Have you noticed that many of the small boutiques that sell handmade are low in inventory the last couple of weeks in December? As a maker with crafts to sell, it’s to your advantage.
Many indiependent retailers respond to the media’s fear-based projections by ordering light this season in anticipation of slow sales due to ever increasing online buying. But the trend of discerning consumers searching for unique, handcrafted, meaningful gifts is catching retailers unprepared with insufficient supply and no time to re-order handmade gifts. Last minute shoppers are too late to order from Etsy sellers in time for Christmas and shop owners are missing out on revenue if they don’t have inventory.
Have you been hearing about the mini movement in paintings and crafts? Almost every arts publication these days has reference to producing smaller, less expensive pieces and more of them.
When someone asks an artist to create a smaller piece, they always assume smaller means it should cost less. Sometimes this is true from a materials cost alone but frequently, working on a smaller scale is more challenging and more time consuming. So,
initially, my rection to this mini movement was less than enthusiastic. If you’ve been following me, you know that I suggest artists and craftspeople have a wide range of prices. I also advocate printing, casting, licensing or in some way, reproducing a portion of your work to add leveraged income. I also recommend keeping part of 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.
How can your work translate into something that you and/or your friends can showcase in the workplace? Even if you don’t work outside the home, here are some tips for getting more people to see and buy your craft.
If you or your friends work in a hospital, bank or institution that requires employees to wear a badge, you have a great opportunity to get your handmade jewelry or other craft noticed. Particularly if you make beaded jewelry, you can add a badge holder attachment to any of your necklaces. Invite your friends or co-workers to wear them and make sure they have your card or contact info. Then when patients, clients or other employees compliment the badge holder, you or your friends can let them know you make these and can make them as necklaces or eyeglass holders as well.
If you are a metalsmith, you can also make a version of badge or eyeglass holder as a pin with a loop to hold the badge or glasses.
Whatever your medium, be creative about making pieces that people can see in the workplace and spread the word about your work. If, for example, you work in ceramic, polymer clay or even fused glass, consider making a business card holder that you and your friends can put on their desk where others will see and comment on them. You can also make picture frames that you keep on your desk and when people will comment on them, let them know about all the other work you do.
Even if you create high end pieces, putting more moderate work out where people can see it will interest them in your art and give you an opportunity to introduce them to the rest of your line.
Think about what other objects can can you add to your line that will showcase your art in the work arena.
The whole idea is, get it out there because you aren’t going to sell it if it’s sitting in your studio unseen.
Is selling your handmade work providing you with enough income or would you like to find additional income streams without having to produce and sell more pieces? If you’re like other crafts people I know, you probably would love to find some hidden cash to provide what my friend Barbara Winter calls “multiple profit centers”.
Regardless of what type of crafts you make, there’s easy profit hiding right under your nose (or in your studio.) These methods apply to almost any creative art form but let’s use jewelry as an example since many of you create hand made jewelry. You probably experience busy seasons in your business like Christmas, Valentines Day and Mother’s Day when you can barely keep up with demand for your jewelry. But what about summer when, unless you are in a tourist area, things probably slow down? Do you feel a cash crunch come July? How would you like to have a steady stream of income flowing in year round? It’s not only possible but super do-able.
Let’s say you do beadwork. What other ways can you turn your craft into cash besides selling your jewelry? Here are a few examples:
-Write down and diagram instructions for a piece or technique that’s unique to you or has been a hot-seller.
-Video-tape yourself creating the piece.
-Make up kits with all the supplies and components to make that piece.
-Bundle the instructions, video and supplies into a kit that you sell on your website. You might even create a kit-of-the-month club. Members can sign up to receive a new design with instructions and supplies each month.
-Ask your friends to host a make-and-take party where rather than selling your jewelry, attendees can make a piece of jewelry. They purchase the supplies and instructions from you. The party can also be a fundraiser for a charity, church or school group. Of course take the opportunity to promote your “membership” club and let the attendees know that you are available to do parties for them too.
-Have VIP days for someone who might want to have one-to-one time with you for private tutorials.
These are just a few examples of how you can leverage your knowledge to create additional income from your art. Check the blog often for more tips on finding the hidden cash in your craft.
This past weekend, my friends went to a western shop in Dodge City, Kansas, expecting to purchase some handcrafted “Cowgirl” jewelry. Disappointed, but not surprised, they found everything they picked up was made in China. Thankfully, my friends are conscious shoppers and didn’t buy imports believing they’d found authentic American cowgirl goodies. But how sad that the shop owners, like retailers all over the US, stock their quaint shops in historical buildings with imported knock-offs when there’s an abundance of authentic, handcrafted merchandise they could carry instead.
I appreciate that a sole proprietor of a small shop in Kansas may not want to spend the money to go to one of the semi annual wholesale handmade in America shows,though, I’d argue that smart sourcing is money well spent. Even so, a savvy retailer doesn’t need to leave her home town to find some of the best Continue reading →
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.