Paula Walton ~ A Sweet Remembrance

by admins on May 7, 2009

Artist/Company Information

Company/Artisan Name: Paula Walton A Sweet Remembrance

Address: 172 Aspetuck Ridge Road, New Milford, CT 06776-5611

Phone: 860-355-5709

Website: www.asweetremembrance.com

Name of President/Owner/CEO: Paula Walton

 

Q & W:

Please describe your art?

 

Paula:

I do a lot of different things, but I mainly recreate items that embody woman’s decorative and domestic arts of the 18th and 19th centuries.  I’ve been sewing since I was 11 and I employ many forms of textile arts in my work.  I particularly enjoy doll making as it allows me to meld many different skills into one creation.  In addition to doll making, I also make reproduction historic clothing and flags, quilts, penny rugs, embroidered samplers, hooked and shirred rugs, sewing accouterments, teddy bears, fabric and fur animals, Father Christmas figures, candy containers and spun cotton ornaments.  I paint murals, floor cloths, theorems, window shades, and do decorative and grain painting on furniture.  Some of my dolls, candy containers and other items are accented with scherenschnitte that I hand cut.  My samplers and rugs are often made with floss and wool that I hand dye with natural plant dyes.  Frequently the dye stuff that I use are plants that I grow in my gardens. When I have time, my husband and I restore antique carousel horses.

 

Q & W:

How long have you been making your product?

 

Paula:  

Since 1986.

 

Q & W:

How did you get started?

 

Paula: 

I originally started out restoring antique carousel horses with my husband.  Due to the chemicals and paints involved, you need to have great ventilation, so we mainly worked on the horses during the spring, summer and fall.  I was in an antique shop with my mom and saw the owner there making teddy bears out of old fur coats.  I told my mom “I could do that” and then started thinking about how I would do it differently, and how I would want my bears to look.   To start with I would make bears in the winter when we weren’t working on horses.

 

Q & W:

How did you let people know about you & your product?

 

Paula: 

I ran magazine ads and did retail shows.

 

Q & W:

Do you have a guiding philosophy?

 

Paula:

I basically make and sell things that I love and treat my customers the way I would like other people to treat me.

 

Q & W:

Do you sell to retail shop owners? (Do you sell Wholesale)?

 

Paula:

Yes.

 

 

Q & W:

What made you decide to sell wholesale or to not sell wholesale?

 

Paula:

It was strictly a money making decision.

 

Q & W:

Do you have any advice to other vendors/artists on working with shop owners?

Paula:

Avoid consignment like the plague; instead sell things to shops out right at wholesale.

 

Q & W:

Is it important to forge relationships with shop owners?

 

Paula:

It’s always nice to make friends with shop owners, but I wouldn’t say that it was an absolute necessity. It really depends on the people involved.  Some shop owners like to know a lot about the people they buy from and others don’t.

 

Q & W:

Do you educate your buyers on your product?

 

Paula:

I certainly try to because of the historic nature of the things I make and sell.

 

Q & W:

Do, how do you educate them?

 

Paula:

I create specific tags for items that I think need them, which explain the history of craft, materials used, etc.

 

Q & W:

Why is it important?

 

Paula:

A lot of my things are not run of the mill, so unless you know quite a bit about antiques, you may not be familiar with what they are.

 

Q & W:

Have you ever participated in a trade show?

 

Paula:

Yes.

 

Q & W:

If so, please tell us about your experience. 

Paula:

Trade shows are ok.  They have never been a huge moneymaker for me, as the price points of the things I make are higher than most shop owners are looking for.  Buyers ohh and ahh over everything in my booth and then admit that even though they love it all, it’s more expensive than a lot of them think they can sell.

 

Q & W:

Do you have any advice to fellow artists on how to prepare for a show?

 

Paula:

I generally prepare for them much like any other show.  Once you have decided on your wholesale policy and worked out an efficient ordering system and delivery schedule, everything else is pretty much the same.

 

Q & W:

Tips on displaying products?

 

Paula:

Obviously you should try to display your products to their best advantage and give shop owners some ideas for displays of your items that would look good in their stores.

 

Q & W:

Some artists do not sell wholesale because they believe they cannot get fair value for their product. Can you describe benefits to selling wholesale, especially in a struggling economy?

 

Paula:

The benefits would be the same as they always would, being able to sell a large amount at one time (due to your minimum purchase requirements).

 

Q & W:

If you sell to shop owners, is it important to be discriminative on whom you sell to?

 

Paula:

I don’t.

 

Q & W:

Would you sell to Brick & Mortar Shops only or to Internet Based shops, a person doing craft shows and home-shows as well?

 

Paula:

To tell you the truth, I really don’t care as long as the customer meets my minimum purchase requirements.  Wholesale is all about selling items at a discount when a customer agrees to buy in a large quantity.  In fact at trade shows a lot of shop owners buy my items just for themselves, not to resell.  They are very open about it, and as long as they are meeting my minimum that’s fine.

 

Q & W:

If you sell retail as well as wholesale, do you see any competitive conflicts with your shops that carry your items?

 

Paula:

No, not really.  I don’t have a storefront; I sell retail strictly at shows, online and by mail order.  There will always be customers that really prefer to shop in person and enjoy being able to go to a shop in their local area.  Especially when it comes to buying intricate handmade items like mine and even more so if what they are buying has a face (dolls, bears and other animals, or paintings of people).

 

Q & W:

Do you have any advice for artisans on weathering a poor economy?

 

Paula:

Being an artisan has never been a particularly lucrative thing to be and obviously it is much more difficult now.  I recently took a part time job as the Director and Curator of a small museum.  I’m at the museum two and a half days a week, which is great as it leaves me the rest of the week to run my own business.

 

Q & W:

Do you advertise?

 

Paula:

Yes.

 

Q & W:

What are some effective (& economical) ways to let customers know about you?

 

Paula: 

Having a good email mailing list and sending out a few notes on sales, new products, etc. is great (and obviously low cost).  Just don’t over do, you don’t want to annoy your customers, just keep them informed.

 

Q & W:

Is it important to love what you do?

 

Paula:

I think so.  It shows in your quality of workmanship.

 

Q & W:

Where do you find inspiration for new designs?

 

Paula: 

Inspiration is something I’ve never had a problem with.  I have more ideas for things than I will ever have time to make.  They fill my head to over flowing.  I especially tend to think of new designs when I’m working.

 

Q & W:

Do you have a favorite quote?

 

Paula: 

“Remembrance is the sweetest flower that in the garden grows.”  (Which isn’t exactly a quote, but instead is part of a verse from an old sampler.)

 

Q & W:

What do you think American artisans/venders can do to make themselves more marketable/sellable?

 

Paula:

I’m not really sure that there is anything.  Trends go in cycles.  For the past twenty-five or thirty years, handmade items have been considered very desirable; unfortunately I think that the trend is now moving away from that.

 

Q & W:

Please describe your product:

 

Paula:

The answer to this question is pretty long, as I probably make a few more items than the average artisan.  Here is a listing of the different categories of products that I make or restore and sell on my website: Bears, Animals, Dolls, Spun Cotton,  Ornaments, Christmas & New Years items, Valentine’s items, Easter decorations, Patriotic Holidays items, Halloween decorations, Custom Reproduction Clothing, Aprons & Potholders, Pincushions, Sewing Boxes, Patterns, Samplers, Sampler & Punch needle Charts, Grain Painted Frames, Scherenschnitte, Rugs, Floor Cloths & Window Shades, Custom Painting, Antique Toys, Antique Carousel Horses, Naturally Dyed Wool, and hand made Soap.

 

Q & W:

Describe how your products are made:

 

Paula:

I make them all myself, one at a time, by hand.

 

Q & W:

Describe how your products are unique from similar items in the market place:

 

Paula:

I pay great attention to historical accuracy when it comes to construction methods and materials.

 

Q & W:

Describe how you offer competitively priced merchandise:

 

Paula:

 I can’t really do much about the cost of the materials I use, since they cost what they cost.  What I can control is what I charge for my time.  Everything I make is labor intensive, but I work cheap.

 

Q & W:

Describe the different marketing materials you produce to promote your products:

 

Paula: 

I have a very comprehensive website.  I also have a doll making blog, www.izannahwalker.com,  that supports the classes I teach and the patterns that I sell.  I have a second blog in the works to support that will act as support for my spun cotton ornament classes, both the ones I teach in person and those that I offer by mail.  In addition, I very carefully tag the items I sell with a complete description and materials list, if it is a product that needs a bit of an explanation.

 

Q & W:

Describe your ordering process:

 

Paula:  

Customers can order online or phone or mail in their orders.

 

Q & W:

Ways customers can view and order your merchandise:

 

Paula: 

Either at the select shows I do each year or by visiting my website www.asweetremembrance.com .  I also put items up for sale on eBay and Etsy occasionally.

 

Q & W:

Minimum order, return policy, order confirmation, back order and shipping process:

  

Paula:

We just finished setting up my new website this past fall.  The retail portion of the website is complete, but I had to stop working on the wholesale area in order to prepare for the fall show season and to fill Christmas orders, and I haven’t gotten back to it yet because of my new job as a museum Director and Curator. In the mean time I provide wholesale buyers with pricing and guidelines.

 

Q & W:

Do you have Policies and Minimum Order Requirements?

Paula:

Prior to initial orders, wholesale buyers must submit a copy of their resale certificate and business card or letterhead. First-time wholesale buyers must purchase a minimum of $275; the minimum for reorders is $100. No returns unless damage occurs in shipping. Contact me immediately upon receipt in that case. Wholesale buyers are charged 8% of total order for shipping.

 

Q & W:

Do you do custom work?

 

Paula:

Custom designs are available for your shop.  In order to have me design and make special limited edition pieces that are only sold by you, you must purchase a minimum dollar amount of $750 of the custom designed item.  Please contact me to discuss the specifics of a limited edition.

 

Q & W:

What about Ordering and Checkout?

 

Paula:

You may either call me with your order at 860-355-5709 or use the secure order form on my website www.asweetremembrance.com . Enter your store address and your shipping address under alternate shipping address (if applicable).  Use the voucher code Buyer. Enter Wholesale in the Comments area.  You will be charged 8% shipping.  This will not show up on the online order form and receipt.  I will email you an adjusted receipt with the 8% shipping added on to your total.

 

Q & W:

Describe what constitutes customer service to you and Give examples of how you provide excellent customer service:

 

Paula:

I offer free shipping to my retail customers on everything I sell except antique carousel horses.  I also provide unlimited support for anyone who takes a class from me or buys any one of my patterns.  I’ve started a doll making blog that also provides additional support for my patterns and classes and I have additional support blogs planned.  I’m always available and happy to answer questions about my wares.  I’m willing to design custom products for shop owners that only their shop can sell.

 

Q & W:

Give examples of how you help your customer grow his/her business:

 

Paula:

I can design special items for shops and if the shops are not too far away, I can come in and offer signings, lectures, demonstrations and classes.

 

Q & W:

What about Growth & Awards?

 

Paula:

My work as been pictured in the New York Times, Teddy Bear Review, Teddy Bear Source Book, Cross Stitch and Country Crafts, Crafting Traditions, Christmas From The Heart, Christmas All Through The House, Scrap Crafts from A to Z, Holiday Cooking, Early American Life, and Doll Crafter and Costuming.  I’m very proud to have been juried into the Early American Life Directory of Traditional American Crafts nineteen times in the course of eight years, in the categories of Toys and Dolls, Clothing, Textiles and Needlework, Miscellaneous, Santas, Other Holidays, and General Christmas (many years in multiple categories).  I was chosen by Old Sturbridge Village as Craftsperson in Residence for August 2005.

 

Q & W:

Describe how your company/customer base has grown over the years:

 

Paula:

By creating a website, I now have much better exposure to people worldwide.

 

Q & W:

What about Community and Charity Involvement:

 

Paula:

I do a lot of work with museums and historical societies (in addition to my job as a director and curator of a museum).  I regularly give demonstrations and talk to people about my work.

 

Q & W:

Do you have any additional information that you would like to share with the readers?

 

Paula:

I consider myself very fortunate to be able to work and live in a late 18th century home.  We own just under ten acres of land, which gives me plenty of room to grow heirloom flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs.  Often times the things I grow find their way into my work as dyestuff for fabric and floss or ingredients in the soap I make.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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