Friday, 31 July 2009

Selling Art/Not Selling Art

The appeal of art is very subjective (one man's meat is another man's poison...) and so it stands to reason that the buying of art can be rather emotive. Anyone can buy a mass produced print from Ikea but buying an original piece of art can be a significant transaction for the buyer and the artist. There are several reasons that people buy art but the most important one is that the work "spoke" to the buyer, that it became a desirable (or must-have) object and that, by the very nature of its originality, it will be treasured by the buyer.
I have been TRYING to buy a print from Leeds Craft Centre and Design Gallery for a couple of months now. It is an original lino print (similar to the one shown below) by the artist Colin Park and was part of their Black and White Exhibition earlier this year. I travelled up to Leeds for the show and, as soon as I saw it, I wanted it. When I went back to buy it a couple of weeks later the gallery was closed, although there was nothing on the website to say that it would be closed. So I called the gallery a few days later to try and "seal the deal". I was told that the print was being taken down and put in a browser, that they can't update the website because they don't have a web designer (your website is vital to your business - don't start one if you can't update it) and
that I couldn't buy it over the phone.

So, now a month's gone by and I have taken the day off work to go up there to buy the print. Yippee! But no, the print has now been sent back to the artist. I can't contact the artist direct (understandable and not ethical) but the employee would contact the artist and get back to me. Oh, and I would probably have to pay postage costs. When I pointed out that I felt that she (the employee) didn't really want to make a sale she went on the attack saying: I am being very friendly here and your remarks aren't very helpful. (as I was actually purchasing an arts magazine from her as she spoke).

These are recessionary times and this is not the time for galleries to be complacent about chasing for those all-important sales. At Keighley Arts Factory we can't take credit card payments by phone either but this is what we would have said.
"The print is coming down this week - would you like me to save it for you? When will you be coming to collect it?"
"Sorry, we don't take credit cards over the phone but if you would like to send a cheque we will hold the print for you".
"Can't get to the gallery? Let me find out how much it will cost to post it to you and I will call you back. I'll post it on receipt of your cheque".

Here are some truisms about gallery sales.
  • People who buy art from you usually come back to buy more.
  • Not every potential customer will buy on-the-day and may leave it for months before coming back to enquire. It pays to keep in touch with previous exhibiting artists.
  • A gallery is still entitled to the commission if they broker a deal between buyer and artist.
  • Never suggest that a customer looks for the artist on the internet themselves - don't deprive yourself of that commission.
  • Galleries who make an effort above and beyond their remit will often have a customer for life.
  • Artists/gallery owners usually want the sale more than the salaried employee.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Promotional Zines

Zines are a great way to promote yourself and your art and are fun to create too. There are two types of zine - the hand made collage zine and the on-line zine, designed to a template. Here Leanne of See the Woods describes how she designed the first Folksy promotional zine - Go Handmade.

"My decision to create and publish GO Handmade magazine to help spread the word of Folksy and the amazing crafters, designers and artists who sell there was one of pure impulse, much like a lot of my decisions to be honest.
Well it turns out there’s quite a lot of work involved in putting together an ezine, more than I originally anticipated but I still enjoyed every minute of it and each new challenge it brought. Surprisingly enough, finding good content for the magazine was the easy part. Then came the design and layout, what appeals to one person may leave another completely cold and a lot of different aspects had to be taken into consideration. I have a legal background so of course that aspect of putting together a magazine was always at the forefront of my mind during the whole process, ensuring that none of the content had already been produced elsewhere and above all else making sure that the content contained in the magazine was protected. With the images of designer’s creations effectively being published somewhere other than Folksy it was important to ensure that readers of the magazine understood that the images and content remained the property of the designers and could not be reproduced without their consent.
It was a lot to take on board but at the end of the day I think we managed to create a unique, interesting, article based publication which everyone seems to enjoy reading.The feedback from the magazine has been fantastic and with well over 5000 readers to date, I’m thoroughly looking forward to the next issue in August.We’ll have more makes, articles, recipes and crafts for readers to enjoy in the upcoming issues and don’t for keep to keep an eye out for the Christmas issue which will be something a bit special."
See The Woods

Sunday, 26 July 2009

In the Studio (Part 1)

"In the Studio" is a regular feature showing ... er.... artists' studios! Whether you work in a purpose-built studio, a shed, an attic or at the kitchen table, we are interested in seeing where you create your art. If you would like to be featured "In the Studio" contact Artists in Business via the email link at the bottom of the page and prepare a short write up and four jpegs too.
Suzanne (Periwinklesuz) Glass Artist
"I painted my studio and moved my glass torch inside so I can use it this summer. I chose a girlie color as I am the only girl in the house and I need a "girl cave". It still needs some ventilation so that I can blow the propane out when I use the torch. I love my work area and I got my table at Pier1 at such an incredible deal and it is perfect. The blanket under the table is where my pup hangs out. Here is my computer where I spend time on Facebook and I have made myself a Flair Board.
I love having my own room where I can just 'be' and play with my stuff. I also like the fact that I can close the door and not have to tidy away at the end of the day".

Melanie Hazen Jewelry & Glass Artist
"In January 2009 I contacted a friend, who is also a builder, to create my studio space. It measures 14' x 14' with a concrete slab floor and wood ceiling (which I love)! I had drawn out the space as I saw it and he advised me about the needs and the costs for the building. It has heat/air, phone and is stubbed in for water, although it's not connected yet. There is a dedicated glass space and metals space at either end of a built-in stainless steel work bench, an area for assembling beaded pieces and an area for packaging materials, magazines and books. I am still working on getting it decorated!
I've been working from my garage for eight years therfore the creation of a studio space is a dream come true."

Janice (JKA Designs) dichroic glass and sterling silver jewelry
"A few years ago I converted one of my bedrooms into a small but functional studio. Since I work with more than one medium I have divided the space into three sections One section os dedicated to cutting and fusing glass and ouses my small kiln. Another sectioon is where I solder all my jewelry pieces and is home to my (can't live without) rolling mill and drill press. The third section is where I use the hand saw, carry out fabrication on silver pieces create beaded necklaces and wire wrap my fused pendants. I house my larger kiln in my garage for fusing sushi plates, candle holders and large decorative glass".

Anna Hull (Half an Acre) decorative wood designs
"I totally love this room and I "stole" it when we moved into the house (ha ha)! It's not very big and I have lined all four walls with furniture so there is just a wee space in the centre for me to move around in. This spare bit of floor is then covered in drying fish, print offs and other detritus. I tried tidying it up but I have realised that I really didn't mins it being a mess. It only has short-coomgs when I am painting, using the sewing machine and the laptop all at the same time.
I can do whatever I like in this room; paint it without "consultation" and stick whateve I fancy on the walls with scraggy bits of tape. It's MINE and everyone else in the house knows it!"

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Knicker Theory....

.... or how to put a value on art.

I love buying hand made from designer-makers. I'm not as interested in bagging a bargain as I am looking for quirky and quality crafts but this is how I assess the value of the item before I buy (bear with me).
First, I calculate how many pairs of store-bought knickers (panties) I can get for the same price as the craft item.
Then I compare the price of those knickers to the price of the craft. I then take into consideration that I am paying for: cost of materials, time taken to make the item and (most importantly) the skill, talent, training the artist has used in making the item.
OK, so it's a bit bizarre but, by comparing a beautiful piece of silver/ceramic/glass/textile to something mundane like knickers, puts the purchasing of hand made into perspective. After all, you can't love or treasure knickers forever (they wear out)! How do you value your work?

So you don't know how much to charge for your art. Here is a list of what should be included in the price:
The materials
The time taken to make the piece
The energy (power, heating and other overheads)
The years that artist has taken to become a specialist in that field (study)
The design of the piece
The talent that hand made artist has to create the piece

Remember that hand made will possibly be a lot more valuable and last a lot longer than mass produced (unless it's edible hand made of course)!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Find CocoandChia on Etsy

Bio - "I am a metalsmith by day ... in my living room/studio .. and I love metal and gems so much that I still want to play with them even after work is done.I apprenticed with several amazing jewelers, worked in jewelry repair and now work making jewelry and doing production for a fabulous jeweler in New York.It is important to me that my work to be as technically perfect as possible yet clearly handmade. I am so happy doing what I do! I whistle while I work and sometimes even sing!"

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Metalsmith Anne Malone of CocoandChia talks about her apprenticeship and subsequent work as a fine jeweller.

I learned to work with metals by apprenticing to four amazing jewelers. Each person had their own style and their own specialties. As an apprentice you work for very little money, do a lot of the dirty work and get a lot of experience along the way. I also worked in jewelry repair. This taught me a lot about how things are made, where things are likely to break, how many people have to have rings cut off (!) and that jewelry almost always has sentiment attached to it.

Being a metalsmith is my second try at earning a living. I worked for years in offices as a book keeper and administrative jobs. Along the way I realized that I was bored to distraction and would end up doing it forever unless I made some changes and took some risks. Now I work full time for a fabulous high end jeweler in New York. I make their jewelry – they tell me what they want, supply the materials and it is in galleries around the world. I particularly love high karat yellow gold and gemstones. My personal favorites are the little boxes that you see some of on Etsy. I don’t think they will ever sell there as the amount of time and energy to make them puts the price pretty high. I love to make intricate small containers with hinges and hidden compartments and precious gems.

Honestly, I have not found my niche on etsy. My work sells in galleries and it is important to keep the same pricing on etsy as it is elsewhere. Etsy is a great website in my opinion. I’m happy that people love handmade. The listing price is low, the site is easy to get used to and the commission is reasonable. Most of the gifts that I have bought in the last few years have come from there. I understand why lots of pairs of $15 earrings sell on etsy.

I know my strengths and my weaknesses. At the very least this is a good starting point. I am not a salesperson. I am a terrible planner. I have at least 20 projects that are finished ninety percent of the way. I’m very meticulous in my work. I often imagine any of the jewelers I have worked for critiquing a piece and I make sure that everything is as technically excellent, beautiful and secure as possible. My work is certainly not an impulse purchase. I have hopes that people will see my work on etsy, appreciate the craftsmanship and materials and make a decision to buy after some thought. As I’ve grown up a bit the things I buy for myself reflect that I know what I want when I see it, that I am willing to spend money on great craftsmanship and that I’d rather have one really nice thing than ten OK things. I’m always searching for the perfect pair of blue jeans!

In five years time I’d be quite happy to be doing what I am doing right now. It would be great to have more exposure online and in galleries. I’ll keep on making things. I know that I am lucky to be employed as a jeweler in this economy and that there are thousands of people who would love to have my job. I get to be at home with my dog and take long walks in the afternoons and sometimes naps! A super added bonus would be to have my own studio … I dream of my very own space in an artist’s collective.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Follow The Trend

Louise from Blue Ginger Clothing in Keighley makes most of her own clothes and also imports them from the Far East so it makes sense for her to study the latest trends in fashion and it is important for her business to know what will be popular next season.

This is something that you can also apply to your arts business by studying trends, not only in your chosen field of art, but in fashion, colour and surface pattern too. Believe it or not, predicting the latest trends in consumer taste is big business and there are companies who make their living business to advise industries "what is hot and what is not".
Louise's style of clothing has found a niche in the current growth of vintage fashion with prints popular in the sixties, seventies and eighties and bold patterns too. Vintage is VERY popular today including jewellery, accessories, hair styles, wallpaper and even art. (In my day it was called kitsch). Of course, nostalgia is not just a current trend as we have been down the nostalgic route before in the 1960's and 1970's when Victoriana was all the rage. The doyenne of this trend was the wonderful Laura Ashley, who tapped into the craze for nostalgia with her english country house style mixed with cottage garden. Laura Ashley redesigned an entire Victorian era by using soft colours, chintz and floral prints. She was influenced by everything that was good about Victorian design including Edwin Lutyens, William Morris and the Arts and Craft Movement and updated it to make it more practical. Her design style was a reaction to the plastic materials that had been introduced since the 1950's and I like to think that our current interest in vintage is a reaction to some of the unimaginative crap that we see on the high street.
When interviewed before her tragic death in 1985, Laura Ashley spoke about how she started her business by printing tea towels on her kitchen table and made the entire business seem like it was more to do with luck. I very much doubt that - may be she WAS fortunate to be in the right place at the right time but she also knew how to give people what they wanted and she knew about contemporary taste. The Laura Ashley brand was built on determination, hard work and the business knowledge of Sir Bernard Ashley. Laura Ashley Design has had a huge influence on many of today's designers such as Genevieve Lethu (my favourite) and Cath Kidston and there is a lot we can still learn today from this great British designer.

Fashion forecasting and shopping trends is something you can apply to your arts business too. Take some time to study the current trends and also check out the predictions for next season. You can apply "seasons" to your work by changing your influences whilst retaining the style of your art. Changing your work seasonally will help you to keep it fresh and will also help you to decide what sells and what doesn't. Here are a couple of web sites to get you started.
Print & Pattern
Fashion TrendSetter
Trend Stop

Thursday, 9 July 2009

The previous guest post was by Louise from bricks and mortar shop Blue Ginger. Blue Ginger is one of those rare creatures - an independent boutique selling unique fashions for real women.

Tucked away in Royal Arcade, Keighley, West Yorkshire this shop is a little gem of fashion, jewellery and accessories. Louise's designs are made to fit real women and there is a great selection of clothes. No size 0 here!

Blue Ginger
Royal Arcade
Low Street Keighley
West Yorkshire

Blue Ginger is definitely the shop to go to if you are looking for something that is not on the High Street. There are hundreds of these delightful shops in small towns and a short distance from main street shopping. If you know of any please post about them in the comments below.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Individual Fashion Retail

This week we have an article from Louise who owns a bricks and mortar shop, Blue Ginger. she talks about hand made clothing and we will be exploring trends in the arts business in a further article.
"I have always been interested in art and design but was never sure which path to take. After finishing my A levelsand a foundation in art and design, I chose a Craft course at Cumbria Institute of the Arts. The course covered a wide range of crafts such as embroidery, print, ceramics and weave. Due to the fact I was still a little clueless as to what I wanted to do in life this degree was brilliant as I was given the opportunity to try so many different areas before finally choosing my final subject, Ceramics!!
I left Cumbria in 2004 and fell in to various jobs nothing to do with art and decided to do a bit of travelling. I stayed with parents in Singapore for 4 months trying to work out what career path I should take, Whilst doing this I did a teaching course on precious metal clay, very interesting and I hope to use it in the future.
On arriving back in the UK decided I wanted to give it a go at setting up my own business making my own jewellery and ceramics. I contacted
Airedale Business Enterprise in West Yorkshire, UK, for help who suggested The Prince’s Trust. Airedale Business Enterprise helped me with my business plan and I had interview with Princes Trust panel to put forward my ideas. They gave me a loan to set up a workshop, but only for the jewellery. I thought this was brilliant and got to work straight away making jewellery and selling at craft fairs and jewellery parties
I decided to set up the shop Blue Ginger as it has always been a dream. I thought it would be ideal to have a workshop and place to sell in one. As before I went to Airedale Business Enterprise for help, I can strongly recommend local business agencies, all help and advice is free and as I have continued in business they are still helping.
After a year in the planning I opened Blue Ginger in July 2008. I source jewellery and clothing from the Far East, and also handmade work from the U.K with my own handmade jewellery, clothing and accessories, there is a good mix for all ages and tastes.
I really love working for myself as I spend lots of time making always having a project on the go, this is a real benefit because the shop can be lonely sometimes working on my own you can go hours without having any interaction with any one, however because I have an area in the shop where I can work on my jewellery and clothing I become engrossed in the work and hardly notice. The only other downside of having the shop would just be the stress of not knowing what is round the corner, because there is always a risk with business and you have to always be thinking of new ideas to get people in the shop and also keep them interested.
The one piece of advice for someone who is thinking of going in to business is to just go for it, if you have the passion and skills there is no harm in giving it a try. Yes, it is hard work but if you do make it the rewards will be so worthwhile.
For the future I hope to continue with the shop and try to make it a success, I am also setting up jewellery classes from the shop and hopefully precious metal clay courses. I would also like to go back to university to do a fashion degree, I love making clothes at the shop and would like to learn more about the construction of clothing."

Louise Fyffe.
Blue Ginger
Royal Arcade Low Street Keighley
West Yorkshire

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Social Networking For Artists

There is a plethora of social selling sites available for artists to showcase their work and most, unlike eBay, target a specific audience. If you are not familiar with social selling sites, and I'll hazard a guess that this is the minority, then take a look at Etsy, Folksy, Dawanda, Misi, Coriandr and Artfire. (Please add any that I have missed to the comments).

But, if you choose to sell on these types of sites you are not going to make many sales unless you are willing to invest some time in building up relationships - that's the "social" side of these sites. I recently delivered a seminar on internet selling and listed the different ways you can draw people to your on-line shop - Facebook, Twitter, Squidoo, My Space, Flickr, Indiepublic, blogging.... did I miss any? I looked at the faces of my audience and about 20% were looking at me as if to say, Wha'....? Exactly. If you are not prepared to invest some time in promoting your on-line business then social selling is not for you, and there's no shame in that.

But blogging is, in my opinion (feel free to disagree) the second most effective way to drive traffic to your on-line shop or website. The first is to build relationships in the forums of the selling sites. People like to read insights into the person behind the business and look at colourful images, find out how things are made, share experiences. The only down-side is thinking about what to type - but this comes with practice, the more you talk about the easier it becomes to think up new stuff.

A short guide to Blogging
What is a blog? A blog is a free internet site that gives you the opportunity to publish your own words. Most people will use a blog as an on-line diary but it can also be used to promote, sell, discuss, campaign, moan and publicise. It is used by a whole range of people including journalists, political groups, media groups, social groups, subversive groups, idiots and well dodgy people!

What makes a blog? People out there in cyberspace create blogs for hundreds of reasons. Take a look at these examples I picked at random:

Pamela Angus
Kerala Life and Thoughts
Dolphin & Whale News

Some blogs are so specialist that only a tiny minority will ever read them whereas others are global and have a huge following. But blogs have one advantage over websites – they are free. Although it has its limitations a blog costs nothing but time. You don’t have to pay someone to host it, design or update it and you are not limited to how much you can post on your blog.

Creating a blog. There are several blog businesses out there but I am only familiar with Blogger so I can only help you with this particular site. As Blogger was bought by Google you will need to create a
Google account using your own email address. Google accounts, like Yahoo, are free and you can receive and send email with your Google (Gmail) account. First log onto Blogger

and there will be a screen to help you set up the account. Next Blogger will take you through the step by step process of creating your blog. Before you create your blog think about the following practicalities:
Apart from the name of your blog address, which you cannot change, anything else, including the title, can be altered, updated and deleted by you. Don’t like the font? You can change it. Background? Change it. Which colour would you like to choose for your text, background, links, headings, subheadings, borders, side bar titles etc? Blogger can do it.

Does and Don’ts of Posting. Once you have set up your blog you are ready to start posting. Here are some tips about making entries to your blog.
- Do insert at least one image for every post. Blogs about artists for artists are boring without visuals.
- Do check your spelling – typos make poor reading.
- Do avoid writing anything slanderous or libelous. They can get back at you by bombarding you with comments and dissing you on their own blogs.
- Please respect the copyright laws as it is easier for “copiers” and plagiarists to be discovered. People WILL and DO sue!
- When posting images of your work protect your intellectual property rights by adding “The images (or paintings etc) are the sole property of the artist. Please respect the artist’s copyright”.
- Do add links to your posts and also on the side bar too. By swapping links with others you will increase your visibility on the web.
- Do not use profane language or your blog will be blocked from some sites.
- Use the tags for each post wisely because search engines pick up on them therefore tags are a useful tool.
- Decide whether you want viewers to be able to comment on your blog. You can set the comments so that you can check them for suitability before you publish them.

Blogging Extras. Now you have a blog who is going to read it? Well no-one unless you tell them about it. There are a gazillion blogs out there floating in cyberspace but only a fraction are read. You need to find ways to get your blog noticed and, once noticed, to keep a balance of first time viewers and return visitors.
Consider the following: who do you WANT to read your blog? Why do you want them to read it? Where will you find these people?

Working on the basis that publicity is FREE and advertising is what you PAY for I have the following suggestions:
Registering with Search Engines – it can take up to six months for a search engines, such as Google, to pick up your site. There is a site that will add you to all the search engines

Joining Chat Rooms and Social Networking Sites – specialist sites, such as Indiepublic, are useful tools to promote and meet other artists. They are also time consuming.
Blog Group sites – such as
Bloggernity and My Zimbio are social networks for bloggers. You will be able to view all sorts of arts and gallery blogs. They will be able to view you too.
Art Listings sites – such as Axisartists and The Saatchi Gallery are useful for free publicity.
Gallery websites and artists’ websites – ask if they will add you as a link if you add them as a link.
Business cards and articles for newspapers and magazines, both on-line and hard copy, will increase your exposure.
Advertising – you can add Google Adsense to your site. It is free but it takes Google some time to pick up what your site is about. Then they will paste ads on your site for galleries or art suppliers. Each time someone clicks on them from your site will increase your exposure. If you get enough clicks and then set up an account, you could get paid too! But there is no such thing as a free lunch – you have to pay a fee for payable Adsense and it can prove costly.
Site Counters
Bravenet will give you a site counter for free. It is a very useful tool to help you measure the number of views you received daily and can also break it down into new and returning visitors. If you just get the basic counter you don’t need to pay for extras.

This article is the sole property of Jo Whitehead. Please respect the author’s intellectual rights. Do not copy or reproduce this article in any format.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Our previous guest post was by Jackie from Forever Foxed. Jackie sells cards and buttons on a terrier theme. Here is what she says:

"Here at Forever Foxed HQ we work around the clock creating a range of greetings cards featuring our favourite beardy dogs; Wire Fox Terriers, Airedales and Irish Terriers. We produce unique, quirky and fun designs either handmade or printed, all on high quality paper. You don’t have to be a dog lover to love our cards but it probably helps!

Forever Foxed Blog

Forever Foxed Folksy

Forever Foxed Etsy

Forever Foxed Fox Terrier Rescue
If you buy one of our Dog on Wheels photo cards you can sleep soundly knowing that a percentage of the profits is donated to Fox Terrier rescue organisations both in the UK and the US. Why not take a look?

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Jackie from Forever Foxed has been kind enough to write a short piece about her inspiration behind her product and her preferred printing type.

My journey into crafts has taken a long and winding road. I have a love of bright colours and simple shapes, therefore it seemed a natural progression to combine my love of terriers and my obsession with design.
My first greeting cards were made with felt and harked back to my childhood memories of playing with fuzzy felt and also that familiar childhood toy, a dog on wheels. I soon decided to expand into different mediums and from here I discovered the joys of printing. The inspiration for my designs is my Wire Fox Terrier, Jackson. In 2007 he became very ill and so I found I spent more time at home caring for him. Making cards helped as a creative release and also to generate some cash for his humongous vet bills! Since Jackson is a rescue dog, it seemed fitting to also try and raise funds for various Fox Terrier rescue organisations here in the UK and the USA. With this in mind, I introduced a range of charity photo cards in 2008 based on my growing collection of dog on wheels toys.
I have always been fascinated by the printmaking process and last year I was fortunate enough to pick up a gocco here in the UK. These Japanese printers were originally designed in the 1970s and were hugely popular. Each image is imprinted onto special screens using flash bulbs, similar to those used in old cameras. The screens are then inked and used to produce cards or prints. Unfortunately, the manufacturers of these machines have stopped production and so eventually supplies of screens and bulbs will dry up. I have already begun looking for a new method of printmaking and, at the end of last year, I bought a small letterpress printer from eBay. With this I can use type or blocks to create images which are "pressed" into paper, leaving a lovely crisp impression. True letterpress is a dying art and highly skilled. I have been fortunate enough to have lessons from a very kind expert who has been showing me the ropes. I hope to finish my new range of letterpress stationery over the summer. I still enjoy using conventional printing methods (much quicker!) but there is something much more satisfying (and tactile) in relief printing.
I have had my own website for a while now, but I also sell on both Etsy and Folksy. Sales have been slow on Folksy but I am happy to be selling in UK£ as it is much more convenient. I hope that by continued marketing and just plugging away that it will pay off. Marketing has become almost a full time job as I have accounts on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and I also have 3 blogs! I 'm planning to expand into other areas apart from stationery and badges and hope that in 5 years time I have a range of products, featuring many more terrier breeds.
In the meantime, I shall continue my journey into printmaking, and hope that each new design continues to meet with Jackson's approval.