This week on The Whin Big Podcast, Katie speaks with Avesha DeWolfe of Spiral Tide Pottery.
In this week’s episode, Katie and Avesha talk about the challenges of balancing Avesha’s social work career with her pottery business and the importance of taking time to breathe, think and just be.
They also talk about how traditional marketing advice doesn’t always leave room for each business’s unique personality and character.
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Spiral Tide Pottery
Avesha is a social worker for half the week and runs her own pottery business – Spiral Tide Pottery – for the other half.
She’s inspired by the ocean (hence the name) and creates slab-built pottery like mugs, bowls and teapots, which evoke the beach and emotions of the sea.
The e-commerce side of Spiral Tide Pottery
Katie’s curious about how Avesha runs her business – is there a strategy behind the company, or is it all passion-led? And Avesha admits that every time Katie mentions the word ‘strategy’, she has an internal reaction!
When she first started, Avesha wore herself ragged going to all the craft fairs, open studio and market events. Now she’s stopped all of the running around, quit Etsy and opened her online shop on her site. She re-stocks the shop four times a year, and she opens the studio by appointment.
Listeners of The Whin Big Podcast can next buy a Spiral Tide Pottery creation on the 1 November when Avesha next stocks the online store.
“My strategy is to be as authentic and transparent as possible. My studio is what you see on Instagram.” – Avesha
When your dreams don’t go the way you expected
Avesha graduated in ceramics over 20 years ago but has worked mainly in social work ever since. With ceramics as a hobby and a passion, she would fantasise about working in ceramics full time and dreamt of making the pivot.
In 2018, Avesha had the chance to create ceramics full time, and it turned out to be the most stressful year of her life. The thing that she loved doing the most had to pay all the bills. “It sucked all the joy out of it,” she says.
Balancing passion with practicalities
For Avesha, her ceramics passion became one giant to-do list, one that she found incredibly stressful and joyless.
Unexpectedly, she found she also missed the teenagers and young people she worked within social work and realised she needed a balance between her two careers. This lay in finding a part-time job in social work to work in both areas with ease.
Katie definitely thinks there’s a common experience among many people, where they want to marry joy and purpose in their careers – too much of one without the other because stressful, or unfulfilling.
Marketing for a small ceramics business
Katie’s curious about how Avesha’s customers find her, which Avesha’s not sure about. Whilst she has more traditional tools set up – like Google My Business and a beautiful website- she ignores their metrics as they’re not the main place people buy from.
When directing enquiries, she always sends potential customers to Facebook or Instagram.
“Everyone has different data points that are relevant to their decision making in business. It’s finding the ones that give you the real data that’s important.” – Katie
Connecting with people on social media
Avesha has both Facebook and Instagram. She’s prominent in various pottery groups and on a Facebook group called ‘Not on Amazon’ and frequently shares links to her two social pages.
She prides herself on being helpful, so if people post requests for help or advice on the pottery group pages, she’ll give that help as much as possible. In other groups, she’ll share self-care tips – which is another core piece of the message she wants to share with people.
The connection between pottery and self-care
Lots of people don’t see a connection between self-care and pottery. But Avesha is keen to amplify the message that treating yourself to something lovely is an act of self-care.
“If you buy a beautiful mug from a potter, you want to connect with it. There’s something about a handmade piece of pottery that makes you slow down and stop – which can be the best self-care in your whole day.” – Avesha
Social Media series: Sunday Slab Meditations
Avesha’s keen to show her work to people in as authentic a way as possible. She creates posts that inspire scrollers to slow down and take a moment to see something beautiful take shape.
Every Sunday, she posts videos as part of her ‘Sunday Slab Meditation’ series. They’re films of the process of making pottery pieces and often feature Avesha smoothing out the clay in gentle, soothing motions. Avesha had no idea how much people would like this type of video, but she’s not surprised.
Her captions encourage honest conversation where people genuinely connect with her.
Building momentum through social media
Launching her new stock four times a year gives her plenty of opportunities to build momentum on social media. Besides her meditative and self-care themed posts, she’ll start to use social media in a more practical and informative way for her followers as she gets nearer to a shop update.
These will include:
- specific product details
- images and galleries of available stock
- the stories behind each piece
- insight into unique features each piece has to offer.
“We’ve talked before about the seasons of my studio. It doesn’t make any sense for me to post about the process of making pieces now – because it doesn’t marry up with what I’m doing in the studio. It has to be real.” – Avesha
Importance of paying attention to your energy
Katie and Avesha talk about the importance of giving yourself time to recuperate after a burst of productivity and momentum.
They talk about how the little voice in your head can get in the way of resting by feeding you all the things you ‘should’ be doing instead of taking a break from all the doing.
Avesha builds a few rest days into the process before the shop update, but despite creating the space, she’s so used to the pace of movement, she struggles with relaxing.
Marketing bad habits
Avesha feels like she’s guilty of not thinking ahead when it comes to a marketing strategy. She feels like she should be more planned but resists it for some reason. Katie suggests that this isn’t the case – she doesn’t think Avesha needs a plan because she’s posting content in the moment, which fits around the seasons of her studio and shop activity.
Trying to focus on a structured plan that traditional marketing ‘experts recommend’ feels clunky and inauthentic for Avesha. She’s tried using scheduling apps and tools and following the advice, and it’s never felt quite right.
Katie points out that everyone’s business is different and so the level of planning, effort and ‘strategic input’ needed for each business is different too. Fun Fact: It was this conversation with Avesha which inspired a recent podcast on Ignoring the Marketing Experts.
“When I’ve been to social media workshops in the past, I was told by the instructors that the way I do social media wasn’t good enough; it wasn’t organised enough. It wasn’t market-y enough. Hearing you say that is so validating!” – Avesha
What’s on Avesha’s business bookshelf?
Avesha doesn’t read business books, so she shares some other resources that she’s found helpful for her business:
The Maker’s Yearbook by Nicola Taylor – Nicola is a maker herself and created a structure throughout the year to help her avoid making mistakes. It breaks everything down day to day and week by week. Having a system is so helpful for Avesha. She thinks the structure could be great for all business owners.