popular. I try and source jewellery that is in the middle to high end range, and that is in excellent vintage condition.  I check everything thoroughly before I photograph and list it, so that hopefully no customer will ever receive a piece where the string is worn and may break etc.
I sell my jewellery, my own handmade and the vintage, on www.amazingbeads.net, and on a second Etsy shop which I have named Swanky Jewels. www.etsy.com/shop/swankyjewels
So those are my three main day jobs. I also write a blog, and articles for magazines when I have time.

How would you describe your work?

I would describe my jewellery as fairly eclectic. On the one hand I love to make classic styles, but there is another side of me that likes to make things that are a bit more trendy and casual. I love gemstones and I love colour. For myself I like chunky jewellery, but I actually to design and make more delicate pieces too.

Do you feel you have a specific demographic or audience you create for? What are the characteristics of your ‘ideal customer’?

Customers who buy beads and beading supplies are in quite a broad age and type of person. They would be between 18 years and 65 years, some younger, some older. Of course these customers would have many different styles of jewellery and crafts that they make.
With regards to the jewellery, I would say that most of my customers would be between 28 years and 65 years. A lot of the vintage jewellery is sold as bridal/wedding wear, and my own designs tend to be sold for everyday and office wear, and special occasions.
I think many of my customers like to buy a piece of jewellery for a special event, but that  they can wear on many occasions afterwards too.

When do you feel most inspired to create?

Mornings from about 11am after all the animal stuff is done. Then again in the evenings after the animals have been fed, watered and put to bed. The evenings is when I do all of the internet work.
I tend to work every day, and I’m in my studio until late at night too. I love what I do, and because I work from home I can be in and out, and doing other things if I want to.

Are you presently promoting on social media? Which platform gave you results and which didn’t?

The social media platforms I use are Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. I’d say that they all give me equal results, but like any social media, you get back what you put in. If I slow down on posts to any then I stop getting views and comments.  Having a social media presence is almost a full time job on its own, but if you are a small business as I, and many others like me are, then it’s something you have to find time for because there is little or no money for advertising.
Personally, I think it’s better than advertising too, because if you speak and act as yourself then customers can get to know you, and gain a trust in you.

What kind of marketing are you currently doing for your creative business? Is it working out?

I use the social media platforms as above, and I also comment when I can on forums, and the like. I’m a huge believer in word of mouth marketing and believe that it is the best advertising you can get.
I know that when my customers are happy they will tell their friends about me, and that is what I aim for.

Do you invest in any kind of advertising?

Until recently I have never paid for advertising, but I decided to try a couple of Facebook adverts this year for the first time ever.  I’m finding that it really works in so much as I’ve had many new likes on my two Facebook pages. Whether they translate into sales remains to be seen, as it’s very early days yet.

What is the number one tip you have for creatives in your niche that are just starting out?

That they don’t expect lots of sales straight away.  I see lots of sellers in the Etsy forums complaining that they haven’t made any sales yet, and when you look at how long their shop has been open, it’s only been a few months or even weeks.
It takes a lot of time and personal effort such as marketing in the social media to get your name out there. Things don’t happen overnight, but if you don’t give up the sales will come.

What are the things you feel yourself struggling with?

Oh the same as many of us who have a small business I guess –  SEO and Tags.  Just when you think you’ve got the hang of it, something changes, but you don’t know what that something is, and you have to start learning what to do all over again.

Do you set regular goals for yourself and your business? What are you currently aiming for?

I’m very bad at setting goals I’m afraid. I very rarely do. I know we are always told that we should, but I prefer to let things happen, but work hard toward making them happen better. I suppose that’s my goal then. To make things happen better.

What is something you’d still like to learn (a skill, a topic) with regards to creative entrepreneurship?

I actually love learning new skills and topics. I would love to have better writing skills. Well not so much the writing, as the vocabulary and grammar that would enable me to write articles and my blog better.
I also want to learn more about the history of beads and different types of jewellery through the ages, as well as about individual jewellers whose jewellery I may sell in vintage.

When reading back this interview one year from now, what do you think would have changed?

I’d like to think that I had learned more about the subjects I’ve just mentioned above, so that I am able to write more articles about different subjects within my niche, whether about beads, jewellery or animals/birds. I hope that I’m still going strong with my shops and jewellery, and that I have made improvements in everything I do.


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1 comment:

  1. I like so much Sue's way of life , caring animals and creating at home, from my point of view, is a genuine person doing what she loves and she is doing well.. ' to let things happens ' is a good recommendation in the creative World :-))
    Keeping touch in this section , very interesting !