How Mary Maker created a crafting movement

Capturing a 13.9% of the eCommerce market in 2020, Hobbies & Recreation Goods experienced noteworthy growth during the two main periods of pandemic restrictions in April and August.1

With so many Australians stuck at home, Brydie Stewart inspired a new generation of knotters, knitters and weavers through her business Mary Maker Studio. She explains how she grew her online community.

Key points

  • COVID-19 restrictions have led to increased demand for crafting at home.
  • Online videos and tutorials help customers stay engaged.
  • Reliable delivery is one of the most important elements of Mary Maker’s success.

Five years ago, I identified a big gap in the market for premium crafting materials. They simply didn’t exist.

I stepped back from my visual arts teaching career and launched my own range of luxe cotton cords, recycled silk and merino yarns for at home crafting. I now get it all dyed in my own dye house, which allows me to create beautiful shades you just won’t find anywhere else; colours that let a maker’s personality come through.

Now my business, Mary Maker Studio, provides stunning raw materials for makers around the world, and offers hands-on workshops around Australia.

Growing a community through the rise of stay-at-home crafting

My community of weavers, knitters and macramé mavens had been steadily growing before COVID, but things really took off back in March last year. The pandemic triggered a huge surge in the number of people crafting at home, and they wanted to be part of a community.

In that time, I had to rethink my workshops. I temporarily closed our physical workshops and focused on sharing more patterns and video tutorials online through YouTube and Instagram. In these videos, I show people a range of techniques, helping them to feel more confident in crafting at home.

I think COVID gave people space to do something for themselves. They came to me saying, ‘I did macramé or weaving 20 years ago, and I’m picking it back up now that I have time’. In this process, lots of my customers have realised that the hands-on nature and rhythm of crafting can be quite meditative and calming. We’ve seen a five- or six-fold increase in pattern downloads over the last year.

My community can sell the works they create through Mary Maker patterns, something that not all pattern makers allow. Some people might say, ‘Well, this is my IP, you can’t sell it’, but that goes against my beliefs as a teacher. I know my community, and I’ll openly promote their work and link to their Etsy store from my page. I love seeing my customers succeed.

That has been one of the real joys of the last year: it’s been really beautiful to watch the community grow.

The importance of dedicated delivery support

Before the pandemic, we usually received a 40-foot container of yarn stock every three months. But in the first 12 days of COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020, my stock sold out.

To meet the growing demand, I invested in a new 250sqm warehouse and expanded my team. We also doubled the number of orders we could dispatch in a day by syncing our system with Australia Post’s eParcel. Automating it all has been incredible.

There is no doubt in my mind that Australia Post has allowed me to grow with confidence, with daily or twice-daily pick-ups. In the past, I’d been let down by other carriers who seemed to underestimate the number of parcels my regional business was ready to deliver.

There is just no comparison in terms of reliability and service – I’m in touch with my Australia Post account manager all the time and the support has been incredible. After all, delivery is an integral part of my business. I can do all the social media and marketing, I can have the best products, but if I can’t deliver them to people, then I don’t have a business.

A maker movement with momentum

The crafting craze has stayed, and it’s evolved: people are now more aware of the materials they want to use. I’ve seen a growing interest in more conscious yarn choices, and my first container of fully-recycled luxe cotton is about to arrive.

In 2021 I’ve returned to teaching, with workshops booked around Australia – including interest from corporates who can see the meditative benefits of a collaborative ‘craft-along’. I can’t wait to see all my makers in person again - that’s why I started this business.

A series of ‘maker business meet-ups’ could also be on the horizon. Our online community is so strong, and it would be great to connect them with ideas on how to grow their business, and make craft a valid career choice.

For me, growth is not just about the revenue. My focus is on building a community, building their skills, confidence and success. Ultimately, my vision is to help everyone explore themselves creatively. I’m so happy when I see someone selling their own artwork using my patterns and yarns, because I know what that feels like; I’ve been that person.

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