Monday, 31 August 2009

Illustrator Lynn Fraser blogs about her work and gives some useful tips for the struggling artist.

"I have always enjoyed drawing and painting. I have no formal qualifications but decided to reawaken my desire to draw by going to night school to learn to work with soft pastels. After leaving work in a fashion buying office several years ago I was able to spend more time with my art and decide which direction I wanted to go.
"I settled with acrylic on canvas.I love the near instant effect and fast drying time. My inspiration comes a lot from fashion and style. I also like to paint in a folkart inspired way with angels, fairies and cute comic images. I sell art through my website
Lost heARTS and I also have Folksy and Etsy shops. I show my work at exhibitons throughout the year and have just started doing craft and design fairs".

"Tips for other artists - Stick with it! I'm sure anyone who is involved with art in anyway does it for love not money. If you are going to show in craft and design shows have smaller paintings, prints, bags, badges etc which people are more likely to impulse buy and will draw them to your stall. You can hand them a business card so they can check you out later on the web which will hopefully result in extra sales. Folksy forums are also a great help. If you have any questions there is always someone to point you in the right direction. I found a great badge supplier from advice on the forum. The advice helped me choose the right one for me and knowing that a few others approved them made it easier than going in blind".

Friday, 28 August 2009

Know Your Customer

Do you know who your customer is? Do you know their tastes and shopping preferences? Do you know when and where they like to shop? Being able to identify who, and identify with, your customer will help you to plan an effective marketing strategy.

There are six types of potential customer who browse the hand made selling internet sites.
The “buying only” customer
The “relationship” customer
The impulse buyer (that’s me)!
The collector
The bargain hunter
The Hand Made supporter

Let’s look at these customers more closely. (Please note that these are generalisations – there’s always potential customers who don’t fit the profile).
1. The Buying Only customer doesn’t have a shop of their own. They may not make regular purchases on hand made sites and probably don’t frequent the forums often either.
Positive point: they are here because they like to shop.
Negative point: it is difficult to build an on-line relationship with this customer.

2. The customer that you have a relationship with (by that I mean you are on chatting terms) is usually a seller too. This customer may be a familiar name in the forums and on other promo sites.
Positive point: this customer is easy to reach through forums, chat rooms and promotions.
Negative point: selling may be more of a priority with this customer than buying.

3. The Impulse Buyer may be shopping for a variety of reasons: boredom, the urge to spend money, saw it – liked it, chatted with you and liked you.
Positive point: anything might catch their eye, your item could be in the right place at the right time.
Negative point: they don’t linger long and rarely make a repeat purchase from the same shop.

4. The Collector is looking for something specific – it may be a particular style or craft.
Positive point: If you have what the collector is looking for then you have found the perfect customer.
Negative point: collectors avoid consumables such as soap, food and clothing.

5. The Bargain Hunter is looking for – yes, you guessed it – a bargain. Sales items, novelties, low cost jewellery are attractive to this customer.
Positive point: good news if you make very affordable items.
Negative point: bad news if you are a high-spec artisan.

6. Have you taken the “hand made pledge”? This customer has and will buy because they support hand made.
Positive point: if you are an applied artist making hand crafted items it’s all good.
Negative point: if you are selling vintage or supplies this is not your customer.

Of course, your customers will be a mixture of all of these. How many of these profiles do you fit into? I am no’s 2, 3, 4 and 6.

Here's a short exercise for you to do: Take a couple of minutes to visualise the type of person who might buy your craft. It’s easy to say, EVERYONE but that doesn’t help to define your market/target audience. Think about their age, sex, ethnicity, social class and background. Do you think your customer is just like you? Are they the people you WANT to sell to? Are there other types of people you would like to reach?
Now think about the types of people who wouldn’t buy your craft and the reasons WHY they don’t buy your craft. It doesn’t matter if you are making assumptions, you won’t offend anyone if you keep this in your head!

Researching your existing customers. OK. This is going to take a bit longer than the previous exercise. Take a look at your existing customers and try to find out the following about them (without behaving like a stalker):
What else have they bought from other sellers?*
Is there a pattern to their buying habits? Do they have certain tastes?
Are they social networkers?
Have they bought from you before?
What do they do socially? (gigs, theatre, pub, sport, high street shopping)
You can find out an awful lot about your potential customers by talking to them. We social networkers love to talk – that’s why we are on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, chat rooms and forums. Just by talking we can share ideas, tastes, trends and predictions.

* I’ve just realised that, unlike Etsy, we cannot track the buying profile of buyers on Folksy who are not sellers too – rats!

Market Research can work. I always thought that market research and customer questionnaires were a pointless pain in the *rse until I started working in a gallery. A carefully worded questionnaire can give valuable insight into the profile of your customer and help you to plan your Marketing Strategy. Of course, we have to be careful on Folksy not to spam customers or badger them with lengthy customer feedback forms but, invariably, the Feedback we receive via folksy is inadequate and doesn’t really tell us what we want to know. Potential customers, and also buying customers may, however, be willing to answer one or two questions that can really help you to understand how to market your craft. You might contact the customer after a sale or ask in the forums. Remember, open questions give you so much more information than closed questions.
Here are a few examples:
Where did you find out about my shop?
Is your purchase for you or is it a gift?
Do you regularly buy X?
How does this item compare to the high street?
What other crafts do you like to buy on-line?
What comments would you make about my customer service?
Would you shop here again and, if not, why?
It’s fairly easy to build a profile of your potential customer (you can also research strategies to attract buyers who don’t fit the profile) and it can be fun finding out too. In a future post I will be talking about marketing yourself using the research that you have found. It would be great if you could comment on this blog post with more insights, advice and ideas on customer profiling.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, 24 August 2009

In The Studio (Part 2)

"Well you're in your little room
and you're working on something good
but if it's really good
you're gonna need a bigger room
and when you're in the bigger room you might not know what to do
you might have to think of how you got started in your little room"
Jack White

Wesley Perriman Steam Punk Artist (artist can be contacted via this blog)

"My Main studio/workshop is based in Cononley, North Yorkshire at my House and is generally a mess. At the moment it houses the frame work for The Tranzient Gallery which is undergoing major renovation work. I am also producing Steampunk jewellery and pewter castings for Medieval re-enactment.
"The Tranzient Gallery is basically a “Wunder Kammer” or Curiosity cabinet which has been mounted on to the rear or a specially built tricycle. After it was put in to storage for 3 years it suffered badly from the damp which caused the wood panelling to warp out of shape. Currently I have stripped it back to the basic frame so I can repair certain things and put in some new modifications in. My main problem has been finding new rear wheels as the old ones are not in fantastic state.
"So with work on the gallery going slow I have been concentrating on building up my stock for it. I am at the moment working on a range of Steampunk Jewellery that is being built from a large assortment of clock parts I was given, these are taking the forms of cufflinks, brooches, rings and pendants.
The other things I produce a lot of are reproduction pewter pilgrimage and livery badges based on examples dating from the 13th-15th century. To make these I hand carve out the reverse image of the badge in to soapstone and when this is completed I cast the final badge in pewter. During the summer I take part in living history displays where I demonstrate this process for the members of the public.
"Other than my little home studio I can also be found working on projects Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in the Carriage restoration shed at Oxenhope. At the moment I am in the process of hand painting destination boards for the sides of carriages."

Phil White, Fine Artist Phil White Paintings

"Since relocating to West Yorkshire in December 2008 from Cheshire, I needed a place to work, leaving a large studio space in Cheshire was going to be difficult to replace as it was unique in it's location. I moved to West Yorkshire with my wife and daughter due to my wife's job moving to Leeds. We needed to choose a property to buy that would accommodate guests and a place for myself to paint, this was difficult on the budget we had, the best option was to use a concrete sectional garage.
"After settling into our new surroundings I decided to clear out the garage, make it water tight, also installing a new chipboard floor with damp membrane and insulation, this made a huge difference to the working environment. I was due to start insulating the walls in the same way as the floor until I discovered a product on the internet that you add to paint, this product turns the paint into an insulating coat, seems to work a treat. After completing all the necessary works to the garage, storage, floor insulating etc, I needed to create an area for my three and a half year old daughter to draw, chalk and paint, she loves to be creative, especially painting. The area I created for her is a small section at the rear of the garage, i installed mdf to the wall of the garage, painted it with blackboard paint, the painting area was done in a similar fashion with adjustable brackets on the wall and mdf was used to create her easel.
"We now have a very modest place to work, it may be modest but it is very functional and works for me and my daughter, I am producing lots of new work now i have completed the studio space, with plans for exhibiting in the near future, hopefully Grace will benefit from what has been created for her."

Sharon Shoemake Glass Artist, Glass Fancy

"My studio is nothing fancy but it is functional and I know where everything is. It seems I always have more than one project going at once. Having a large work table comes in handy for that reason. All my supplies and tools are right there when I need them. I recycle old butter tubs and coffee cans for mixing grout or storage of glass scraps and other supplies. My space takes up half of the laundry/storage room in our basement. When we finished out the room, we added built in shelving, commercial vinyl tile flooring, acoustic ceiling tiles and a laundry sink. I have clamp on task lighting and another table for my glass scraps. If I have a window that is too large for my work table, I build it on the pool table, in the rec room.
"I can really get into my zone in my studio. It is isolated and out of the way. I am known to work well after midnight, but I don't bother anyone sleeping upstairs even if I crank up my music and grinder."


Glass Gardens Whatnot

Jennifer Beaudet, Fine Artist

"I've been an artist for as long as I can remember. I've been painting for too many years to mention but recently started using oils. I love everything about them, but the smell can get pretty overwhelming in our living room! Yes, that's where my studio is: not some hip, urban loft in the city, just my boring, old, messy living room. I have a corner all to myself where I can paint anytime I want. My other part of my studio (yes, I get two rooms!) is our computer room, where I do all of my photoshop work for my fine art photographs.
"I'm new to the photography business but have always had a love for it. I got my first polaroid for my 10th birthday and was hooked! It wasn't until my birthday this year that I got my first dslr and am having so much fun! My photoshop skills come from many years of working in a fine art printing studio.
"So this is where it all happens. Probably not what you'd expect but that just the way it is, for now. Until I get "discovered" and can get that hip loft in the city this will do just fine."

"In the Studio" is a regular feature showing 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.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Find Claire's textiles on Folksy

Artist's Bio - "I have always dabbled with making things for friends and family and for my home but have never really explored my creativity to its full potential before. However that has now changed and I have been surprising myself! Everything starts as an inspiration and ends up making me feel very pleased. Each item is different and either one of a kind or one of very few, so you are guaranteed a very individual item".

Blue Stripes

Thursday, 20 August 2009

This week we are talking to textile artist Claire Finch whose on-line business is Blue Stripes.

"I have always had some sort of creative ability but never really explored it past necessities such as taking up curtains or mending things. After my Mum died in January I needed something to occupy me and help me through my grieving. As we had not long moved to our new house I was decorating my girls’ bedrooms and as we had found a sewing machine in a charity shop I decided to make them some window cushions. These turned into 3 different beautiful patchwork cushions and three pretty cushions with 3D hearts appliquéd on. I was quite thrilled with what I had made and then experimented with making them some bunting, some padded hearts and some teddies for them too! My mother-in-law suggested I designed and made some bags and with a few pointers from her I was off. We did have to upgrade the sewing machine though…Finding this hidden skill at this hard time in my life has helped me so much. I just wish my Mum had been here to see me do it, especially as she was so creative herself and would have joined me. So if you own one of my items it has a lot of emotion in it!

I love cottons, linens and denim. Of course I also have a fetish for buttons….
As the busy mother of two children my life is very hectic! I end up sewing before they are up, after they have gone to school and in between doing the housework and washing the amazing quantity of clothing they seem to get through in a day. Then if I’m being really productive I will sew for a little bit in the evening. I am very lucky to have a very supportive partner who is always kind and doesn’t mind going shopping for more fabric. My girls are amazing too. My eldest, Connie, has a fantastic eye for colour and I have her involved with my work quite often-be it that she decides on a button for me or that she is sat next to me sewing her own things, she just loves it. Sophie, my youngest is always amazed and quite often says to me,’did you make it Mummy?’

Cornwall is beautiful and my home. I hated it when we moved away from here to Norfolk- it was positively the worst thing I had ever done and I pined for the rugged landscape and beautiful yellow coastlines. As soon as we returned both my partner and I were happy again. The only other place I have come across that is as beautiful was when we went to the Isle of Arran in Scotland. There is something about Cornwall that gets under your skin and holds you captivated. Cornwall also has some of the best foods available- pasties, clotted cream and heavenly fudge. Cornwall has never really been an affluent area so I often have in my life here found people who can make do and mend and who can also be self-sufficient with their veggie gardens and cottage industry. I think the economic climate has caused a fair few problems though. House prices have dropped and people are selling, but not many people can afford their own home here still.
The rural community that I am part of though are strong and we even have a bit of trade going on-James and I are quite good at trading jams, cakes and bags for haircuts, grass cutting and a good pint and a half! I think if that sort of help stays then people can weather the storm. We just find it hard when the car decides to break down…

When I think of my business in 5 years time I have a lot to consider, such as how long will the economic downturn last? When it passes will everyone be desperate to spend their hard earned cash on throw away society items again and ignore handmade? But my real focus is to strive to design and create more things, to find my feet within my creative skills too (as I have only been designing and making for 3 months!) and really go for it. I have a lot of work to do but I do perceive, based on the success I have already had in such a short space of time, that I will still have a business and that it will have increased in strength and presence alongside other crafters, artists and designers who deserve recognition for not mass producing.
I love handmade and always try to support it as often as I can. When you support handmade in your local area you are supporting your local community and their growth and success. If we keep supporting our local crafts-people their success will be our success and the quality of goods we use will improve. Support Local, Support Handmade!
Blue Stripes

Monday, 17 August 2009

You Been Framed!

If you are an artist, would you want advice about your framing? Choosing the right frame is quite difficult as much of it is down to personal taste but I sometimes wonder whether artists put enough thought into their choice of framing. What do you think?

Choosing framing to complement your art says a lot about how much you value your work. At Keighley Arts Factory we see a lot of framed (and unframed) art and we have seen the good, the bad and the just plain ugly. Our pet hates are:
  • plastic frames from Matalan or similar stores
  • paintings cut down to fit the frame
  • old photo frames or re-used frames
  • badly mitred frames
  • badly cut mount board
  • badly fitting frames

A well made, well presented frame can make all the difference to whether your work gets accepted for exhibitions or open shows.

My personal dislikes are (and you can disagree with me in the Comments)*:

  • brushed gold, silver or bronze moulding (sooo 1990s)
  • thin plastic moulding (sooo 1980s)
  • metallic or dark coloured mount board
  • mount board chosen to pick out a colour in the painting
  • mount board with differing measurements at top, sides and base
  • Box canvases

Mount Board. What is wrong with ivory, cream or black? and why the fancy ruled line in a contrasting colour? Why do you want the mount board to stand out anyway? Surely it's better to let the painting sell itself and, if the customer wants to mount the art in a sludgy green or maroon, they can change it. Why cut the mount board yourself with that blunt Stanley or Xacto knife? Those jaggedy edges stand out a mile and detract from your art. A bevel edge looks so much better and if you don't possess a professional mount cutting machine - go to the frame maker.

Framing. Why did you pick that expensive heavy brushed metallic moulding to frame your art? Are you hoping that a customer might buy it to match their leather sofa or their wallpaper? What kind of philistine buys art to match their decor anyway - Isn't that what Ikea's for? The rule of K.I.S.S. should apply to choosing moulding (Keep it simple, s....) My idea of a good frame is a pale wood, dark wood or ebony frame that allows the art to speak for itself.... and it's not the most expensive moulding in the shop.

Box Canvas. OK. So you can buy them for pennies these days (they even sell them in Poundland) and they save you the hassle of framing your work and they make you feel like a "real" artist. But the box canvas is the poor man's stretched canvas in standard sizes and nasty textured surface. Then there's those annoying sides - do you leave them bare or do you wrap the painting around them? Recently I overheard a visitor criticizing one of our exhibiting artists because he had left the sides of his STRETCHED canvas messy instead of painting around the edges. Wha....??? It's a serious piece of art - who cares about the sides? It can be framed later or left as it is. I would rather see brush strokes and smudges than dabbed edges.

Frame Makers. You get what you pay for and it SHOWS. Frame making is a highly skilled profession and a properly framed piece of work should have mitred edges, bevelled mount board, pinned and taped at the back, D rings with taut hanging wire or nylon cord and clean glass. Cheap framing is exactly that - cheap. So if you are wandering around the junk shop looking for a frame to match your painting/print/photograph - go seek a trained professional.

I guess it's really about how much you value your art compared to how much effort you will go to present it well.

*The personal comments of the author do not reflect the opinions of Keighley Arts Factory.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Find Jemima Lumley on Folksy and Flickr

Artist's Bio: " Fig is open! Our gorgeous new craft shop and studio is finally up and running.Have a look here to see how it turned out. Six of us are working and selling from here. We are: Jemima Lumley, Jane Ormes, Charlotte Harris, Helen Burgess, Kate Tarling and Rosalind King.The address is 206 Gloucester Road, BS7 8NU. We are next to Billie Jean's, near Bishop Road if you know this part of the world! Opening times are Thursday - Saturday, 9.30 - 5pm. Come and see us!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Silver smith and jeweller Jemima Lumley tells us about inspiration, career changes and her USP.

"Waking up to the dawn chorus (not a happy event for this night-owl) sets my mind off in a whirl of activity. Hmmm… birds on a feeder, birds in a tree, two birds chatting to each other…. Jewellery is always on my mind! Much of my current work features my little lovebirds, and I’m always thinking about what they could do next. They have sat on their lonesome, cuddled up for a quick cheeky kiss, had a baby (or two), balanced on blossom filled branches and even performed circus tricks.
It was only three years ago that I was a freelance graphic designer in children’s publishing. My early morning musing would have consisted of how to design yet another dumper/digger/fire engine cover for the next set of 4 year olds who hadn’t seen the last set I’d designed. After almost twenty years as a graphic designer I was thoroughly bored of it. What had started as something new and exciting was now something I did for money, and spared little love on it.
One day in 2005 while waiting for various clients to get back to me with comments and corrections on the latest books I had been working on, I started making a crocheted wrap for a friend. I’d always crocheted, though my mother, a once a professional hand knitter with her own businesses, always despaired at how we three girls lacked knitting capabilities. Once the wrap was finished, I made another for a friend, and then another… and next thing I knew I had a craft stall at a local fair. Soon I was making scarves and hats, and then corsages. Always one for looking for the next thing while still making the present thing, I thought I if I could make the corsages small enough they could become jewellery.
Before long, that wasn’t enough, and I joined a silver jewellery making course, one morning a week. Six months later I had enrolled on a one day a week NOCN course at the art college – and I was off! No more children’s books for me! I found a space in a small studio space at the end of my road, and ploughed on.
I soon realised that the income from the few passing people would not keep me in silver, let alone pay for my shoe collection, so I looked around for where to sell my work. I found a few stockists in the West, and a couple of fabulous galleries, but I knew that what I had to do was get people through the door, paying full price to me. I’ve done craft fairs and participate in the local arts trail, but more was needed.
Then I read an article in the paper about craft websites. The ones I had stumbled upon already were either too big and US based, or you had to pay vast sums to be one of many selling jewellery, not all handmade. In the article
Folksy was mentioned and I had a look. I love the mix of crafts, and the range of prices, and the community. Though my work is on the high side for the site, I have had a dozen or so sales in a few months, been a featured seller and had a piece on me in Make Jewellery Magazine thanks to them coming across me on the site. It may not make my fortune, but it spreads the word for absolute minimal cost.
I’ve got a very good and clever friend who advises me now and then on promotion and marketing. Her favourite question, which she insists I should always be considering is ‘What is my USP?’ Why should you buy my work and not the next jeweller. I always struggle to answer this, but I hope that it’s a mixture of things, including originality, value for money and wearbility. Each piece is unique, handcrafted from start to finish, but the cost is not prohibitive – or not too prohibitive! Nothing is cast or copied, every piece of lace I use is destroyed in the process of being printed onto the silver, and I get bored making the same thing more than once. Naturally some items like my earrings I repeat many times, but my signature pieces are always different in some way.
My clever friend also tells me I should think about the future – what will I be doing in 5 and ten years time? Well I know one thing, and that is that I will still be beavering away in my new shop as I’ve recently committed to a ten year lease on the local busy, and hopefully thriving, main shopping road. There are six of us crafts people working and selling from our gorgeous place, and enjoying being together, influencing and helping one another. I love the atmosphere and simply being with people creating wonderful things. For now that’s fine, and hopefully for the coming decade too!
Sometimes my morning reverie consist of worrying about what will the next influence? My lovebirds, butterflies and bees I can trace back to my work in children’s publishing. The whimsy and the silliness where all around me, and now I have a tiny garden full of birds to entertain and influence me. But then I’ll see a picture of some new work by Tord Boontje, or someone will send me one of Rob Ryan’s cards and I’m off again. And there’s always my stash of Victorian jewellery catalogues and vintage lace, and I’m off in a new direction. At the moment it’s Victorian jet mourning jewellery…. tomorrow? Who knows?"

Jemima Lumley

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

What Makes You Unique?

We all like to think our art is original (and if it's not - WHY are you copying)???

But in order to be able to sell our art we need to sell ourselves - to make ourselves more interesting to the arts market and to potential customers. This is where your USP can help. What's a USP? It's your Unique Selling Point.
Do you know WHAT your USP is? Here's ours - "
The Arts Factory is Keighley’s only Contemporary Art Gallery".
Of course, if another gallery sets up in Keighley our USP will be: "The Arts Factory is Keighley’s number 1 Contemporary Art Gallery".
So what are we trying to say? We are telling the world that we are unique but, as contemporary art galleries AREN’T unique by definition, we are unique to Keighley.

How did we arrive at this claim? We did exactly what you are going to do to find your USP – by doing the 2 short exercises below.

But first here's a question. What makes your craft/art unique? Can you say that there is anything unique about what you do? For example: you may make stunning vintage jewellery but what makes your jewellery different from other vintage jewellery makers? It might be the component parts you use or it might be your designs. It may be the type of audience you sell to or it may be the way that you sell. You could be the only vintage jewellery designer who specialises in nautical style jewellery or you could have a particular design-theme to your shop. Once you have identified what your unique selling point (USP) is you can use this to promote yourself, your craft or your on-line shop.

Exercise 1 (Find someone to work with you).Take 5 minutes to describe your craft to another person. Tell that person all about it, how you make it, how you sell it, why people buy it, what makes it different. Ask them to jot down key words or sentences that stand out.Now look at the words on the paper that describe your craft. Which ones stand out as your USP? Write down a few sentences that describe your hand made business. Keep the sentences short and snappy.

Exercise 2 (Work on your own) Take 5 minutes to break down the sentences to make ONE slogan. Highlight those key words and make a statement. Are you stuck for adjectives to describe your hand made business? You don’t have to describe the craft to create a USP statement. Take a look at the USPs of commercial corporations instead. I’ve made a short list but you will probably know plenty more.“I’m lovin’ it” “Every little helps” “Try something new today” “The drive of your life” “Just do it”

So instead of describing your business as: “the best hand made satchels made with top quality leather and hand tooled with care” think about a short sentence of a few words that can describe why I would want to buy your satchel. For example: “Must-Have Leather Satchels”. Sorry, it’s a bit weak – just thought of it off the top of my head. My personal USP is “Unique. Contemporary. Quality” and I believe that this describes my glass, although I sometimes think it should say “Unique. Quirky. Quality”. I don’t need to say hand made or fused glass because hopefully, my shop name should cover that information. (Anecdotally, I used to have a business called Terrace House Designs, selling silk painting supplies, but I got fed up with customers calling to talk to Terrance House)!
Finally, what are you going to do with your USP? Well, you can use it as a statement on your letter heads, compliments slips, business cards, shop announcement, website or create it as a logo.In my next post I will be looking at the competitiveness of selling on-line. If you have any further suggestions, comments or ideas about USPs please post below.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Find Le Bar Du Vent on Etsy and Dawanda.

Artist Bio - "Bonjour and Welcome to my little shop. Jewellery and accessories, pearls, often, but other beads too, and stones, wood, and vintage stuff as well. My themes: sealife, often, but also flowers and other natural creatures, and travel as well. Most of the time, I couldn't repeat a piece, even if I would, so all these are truly One Of A Kind.That being said, of course you should contact me with any question or request - I can always at least answer ASAP!"

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Our contributor this week is Agathe, from Le Bar du Vent. Agathe is a jeweller from Bordeaux, France and she tells us about internet selling in Europe.

Tell me a bit about your journey into "hand made" and why do you make jewellery?

I can't say I remember journeying into handmade— it's more like handmade was always part of my life journey. I have always admired and envied people who make "things" with their hands. I think I was brought up that way, but there is also something very idosyncratic in my curiosity about crafts, and my desire to explore them.
Since childhood, I have always dabbled in this or that craft. I have a particular fondness for everything pen and paper, but also very early on wanted to make distinctive clothing or accessories, experimenting with sewing, crochet and knitting.Until I was well over thirty, it was an on and off thing, and then seven years ago, I dived into cross-stitching, and stitched away my leisure time for about three years, spending hours on end listening to TV...
I make jewellery for a number of positive reasons (some listed above) but also negative ones. My love for pearls, above all gems to me, drew me to explore technique after technique, and what I like about it is that it allows me to combine my love of words and style and uniqueness. I loathe the fact that you see some much of the same everywhere around, in all shops, and it is really important for me to keep changing, to keep feeding my creativity, however humble my craft...
It may sound corny, but once I have made a piece I really like, one that just came into my hands out of the materials or some idea, word, or image, once it has given me pleasure to make it, to look at it and touch it, I don't really feel an urge to keep it. I enjoy making custom pieces, with someone specific in mind, it makes me most happy when someone chooses one of my favourites. It feels good, it feels like sharing something, fleetingly, simply.

What are your favourite materials to work with? Pearls, first and foremost; then copper, silver, as well as organic fabrics and threads, but also glass and crsytal, as well as vintage (I mean genuine vintage) or ancient materials and patterns.

What inspires you to make jewellery and which designers do you admire?
I didn't go to art school and have little knowledge of designers in "my field". However, now that I think of it, there is one jeweller whose work probably planted the tiny seed of jewellery-making in my mind, when I was much younger. His name is
Jean Vendôme and I stumbled across his fabulous shop-windows, rue Saint Honoré in Paris, when I was about twenty; shop windows full of gorgeous organic-looking creations made using scrumptious— yes, you've guessed it— pearls! I'm also very sensitive to the use of age-old symbols and to simple, elegant shapes and subtle colours. In my own work, sometimes I am inspired by a word or a phrase or a pun; sometimes, I just want to put some material to good use. Other times I am just trying my hand at some new tool or technique and the limits of my tentative skill stimulate me to come up with something interesting yet doable...
Even though I spend a lot of time "checking out" fellow Etsians and DaWandians, it is always with an eye to technique, and never intending to copy their work. Even when I use a beginner's kit (as I did recently with silver clay) I just have to do my own thing. So much so it's actually silly— but I'm just not interested in "easy"...

Which outlets (both in-line and in the real world) do you sell your jewellery at and how does Dawanda differ from Etsy? Right now, I only sell directly and on
DaWanda and Etsy. Really looking forward to Folksy opening up to us continentals and considering a couple of other sites, one French and one American, but I don't want to scatter to much.The differences I see between Etsy and DaWanda have a lot to do with the fact that Etsy is older and more popular, when DaWanda is more recent, and is supposedly more focused on crafts since it excludes second-hand / vintage items. On Etsy, I like the fact it runs smoothly, the quality of design and creation and the vast choice, but I find the forums very unfriendly, some people being easily dismissive. On DaWanda, I like the Old World touch and the general friendliness. It's a shame that the English site is not more active though. I also get the impression that the German site features most quality design and German is not my forte...
The French and English sites feel overcrowded by supplies and not-so-handmade stuff... I wish more real designers and artisans would join and stick it out.

What tips would you give to artists who sell on a site that is not in their country? When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I think it's important to be ready to adapt and not expect others to be at your beck and call. Explore, look around, read the FAQ before complaining or asking the obvious...
Remember that the internet is very human. It's people at the other end. Always.Don't even think about it if you can't understand and speak the language— or get competent help— checking out the forums is a good way to make sure that you do. Or not.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? Somewhere else.

What advice would you give to artists who are going into business?
Don't do it for love or money. Do it because you have to.Check out the forums. Also, the other day, I was reminded (but I cannot remember by what...) that in old French, the word "commerce", now mostly used for "trade", used to mean relation, connection, company. All to do with fellow humans. Not stuff, not money— mankind.

Le Bar Du Vent

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Do-It-Yourself Zines

In a previous post Leanne Woods talked about how she created an on-line zine using and you can also make zines the "old-fashioned" way.

What is a zine? It's a hand written, typed or photocopied magazine, usually associated with 'underground' arts, music or political groups. I remembr when (yes, a reminiscence now) when the UK music press chose to ignore the emerging punk rock scene and the only way we could find out about gigs and bands was via zines. These were handed out and passed around for free. The best of these was Mark P's "Sniffin' Glue".

Why make a zine? Zines are time-consuming to create so you won't want to make them very often but they are useful as a marketing tool. You can send your zines out for free or you may want to charge for them. You can also sell advertising space in them to cover your costs.

Who will read my zine? Before you start to design a zine think about who you are targetting. If you try to make your zine all things to all people then no-one will be interested. Ask yourself - what do you want your zine to do?
  • tell people about your art
  • publicise other artists in your zine
  • make a "how to" creative zine
  • show off your graphic and illustration skills

How will I design my zine? This depends mostly on who your reader will be, the content of your zine and your creative style. Your zine can be a simple folded and stapled booklet, a sheet of paper folded neatly into quarters, an accordian folding book or a stitched pamphlet. Remember that making a professional-looking book is time consuming and not so much fun when you get to the fiftieth one!

This is how we created ours. Our first zine (see above) was created by one of our gallery volunteers, Joel. We needed a marketing strategy to encourage more young visitors to the gallery and we decided that a zne would be the ideal way to do this. Our first task was to DECIDE ON THE CONTENT. We listed all the activities that the gallery delivers that would appeal to young people including our work with young offenders and a forthcoming exhibition, Game Over. We wrote the articles for Joel, gave him access to images of the gallery and asked him to produce an eight page, A5 size zine.

The most time consuming part for Joel was DESIGNING THE LAYOUT. A zine needs to look busy with lots of visuals and writing. As our zine was created from collaged images with drawings before being photocopied, it needed to be visually striking. Joel st about with scissors, scalpel, glue, pens and pencils to make an eye-catching zine.

As a marketing publication the zine needed to IDENTIFY ITS PURPOSE as It is a zine about the gallery for young people. We asked Joel to put our logo and website on every page of the zine (the rule of marketing - you need to see something at least 7 times to remember it, you only need to be told once). We also needed to cover the cost of photocopying the zine and, as we intended to make it a free publication, we offered ADVERTISING SPACE to local "young" businesses. Covering the costs meant that we could give the zine away for free.

Finally - a word about COLOUR. Unless you have a very strong graphic design for the cover you will probably need a shot of colour to make it more marketable. But colour printing is expensive and hand-colouring is time consuming. We solved the problem by photocopying the frnt and back page onto brightly coloured paper - red, yellow, orange and peach.

If you would like a free copy of the first Keighley Arts Fatory zine please contact me using the email box at the bottom of the page. There will be a charge of 50p for the postage and we accept Paypal.

Here are some more zines for you to check out:

Worn Fashion Journal

Make Your Own

Art for a Democratic Society

Colouring Outside the Lines