STYLE

Boutique Of The Week: Folksy

28/10/2011 14:01 | Updated 22 May 2015

Folksy describes itself as: "a place to buy handmade things, and for makers to sell their work and find supplies." I would describe it as an amazing online creative community where a person could easily lose two or three hours finding all manner of beautiful things that person never knew she was lacking, but now needs in her life.

As well as being packed with literally thousands of stunning handmade creations (everything you could possibly imagine, from furniture to stationery, paperweights, hair clips and crocheted beards – really), Folksy also offers great 'How To' craft guides and a forum for discussion of anything and everything craft-related so you can get stuck in yourself. We spoke to founder James Boardwell:


James, what were you doing before Folksy was born?

I was working at the BBC, initially as an assistant producer in current affairs and then producer in specialist factual before joining BBC Research and Development and designing and building next generation web services.

Tunnock's Teacake cushion by Nikki McWilliams, £20. Pic: Folksy

What inspired the creation of Folksy and when did you start?
I was researching what we now call "crowd sourced" or collaborative media as part of my work around 2001 and was fascinated with the rise of the knitting circles and craft blogs, where craft had become a vehicle for suburban mums in the US and Australia to get support and validation for their work.

I'd been interested in crafts as my family were involved in the textile business in the 70s and 80s in the north of England and as a kid I'd be working on market stalls and in textile mills around Manchester, Skipton and Rawtenstall and the whole scene was full of amazing characters. That fascination with craft and making stuck with me.

Folksy itself started some time later when I left the BBC and met Rob Lee a software engineer who also had an interest in crafts, but more electronics and geek crafts. Together we built the first version of Folksy, completed in around three months!

When it launched in 2007 we received lots of buzz, but it didn't start to become a viable business for another two years. Now, in the last year, we've established the business and it's grown to have a team of seven, we can concentrate on establishing Folksy as the pre-eminent place to buy handmade gifts and craft supplies in the UK.

How many designer/makers does Folksy now feature?
We have around 8000 active crafters and designers. This figure has been steadily rising every year but does also have seasonal variation - we see people coming on to Folksy just to sell in the run up to Christmas.

Can anyone start selling on Folksy?

Yes, anyone can sell on Folksy. We believe in it being a meritocracy, although one of our main challenges is keeping hobbyists and more 'professional' makers happy being side-by-side.

Please tell us about the Making section of the site.

Making was seen as a way for crafters to showcase their skill and also provide a way for them to showcase their work. You can do the "how to" yourself or just opt to buy one from the maker.

Lovebird bowl by Prince Design UK, £16 at Folksy. Pic: Folksy

What would you most hope people would say/feel about the site?
I hope they feel comfortable there. It's meant to be a space that celebrates craft and making and for me that's about appreciating life and how we each bring different things to it. Of course, I also hope people enjoy rooting around on Folksy and finding exceptional pieces of work and skilled crafters, I get a real kick when I find something I love.

Folksy is very much a craft community – was that community element always part of the plan?
Yes, although the craft community is actually made up of lots of different communities. The people active on the forum are part of a community which is mainly hobbyists but we also have a large number of crafters who have 'portfolio careers' and where craft is part of a way to make significant income. The professional craft community is less evident on Folksy and one of our aims in the next couple of years is to make Folksy a more aspirational space that would appeal to professional crafters and makers too.

What next for Folksy?
We passionately believe in craft and in supporting makers. So we'll be keeping to 'handmade' ethos unlike lots of other services which sell more or less anything. We're just secured some funding to grow the business (though not venture capital money as we don't want to sell out!). With this funding we're re-designing the service and the first phase of that work will launch before Christmas. This will modernise Folksy and make it easier to buy and to sell.
Lastly, we'll be doing more outreach work - initially partnering with a studio and a college to trial ways of working and then hopefully rolling this out, so Folksy becomes an integral resource for crafters just starting out and those that are established. It's going to be an exciting year.

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