Paula Clark creates gorgeously tactile macramé, crochet, and knitted pieces for the customers of her Brighton-based brand, Cocoon&me. We interviewed Paula to learn more about her work and how she has grown her business.
Year one of a creative business
Paula’s background is in fashion and textiles. Recently, her lifelong passion for knitting led her to fall head over heels for crochet and macramé.
This new obsession inspired a unique range of products for Cocoon&me, the brand Paula launched in 2017.
Now a year old, Cocoon&me creates beautiful (and useful) products for homes, businesses, and gardens using jute, rope, and other makeable materials.
But what has Paula’s first year running a creative business been like and how important has collaboration been in her success? We were keen to find out.
What was the most important lesson you learned in Cocoon&me’s first year?
Transferring all the skills learnt over the years I worked as a designer and creative director has been invaluable. Running my own business has also given me the freedom to work with friends and family, which is in itself very rewarding. As a community, Brighton is very creative and full of like-minded, independent spirits. I have met lots of people over the past year that eighteen months ago I would never have had the opportunity to meet.
We first saw your work in Cafe Plenty. How important has local collaboration been to your success?
I really like collaborations and working with a cafe like Plenty has been a rewarding partnership. Cafe Plenty gave me my first large commission to make sixteen of my giant rope macramé hangers. I love seeing them in this space and as the plants grow (provided by Spider Plant Shop) they’ve literally become part of the fabric of the building! I also had my first solo exhibition there over Christmas, which was a great success, and this year I started the “Crafternoon workshops” in this great local cafe.
Products and customers
Launching a new line of products is a learning experience. As an artist or maker, this process can help you get a feel for how your work is received.
We were interested to learn from Paula what her best-selling product has taught her about her audience.
What product is your best seller and why do you think this is?
The giant rope macramé hangers are my best seller. I think it’s because of the contemporary chunky scale, and the fact that they can work both inside and outside. They have been bought privately, sold to interior and garden designers, stocked in florist and interior shops, and commissioned for cafes, pubs, and modern offices. I think they have a nod to the current 70s macramé trend and also renaissance of the popularity of plants.
How would you describe your typical customer?
My smaller cocoon planters (that can hang from a hook on the wall) have been popular with the millennials. The natural jute plant fibre ones with vegans and vegetarians alike. The rope hangers have a broader appeal and sell to both men and women. For the workshops, especially the macramé, I am finding mothers and daughters come along together.
Running creative workshops
As well as selling knitted, crochet, and macramé products, Paula runs workshops. We were interested to learn more about this side of her business.
What do the workshops you run involve?
I have two workshops that are really popular at the moment. One is the crochet a plant pot workshop which is suitable for beginners. You learn basic crochet and I show you how to work a circle, building the sides to neatly cocoon around flower pot (which I supply). I also run a macramé workshop for beginners, this is nearly always sold out! I begin by teaching four basic knots which you get time to practice, before making a bespoke macramé plant hanger. Contact me for more information and to book a space on one of my workshops.
What advice would you give to makers who want to put on workshops?
Have a lesson plan beforehand and make sure you have enough time to complete the class. Also, give yourself enough time to prep before so you are ready to start, that way classes run smoothly and are relaxed. After all, they should be fun!
Marketing a creative business
Like Paula’s, creative businesses are often run by a solo artist or maker, so finding time for marketing can be difficult.
One way to market and sell your work is to take part in events like Artists Open Houses, a festival that SOL Design Collective is proudly sponsoring this year.
Paula is taking part in this year’s Artists Open Houses, so we asked her about this, and how else she markets her business.
How are you preparing for Artists Open Houses this year?
This year I am lucky enough to be invited to three very different houses, which is great as I have individual ranges that I can showcase at each venue. I am already planning what will go to each house and starting to make more stock for each. The first house is “The Garden House” at 5 Warleigh Road which is a beautiful urban oasis in the heart of Brighton. I will be concentrating on pieces for the garden. The second is “Polly Raynes & friends”, 202 Ditchling Road. This open house is very popular and I showed last year so its lovely to be invited back again. I will have a mixture of indoor and outdoor pieces, especially some of the new kits. The third, I will be joining is “For the man I love” at 13 Maldon Road, with my brighter range of planters, plant hangers, and wall hangings.
How do you market Cocoon&me?
Initially, it has been through social media, especially Instagram. Word of mouth is also great and I do have a growing list of people interested in workshops, so I try to send out regular updates. This year I have joined a fantastic online magazine called Hot Brands Cool Places which I hope will introduce the brand to new people. Also, this month I joined a beautiful website featuring handmade products called The Home of Handmade and will be part of various pop ups through England this year. My website launched last month which I am so excited about. I still have more to add. I will be doing blog post and will launch an online shop, but everything takes longer when you are a small independent business! However, it’s great to have a website with everything I do in one place and hopefully I will reach more people!
Challenges and rewards
Building a resilient creative business is no easy task. We wanted to find out what the challenges and rewards have been for Paula.
What has been your biggest business challenge and how have you overcome it?
Two things. One is technical: recently I’ve found out that sometimes my emails go to people’s spam or trash. But unless people check, I’m not sure if people are receiving my mails. If anyone can advise on this, I would love to know what to do but I don’t think there is much you can do about this? The other challenge is having so many ideas and although I do have help on, its having time to get everything done!
To answer Paula’s question, we will cover email deliverability in an upcoming SOL Design Collective blog. We also have plans to launch a marketing clinic where we’ll answer questions like this over a coffee!
What is your favourite part of running a creative business?
Creating new products, following this through to the photographic styling, and ultimately seeing them bought and in their new homes. It’s also really rewarding being your own boss, being able to make your own decisions, and building a brand that reflects you but also appeals to different people.
The year ahead
As Paula’s brand continues to grow, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for Cocoon&me…
What’s next for Cocoon&me?
I think a lot is in place for the forthcoming year, and its only year two! I have a few collaborations which are very exciting. And I have been talking to two Interior designers about possible projects this year. So, watch this space! In terms of product, I am working on a little range of bespoke pet baskets for the most special members of your family: those adored cats and dogs! I already have orders!
Our artist in focus series empowers artists, creatives, and makers through shared experience. If you’d like to be featured, contact us to tell us about your work.