digital disruptors | Jun 21, 2016 |
UK interior designer develops maker-artisan online search
Boh staff

United Kingdom-based interior designer Yasmin Chopin was spending precious hours researching local suppliers, highlighting a need that has since become the springboard for her project to help other designers save time and promote local artisans. Debuted last year, Chopin’s Select a Maker, a digital directory of design professions, includes suppliers, makers and craftspeople—all locally available. She chats with EAL about her inspiration, and goals, for the designer-focused directory

How did you develop Select a Maker?
As anyone in the profession well knows, the time taken to find a specialist craftsperson or to hunt down the perfect item for a project is far more than most people realize. A broad range of quality contacts who can produce bespoke customized work is one of the key features of a successful interior design business. It is for this reason many interior designers don’t share their contacts list.

I live in Cambridgeshire [a county in England] and my ‘patch’ is geographically wide, taking in all the surrounding counties. This means I spend a lot of time researching local suppliers for my clients. I’m very keen to use local resources, support U.K. business and help new businesses whenever possible….

I realized that an online directory of U.K.-based designers, makers and skilled craftspeople would be extremely useful, not only for myself but for other professionals and the general public. It works both ways, because I’m aware that art, craft and design businesses can struggle to get the promotion they need and welcome the opportunity to gain a wider audience. Select a Maker offers them a platform online where contacts can be made directly by those who search the directory.

How do you source the makers and artisans who appear in the directory?
Makers who join Select a Maker find us, or we find them in many different ways. I visit a lot of shows, exhibitions and events to meet makers in person, as well as making contact online and through other organizations.

We have been in business for a year now, and the database of makers is growing steadily. We have superb coverage of makers around the U.K. and represent a variety of craft skills and arts-based industries. All our makers welcome commissions, and our directory is based on three principles: The designer-makers are U.K. based; they offer a bespoke service; and they work principally in the interiors and/or gardens sector.

Makers enjoy the community spirit Select a Maker offers, and benefit from the support we can give through social media and our blog. There are many interesting opportunities that arise as a result of being part of our group; TV program makers contact Select a Maker, journalists approach us for their magazine features, exhibition and event organizers often need speakers or quotes for their publications, etc. I undertake a lot of speaking engagements and always use Select a Maker members’ work in my presentations. And having just set up our first Sponsored Membership Program, we are already seeing some very interesting business opportunities arising from the partnerships we’ve created between sponsor and maker.

What’s on the horizon for the service now?
Our next task is to raise awareness of the Select a Maker directory among the professional interior and garden design communities. As our database grows, it will become the regular go-to place for all interior designers and garden designers working in the U.K., and potentially those overseas. Talented people who have honed their skills over years and developed innovative techniques to produce unique quality products deserve more recognition! We hope to play a big part in that.

Yasmin Chopin, founder and creative director of Select a Maker

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