Top Makerhood seller Juliet Carr of Paperpoms UK muses on why her poms are so popular, and describes taking the leap of turning a hobby into a profession
1. How did the idea of making paper poms start?
A friend was getting married and she asked me to get some table decorations for the wedding. So I went onto Google and saw some poms – I’d never come across them before. I found a tutorial by Martha Stewart, rushed off to Paperchase and bought a few packs of tissue paper. As soon as I opened up the first one I made I was hooked – it was such a beautiful, floaty item. So next day I bought some more tissue paper and started experimenting with different ways of folding and different numbers of layers.
2. And how did you start selling them?
A friend of my sister who’s a stylist saw some poms I’d made and asked if she could use them for a photo shoot. She couldn’t pay me but she gave me the professional shots in return. So I made some from newspaper and old dress patterns, all in black and white – and she kept asking for more. The photos looked really good – shop windows and fashion shoots – so I started buying tissue paper more cheaply on eBay, and set up a website. I also opened an Etsy store in February 2009, and later I joined Makerhood.
3. You are our top seller on Makerhood – why do you think this is?
That’s interesting. Although I’ve been on Etsy for longer, proportionally, more of my sales have come through Makerhood. I think my success has been down to timing – when I started, nobody else in the UK was selling poms – and also the professional photos and the work I’ve put into my website. I worked so hard at getting all the tags and search terms right – and a couple of weeks after I launched I came top in the Google search. And because poms are very popular for weddings, they’re seen by lots of people, so you get great exposure.
4. Why did you join Makerhood?
I love the whole idea of selling locally, and Makerhood has been great for that. I also have partnerships with local shops, like Beamish & McGlue [where this interview took place]. The shops love it, because they look good, and I get great exposure. For example, a photographer who works for Asda saw some of my poms in a hairdresser when he went in for a haircut and ordered £250-worth to use in a George brochure! South London Press picked up that story, and that was picked up by the BBC, which was seen by a Vogue stylist!
5. So you’re now a full-time maker?
Yes – I used to work for an events company, but when the poms started becoming more popular, my boss was very understanding and agreed that as long as I met all the deadlines I could work as and when it suited me. So if I had a big order for poms I’d spend most of one week making them, and work on events the following week. That allowed me to make the transition to full time production.
6. And now you employ other people as well?
My boyfriend, who’s a carpenter, works for me one day a week, or more if we have a big order. My friend Linda also works part-time and will take over when I have a baby in July. My role now is less making poms and more concentrating on developments like window displays. For example, we’ve been doing the window displays at Gap stores for the past four seasons. One year they wanted a tree with real branches and paper leaves for a Beatrix Potter display. We ended up in Brockwell Park sawing 3-metre branches off a fallen tree, cleaning off all the lichen and polishing them until they looked like something out of a Japanese emperor’s garden!
7. Finally, what’s your favourite local tip?
I love Beamish & McGlue. It’s a sunny place with a great atmosphere, nice energy, lovely owners and fantastic coffee and organic food.
You can buy Juliet’s floaty, ethereal paper poms at http://brixton.makerhood.com/paperpoms-uk