Becoming a successful furniture maker is about more than woodworking skills and design talent. Marketing yourself is key to establishing a profitable furniture business.
Thomas Chippendale, our school’s namesake, was a master of self-promotion. From humble beginnings as a Yorkshire-born cabinet maker, he rose to become one of the most admired designers of the 18th century.
How can our students learn from Chippendale’s example? We discuss Chippendale’s marketing techniques and the business skills we think are essential for future furniture makers.
Understand the market
While many of us may dream of being pioneers of furniture design, we also all need to pay the bills. This means understanding our customers and creating designs that appeal to the current furniture market.
Chippendale was a master of reading the trends of his day and translating those into furniture that everyone wanted. His style was adaptable, taking inspiration from the popular Rococo, Georgian and neoclassical styles. His designs could be elaborated upon or pared-back, creating intricate designs for both wealthy customers and lower-income families.
Research the latest furniture trends to move with the curve as commercial tastes change.
Make your work accessible
We can all be a little secretive with our best designs – but you can’t expect a customer to buy your work if you don’t show them exactly what you can do?
Thomas Chippendale made sure all his customers knew about his designs, producing one of the earliest examples of a commercial catalogue with The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director. As well as a design book that inspired many of his contemporaries, this showcased his furniture to potential customers, capturing their imaginations with his detailed sketches.
Getting your designs in front of potential customers is still crucial – helping your audience to visualise your work in their homes brings them closer to making a purchase. If you don’t have an Instagram for Business account, now is the time to make one. Showcasing your designs in an eye-catching way will grow your audience and drive up sales as your brand becomes better known.
Focus on functionality
Chippendale understood that people buy furniture to be used – not just looked at. Part of his success was due to his talent for identifying what people needed from their furniture and delivering not just a beautiful piece, but a highly practical one.
Being able to produce furniture that is visually appealing and can be used in everyday life is a valuable skill. It’s one of the reasons IKEA is such a global success.
This is not to say that woodworkers need to emulate IKEA – there is a growing appetite for bespoke, custom and artisan furniture, as there was in Chippendale’s day. Customers appreciate the thought and skill that goes into hand-crafted pieces that go beyond the ordinary.
Do you dream of building a career as a successful furniture maker and designer? Our Professional course students learn woodworking techniques and business skills, to give them all the tools they need to set up their own furniture business.
Do you have any questions about our courses? Contact us for more information.