Interview with Sinead Koehler of Crafty Fox Market

What first sparked your interest in design & crafting, and has it always been a passion of yours? I have always had a keen interest in design but only really realised this fully when we moved to London from Dublin in 2007. The wealth of creativity in London was really inspiring and weekends were often spent visiting the markets on Brick Lane, chatting to the makers. Back in my school days, I used to make jewellery and sell it to my classmates – I had an interest in making from an early age.

Did you go to university to study something related to business or design that later helped you when setting up Crafty Fox Market? I went to Edinburgh University and have a degree in Psychology. My parents, who are both teachers, encouraged me to take a more academic route but I’ve found my way back to my true passion. After university and some time spent travelling, I worked for a medical research charity in Dublin in events and fundraising. Looking back, I think that was where I gained the skills I needed to set up the market and I’ve probably always had an entrepreneurial streak.

How did you finding selling your jewellery on London markets & on etsy before setting up your own marketplace? I loved selling jewellery on Etsy and enjoyed the opportunity to connect directly with my customers. It was really useful for me to learn about the highs and lows of selling handmade products and the challenges that makers face. Selling at markets can be daunting and it takes courage to present something you have made to the public but you get a real buzz when people like your work and buy things.

What spurred you on to start up Crafty Fox Market – where did the name come from? The idea was to create a market with the makers at its heart, providing a supportive, affordable way for them to meet lots of customers. Back in 2010, we were living in Brixton and I was working full-time in events and communications for a university. I was looking for a creative outlet and it made sense to look for venues which were close to home rather than in East London which was where most markets were found at that time. The name is a play on words which came out of an afternoon brainstorming in the pub!

How was the process at the beginning, getting your ideas off the ground and up & running to where you are today? The beginning involved lots of careful planning and list-making. I can still remember clearly the day that our original venue, The Dogstar in Brixton, agreed to host the first event in December 2010. I roped in my husband Stephan to help as he has a background in running club nights so knows a thing or two about event promotion. We were fortunate that Etsy helped spread the word about our first open-call for traders so we were in the lucky position of being over-subscribed from the outset. Crafty Fox Market has grown and developed organically since then – it’s been a really interesting journey working in different venues, with different partners and different formats such as popup shops and our popular Crafty Fox Talks series. When I had my son in 2012, I took the leap, quit the day job and turned an all-consuming hobby into a business. I haven’t looked back since!

How would you say your ‘market community’ has developed? The Crafty Fox community never fails to inspire me and I love watching the individual journeys that our designers take with their own businesses. I’ve made lots of new friends and contacts over the years and I feel lucky to be surrounded by such a supportive community. We have our first event in Leeds on 4th & 5th June so it’s been exciting connecting with makers in a new area.

Do you get many young and new crafters/sellers coming to you for advice in regards to setting up their brand? Is this where you got the idea for the ‘Crafty Fox Uncovered’ scheme from? Yes, I often get asked for advice on setting up and running a handmade business. I occasionally teach on various business-related topics and find this side of things really rewarding. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience contained within the community but makers tend to work by themselves so this experience doesn’t always get shared as easily as it could do. I wanted to start Crafty Fox Uncovered to encourage new makers to give it a go and to help them to feel more confident about their early market experiences.

Can you tell us a little bit more about ‘Manmade’ and how that came about? Is there an untapped market of male crafters out there just waiting to be discovered who need a platform? The idea for Manmade sprang out of a conversation with Sam Wingate, a screen-printer who often runs workshops at our events. We were discussing the lack of male sellers at craft markets and debating why this might be. I brought the idea to Etsy who were also keen to encourage more men to get crafty and we decided to launch an event to celebrate male makers. Manmade took place at the Truman Brewery in June 2015 – it was a great success and really interesting to observe the different range of products at the event. I don’t think it’s so much that male makers need a separate platform, which is why the event was intended as a one-off – the aim was more to inspire men to get involved in the craft scene.

How involved are your friends and family with Crafty Fox Market – I saw that your husband Steph is behind the DJ booth at the markets. My husband has his own separate career but he’s very hands on when it comes to the actual event weekends. He was more involved in the business side of things in the early stages than he is now. It’s really helpful to have someone who understands the business, is interested in it and can help me make decisions. I find decision-making one of the hardest things about running a small business. Our friends and family have always been really supportive too – we are lucky to have lots of friends who are talented DJs. We also work with the illustrator Jimbobart who draws the fox illustrations which feature on our posters and flyers. More recently, I have been lucky enough to assemble a great team of freelancers who are an integral part of the Crafty Fox family.

What are your plans for 2016 and beyond with Crafty Fox Market? I’ve seen you’re taking CFM to Leeds – are there any plans to go even further afield and spread out even more? We are really excited to bring Crafty Fox Market to a new area – Leeds is buzzing with creativity and the standard of applicants has been really high. I am expecting our second child this August so we will have our hands full for a while but in time, I would like to bring the market to different areas. The challenge is to uncover suitable venues and we love hearing from new venues interested in working with us.

Daily Life You’ve just woken up – what time is it? What do you do first? Our 3 year old son Rian usually wanders in and wakes us up around 7ish. We often encourage him to climb into our bed for cuddles while he entertains us with his curious chat. Once up, I help him to get dressed while Stephan makes breakfast.

Breakfast of choice? On weekdays it’s usually a boiled egg with toast or porridge but on weekends, we like to take our time a bit more. Recently we’ve been making ricotta pancakes with blood orange syrup – a recipe I found on Ms Marmite Lover’s blog… it’s seriously delicious!

Where’s your first destination? I spend a lot of time visiting venues, to work out if they might be suitable for our events. Most recently, I went to see a fantastic warehouse nightclub space in Bethnal Green that we are hoping to put into use later this year. As I wasn’t familiar with the area, I took a bit of time to explore – it’s really helpful to get to grips with the local area when running public events.

How do you keep inspired throughout the day? If I’m working on my computer and I need a bit of an inspiration kick, I turn to Instagram. Makers often post little snippets of their day and it’s really interesting to see what everyone is working on at any given time. You can lose hours on Instagram – I have to be strict with myself when I have a long list of tasks to get through.

What’s your office/studio/craft desk like? Is it tidy/messy? What does it look out onto? At the moment, I work either from home in Herne Hill, South London or at Somerset House where I have recently joined their co-working space, The Exchange. Working from Somerset House is really inspiring as it’s such a beautiful place and there are a variety of spaces to work. It’s also really useful for me to have a base centrally to host meetings. My work space at home is a fab 1950’s writing bureau which sits in the corner of the living room. I would love it to be tidy but in reality, it’s usually an organised mess! Recently I have switched from making lists on paper to using the wunderlist app on my phone which has definitely helped me to stay organised.

What do you do to relax? I spend a lot of time chasing my son around Brockwell Park - it’s a short walk from my house and my favourite place in London. I also love eating out with my husband and spending time with old friends.

And so to bed – is it usually an early night or a late one? I love my sleep so aim for an early night as often as possible.

Quick Fire Favourite colour? Yellow – I recently bought a yellow coat and it always gets compliments

Favourite material to work with? I’ve been enjoying experimenting with clay recently.

Favourite place to set up a market stall? That’s a really difficult one – each of our venues holds a special place in my heart. I love the air of anticipation as traders start to arrive on market day and the buzz of conversation as old friends catch up and new friendships are made.

Favourite seller? There’s so much talent at our markets and many of the makers have become friends, it’s really challenging to single out individuals. My most recent market purchase was from a new trader, Amanda Banham – she makes ceramics featuring her own illustrations. Each piece is unique and really charming.

Tags:
at work with, crafters, crafting, crafty fox market, interview, makers, market,

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