As an artist, making each piece by hand, do you worry about competing with knock-offs made by children in China? Even if your designs are trademarked and copyrighted, you likely can’t afford the lost time or emotional reserves to fight these mass manufacturers. I’ve watched it happen to so many artists and I know it’s a struggle to stay ahead of the copy-cats. So, what can you do about it? How can you differentiate your work from the inexpensive look-a-likes? Well, the best way I know is to make sure that shoppers know the difference so that they appreciate the value of your work and understand why it commands a higher price tag. Otherwise, they are not going to pay $279. for a piece that looks just like what they’ve seen in the Target or Walmart. And the one element that makes your work worth paying more for is the YOUness. If your work doesn’t have a story, your customer can’t understand the value and there is no way they are going to pay more for something that looks just like the cheaper one. Now, more than ever, your art needs a story. Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor, said “in today’s world almost anyone you want to influence is operating under a deficit of human attention.” They are drowning in facts, information and statistics. They need a story they can relate to. Most people don’t remember facts and figures. They do remember stories. As an artist, you need a story too. If you’re showing your work at a juried craft show, chances are the attendees understand the value of your work. In that case, just being personable and explaining a bit about your process, inspiration, etc will help reinforce the old know-like-trust factor. They’ll be loyal fans because they know your face and like you. However, if you exhibit at an un-juried show, it’s likely that some vendors have slipped imports into the mix and you’ll have to work harder to make sure the customers know you.. Knowing your “story”, where you came from and how you got where you are now, adds that human element and makes your work worth the higher price. If your art is represented in a gallery, you may Continue reading
January is the start of winter trade show season. As a maker, you should plan to walk at least one show. Whether you sell directly to the public or you’re considering selling to retail shops and galleries. If you can only attend one, I recommend you make it a general gift show rather than craft show. I know that sounds like a contradiction since you are in the business of crafts but you need to know what’s going on in the general gift wholesale trade for a number of reasons.
What should you be looking for as you walk the aisles?
- Trends: Even if you do vintage crafts or very traditional work, it’s still important to keep up with the trends.
- Notice themes. Are particular patterns, symbols or icons showing up across many lines? Sometimes a certain flower or animal print is popular. Remember when everything from clothing to home decor featured palm trees, owls or sunflowers? Last year, vintage trailers were the trend on fabrics like sheets and pajamas.
- Colors and fabrics. You should be aware of the current color palette so that your work will coorinate and compliment. Who knew chenille would ever make a comeback?
- Copy Cats: You also need to know if someone is knocking off your work, having it produced overseas and selling it for a fraction of what you sell it for. The likelihood of of getting the copycat to cease making it is questionable and you obviously aren’t going to lower your prices to compete but you should know that customers are seeing similar work at import prices. You may be able to tweak your line just enough to make it more apparent that it is handmade and you definitely will want to have other additional lines that aren’t being seen in mainstream shops.
If you’re considering wholesaling your work, try to visit several different trade shows. As you walk the aisles, notice which booths are busy. Who is writing orders? What do the artists who are writing the most orders have in common? Continue reading
You’re probably already applying for craft shows for next fall and when you send in your photos, the jury will be looking at how in-tune your work is with trends.
For more on how the color forecast affects you as an artist or crafter, check out: