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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pricing Our Work and Finding Great Marketing Opportunities

Pricing our work and finding great marketing opportunities and also good venues for the types of work we do is important for all of us equally. And also I think keeping up with what is current in our overall field is important for us all as well.

One of the things I have discussed in the past is how to locate the right kind of markets for your work, and whether or not we should enter the types of shows that we enter. Many, as I am sure you are aware, have high entry fees and are juried, and so if you don't make it in, you are up the creek with a loss of perhaps needed money (it is for most of us anyway) and also a loss of productive time.

I have told folks it is a good tactic to review your overall goals for your work. If selling is your strongest interest, it might not be in your best interest to enter juried shows, etc. for many times I notice that work does not really sell in those shows, and your work is out in a place where it could be someplace else and getting better opportunities to sell.

Another thing is that often those who really want to sell do teaching as well, and that is definitely a good way to move toward making money through your art. Today, I think one of the best things that has happened is the appearance on the scene of sites with online teaching opportunities, and there are many of these - www.joggles.com is one of the ones we all like a lot and they have a wide variety of types of classes. And www.quiltuniversity.com is another favorite. They offer all kinds of classes..  So sometimes you might have to take what you have in the way of a skill and the tools you use and size down to make it very accessible for everyone, and very affordable as well.

I am a very big fan of the idea of alternative venues. I once went through the phone book here, not looking for specific places, but for types of businesses, etc. that I thought would be very good for fiber arts exhibits - wineries, specialty plant nurseries, live theaters, public buildings, bookstores, restaurants, some hotels that have good space available, frame shops, and many different possibilities for places to exhibit.  I found more than 30 types and  when I started contacting the places where I thought the art would look good and possibly sell, ALL of the places would have been glad to have us come and set up exhibits for free. There would have been- no commissions, and the only thing would be that we would have to set up in the mornings and take down at night.

I picked  places that would be within a 2-hr. maximum drive so that I could go and come home at night - no motel or other fees. And I also designed a display setup that I could set up and take down by myself pretty quickly, but it made for a nice display rack. You could additionally decorate with a folding table with cloth on it and your business cards, brochures, fliers or newsletters if you are teaching anywhere with a description of the classes and prices, etc.

A very good artist who sells everything he does and has some huge painting installations  gave me a wonderful mentoring session. He noted that you have to have some big pieces and/or works in progress that draw the crowd to your area, and you have to also have medium size and less expensive pieces as well as very small, and inexpensive pieces available for sale if you want to really have good luck selling. Demonstrating and talking about what you do also is sure to bring people to your area. People who simply sit in their booths and read or perhaps eat their lunch or just do other things are making a huge mistake. The audience won't show you any attention of you don't make them want to come to your booth.

Finding some other compatible artists, even if they work in other media, as long as everyone is willing to work, is another good way to go. You can find locations that are willing to have you and your friends give demonstrations and exhibits - libraries and bookstores are often good places if they are large enough and have some nice wall space - places such as Borders, etc.

And you can have "Home Tours" maybe in the Spring and in the Fall right before Thanksgiving/ Christmas. Each place should have some refreshments such as cookies and a non-alcoholic drink (even bottled water), and you need to have adequate people around the house and areas of the house closed off. It is good to have a bathroom that is accessible but where they can't go anyplace else, or to have a person seated somewhere in the area to again watch and prevent people from going where you don't want them. Having the house all decorated artfully and having a project set up and someone to demonstrate and explain it is definitely good. You want to have a lot of inexpensive pieces available for one of these events, and if possible, make .some items that while artistic, are also useful. Decorated clocks, scarves, tote or handbags, wearables or household items are always good and sometimes the viewers can justify to themselves buying something they can use while they might not justify buying a piece of art.

You can see if there is a Co-op Gallery that might rent you some space for a month. If you are splitting the cost with several other artists, it might not be a bad investment. I would check any Co-Op Gallery out first though and go to several openings and see how they are handled and how many people come and if anyone buys.

I think overall, we just have to keep being more and more creative in how we get our work exhibited and how we sell it. I had a one-woman exhibit at the City of Lomita (near Torrance, CA) where I live. It was a tiny exhibit and the City Hall seemed an unlikely place, but you know, it was close, didn't cost me anything to hang, and I sold three pieces out of the show - not expensive pieces, but those smaller sales do add up for sure.

 There are as many possibilities for venues as we care to investigate and go after. I looked at the possibilities and not the negatives when I did this and I think a lot of the success was due to that. I also discovered that many of the artists I knew were nowhere near as dedicated as I was to finding places to exhibit and sell. They only wanted to do it if someone would do it for them. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with this thinking. Not all artists are great framers, but that is why frame shops exist.  And not all fiber artists are great at getting their work out there personally and talking to the public, so again, you always have to work with your strengths. Because of this fact, when you are counting on others to exhibit with you,  it is important to discover up front who you can count onto do the necessary work and whom you have to let go from your list. And it is good to have various art media many times. It is a little outside the box thinking for many of us who are used to fiber arts exhibits with just fiber arts pieces. But the truth is that when you expand the type of media you exhibit with fiber arts, you increase the type of audiences who will come.

The key to selling in these challenging times is to keep trying different approaches.  Just be sure to measure up your rate of successes at various types of events, and keep most of your exhibits in those types of events. The reality is that outside the fiber arts world, many if not most people don't really care how many shows you have been in or how many awards you have won. They are interested in your art for your art's sake, and because you have a great personality that invites them to share it with you.

Be sure you have a good mailing list going and you always try to get people to sign your guest book for future events. And also, if you have someone who is hesitant to buy because of money, you can tell them you will take a layaway, or you can have them pay on installments if you think you can trust them. Also, if they are not sure how the art will look in their home, make arrangements with them to bring it (and some others too) that you think might work based on the colors in their home, etc. (which you learn by asking the potential customer.

Follow up with a nice thank you note and then if you have their e-mail address and mail address, be sure to send them a newsletter or news of your upcoming events or other events they might be interested in.  Not only will your customers appreciate this, but other artists who learn that you are promoting them as well as yourself might turn around and do the same for you, which will increase your exposure for certain.

 Look for all the special interests in your area. In my area, for example, there is a pocket of people who own and ride horses in events regularly. We are also near the ocean.  So if you had some art which had horses in it, or things related to horses, or you focused on some art showing the ocean, seashells, boats, etc., you might do well in those specialized areas. Even in a specialized plant nursery such as an orchid nursery, you could have art with beautiful vases and containers of orchids and it would likely do well. I don't think it is necessary to entirely give up the kinds of art you like to do best if you make art for specialized areas, but it will help to make the sames to have at least a few things available.

You might think your town has nothing in the way of an art community, but I have seen galleries and other art venues show up in the most amazing towns where I never would have thought they had a chance.  Artists have a knack for finding old abandoned and run-down buildings and for turning them into great art studios and galleries. There are many areas in the U.S. that seemed the most unlikely areas to start art communities, but in fact, many have done it, and done so successfully, for they still exist today. Jerome, Arizona is one of those places - an old mining town that seems so out-of-the-way, but in fact tourists come to see this historic old place, and when they do, they also visit the art district.  Good place to find something nice to help them remember the area.