This week, featured stallholders Szilvia of Knitluxe Studio and Bex of Blue Design Shed, chatted to Pedddle about all things small business! We got some great insight into their processes, where they learned the skills and techniques they use today and the materials they work with.
Check out their Q&A below to find out more about their businesses, what inspires their work, and how they feel about selling at markets and being able to connect with customers, both online and in-person.
Pedddle: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your products!
Knitluxe Studio: I’m Szilvia, owner and designer-maker of Knitluxe Studio. I create luxurious knitted gifts, homeware and winter accessories for people who love colour using the highest quality, ethically sourced Merino Lambswool to provide softness and comfort. Every piece is designed and created on a hand operated vintage knitting machine by me, in my home studio. I learned machine knitting at Bucks New University where I actually now teach this skill! I work there as Knitwear Technician.
My products range from winter accessories and knitted garments to knitted gifts and homewares. I converted my spare room to a studio and this is now where the luxurious knitted products come to life. I use the finest Merino Wool and Merino Lamsbwool that is available on the market and is ethically sourced. I am dedicated to only using wool as it is a renewable, biodegradable, and natural fibre. Not to mention its other wonderful properties, such as being extremely comfortable, naturally breathable and soft against the skin, odour resistant, and for its body temperature regulating properties.
Blue Design Shed: I have always loved glass, but took the wrong pathway on my applied arts degree, and ended up studying textiles! Later, whilst working in publishing, I saw a stained glass evening course and signed up immediately. This lead to me teaching myself fused glass and about eighteen years ago, I bought my own kiln and got cracking. I then taught glass, ceramics and woodwork to adults with learning disabilities. My current business, Blue Design Shed, was formed once my daughter was settled in school, in 2014. I initially started by making and selling fused glass jewellery, but this has changed into making larger items such as suncatchers, dishes, coasters, sculptures and wall art. As I’m self-taught, I’ve worked a lot out myself through trial and error over the years.
Pedddle: How do you work with your materials?
Blue Design Shed: I work with specialist art glass called Bullseye Glass which comes in sheet form, in powder, in spaghetti like stringers and in rods. The glass is cut and shaped by hand or with various power tools. It’s basically like making an applique in textiles, you lay the glass in layers and heat it in the kiln to melt or tack fuse together. I also work with different metal foils, metal oxides and enamels. I have 3 kilns (one that’s currently broken) and depending on what I’m making, the glass is heated up to around 800 degrees. I’m inspired by the beautiful countryside around me and all the plants and trees which we have in our garden. I absolutely love retro design, found in the ceramics, textiles and wallpaper from the 1960s and 70s and I like to add retro design references to my work where I can.
Knitluxe Studio: I start by selecting my yarns for the piece I would like to knit and cast on with the right number of needles. I carefully knit the desired shape and pattern and cast it off. After the cast-off process, I examine the piece as dropped stitches can occur, especially on the edges. Depending on the type of the product, I place the edge’s seams on the linker and link it together (there is no linking in the case of a scarf). After the linking process, I sew the ends back into the fabric. This ensures a neat finish regarding the unavoidable yarn ends that occur from changing colours. I hand-wash the piece after that and let the luxurious lambswool gently felt and take its shape. I use my washing machine to get rid of the excess water and let the piece dry on its own. Another inspection is due when it becomes dry and ready for labelling and packaging.
Pedddle: As a small business owner, what benefits does selling at markets bring?
Blue Design Shed: I really enjoy doing markets and over the years I have done hundreds, some fantastic, some absolutely awful. I love the camaraderie with the other stallholders, meeting new customers and seeing someone’s face when they fall in love with a bit of work and decide to buy it. When Covid hit, like many others, I had to learn how to sell online more, so I’ve done quite a few online markets and I’ve opened shops on Folksy and The British Craft House and I’ve enjoyed a similar camaraderie with other shop owners online. It’s certainly a lot to learn, everything from photography to SEO and accounting. I’ve certainly got a lot of least favourite jobs on the list to do! I’ve not done any physical markets since lockdown lifted yet, but looking forward to it, hopefully some Christmas ones – they’re my favourite to do.
It’s so important to support small independent makers, as if we don’t support them, they’ll disappear. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world without independent businesses, artists and makers, it would be a very dull place!
Knitluxe Studio: I love the interaction with my customers. It’s also very hard to establish how wonderfully soft the Merino Lambswool I use is, and in the markets it’s just second nature for the customers to touch the scarves and smell the organic lavender in my lavender products, so they appreciate the craftsmanship and material choice so much more. Luckily, I saw a positive change towards indie businesses during the pandemic and did just as well on online markets than in-person markets previously. I’m definitely more proactive now on the newsletter front as well as being present on social media on a regular basis, which helps with reach.
Nobody makes a special touch as small business owners. I know from my own experience that I love going that extra mile for my customer, not just with my packaging materials and handwritten note, but say for example I see that the delivery address is different to the billing address, I like to contact them to see if it’s a gift. I’ll always chase up their order myself if I see it’s not received within a few days.
Pedddle: Thank you for chatting to us! What’s next for your business in 2021?
Knitluxe Studio: I’m busy creating a new winter accessories range and working on a new product that will be available as a gift set for Christmas. I’m also looking forward Christmas markets, not just as a seller, but I always do my Christmas shopping on markets. Love giving and getting handmade!
Blue Design Shed: Going forward, I’d like to carry on as I am but do some real markets and have more online sales. I’ve done a few online courses recently, so will be making some new work. Watch this space!