Helena Russell – 2019 Graduate

Helena (@helena.made) was Talent-spotted by the Goldsmiths’ Centre in 2016 which gave her a place on their Getting Started programme and at their annual exhibition, Shine. In 2019 Helena was awarded a graduate stand at Goldsmiths’ Fair – we spoke with her about her experience and what it meant to be part of the Fair through the graduate bursary scheme.

How long had you been a graduate before exhibiting?
I graduated from my MA one year before I exhibited.

How did you find the scheme helpful for your practice?
Without the Graduate Scheme it was very hard to see how I would have been able to exhibit at the fair, especially being at the beginning of my career. It’s allowed me show my work to a greater audience and also to exhibit alongside other makers, whose success I aspire to. With the combination of the free stand, the loan, the grant and most of all the amount of advice and help which came from the Goldsmiths Fair team and the Goldsmiths Centre, I was able to build the confidence I needed prior to the Fair and push my practice to the level I felt it needed before showcasing my work.

Which aspect of the Graduate Scheme did you feel was most valuable to you and your business?
The training sessions at The Goldsmiths’ Centre. I found this very useful because it prepared me for Goldsmiths’ Fair and other selling events. I gained confidence within myself from learning a mixture of marketing, costing and pricing, how to present your work and especially in the tips and tricks of selling. With the other graduates we worked together to act out scenarios from the customers and the makers’ perspectives, while being shown all of the dos and don’ts in selling yourself and your work.

Do you feel that your client base has grown as a result of the Fair? If so how?
Yes it has grown massively, not only through the interactions with the visitors but also from the online exposure the Fair gave me throughout the week, as well as before and afterwards. It was a delight to meet so many people and to show my work, especially when they got to handle the pieces and experience each one for themselves.

Do you feel the exposure at the Fair has helped your business to grow? If so how?
The exposure at the Fair has allowed my business to reach far more people then I would have been able to do on my own, again through being at the fair and through social media. It has introduced my work to the particular range of visitors who I see as my target market. Also, talking to fellow exhibitors has given me an insight of how they market themselves and through understanding this I may be able to use those techniques in my own way, to further my own practice.

What are your plans going forward with your business?
My passion is making so I plan to continue exploring with new designs while keeping in mind how I could produce a smaller scale collection to go alongside my current work. I am looking to apply to and attend more craft fairs throughout the country, as well as applying to show again at the next Goldsmiths’ Fair. While doing this I will be looking out for what fairs work best for me and which ones allow my pieces to sit comfortably amongst other makers.

Does working with retailers and selling your work wholesale appeal to you?
I don’t have any plans to work with retailers at this moment in time, I believe I am more comfortable selling my work direct to the customers at fairs from watching their interactions and engagements with my pieces; it seems to create excitement and it’s a joyful experience for both them and me. However, it could be something which I may explore in the future – if I decide that these new designs are suitable for retail, I may consider it.

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