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  #1  
Old 05-26-06, 07:59 PM
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How do You Market Your Work?

Hello, Fellow Posters!
I have a dirty little secret. I own a gallery that actually... sells... stuff.
All of it good stuff. Some of it very good stuff. I find my artists in a lot of different ways: trade shows (like the Buyer's Market of American Crafts [aka Rosen show] in Phillie and the ACC show in Baltimore - both in February), the internet (wholesalecrafts.com or just punching in a keyword for a google search), people who make cold calls to show me their work, friends, friends of friends, in-laws of friends of friends, etc. The way we do it has gotten a lot more sophisticated since 1980, when we opened and I have never been at a loss to find good artists.
But, how about you? How do you find good buyers? Do you need help, input, suggestions, moral support, feedback, tips, mentoring?
Or do you want to be set with Christmas, Hannukah, anniversary, wedding, graduation, birthday, and Groundhog's Day gifts for the rest of your life? (I hope they all like glass)
This is your opportunity to pick my brain - find out what irks the buyer and what makes us purr. Vent about bad experiences. Rave about good ones. Ask questions and I will answer.
Let the games begin!
Maria
PS - yes, we do have a website: www.pmgallery.com
It's still a work in progress - nowhere near to showing all the artists we represent - but it's coming along.
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Old 05-30-06, 09:39 AM
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I'm apprehensive to go to galleries with my work. I'm not sure how the whole process works and I'm afraid of comming off as a complete idiot. There are a couple of areas that I'm unsure of...

#1 I know that some galleries work on consignment and some buy outright. I gather that most work on consignment. How does that work? Do you let them pick some pieces and they let you know when they sell?

#2 Pricing. When it comes to pricing I am at a complete loss. I have no idea what to sell my work for. I spoke to someone from a gallery once and the advice I was given was "to price your work high enough to make it worth the retail space it's taking up." However, that really doesn't tell me anything. What is high enough? If you price things too high, they won't sell and if you price too low people may think it is cheap and also not buy it. Artists are notorious for undervaluing their work. Is it appropriate to ask what a piece should be priced at? Who would know better than the gallery what a piece could sell for.

#3 What is the best way to contact a gallery? Is it best to e-mail, call, or just show up? If you do, just show up, should you have examples or pictures of your work available or should that be a separate appointment. If a separate appointment is recommended, how does that work with artists who live in a different city than the gallery? Typically I would want to see a gallery before I decide if I want to ask them to represent me, however if a separate appointment is necessary that may mean another trip.

#4 I've read Milon Townsend's "Making and Marketing Better Work". He talked about gallery contracts. A lot of what I read in that book seemed geared toward sales on a far grander scale than I am ready for. Are contracts and exclusivity common?

I'm sorry for such a long post but I'm sure any advice you can give will benefit all of us.

Malissa
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Old 05-30-06, 04:42 PM
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Malissa - This is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for!
Let's take your questions one at a time:
"#1 I know that some galleries work on consignment and some buy outright. I gather that most work on consignment. How does that work? Do you let them pick some pieces and they let you know when they sell?"
Many galleries are consignment only - some are wholesale only - some do a little of both. We fall into the last category, although we mostly wholesale. This is how we do it: fine art is always consigned; we generally only consign craft from local artists (with a few exceptions) because of the logistics of getting new work and we pay the artist 60% of the selling price as opposed to 50% if we buy outright. We do like to choose from a selection of pieces, if we can. We pay our consignment artists once a month - around the 10th. Work is logged in and the artists gets a receipt. When I pay for the work, I note on the check the inventory numbers of what sold so the artist can keep track.
"#2 Pricing. When it comes to pricing I am at a complete loss. I have no idea what to sell my work for. I spoke to someone from a gallery once and the advice I was given was "to price your work high enough to make it worth the retail space it's taking up." However, that really doesn't tell me anything. What is high enough? If you price things too high, they won't sell and if you price too low people may think it is cheap and also not buy it. Artists are notorious for undervaluing their work. Is it appropriate to ask what a piece should be priced at? Who would know better than the gallery what a piece could sell for."
This is the hardest question. I really do prefer it when an artist has an idea of how they want to price their work. Many artists do retail shows to help them determine price and to gauge response to new designs. Of course, for many artists, that isn't practical.
What it comes down to in the beginning is economics. The artist has the best idea of what they have in a piece of art. We are talking just time and materials. Weigh your work and figure how much glass is in there and what that cost is. Keep a log of your hours at the torch and how productive you are. Take into account your costs of fuel, electricity, tools and supplies. Many jewelers have very precise log books for every piece they make and can tell you to the penny how much the gold, silver and stones cost and how many hours are in it. Glass workers can be just as precise.
Let's say that a mushroom pendant weighs 1 oz. and the glass is $16.00/lb. That's one dollar in materials. It took you 15 minutes to torch that puppy. You want to pay yourself $20.00 an hour, so that is $5.00. Your annealing oven has an expected life of 3 years before stuff needs to be replaced, so its initial cost of $700.00 is divided by 3 for an operating cost of 233.00/year. Let's just round and say another dollar a day spread over the dozen pendants you annealed today. That 10 plus 25 for utilities and gas and another 15 for misc. tools/supplies/Band-Aids/etc. brings our base cost to $6.50. Double that to get your wholesale cost. Double again to get retail. Can that pendant sell for $26.00 retail? Here's where the market comes in. You now know how much you need to not lose money. But will the market bear that price? Look and see what other artists are selling similar work for. A gallery owner can not be expected to set your prices - but this is the part where they can help you fine tune. And, sometimes, if something doesn't sell - raise the price. It adds value!
#3 What is the best way to contact a gallery? Is it best to e-mail, call, or just show up? If you do, just show up, should you have examples or pictures of your work available or should that be a separate appointment. If a separate appointment is recommended, how does that work with artists who live in a different city than the gallery? Typically I would want to see a gallery before I decide if I want to ask them to represent me, however if a separate appointment is necessary that may mean another trip."
Oh, boy, pet peeve #372 - the artist who just shows up. It is always better to call ahead (or e-mail) and make an appointment. I can usually tell over the phone if the work is something I will be interested in, as I have a good idea of what I am looking for. You also want to be sure that the buyer/manager/whatever is in and ready to look at work and is not at the dentist. When you call you can discuss what kinds of things to bring. I prefer actual work, but good photos are OK if logistics is a problem. And I would recommend making a separate field trip to check out places that you think you might be interested in, perhaps combining a couple of cities in one weekend jaunt.
Now, after all that, I have taken work from people who just drop in. You have to be flexible, or you miss an opportunity
"#4 I've read Milon Townsend's "Making and Marketing Better Work". He talked about gallery contracts. A lot of what I read in that book seemed geared toward sales on a far grander scale than I am ready for. Are contracts and exclusivity common?
We do expect zip code exclusivity (actually 2 zip codes, because we are on the line) from our artists. The simple reason is that we are located in an arts district and each business has its own personality. People don't want to see the same work in every shop. You can go to the mall to get that. We do make exceptions because our zip code is the same as downtown's, so if a gallery in the south of downtown wants to sell one of our artists, I don't see that as a conflict. For consignment a contract is a very good idea. It is for your protection. I have seen galleries fold and the consigned work seized to pay bills and back taxes. The contract does not have to be complicated (ours isn't) and should spell out expectations on both parts - artist and gallery.
I think I covered everything for now and I have to go fix dinner. Let me know if this helps!
Maria
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Old 05-31-06, 09:18 AM
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Maria, as always, that was incredibly helpful. Thank you!
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Old 06-01-06, 09:55 AM
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Maria, are you going to be (or do you now) accept jewelry in your gallery?
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Old 06-01-06, 10:11 AM
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What a great thread to start! Thank you in advanced!

the gallery thing is frustrating for us...we technically live in the middle of nowhere and it is hard for us to find good places to sell through. Of course we have multiple places we do consign, which is hard because we would much rather sell wholesale in that situation. Because we live in the middle of nowhere and because my husband focuses on contemporary marbles (things middle of nowhere people don't buy) I have an ebay store. There are a couple things that are hard about the ebay store....anyone shopping on ebay expects to get a GREAT deal. Well our art isn't about a great deal it's about the craftsmanship and heart put into it. Also we have contacted glass galleries in the past that just sent us nasty emails saying....well if you have an ebay store we will not work with you. The hard thing about that is I have 2 children to raise....I can't just wait for consignment checks to come in, I have to have a little control over my sales which I do get from the ebay store. The more work I put into it, hopefully the more I get out. So of course that left a bad taste in my mouth.

I also find it hard to approach galleries. I have done most of the things you are supposed to do...searched (mainly the Mpls region, because that is about as close as we get) and designed and sent out marketing postcards showing examples of the work, artist statement and contact info. I think we have gotten all of 1 contact from that. So now I'm at a loss. We are trying to get out and about, but frankly as a stay at home mom, one kid in school, Andy blowing glass 7 days a week and living at least 5 hours from anything....yeah not so easy.

Pricing is a hard thing...and Andy and I have pondered over prices at length, but that does come with time and experience we have found.

I guess these are not specific questions, but maybe you could take this info and give me the other side of the fence perspective on it....and maybe how I should handle some of these things. Thanks so much!
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Old 06-01-06, 05:06 PM
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First to Kerry: Yes, we do sell jewelry, because that is how I got started in this game. We have fused and lampworked glass, sterling and a bit of gold.
Pearls and concrete come in November.
Sara: I totally understand your frustration, but it is possible to be a craftsman in the boonies. We go to two wholesale shows in February that introduce us to people from all over the US and Canada. However, this is an option if (1) you can get in and (2) have the resources to travel halfway across the country for 10 days. There is another option that allows you to stay at home and is great for far flung people. Wholesalecrafts.com gets my hearty recommendation. For about $400.00/year (they're running a special) you get exposure on their site and a page of your own with a shopping cart. You set the terms (minimum order, payment options, turn-around time). The buyers sign up for free and get weekly updates (new work, new artists). They also do periodic catalog-type print versions that are an additional cost, but may be worth it. I do know Nancy Vince, the owner, but have no connection with her business at all. I use their service, both to keep up with my existing artists and to find new ones. Their site is user friendly (although the search engine could use a tweeking. Put in 'pen' and you also get 'pendants'.)
The thing I like most is that it that everyone is on equal footing - no matter where they call home.
Good Luck!
Maria
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Old 06-01-06, 08:33 PM
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I have been stewing about the below quote from Malissa:
I spoke to someone from a gallery once and the advice I was given was "to price your work high enough to make it worth the retail space it's taking up." That is so darn rude on the part of the buyer. It is THEIR job to decide if it is worth the retail space. It is the artist's job to price their work fairly and competitively. It is then up to the buyer to take it or leave it.
I buy based on three criteria:
Do I like it? (a lot, otherwise I can't sell it)
Is it a good value? This does not mean cheap - it means well made, beautiful, exciting, affordable, challenging, bang-for-the-buck.
Will my customers like it? This is the mind reader part. Sometimes I'm spot on, sometimes not. I do get the comment fairly frequently that the buyer has good taste (from people that don't know it's me). If I had a bigger budget to work with, I would be mighty dangerous. Mwahahah!
Well, NOW I can go to bed!
Maria
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Old 06-02-06, 06:14 AM
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I don't think she meant the comment to be rude. I took it as she was warning me against under pricing my work. I know that is a problem with a lot of artists. I talked to a gallery manager here in Toledo once and she said that the artist (who owns the gallery) leaves it up to her to price his work because he has a tendency to under price severely. Artists want to make money but since we know that the piece was intended to look like, every little deviation from that we see as a flaw. Everything I make I look at and think "it could be better". If something turns out really cool but it wasn't exactly what I was aiming for I tend to think of it as flawed and have to resist the urge to mark it down. I often wonder at what point in your career as an artist , if any, you quit feeling like an amateur... I don't have an answer yet.
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Old 06-02-06, 07:17 AM
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Time and experience (and selling stuff) are key to the feeling that you have earned the title "Artist". You never quite get over the need for perfection, but it is the flaws that give the work humanity. (Only Allah is perfect.) It is your control over the flaws that make you an artist. Embrace the bubble and let it work for you.
Maria
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