As we are getting into craft, gift and trade show season, I am hearing from clients and friends that two areas of the art market are doing well in the present economy. The reports are consistent that the very high end and the under twenty five dollar price points are selling. Mid price crafts are suffering. What does this mean for you?
My advise to any artist, craftsperson or retail gallery is always, in any economy, to make sure your line Continue reading →
Last week, I attended a first birthday party. I went to a local store that often carries all lot of fair trade items in search of a handmade gift . I found some puzzles perfect for a one year old boy but when I checked the labels, they were made in China. I went home to search online for handmade wooden puzzles. The ones I found were significantly more expensive. I know I could have found something larger and just as cute at Toys R Us or Target for a fraction of the price and the baby sure wouldn’t know the difference. BUT I WOULD. I wanted to support indie craftspeople so I ordered the puzzles from a couple who make them in their shop in Oregon.
I know that the socks you hand-knit and the jewelry or lotions or candles you lovingly make take more time and are better quality than a seemingly similar item made on a machine in China so of course you have to charge more for your hand crafted products than the big box stores do.
I also know you’re a sensitive, empathetic person so let’s turn the tables and as you’re holiday shopping this month, think about this:
If you want consumers to support you, it’s your duty to make it a point to buy hand made because if you are are buying from Walmart or other discount shops, you’re supporting companies that will eventually put YOU and your artist buddies out of business. MOST PEOPLE JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. But you, as an artist yourself, you want others to support your work so PLEASE don’t rationalize about buying imports because they are cheaper.
Don’t assume that everything at a craft fair is made domestically, either. Only juried shows control where the items come from and you’d be surprised how many mass produced pieces show up at craft fairs. If you have difficulty finding locally made gifts, seek out an artists’ co-p. These are generally owned and operated by a group of artist and you can frequently meet the artists and even watch them at work.
Remember, if you want the public to buy your work and support you, commit to buying handmade because you have the choice.
The question of consignment keeps coming up and while I’ll address it in more detail in the tele-seminar series this summer, let’s touch base on some basics since it’s the time of year to get started.
Assuming you’ve selected the galleries where your crafts will be most compatible, you’ve narrowed down the choices and set up appointments, it’s time to prepare for your meeting.
Show up well prepared with your pieces attractively tagged, with the information we’ve discussed. Price the pieces at retail. Number each piece so that it coincides with a number on your inventory list. (which you will duplicate and leave a copy with the gallery.) Ideally, a thumbnail photograph of each piece next to the number will help you and the gallery owner identify them easily. This doesn’t need to be a high resolution photo, it’s for reference only, not a marketing piece. If your objects are fairly flat, for example jewelry, a simple way to do it is to just place it on your photocopier, scan it and reduce to thumbnail size..
Also, if you have a display that shows your work off well, present the gallery owner with that option. You always want to have display recommendations.
If you are consigning work to gallery far from home, consider asking someone in the area to periodically “shop” the gallery for you. (they are actually your spies.) I can’t count the times I’ve walked into galleries to see a particular artist’s work and it’s nowhere on display. The artist has no idea why he isn’t receiving commission checks and it turns out
Tomorrow’s Mother’s Day and while I’m sure YOU have your mom’s hand made gift all wrapped in an earth-friendly, re-usable treasure, do you know there are many people who take their mom out on Mother’s Day and let them choose their own gift? Some actually send their mom’s money to buy their own. I didn’t realize this until I had a gallery and Mother’s Day, not just the days prior, but actually on Mother’s day, our sales were always up there with the Christmas holidays. Women would come in with or without their families, see something they loved and a pay cash. We always heard, “my daughter (or son) sent me the money to buy myself something.” This surprised me because for me the fun in giving is coming up with the idea.
People feel very generous towards their moms on Mother’s Day (as they should everyday) and as an artist or crafter you’re missing the boat if you don’t make sure that your creations are in their line of vision tomorrow. No, it isn’t too late. The shopping isn’t over yet…
This past week, the news was full of more doom and gloom about retail closings and mall bankruptcies. It would be easy to get discouraged, thinking, “If a big department store that’s been in business for generations can’t make it, how will I?” Well, you aren’t in competition with the big box stores. And if you’re comparing yourself to them, it’s time for a major mindset shift.
Your target customer is the discriminating shopper who wants something unique and handcrafted. Yes, people are being more careful with their dollars now and you have the advantage in that when times are tight, consumers want what they are spending on to be special. They may not be shopping for household appliances right now but when it comes time to purchase a gift or a piece of artwork for their home, they are making conscious choices and want something they don’t see everywhere.
This morning, in an attempt to procrastinate a few minutes prior to beginning a project I’d been resisting, I checked my inbox and found an email from my friend and mentor, Barbara Winter, complimenting a post by Todd Henry of Accidental Creative. Henry encouraged members of his community “to spend some time this week in unnecessary creating”. He goes on to say that “One of the ways we grow, uncover long-lost interests and curiosities and develop new skills is through unnecessary creating. It’s important that we not neglect our personal creating for the sake of our create-on-demand role. In fact, it’s been my experience that the more we neglect our personal creative exploration the more it affects our ability to create when we have to.” I found this the perfect reason to procrastinate awhile longer and go down to the beach for a little unnecessary sand doodling with my toes. And what an accidental creative experience it was. Lost in my “pedi-art”, I forgot about my dog, Lucy until I heard her crunching yet another oyster shell. Knowing if she swallowed it, we would be in for another sleepless night with a sick dog, I demanded she drop it. Normally, she clenches her jaw tightly and refuses to let me have a look, quickly swallowing her treasure before I can rob her of the delicacy. But today, she let me have her sandy prize and as I dug to bury this disgusting morsel before another dog found it, I spotted a lovely aqua piece of glass Rubbing my tumbled treasure on the way back to the house,I remembered an artist I know who makes jewelry from found sea glass, and another who uses recycled glass and I knew I had to do a story about artists who make their living using recycled and found objects. (link to recycled art) Thank you, Todd and Barbara for permission to spend some time for “accidental inspiration.”
Terri has been self employed for over 30 years in businesses developed out of personal interests in the advertising, home furnishings, fine arts, healing arts and contemporary crafts fields. She started her first business in her 20s . Her most recent business, a gallery of contemporary craft, continues to thrive under the creative direction of a new owner. The businesses were all profitable and started on very little capital. Since selling her gallery in 2007, Terri has continued to help aspiring entrepreneurs, artists, crafts people and collectors become their own boss while making a living based on their passions.