The Disraeli Room

The Disraeli Room

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Crafting Policies for Success: Support for sole traders and small businesses

27th May 2015

“A decline in tool use would seem to betoken a shift in our relationship to our own stuff: more passive and more dependent. And indeed, there are fewer occasions for the kind of spiritedness that is called forth when we take things in hand for ourselves, whether to fix them or to make them. What ordinary people once made, they buy; and what they once fixed for themselves, they replace entirely or hire an expert to repair, whose expert fix often involves replacing an entire system because some minute component has failed.”

Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work


It’s a truism to say that we’re living in a materialistic age. Yet the implications of this on us as human beings are quite profound. The quote from Matthew Crawford articulates it rather well. As a society we’ve become less sufficient, more dependent and more passive. And just to be clear, this is bad.

Yet, there are still people being efficient. There is still a craft industry and – depending what you read – this industry is flourishing: one government report puts it at £400million a year and a Crafts Council report puts it at nearer £3billion a year. However, the value of crafts is more than that measured in balance sheets. Craft has been central to learning and our society for centuries, with skills passed down through generations. It is also a practice around which people come together – note the stitch and bitch scene that started over a decade ago. Craft is about skill and learning and that’s as vital when you’re eight as when you’re 80.


At Folksy we see a lot of people coming to craft in later life – or certainly to a point of selling their craft – usually after bringing up children, becoming semi-retired or downsizing and taking the jump to part-time employment. It’s a common story and one borne as much from wanting to express oneself and feel happy (yes, happy!) and satiated, as from wanting to earn money and start a new career. There are no expectations made of you. Folksy is a free and open marketplace where professional designers and makers sit alongside hobbyists with a new-found interest in making, and this makes for a very refreshing and interesting space. Some people sell a lot and strive to make a business from their skill, while others are content to list things on an ad-hoc basis from things they happen to make.


This breakdown of makers on Folksy shows how that looks:


  • Since it launched in 2008, more than 20,000 people have sold something on Folksy.
  • Around 97% of people who use Folksy are part-time makers or ‘hobbyists’.
  • Approximately 85% of sellers on Folksy are female.
  • Around 5% of sellers make more than £1,000 of sales a year on Folksy.
  • Approximately 0.2% of sellers sell over £10,000 of work a year on Folksy.


Yet, at a time when the demand for art and crafts related work is increasing, in formal education it is declining: the number of arts and culture teachers in English schools has fallen by 11% since 2010; over that same period the number of pupils taking craft-related GSCEs fell by 25%, and the number of craft-related courses in higher education dropped by 46%.


The Crafts Council campaign for greater art and crafts in education, Our Future is in the Making: An Education Manifesto for Craft and Making, aims to tackle this decline. But while craft skills and creativity continue to slide off the curriculum in schools and colleges, it falls to makers themselves and platforms like Folksy to support, encourage and continue those skills. This applies to the skills necessary to make the work itself, as much as it does the wider skills needed to market, sell and promote handmade work.


Peer-to-peer learning and support, such as that on Folksy, plays an important role in giving people not only the skills but also the confidence they need to create their own work and perhaps go on to sell it. This informal support is not to be underestimated and is increasingly enabled by web services such as YouTube,, UK Handmade and marketplaces like Folksy.
We’re proud to be part of a movement that values creativity and sufficiency and gives people the opportunity to change their lives.

2 comments on “Crafting Policies for Success: Support for sole traders and small businesses”

  1. More older people are getting into crafting and their needs for assistance and education are quite different to youngsters. They went through the education system that had arts and craft available in school remember those days were before the internet, and the advent of social media and often in today’s market place its the latter skills seem more highly prized than the ability to physically make a product. This is the skill set that the older makers are lacking where as the younger generation so often are sadly lacking the craft skills.

  2. Samantha Stanley says:

    I enjoyed reading this article and agree that crafts and the arts in general are undervalued in British society today. Instead of being the property of everybody (and everybody can do art-yes really!), they are seen as being the preserve of an elite who have been specially educated at great cost and who can afford to work for nothing because they are supported elsewhere. This seems in fact to be the official policy of the current government. The rest of us should keep our noses out of mysteries we shouldn’t wot of!
    I think our children should rather be encouraged to find out which is their art-whether it is drawing and painting, pottery, knitting, embroidery, jewellery-making, metal-smithing, acting, dance or music or indeed anything else, and to be given the freedom to express themselves through it This should be done at school and in school time. The reason for this is that outside of school venues and equipment are often limited or not available or are charged for.
    By restricting opportunities for the vast number of ordinary children we will miss out on an extraordinary wealth of future creativity. After all-it is only possible to appreciate other people’s work if you have tried to do it for yourself!
    I make jewellery and I fervently believe that more people should make their own costume jewellery for this reason. If you have troubled to select the beads you string and the order in which they have been strung, the style of the necklace or bracelet being so personal to you-when it breaks you do not throw those beads away! No, they are re-strung and refashioned into a new piece. This is so much less wasteful than buying something you have merely glanced at, invested little in and therefore means nothing to you, so that when it breaks it is thrown away without a second thought. I frequently wonder how many semi-precious stone beads and crystal glass beads are languishing in landfill sites…..

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