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Behind The Counter ~ Folksy Seller Interview

Serena Cowdy, owner of Folksy shop The Copper Swallow, came up with a suggestion a couple of weeks ago on the Folksy Forum ~ Why not have a series of interviews about Folksy sellers to feature on our blogs? I thought it was a brilliant idea! What better way to find out a bit more about the person behind the shop: what motivates them to create and why they chose their particular field ............. to which side of the fence they're on when it comes to Marmite!!

My first interview is with Serena, the brains behind The Copper Swallow!
Based in London, Serena is never happier than when she's pottering around with her camera ...............

When did you start selling on Folksy?

I only set up shop on Folksy at the beginning of November, but I did quite a bit of research (and lurked around the Folksy forums a lot!) before that.

The name of your Folksy shop is quite unusual ~ how did you come up with it?

Wildlife is one of my passions, and is a central theme in my work. I think if were a creature, I think I'd be a swallow - I'm pretty high energy and I'm always nipping about at the speed of life. And I've got copper-coloured hair - so it all seemed to fit together rather nicely!

How would you describe what you sell?

I like to think that if a 1930s naturalist made paper goods, they would look a bit like this. My work brings together my wildlife photography with stationery that reminds people of brown paper parcels tied up with string, and of postcards sent from far away lands.

How did you get into photography & what inspires you?

I work as a freelance journalist, and I first started to teach myself photography so I could sell images alongside the features I write. I'm not that interested in taking pictures of people or man-made constructions though - I quickly realised the magic lay in taking photographs of wildife and natural history.

These things excite me every time I look through the lens. There is so much beauty in small, 'everyday' creatures like a bee or a sparrow. And there's always some new facet to find. I love the fact that some really extraordinary wildlife lives on my urban doorstep - there's no need to go to exotic places to find it!

I'm still just a beginner though, really - with so much to learn. I'm always hugely inspired by the Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards - the latest exhibition was incredible.

What are your best sellers?

At the moment my postage stamp Christmas gift tags are doing very well. I think people like the fact they're simple, quirky and have a vintage feel.

Where do you find the beautiful stamps you use in your photos?

I'm a total stamp geek. I can sit for hours happily prodding about in piles of stamps and listening to Radio 4. I usually buy unsorted bags from online dealers, who've just swept hundreds of international stamps into bags without looking at them. That means I get to have hours of nerdy fun rooting around and hunting down the really interesting ones.

How important do you feel it is to recycle?

Until last year, I was often guilty of picking up plastic bags in the supermarket when I'd forgotten to bring my own. Then one day I came across this photograph of a bird caught in a plastic bag at a rubbish dump. It made me cry my eyes out and I felt so angry, partly at myself.

We have no right to inflict our rubbish on the natural world in this way. That's why I now make every effort to recycle, and to buy recycled and biodegradable products. My goods hopefully reflect some of that commitment.

Do you have a website/blog? is my professional website - sort of a control centre where you can find out about my shop, my journalism, my photography and me! is my personal blog. I generally talk about design, photography, wildlife and animal welfare - but other topics seem to creep in too...

Do you sell anywhere else online?

No, I don't. Promoting one shop takes a lot of time and energy, so I think selling in other venues too might mean I spread myself too thinly. Perhaps in the future though. I really like Folksy's community feel, and the fact that I'm keeping it British!

Have you ever tried craft fairs?

Not yet. I'd love to give one a go once I've polished and expanded my range. I think they can be really tough - I know lots of people who haven't even managed to cover their table fees - but they can be fantastic, too.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about opening a Folksy shop?

Really concentrate on getting good stock photographs sorted. There are some fantastic creations on Folksy (and Etsy) that are really let down by the quality of their photographs. Buyers can't touch or handle your items, so it really it all about the photos.

What advice (being a photographer!) would you give on taking photos to Folksy sellers?

These days you don't need an expensive camera and Photoshop. Once you know the basics, a simply 'point and shoot' digital camera will do the job just fine, and you can download powerful photo editing software - like the GIMP - for free.

Some Folksy sellers - like Haptree - have posted excellent beginner photography tutorials on their blogs, so make sure you check them out.

I really do think a clean, simple background is key; anything else tends to look confusing and messy. And always use the three images you're given per listing, showing your item at different distances and angles.

What interests you apart from selling on Folksy?

I love everything to do with the outdoors. I trained as an actress before becoming a journalist, and I still occasionally 'dabble' in that! I love antiques, too (I'm constantly on the hunt for that overlooked bargain) - and I'm passionate about animal welfare.

What plans do you have for your online selling for 2010?

I'm working on some new items that I'm quite excited about - expect to see some manila notecards and 'nature notes' notebooks hitting my shop very soon! I've love to raise The Copper Swallow's profile a little, and perhaps get a couple of shops to stock my work in the high street. Fingers crossed...

MARMITE ~ Love it or hate it!?

I'm an advertising person's nightmare - that weird girl in the middle. I did love it, until I found Vegemite; to which I'm now converted. Marmite just can't compare!

Thank you so much Serena!
I love the uniqueness of Serena's stationery, using such beautiful stamps in their original form and in her photos is a novel idea. Visit her Folksy shop The Copper Swallow to see more of her unique creations! 
You can read Serena's interview with me here


  1. Hi Tracy!
    Great Interview, and a great idea, keep them coming....Kx

  2. Really interesting interview. Good questions Cinnamon. It's good to read an interview with another photographer. x


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