Sunday, 28 June 2009

Do YOU Have What It Takes?

Being a self employed artist sounds as if it is the ideal job but do you have what it takes to be a successful arts business? In a previous post our guest interviewee, Patti Ursel, said the following:
"Being self employed has its benefits and negatives and surprisingly it can be the same thing. Setting your own working hours can be a big benefit but because you can set your own hours everyone else finds ways to pull you away from your schedule. Its so easy to say yes to a coffee or shopping date when you don't have to ask a boss for permission to leave.
Being able to work until 3 am instead of a 9 to 5 seems like a treat until you MUST work until 3 am because you have a deadline.One of the hardest aspects of working out of your home is the lack of immediate feedback and interaction".

How do you assess whether you have the ability, stamina and discipline to be a successful self employed artist?
Take an objective look at yourself, your art/craft and your business. Ask yourself the following personal questions:
• Can I make enough art on demand without getting bored?
• Would people buy my style of work?
• What's the competition like?
• Is my work good enough to sell?
• How fast can I get a range ready to sell?
• What are the costs of making my product?
• Will my “other” life stop me from becoming successful?

How honest have you been with yourself? let's say you make teddy bears:
- it's fun making the first ten - will it still be fun when you have made your 100th?
- Do people want jointed teddy bears or are people now buying more sock toys and kawaii?
- Who else is out there making teddy bears and soft toys?
- What is the quality of my work? Is the quality of my 100th teddy bear as good as my first?
- Am I prepared to work late into the night to meet a deadline?
- Do I know how much it costs in materials, time and equipment (and possibly overheads) to make one teddy bear? how much does it cost to make twenty?
- Where would I rather be - making teddy bears or down the pub with my friends/visitng family/taking the children to the park? (This one is about life/work balance and other commitments).
Have you seen the UK TV show Dragon's Den? (Shark Tank USA) This show spells out the most obvious glaring mistakes that people make in business and that is: most people fail to secure backing from the dragons because they either don’t know their business inside out or they have unrealistic financial targets.
But that's not us, is it folks, because we KNOW the who, what, where, how and why of our business and we know how to manage it. We know when to crank up that work ethos and when to wind down and make time for ourselves/family - don't we?

In a future blog we will be discussing business partnerships - Made in Heaven or a fast road to Business Hell?

Friday, 26 June 2009

Our guest interviewee (see previous post) is Patti Ursel of Getglassy. Here is a small selection of Patti's original fused glass creations (she also works as a stained glass artist and lampworker).
" I create using glass as my main medium - stained glass, fused glass and lampwork. I love working with warm glass, with the torch and the kiln melting the glass into beautiful treasures.I am also a graphic artist. I also oil paint and dabble in photography. I have been knitting, crocheting, and sewing since I was very young. There aren't many crafts I haven't tried."

Find Patti's glass here
Getglassy on Etsy
Getglassy on Artfire
Getglassy blog

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Our first interview for Artists in Business is with web designer and glass artist Patti Ursel from the USA.

My college education was in computer programming but it wasn't until the Internet came to my sleepy little town in Western New York did I find my calling. I returned to college to learn computer art and design, complimenting my programming skills to be able to enter the online world. I ended up teaching classes at the same college - Introduction to the Internet, HTML and gave seminars to local businesses on why and how to get their business online within the first year. I started my own web design company during the summer months that first year in college and by the time I finished I was doing freelance work for an advertising agency.

It wasn't long before I took the job at an advertising agency full time moving up to Senior Interactive Producer and to New York City. I worked in the world of advertising for a good number of years. I helped develop websites, marketing and advertising plans for clients including Estée Lauder, Caché, Playtex Products, TD Waterhouse, US Coast Guard Academy, MasterCard, Phoenix Wealth Management, Memorial Sloan Kettering, the Internal Revenue Service, and many independently owned companies. I have since retired from the agency and now freelance building and maintaining websites

I also like to think of myself as a glass student and artist. When I retired from the agency I dove head first into my crafts. I have always had my hand in some sort of craft from painting to knitting. I happened across a stained glass store one day and as they say the rest is history (and the store owner needed a website too).

I have been fortune to find a group of fellow glass artist in a group called the Creative Glass Guild of Etsy (CGGE). I built and maintain the website for the group that has a private forum for members only where we share ideas, friendship, and complaints.

My husband, computer junkie, programmer and all around good guy, helped me develop my own e-commerce website to sell my product and have been able to provide cost effective
e-commerce websites to other fellow artists.

Being self employed has its benefits and negatives and surprisingly it can be the same thing. Setting your own working hours can be a big benefit but because you can set your own hours everyone else finds ways to pull you away from your schedule. Its so easy to say yes to a coffee or shopping date when you don't have to ask a boss for permission to leave.
Being able to work until 3 am instead of a 9 to 5 seems like a treat until you MUST work until 3 am because you have a deadline.
One of the hardest aspects of working out of your home is the lack of immediate feedback and interaction.
The absolute best aspect of running your own art business is being able to create your art for a living.

The one most important tip I can give is to build a business plan.
What is the ultimate goal selling your work? Do you want to just make enough money to supply your craft or do you need to bring an income into the household. Take the time to research where and how you want to market your product. Should you be online, in galleries, or gift shops? What is your target audience and where do they shop? Do you want to be bigger than just yourself? Do the research to develop a strong business plan, in the long run it will help you have more time to devote to your art and keep you on track to grow your buisness.

Have a strong support system in place. Fellow artists you can turn to for understanding or help with something your learning. Family and friends that will help give you the encouragement to keep at it and help spread the word about what you create.

Hire help. Marketing and distributing can be a full time job in itself, consider hiring someone to do it for you. If you can 't afford a professional art dealers or marketing consultants consider hiring someone to do some of the tedious tasks like mailing and billing to free up your time to do the marketing yourself.

Patti Ursel

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Making the Right Impression

Tips about presenting yourself as a serious artist.

You have arranged to bring your work to a gallery, either in person or delivered by courier, but have you thought about how it will be packaged?
At Keighley Arts Factory we have seen artists bring their precious art in a plastic shopping bag and we have received work from couriers that has been "thrown" into an empty box too. Even jewelry and small items have arrived in paper envelopes! Two issues arise from this:
* How will a gallery value your work if you don't value it?
* How can you protect your art in transit?

Framed art work, placed in plastic bags, will knock against other surfaces and, particularly if you choose soft wood, will dent and knock the frames. We would prefer to see art protected in bubble wrap or blankets. If your frames ARE soft wood then add cardboard or bubble wrap "corners". When you choose quality, hard wood frames that have been professionally made, then this kind of damage is greatly reduced. You should choose a reputable courier and pack all your art yourself. Make sure that your boxes are fully lined with bubble wrap, blankets or air filled plastic cushions. Don't allow framed work to touch other framed work - keep a padded barrier between each piece. Wrap the box well with parcel tape, label it "This side up" and ensure it is visibly labelled where it's going and where it is from. Also, don't forget to call the gallery with the name and contact number of the courier and the day it is due for delivery.
Your art is your ambassador - if your work looks poorly presented and protected then the gallery you are working with won't make the effort needed to sell your work. If your art looks well framed and undamaged then it will project the image that a gallery is attempting to create.

Keighley Arts Factory

Friday, 12 June 2009

Approaching a Gallery

A short guide to applying to art galleries by Keighley Arts Factory.

Approaching galleries to show your work can be a nerve wracking experience. It can feel as if you are offering yourself up for humiliation and that you are wearing a T shirt that states KICK HERE!
At the Arts Factory our ethos is not to sit in judgement of other people's art but instead we consider two questions:
* Will this artist's work be the kind of thing our visitors come to see?
* Will our gallery suit this artist's work?

Presenting Your Submission.
The purpose of your submission is to "showcase" your art and give the gallery a taste that will leave it wanting more. At KAF we ask for 3 items for submission: images, a CV and an artist's statement. Other galleries may only want images and a statement or they may want references too. If the gallery hasn't been specific then contact them to check their submission requirements.
These are the most important part of your submission. Does the gallery accept jpegs by email, a disk, photographs or (rarely) slides? Avoid emailing images that are difficult to open or disks that won't load onto another computer (test them out first). Size matters - images that are too large to view without scrolling on the computer won't get looked at and thumbnail images that don't enlarge on the screen won't give an adequate view of your work. Texture, scale and details of your art will be lost if the your image is less than 2" in size.Images should be clear, bright and a true depiction of your work in colour and tone. Avoid photographing framed pictures under glass and, if you need a background, stick with white. Make sure there is a list of sizes attached to the images.
Curriculum Vitae (or resume)
Not all galleries bother with CVs but a CV is a tool that tells a gallery who you are and where you are coming from. Hand written CVs will be discarded and so will disorganised, erratic ones. Choose a plain font, type out your CV and print it on crisp quality paper. Keep the information simple: full name, date of birth, address, education, employment and experience. If you didn't go to art school then list your art interests and any courses you attended. If you belong to any art guilds or societies then add these too. If you don't work as a professional artist then write about your key skills. Don't be put off - self taught artists have an equal chance of being accepted by a gallery - your images should speak for you.
Artist's Statement.
Art is a journey on which we explore ideas, discover new concepts, work through issues and experiences. Your statement is a written representation that will take the reader on this journey, exploring where you come from artistically and how you got here. Your statement helps the curator or selection committee to understand about your work.So make it vibrant, make it enthusiastic, make it live. Avoid trotting out the same old claptrap (artistspeak) and, instead, be unique, be original, be different. Think about your use of english. You didn't observe it - you saw it. You didn't experience it - you felt it. (Also avoid talking about the "human condition" - dare to be different)!

After you have sent your submission.
* Give the gallery a few days - if you haven't recieved an acknowledgement then contact them - did they get it?
* If they are considering your submission ask them how long this will take? If the deadline goes by without contact call/email them again and ask if they have made a decision yet?
* If you are rejected ask them, very politely, why. They could give you some tips to help you with future submissions.
* If the gallery says "we cannot offer you anything at the moment but will keep your application on file" contact them again in 6 months and ask if they are in a position to consider it again.
* If it's an outright refusal make sure your have sent a stamped addressed envelope so that you can send your images, CV and statement to another gallery.

One final word about "knock-backs". They are not personal. Don't wait until you have the courage to apply to another gallery - send a new submission out straight away. Do what many authors do, keep a file for your rejections and read them when you are famous!

Keighley Arts Factory

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Artists in Business mean Business!

Why would artists need to know about business? Surely our role is to create beautiful or challenging objects and not "dirty" ourselves with marketing, selling and promotion. Well, unless you are successful enough to have an agent and accountant or you are happy enough to live in a garrett creating art for YOU then artists need to know about the business of art.
Artists in Business is aimed at all self employed artists and artisans whether you are a WAHM, social network seller, sell via a website, own a B & M shop, just completed your art education, returning to the arts after a break or have been selling your work for a lifetime.