Monday, 28 September 2009

Artist/Gallery Agreements

If you submit your work to a commercial gallery then some time in your life you will need to sign an agreement.

What is an agreement?It's an undertaking between you and another party - possibly a gallery, shop or someone who contracts your services as an artist. The purpose of the document is to agree to certain obligations by both parties, to decide who is responsible for what and to set out exactly what is expected from both sides. It is wise to set out an agreement before you commit yourself (or sell your soul)!

Who will write the agreement?
Usually it's the person/gallery who will be selling the artist's work or employing their services but, if one is not forthcoming you can always devise your own. It's fairly easy but you will need to make sure all eventualities have been covered.

Here's a scenario. You are taking your work to a commercial gallery and they have agreed to display your work, sale or return, for 3 months. Think about what you would like to see in an agreement by looking at the following questions.
Who owns the work?
What do you want them to do for you?
What should YOU agree to?
What are the hidden costs will you anticipate and who will pay them?
What percentage of sale should you agree?
How and when will you be paid?
Who will terminate the contract if it's not working?

Before writing or signing an agreement consider these three things.
Be Fair: gallery agreements are a two way street. Don't make unreasonable demands of them.
Protect Yourself: Make sure you know exactly what they expect from you. Write a contract where they can't make unreasonable demands of you.
Make it Harmonious: you want to keep up a good working relationship with the gallery. You both want the same thing - to sell your work.

Here is a list of what a good agreement should contain. Let's unpick them as we go along.
  • Sale or Return. Most galleries don't buy your work outright but will sell on your behalf. Any unsold work must be returned after the end of the agreement.
  • Gallery percentage. Galleries need to be paid for selling you work and will claim their fee by taking a percentage. This is usually between 20 - 50%.
  • Payment. Some galleries will pay you by cheque, some by BACS. Make sure the agreement states whether you will be paid monthly or when the total sales has reached a certain figure.
  • Ownership of work. You own the work the entire time it is in the gallery. The gallery may ask if they can photograph the work for publicity purposes. It's good to add something about copyright into the contract.
  • Costs. The agreement needs to be specific about who pays for costs including postage and delivery, return of your work, insurance and transportation.
  • Packaging. who is supplying this?
  • Damage. Faulty art work must be either replaced or the customer refunded. Some galleries will have a time scale that customers can return faulty goods. (Returns might not apply to earrings).
  • Commissions. Galleries may agree to pass customers direct to you or liaise with you regarding commissioned work.
  • Time Scale. Agreeing a length of time that the gallery will display your work. (4 weeks, 3 months, 6 months).
  • Publicity and Display. Gallery agrees to keep your work visible for the entire time of the agreement. Gallery will publicise your work as much as is reasonably possible.
  • Delivery/collection of your work. If you are not bringing the work yourself then you need to agree how it will be posted/ delivered and who will bear the costs.
When you sign an agreement you are agreeing to certain terms that you shouldn't break. Trying to "bend the rules" can be really irritating, not to mention unprofessional. For example:
Racing into the gallery on a busy day asking to take the stock for a craft fair that weekend (but I'll bring it back on Monday, honest)!
Calling to say you have had a better offer from a nearby gallery so you will be collecting your work before the end of the contracted date.
Agreeing to commissioned work, brokered by the gallery, and not telling the gallery so that they lose their % on the sale.
Complaining about the % taken - you agreed to it!
Criticizing the way your work has been displayed.
Complaining that the metal looks tarnished - you are quite welcome to come in and polish it yourself.
Making sub-standard work and then feeling aggrieved when the gallery calls to say that your necklace fell apart in the customer's hands.
Asking why the gallery hasn't advertised your work in a magazine or gallery catalogue. They will do it if you pay the costs!

The agreement should be signed by both parties and dated. Both parties need an original signed document to keep. If you are not happy with the terms of the agreement then DON'T SIGN IT! Instead try to negotiate with the gallery. The best way to keep a harmonoius relationship with a gallery is to talk to them and don't be afraid to ask questions.

Soon I will be posting about Exhibition Contracts which are slightly different and writing about how and why galleries take a percentage of sales.

Friday, 25 September 2009

In the Studio (Part 3)

Each month we feature artist's studios on the blog to inspire others to create their own creative space. What makes a studio? It can be a kitchen table, a spare room or a purpose built space. Sheds, garages and attics make wonderful studios.

Lauren Alexander Illustrator

"I started illustration and painting work in 2002. I used to paint on my apartment floor or on my bed or where ever I could fit in. Since business has grown a little since I started painting my husband and I turned our dining room into our studio. I paint and he writes. It works out pretty well, as long as we have no use for a dining room. Most of my paintings are pretty small so the little fold up table I work on is perfect. I love to have books, movies and other inspiring things around my work space to help give me ideas or to assist with the perfect title. I mostly paint abstracted animals and forms from nature so it fits that my workspace faces right out onto our patio where my dog keeps watch over the birds, squirrels, and the occasional stray cat or two. I love working with color so having natural light around really helps. I look forward to paintings to come and hope to be doing what I love for a long time!"

Lauren Alexander Blog

Rachel Lucie Jeweller Rachel Lucie Designs

"After what seems like many months (because it was) my workroom/office/hideaway-from-the-kids is finished! By finished I mean finished decorating, and I am in.For anyone familiar with the Julia Donaldson book 'A squash and a squeeze', let me just say, that old man was right. Take everything out of one stacked-high room, stash it round you whole (small) house, for months on end, and when you take it out, your house is MASSIVE! Months and months of sorting will now follow as me and the other half finally look in all those boxes we have had stowed away for over 10 years, but that's another story.The main news here is I'm in, and I LOVE IT! Come in and have a cup of tea, and a biscuit....
You will notice 3 things immediately, which I will discuss below:
1) Let's just start with this one, you all saw it - half of it is orange.Suspiciously like 'etsy' orange. Let me explain, I am not THAT addicted to etsy, honest. It's paint by Fired Earth that we bought 10years ago to paint our kitchen, called 'Brussels Orange'. It never got used, so hey, why not. It's only on the 2 walls you can't see from the landing, so it's sort of a secret (or it was). The other 2 walls are plain white and filled with Ikea furniture.
What can I say, I love Ikea, and the white really helps to brighten up my north-facing room. Specially in the winter, as the sun doesn't rise about the hill on my side of the valley. I live on what is colloquially known as 'the dark side'!
2) It's very small, or 'compact and bijou' as I like to call it, Mostin (do you remember that advert?).
3) It's pretty messy. What can I say, I work in mess, it's how I am. I have found that clever use of tools like a 'bead amnesty pot' pot helps immensely with all the stragglers left lying around. And I generally have a desk clear every couple of days, mainly because I can't find a pen anywhere.

"But just look at my view!
I love Hebden Bridge, right outside my window you have the most amazing Yorkshire gritstone houses perched on the Birchcliffe hill on the other side of the valley. I am actually quite high up, and you can't see down into the bottom of the valley from here. Those woods are called 'Machpelah' and the ever-changing trees reflect the seasons."

Rachel Lucie on Etsy
Rachel Lucie on Coriandr
Rachel Lucie on Notonthehighstreet

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.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Opportunity for Illustrators & Designers

Your Special Delivery is a brand spanking new site where artists can sell their art work and crafters can buy the images direct.

The concept is that designers have a personal page where they can display and sell their work and all work must be produced in a way that it can be sent electronically to the buyer. As the site hosts space for other designers it is a hub for different styles and therefore having something for everyone.

The site currently has two resident designers, Gina Rahman and Jenni Hamilton , and shows the two different spaces available to designers, a single shop page or a multiple category list.
Designers list items for 20p per item and if they want a multiple category shop this can be purchased for £5.00 (sterling). Each designers page has their own paypal button which means all sales go direct and not through the site owner.

For crafters it is a great place to find digital stamps, decoupage sheets, backing papers, templates and much more at affordable prices. There is no minimum spend and the item can be with you within 48 hours at the latest. As payments are taken through paypal its a secure and trusted method.

A freebie page that changes each week is also a feature that will entice people to visit and to then discover more about the designer who offers a taste of his/her work.

There is a great gallery where you can view all the artwork and even a Forum where you can chat about designs, crafts or anything at all.

So why not give it a go? Visit Your Special Delivery and see for yourself.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Partnerships - Made in Heaven?

In my post, Do YOU Have What It Takes?, I stated that I would be talking about Business Partnerships in a future post. Well, that time has come!

Why should you start a partnership? What should you look for in a partnership? Who is the ideal partner? How do you sever a partnership?

There have been many successful business partnerships (just think of Marks & Spencer) and being in a partnership has its advantages:
differing strengths and skills
spreading the financial burden
spreading the risks
moral support
stronger business "clout"
but sometimes partnerships can go wrong for a whole host of reasons so, if you are embarking on a partnership, think about it very carefully.

Most sole trader partnerships start through friendship or a common interest. It could be that you were at art school together, you are related, she/he's your best friend - but, quite frankly, this is not the best reason to go into partnership and can end in tears (yours probably). After the initial euphoria of "Yay! We're going to make lots of money and be a success" then cracks in friendships and relationships begin to show. Most reasons are:
one of you is doing all the work
you both have very different ideas of how the business should be run
you share the same strengths and the same weaknesses
you are sick of seeing each other
you are too competitive with each other

"My first business partnership was with my next door neighbour - we made salt dough and had "parties" a friends' houses, selling wall plaques and christmas decorations. Our biggest seller was our 'bride and groom' wall plaque which we made to order, copying the outfits that the couple wore on their big day. It was fun making the salt dough and selling it and, although we were only making pin money, it gave us something else to talk about rather than just the kids.
"We had a break from salt dough but then a huge christmas fair was looming and our stocks had dwindled. My partner/neighbour reminded me of this but I was pig-sick of making Little Bo-Peeps and Three Little Pigs and my response was "I NEVER want to see another piece of salt dough again"! Fortunately, she felt exactly the same so we called it a day very amicably". Janet.

That was a easy enough arrangement to get out of. The partners hadn't made any huge financial or emotional commitment, one wasn't more successful than the other, there was no resentment built up in the relationship. But, if you are already committed to starting a partnership with a friend or relation does it stand up to the following checklist?
You both have the same vision or goals
you both put in the same commitment in time
you both have defined roles
your partner will bring different strengths to the partnership
you have worked out the financial commitment of each partner
you have regular meetings to plan and catch-up
you have agreed time apart.

The best arrangement is the water tight arrangement or partnership agreement. This document, drawn up together, will iron out some of the issues/problems that will rear their heads at crucial moments. Your agreement should include the following:
Defined roles and reponsibilities
Record of accounts and financial input
Profit sharing
Tax commitments
Reporting Back
Dispute Resolution
Termination of Partnership
It all sounds rather complicated - after all, you were only planning on making and selling your art together. Why should you bother with all this? Well let me break it down.
Roles and Responsibilities.
Write a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Who's the financial wizard? Who has the interpersonal skills? Who is the computer whizz-kid? Who has the most "connections"? You might both be really good at something and not at something else. How will you plug that skills gap?
Recording Accounts and Financial Input.
Who has overall responsibility for balancing the books? You can agree to keep your accounts separately or one person keeps them or one does the petty cash and one the budget.
Profit sharing.
Whether you are both putting up 50% of the money into your business or a 30% - 70% split you will need to agree the financial split of profits. Let's say, for example, you are both printing hand made scarves and bags using your screen printing equipment in your studio - you would not expect to share the profits on sales 50-50. You need to agree the share of profits, in writing, before you go into production.
Tax Commitments.
We all need to pay them. Make sure you have both registered with the tax office before you embark on your partnership. State in the Partnership Agreement that you are responsible for YOU OWN tax debt and not your partner's.
In the UK creditors can claim your personal assets if your partner runs up any debts - even if you didn't know about them. You both have equal responsibility to the debt, no matter how unequal your financial contribution has been. (Don't go into partnership with a bankrupt or someone who has known debts, no matter how much you like them).
Reporting Back.
Agree to regular meetings in your Partnership Agreement. Whether this is monthly or weekly, make a commitment to meet up on paper. You can agree to have two kinds of meeting: a Planning Meeting and a Financial Update Meeting. The Planning Meeting to discuss what you are going to achieve in the following week/month/year, what needs doing, what problems you have had, whether you are meeting your achievements or goals. The Financial Meeting is so that you both know what your financial situation is, what you have spent, what you need to spend, profit/loss. Even if only one of you is keeping the accounts you both need to understand them and share this information. If the tax man comes calling ignorance is no defence.
Dispute Resolution.
Those niggling little tensions are building - they need to be resolved BEFORE they become a torrent of accusations adn recriminations "you ALWAYS do so and so" or "you NEVER do so and so". By writing a Dispute Resolution you are stating that every effort will be made to resolve conflicts within the partnership.
Termination of Partnership.
Before you even start a partnership you need to decide how it will end. you might agree that a partnership can be wound up at any time and that either party can terminate the agreement. Or you may need to set out a timetable of, say, a month or after all financial commitments have ben paid back.

Once you have drafted the partnership agreement find someone to check it for you. This may be a solicitor or business adviser, either at your bank or at your local small business centre. Then you both need to sign and date it and keep a copy each.

"I was selling art at local shows and fairs when I met another artist who I got on really well with. Her work was very similar to mine and we decided to exhibit together and run workshops too.
"The partnership worked well at the beginning. I learned a lot about selling from her (she could sell snow to eskimos) and she was very ambitious with her business - she made anything seem possible. But there were niggling irritations on both sides - I sometimes resented her success and how she "took over", she resented my children coming to shows and that family life stopped me from committing fully to our partnership.
"I am not a risk taker nor will I borrow money I haven't got - she was both of these. She had a real entrepeneur spirit and was always buying the latest gadget or tool that she saw as an "investment". I'm so glad that we didn't pool our finances and kept our business interests separate as this made it easier to part company. I later found out that she had huge debts which I could have easily been liable for.
"Since then our artistic lives have both taken different routes - I sometimes read about her new ventures in the press and she appears to have made a success in her chosen field. I'm so grateful that she taught me how to be customer-friendly and how to promote myself but I wouldn't choose to go into a partnership with a friend again". Rachel.

This post has been about partnerships on a small scale but there are also partnerships with banks, other businesses and sponsors that hasn't been discussed. We will be returning to the subject of partnerships in the next post.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Selling Art/Selling a lifestyle

One of the most effective ways of viral marketing is the blog and I have talked about how to be an active blogger in a previous post.

An advantage of using Blogger is that you can "follow" blogs that interest you and also be visible on the blog you are following as long as they are using the FOLLOW widget (and they don't have hundreds of followers - or you become a face in the crowd). But the most popular blogs tend to fall into three categories:
resource blogs
funny blogs
lifestyle blogs.
resource blogs are the kind you follow to keep up to date with the latest art trends, markets and business (like AIB). Here are some more:
The Graphics Fairy

Art News

Funny blogs have a cult following. Who can predict that they are going to be successful? Here's my favourite:
F U Penguin

and life style blogs are very popular with women. I believe this is because we would like to subscribe to the life that's being portrayed. More women buy lifestyle magazines than men - particularly interior design and gardening. Look at the popularity of Martha Stewart and designer Kath Kidston. I have been looking through my favourite blogs list and I really enjoy reading about people who have orchards, grow vegetables, own french ateliers and live in rural places that I may never visit. Here's some of my favourites:
Blueberry Park
Pamel Angus
Patchwork Butterfly

So how can you use this type of viral marketing to sell your art? By combining the three popular blog categories into one blog you are satisfying a wider audience than you would if you concentrated on one style of blog. You may already have a website selling your art and your blog can complement this by showing your more "human" side as an artist. You can also blog about the area where you live, the things that inspire you and your daily life. Selling the "life style" is more about the types of images you show such as your garden, your home, your pets (if they are cute) and, by combining this with stories about making art you have a great piece of viral markting.

And finally, just a personal gripe of mine. I don't like blogs that regurgitate the latest images from home style magazines or crafts magazines just to group them into "themes". This is lazy and unoriginal blogging (but that's just my opinion). Enjoy!

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Find Anna and Widget on the following sites:

Artist's Bio: Welcome to my sunny meadow, full of lovely things for you and the people that you know and love.
Here you will find funky wooden fish, hearts and lizards
hand-painted in unique and vibrant designs. Organic hag stone wreaths, wooden stencil kits and adorable sock bunnies. All designed, handmade and painted by me. Also to be discovered are toys for children that you won't see anywhere else, including fascinating paper party favours, little suitcase houses and more. All designed, handmade or sourced to bring you something truly different.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

How much effort will you put into on-line promoting? This week Anna, the person behind Widget the Sock Bunny, shares some of her tips for successful viral marketing. It's well worth the read!

"Viruses are big in the news at the moment and spreading his own online version is Widget Sockbunny – a fuzzy bunny-shaped infection travelling with growing speed around the world.

"You will have heard the term ‘Viral Marketing’, it sounds technical but really the concept is a simple one. Viruses spread rapidly from one person to the next, the more people who ‘catch it’, the more people it will spread to. To sell online you need to put out little feelers wherever you can, forever spreading, trying to ‘infect’ as many people as possible, trying to be remembered and talked about, or, if you prefer, catching a vibe of something being passed around.The easiest way to illustrate it is to tell you how I sell my sock bunnies online – using a bunny named Widget.
"Widget did not exist until I discovered a 365 project on One object, one picture a day for one whole year. I was already selling the sock bunnies online and building up recognition in the craft forums such as Folksy, so I grabbed this marketing opportunity and chose a bunny. I named him Widget and began to take pictures. When I post the days’ images in the photo pool people see them. If they like what they see they can see all my other pictures too. In my profile are links to everything I do including diary blog for these Widget photos – Widget’s Year - and another blog for the other bunnies living at The Warren. I created an environmental concept for them, a warren, nestling in a sunny corner of my original company Half an Acre. Luckily it all seemed to fit! People liked reading about this little world and kept coming back to ‘check in’ on what was going on. Global Bunny travels around the world with her little suitcase sending back news and images, Geocache Bunny comes out on walks with me and my family ( All these pictures are posted into the appropriate Flickr group pools for more and more people to see. Widget even collects ‘sea glass’ so I can add pictures of him with his collection to the Sea glass Lovers group pool! All this is blogged about too. When blogging it is vital to post as often as you can, at least 3 times a week, to generate a ‘happening’ feel.

"When anyone buys a bunny they receive a printed card inviting them to send in stories and pictures to this blog. This makes the blog interesting and tempts the readers to want have their own bunny. Flickr is vital. I get on average around 120 views of my photostream each day. Being ‘seen’ is essential too. I looked for all the groups dealing with socks, bunnies, sewing, rainbows (for Rainbow Bun!), anything vaguely applicable, and joined them. Spreading pictures of Widget and his friends anywhere and everywhere. It is important not to spam. It has to be relevant or you will annoy the very people you want to draw to your shop.
"I gave Widget his own Facebook profile and, ignoring the fact that you need to be a ‘real’ person to register, I then set about ‘friending’ people! I already knew a load from promoting Half an Acre and I sent friend invitations to ‘friends of friends’. I found out that people give pets their own pages and that meant bunnies! I also sent requests to any other ‘sock toys’ out there. To date Widget has just over 300 friends – generated in around 5 months. Every time I post it shows up in the news feeds of all those 300. I made a ‘Send-a-Bunny’ application using pictures of Widget and his pals and send them out to all my new ‘friends’. The whole of Facebook can use that application and therefore see from where it originates. Widget has joined He has his own postcards, with a cute picture on the front and subtle blog link on the back. Next on the list is The Toy Society where I’ll be leaving bunnies in bags around the place with a big label saying ‘Take me home’. Reaching more people and drawing them in to the whole concept. Everything leads back to one central point - my shop on Folksy.

"Give people inspiration, a new idea, something to talk about, smile about and eventually news will spread, the virus feeding itself as it travels. It takes lots of time and dedication but it does work. The bunnies are spreading like ….. bunnies!"

Friday, 4 September 2009

Making a Statement

How do you start to write an Artist's Statement? What should it include? What shouldn't it include? The artist’s statement is subjective and, in this post, we will not be telling you YOU ARE WRONG – instead we will give you OUR perspective on the subject and help you to write a compelling and interesting statement.

We have hosted a lot of fabulous shows over the past ten years at Keighley Arts Factory and every artist has submitted a statement to accompany their art. We have read statements that tell us about techniques, inspiration, concepts, study and, occasionally, stuff we just didn't understand.

Why do you need to write an artist’s statement?
"I am an artist, not an author – my art is visual and should speak for itself. Why can’t people take away their own experience?"

Well, I sort of agree with this - art should speak for itself but there are other reasons for the Artist's Statement.

Your statement is a vital selling tool, use it to promote yourself as an artist to buyers, curators, critics and fellow artists.

Here is an example of an artist's statement.
"My work is
created to depict a sense of self and how we perceive space. We are able to project and construct space within our own experience and knowledge. I create environments that take the viewer on a journey and makes that person redfine their preconceptions of spatial dynamism. The viewer is encouraged to interact with the work via their navigation of the space and the juxtaposition of other viewers around them. Creating my work is an intense process that, through its construct, takes me to another artistic plane and helps to redfine the meaning of space. I challenge the viewer to decide whether the transfomration is real or illusionary -my work is a mere suggestion that grows organically".

What kind of art does this artist make?*
What are his/her influences?
How much did you learn about the processes of making art?
Does this statement make you want to see the art?

*If you want to know what the art is, send me a message using the contact box below and I will respond.

So, what would you like to put in your Artist's Statement? Here's a couple of short exercises that will "limber you up" before you embark on writing your actual statement.

Find a fellow artist or like-minded person to work with and take a few minutes describing your art to them. Whilst you are describing ask that person to jot down the "key" or important words you have used. After a short time reverse the process and ask your partner to describe his/her work to you. When you have finished this exercise ask your partner to describe, in his/her own words, what you do. Now do the same for that person.

Did your partner have a clear idea of what your work is about?

Did they decribe something about your art that surprised you?

Did you discover anything new about yourslef or your art whilst you were describing it?

Here's another short exercise for you to try.

On a piece of paper write one short sentence in response to the following questions:

What is your favourite tool and why?
What is your favourite material and why?
What do you like best about what you do?
What do you mean when you say that your work has turned out well?
How does it make you feel when it goes well?
Do you use colour in your work? If so, what is your favourite colour and why?
What do you do differently from the way you were taught?
What do you want people to see/think/feel when they view your work?

Hopefully you now have enough basic information about your work and your creative process to start to write your statement. Before you do here are some tips about the actual writing.

  • Write in the present tense.

  • Say nice things about your work.

  • Include a quote or two - either ones that are relevant to your work or nice things people have said about you.

  • Watch out for paragraphs and sentences. The average paragraph should be five sentences or more and you should have a minimum of 3 paragraphs. It is tiring for the reader to plough through one long unbroken statement or to read one-sentence paragraphs.

  • first person or thrid person? There's a bit of a debate about this. It's about friendliness versus formality. I prefer to write in the first person as I feel a bit pretentious writing about myself in the third person but it's all a matter of taste.

Do you know what you want to say but are having trouble organising it all on the page?

It will be easier if you write three paragraphs in the following order.

Paragraph 1 About your work, your goals, your aspirations.

Paragraph 2 How you make your art, materials, tools, way of working.

Paragraph3 How your work has evolved and what you are working on at the moment or how you see your work developing.

Read you statement back to yourself. How does it scan?

When you have finely tuned your statement find someone to read it to. Ideally it should be someone who has never seen your art so that they can answer those questions that are at the top of this post.

And, by the way, Here are some of my pet-hate words:

juxtaposition, fragmentation, redefinition, encountering, interaction, durational, amalgamation, transformation

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Lynn Fraser - Artists and Illustrator

Artist Bio - "My name is Lynn Fraser and I am an artist based in Liverpool. I have always been interested in drawing and painting but work life took over. I went to night school to reawaken my desire to draw. I paint in acrylic on canvas and am trying to keep original art affordable. My artwork is eclectic varying from black and white icons to the Harajuku girls of Japan."