April’s Website of the Month winner was ceramic designer and maker Amanda Mercer. We caught up with Amanda, the site’s designer, Carys Tait of Carys-ink Illustration & Design, and Laura James from Kinetic Pulse who built the site to discuss how they worked together to communicate Amanda’s approach to her work.
Tell us a bit about yourself and the Amanda Mercer business.
Amanda Mercer, Ceramic Design and Loveliness is a collection of vintage-inspired ceramics created by me from my studio based in Cumbria. Each piece is individually handcrafted from fine porcelain and my collection is made up of buttons, jewellery and homeware with each piece being influenced by different forms of nostalgia.
I like to incorporate vintage buttons and lace by imprinting the clay to create surface texture. I also screen print found postcards, letters and images and use decal transfers that are created from my own drawings and collages of different found objects. I am particularly interested in surface form, texture and decoration.
I have always been creative and passionate about designing and making and have wanted to take it further for a long time. After graduating in 2009 with a first class B.A HONS in Contemporary Applied Arts and with promising interest from my degree show, I felt encouraged to set up my studio and start my business. I began selling my collection of items through shops and galleries across the UK. Since my degree show, I have also shown my work in many exhibitions and trade/retail events and in 2011 my highlight was being awarded the Editor’s Choice award at the Country Living magazine Christmas Fair in London.
What makes your business different from other ceramic designers and makers?
I think what makes me different is that every single piece is handcrafted and original. In my work, I combine a variety of techniques and processes to achieve different finishes and everything is my own design. I have also developed my own collections of jewellery and homeware, which all complement one another and show my personal style.
My work is seasonal so I have different collections, such as tree decorations for Christmas and nests for spring. I offer a bespoke service as well by undertaking commission work to create something special and personal.
Your items are all individual and you allow people to commission pieces based on their individual needs, can you tell us about why you are committed to providing unique products?
I think it’s the fact that I am producing something very personal and unique to my customers. I like to create something that echoes their ideas and input. That certain piece that I create, no one else will ever have it. From an imprint of lace from a wedding dress, to a special photograph fired onto porcelain, or your own handwriting placed on a ceramic envelope, any of my original pieces can be adapted to produce a personalised special keepsake that can be given as a gift or made for yourself.
Your website was designed by Carys-ink and built by Kinetic Pulse, why did you choose them to create your website and what was it like working with them?
I approached these two because they both offer bespoke service. I wanted to work with Carys-ink because I love what she has done through her own art work and websites for her clients. I also knew that she could custom design a website that would suit my products and be unique and personal to me. Laura from Kinetic Pulse brought Carys’ designs to life and built the website down to the last intricate detail.
We had discussions about the particular requirements I wanted to integrate with the site and which platform should be used. I really enjoyed working alongside them from the design process to the final outcome. It was great to see and hear their ideas and be involved in the whole journey. They also provide a comprehensive aftercare and support service, which means that they are always on hand if I have any questions.
The site has a really elegant and consistent style, how did you arrive at choosing this design and how was it achieved?
Amanda Mercer: We had detailed discussions about the look of the site and what I was specifically looking for. I wanted something that reflected my personal style, captured the delicacy of my work and complimented my products, which is exactly what was achieved.
Carys Tait, Carys-ink Illustration & Design: My aim in designing the logo and website for Amanda Mercer was for everything to complement her products. I felt that the designs needed to reflect the inspirations and details of her work. So, at the outset, I asked Amanda to send me a stack of her reference materials – a large brown parcel promptly arrived with lace samples, old postcards, vintage stamps and buttons and a range of other ephemera.
In the design process, I used elements of these to provide texture to the site and combined them with my own illustrative details and ‘stitch-lines’. The colour palette is subtle and faded so as not to overpower the products and fonts that were selected to add to the handcrafted, ink-stamped and nostalgic feel of the site.
What advice would you give to someone using a web designer and a web developer for the first time?
Amanda Mercer: I wanted my website to be creative yet professional, so I had an idea of what I was looking for. I think it’s always good to research and look at the previous work done by web designers and web developers that you might want to work with to make sure that they suit the style of what you want for your website. It’s also great to talk through your ideas so everyone can get on the same page regarding what is needed. It can also help to go by personal recommendations and testimonials, have a budget in mind and ensure that you keep in contact with web designers and web developers as projects progress.
You provide regular content on Facebook and Twitter. How do you approach using these platforms and what benefits do they have for your site?
The little icons on my home page link from the site straight to my Facebook and Twitter pages, giving visitors from the website the option to join me on there. I also have the social icons next to my product listings so certain items can be ‘tweeted’, ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ easily and instantly.
Social networking sites are a very important factor in my business because they are so popular and current. Social Media is a great way of ‘spreading the word’, keeping in touch and telling your followers what you are up to. The qualities they have, such as being able to ‘retweet’, ‘like’ and ‘share’ with friends and family are useful too. I have recently joined Pinterest, which is great because of the effect that comes from people ‘re-pinning’ your images and sharing with their followers. Social networking sites also allow me to engage and meet a lot of other designers, makers and people that share the same interests and I can use these sites to interact with my customers and people who appreciate my work. I have a blog and a mailing list from which I send out a newsletter every couple of months too.
One of the core challenges in operating an online shop is getting noticed. What tips would you give for someone looking to run their own e-shop?
Make sure that you’re using something that reflects your products and enhances them in the best way possible. You should make your website simple and easy to use for your customers and easy to maintain and update. Keep your site current by updating it as much as you can with new products and news. Customers have the option of creating an account with me, which enables me to provide them with free delivery and promotions, thereby giving them something in return.
Why did you choose to host your website with Heart Internet?
Laura James, Kinetic Pulse: Here at Kinetic Pulse we have a reseller hosting account which we offer to our clients as an option when they approach us to build a site for them. We find that this provides great reliability, an easy to use Control Panel interface for the client and fast UK-based technical support. We love it so much we’ve bought a VPS account at Heart Internet too!
How would you like to see the Amanda Mercer company develop further in the future?
Amanda Mercer: I have lots of ideas and am constantly designing and developing new products to add to my existing range. I would really like to focus on creating a wedding collection including keepsakes and special pieces.
Building up the website by adding new items is a priority and I also want to continue with my trade and retail shows and supplying my products to galleries and shops and hopefully outside of the UK.