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9 February 2021 | Comment | Article by Emily Powell

“It’s not like selling a set of taps” – the challenges of moving craft-selling online, from those who’ve done it


Meet the makers: As part of our Digital Dilemma series: ‘How to sell your goods online – the legal way’ we spoke to some Welsh artists and designers about the real-life challenges they’ve faced.

Husband and wife sculptors, Angela Farquharson and Martin Duffy, have been creating custom-made figurative pieces for around 25 years – and have had an online presence for much of that time. They know all-too-well the difficulties of selling this kind of work remotely.

Here’s Angela and Martin’s story.

Angela

“It’s not like selling a set of taps” – the challenges of moving craft-selling online, from those who’ve done it

“I create figurative work, mainly of the female form, using bronze, ceramics, and other materials I sell my work to clients across the UK and as far afield as America.

I graduated in the year 2000, with a first-class honours’ degree from Wolverhampton University and, during my student time, had the opportunity to help at different ceramics fairs and was involved in the exhibition and marketing aspects of selling art and crafts. So, by the time I completed my studies, I was already selling my work at galleries and exhibitions. This continued and gradually led to where I am now.”

We sell our work at galleries and outdoor shows which have included the likes of the Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court – but much of that dried up this year. Having an online presence provides us with another vehicle to connect with the customer – not just to sell, but as a useful reference point. People may have seen our work at outdoor sculpture exhibitions, but they might not want to buy a piece straight away. With sculptures and their price points, it’s not usually an instant decision. So, having a site gives somewhere for people to return to you again – and look at your other work.”

Martin

“It’s not like selling a set of taps” – the challenges of moving craft-selling online, from those who’ve done it

“That’s right. People might see your work at an exhibition, and love your style, but may not be the right piece for them which is on show – which then leads to bespoke commission work.

We’ve been properly online since around 2004. It made sense to start a website together because it added more of a story behind our work – as a husband-and-wife team. But managing a website isn’t easy – with technical aspects like SEO optimisation taking a lot of time and money. You really do need expert advice to manage it all. And you find you’re competing against big galleries like the V&A for online space. It’s a bit like David versus Goliath.”

Distance selling our kind of work is difficult – it’s not like selling a set of taps! We create bespoke pieces, which is not the kind of thing people can easily send back for a refund. Dealing with that aspect of a relationship, between maker and seller, needs careful handling. And setting terms and conditions for this kind of sale isn’t something you can get off-the-shelf.

It’s important that terms are properly articulated in a way that enables the customer, and us as producers, to have a better understanding of the transaction and the production process – but this is technically difficult to word. We need expert input, so we stay on the right side of the law – to protect us and the customer.”

Author bio

Emily is a partner in the Corporate and Commercial team. Emily specialises in commercial law, public procurement and subsidy control. Emily has advised housing associations on their procurement processes and can provide a complete legal service for all procurement and project requirements. Emily also hosts a forum for ‘heads of’ procurement working within the social housing sector.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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