This week we have another sneak peak into the life and craft of one of our regular contributors, today it’s Emma Jane Faulkner of Cakes and Catwalks. She gives us the low down on her long lived passion for baking, why she loves the history of crafting, and her secret desire to become a swing dancer.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Emma Jane Faulkner, I’m a baker and crafter, I teach crochet workshops in Ashford and bake bespoke cakes to order for weddings, celebrations and commercial events.
How did you get into crafting?
I’ve always been creative artistically and in the kitchen, and it’s something my family nurtured in me from a very young age. Some of my earliest memories are of baking home-made apple pies with my mum. My grandmother was a talented seamstress and knitter – when I was six years old she taught me how to knit. I reconnected with knitting 10 years ago when I embarked on a degree in fashion-textile design, specialising in knitwear design. An 86 year-old lady taught me how to crochet while I was on a design internship; she had endless patience and I’ve been hooked ever since (no pun intended!).
Who and what inspires you to create?
My belief is that when you make something yourself (whether baking or crafting), you can often make a better version than you can buy. In an increasingly digital world, I find working with hand-crafts particularly rewarding. I love having skills like knitting, crochet and embroidery which would be recognisable to people who lived hundreds of years ago; there’s something very humble about being able to make useful or beautiful things from a little hook and some yarn.
Which crafters/artists/designers do you most admire?
There are so many, the Internet is a wonderful source of inspiration and a great place to discover and connect with crafters around the world. I’m a big fan of blogs such as design sponge and oh happy day which are filled with creative ideas.
When did you decide to make the leap from making for friends and family to creating your own business?
I decided early 2013 that I wanted to start my own business and chose to make the most of my creative skills. It’s a tough transition and very hard work, but working every day doing things you love is incredibly rewarding, I especially enjoy the journey of teaching, and I wish I’d made the leap sooner.
What five things would you say were essential when you set up your craft business?
Good business acumen – If you don’t know how to manage your finances and stock control as well as market yourself and identify opportunities, you’ll struggle.
Know your prices – It’s tough surviving in a throwaway market where customers are used to buying mass-produced products from cheaper shops. Stand your ground, understand that you need to pay yourself an hourly wage and respect the skill that goes into the craft you produce.
Find your USP (unique selling point) – You need to make sure your product fills a gap in the market: find the unique element (the materials, your skills, the purpose of the product) and market it.
Learn to be strong – At some point, someone might be rude or negative about your business. You may even have ideas or designs stolen by others. Starting your own business is an emotional journey, so it’s hard not to take this kind of behaviour personally. You need to learn not to and rise above the situation.
Get online – Learn how to use social networking sites that apply to your business. Follow the brands you love and see what they do well (and what they don’t), so you can build your brand through your social presence and connect with others.
Understand copyright – Never copy or ‘borrow’ from another person’s designs, or profit commercially from something you haven’t designed or created yourself. Have faith in your own creativity and run with it. Make sure you add copyright to images of all of your work; you can’t stop other people ripping you off, but you can add a deterrent.
Name three of your most popular designs.
My most popular cake are my three-tiered Christmas cake, a classical guitar cake I made for a commission last year and my Halloween cupcakes.
If you weren’t a crafter/baker, what would you be doing with your time?
I do actually have an alternative career plan, but it’s quite boring. So I’m going to go with something fun, and say I’d train to be a professional swing dancer.
Do you run any workshops or take part in any groups?
I am currently running beginners’ crochet workshops at Emporia at the Centre for Creativity and Enterprise in Ashford.
What’s new with your craft for 2014? Tell us about some of the exciting things we can expect to see from you in the shop or at the Emporia market this year.
I have big plans for 2014, but unfortunately they’re all under wraps at the moment! I’ll be running more crochet workshops in Ashford, introducing new themes and projects.
If you’re inspired to take up crochet, click here for more info on Emma Jane’s classes run in our very own shop. And you can visit her blog for some delicious looking pictures of funky cake designs and recipes for making your very own baked treats.