Wednesday, 20 January 2010

In The Studio (Part 7)

Any space can become studio - all you need is some time, energy and a little imagination. Each month we feature Artist's Studios to inspire and encourage your creativity. If you would like your special space be featured in Artists in Business please contact us using the Kontactr Box at the bottom of the blog.

Collage Artist Emma Strangelord
"For the past few years I’ve been OBSESSED with collage, making use of the hoards of junk I’ve gradually accumulated from childhood to, erm, the twilight of my twenties.
The faded grandeur of a Victorian terrace in a Northern industrial town, is where we set our scene. Thanks to a very accommodating landlord my studio space tends to be all over the house, whenever I’m overcome with inspiration!
The bulk of my supplies and my mini-gallery of completed pieces have taken up residence in the back bedroom, whilst I dream of the days when I have my own place, a real studio, a walk-in wardrobe AND I’ve won the Turner Prize (that will definitely happen).
I’ve recently dared to dabble in painting again (I’ve hardly picked up brushes since I finished my degree in 2003) feeling encouraged when, over the summer, a family friend bought an old piece which I’d hung on my wall for years. My painted images have tended to focus on the same sorts of themes as my collages – juxtaposition of sinister and sweet. A recent visit to the ‘Pop Life’ exhibition at Tate Modern, particularly the Takashi Murakami room, has gotten the creative juices flowing.
I’m also falling back in love with working in sketch books. I filled page after page whilst at art college and I love the personal, private feel of a book format - like a secret diary. And far more organised than scribbling down ideas on scraps of paper. This need for order and control manifests itself in the way I agonise for hours over collaged pieces, ensuring everything is perfectly in place before sticking down. Perhaps it’s a way of maintaining some sort of stability in an often chaotic life!
My friends and family are very much part of my creative endeavours. They are my biggest patrons and collectors. They offer support and encouragement and are always on the lookout for images and objects I could utilise. It seems my biggest fan is Mr. Casper Disaster, one of my two cats a foundling, infatuated with his mummy, and far from camera shy. Often he feels he has better ideas about how a collage should be arranged, or prefers the paint when it’s on the floor and in paw prints. This rarely goes down well..."

Strangelord on Folksy
I’m also showing work in an exhibition at Gallery 12A in Doncaster until 31st January 2010

Kathryn Abrahams - Glass Artist, Lazy Daisy Glass

"I have worked from home for only a couple of years, my previous career had always been in administration. However, like many others, I have always enjoyed crafting - whether it be cardmaking, glass painting or knitting. But found myself taking over the house with all sorts of crafts - it drove my hubby mad!
I first started working with stained glass as a hobby six years ago, but found less and less people were buying it. When I became pregnant I gave up the 'office job' to become a full-time mother. I received my maternity money and decided to invest it in my first kiln. I bought a book, some materials and started experimenting. I soon out grew my hobby room with all my bits and pieces. As soon as I decided fused glass was what I wanted to do I talked to hubby about the old outbuilding and what could be done with it. So hubby went about building me a new studio (it helps have a carpenter/builder in the family - he's done a stupendous job). He's an artist in his own right!
My studio used to be the old school outside toilet block and dates back about 100 years. The project has been ongoing for about 18 months. It's not aesthetically pleasing on the outside, as the inside was more important to finish. Working in the house was also a problem as I had to clear up/take out whenever I wanted to work, but with my own studio space I can go in with a clear head and leave it all behind.
I'm also a full-time mother to a 2.5 year old, so working with glass in the home can be a hazard.
My hubby fitted the space out with open kitchen units and worktops. There is now plenty of storage units and work surface. I have one long worktop purely for cutting and shaping my glass work and on the other side of the studio is my cold working area - which is for drilling, polishing and grinding. I recently bought a pillar drill and have been having great fun drilling holes. However, my new kiln is my pride and joy. It's taken a lot of work to get it, but thoroughly enjoying the endless possibilities.
My studio is at the bottom of our garden and as we live in a rural hamlet, it's very peaceful and surrounded by rolling countryside - a very inspirational place to be and work!

Lazy Daisy Glass

Lazy Daisy Blog

Lazy Daisy Facebook

Friday, 15 January 2010

Branding Your Arts Business

Any good business knows how important branding is to a marketing strategy and we can even recognise some brands without seeing their name (Nike is a good example). Identifying your unique selling point can help you develop your brand and make your on-line arts business instantly recognisable.

Aleximo Croissant

One way to get noticed is to have a recognisable Banner or Heading displayed on your website or on-line "shop". You can also add an avatar to represent your business and reproduce it on all your marketing materials such as: business cards, compliments slips, letter heads, invoices, postcards and shipping labels.

But if, like me, you are clueless about computer design, help is at hand. Rather than displaying a badly designed, graphically messy banner, with blurry images and poor colour, you can now buy a banner or entire marketing package on-line.


What are you looking for in Branding Design? Well it all depends what you want. Retro? Vintage? Hand made? Slick? There's a design for everyone. It is cheaper to buy an off-the-peg design rather than custom made but, with custom made you can include images of your work. You can also go back to the designer and request changes until you are happy with the results.

Busy Bree

Working with a designer. If you are going to purchase a custom made design you should be clear about your requirements before you purchase. I usually approach the designer with a few questions before I buy such as, how long will it take to design? How many changes can I request? (3 is a reasonable number) and can I see examples of the designer's work?
It's quite difficult for a designer to visualise something that's in your head and you are describing with words. It's a good idea to send a link of your website and/or some images of your work. I also give a description of the kind of customer I am trying to attract which helps the designer pin-point exactly what you want from the design. Remember - a designer won't want to invest time and energy trying to create the perfect image just to have the customer renege on the deal.


Don't buy and complain afterwards. If you are not satisfied with the designer's work then walk away but don't mess them around - be honest. You get what you pay for - so if you are looking for the perfect marketing material don't expect miracles with an off-the-peg image. And finally ... copyright. The designer owns that design, even after purchase. You do not have the right to use the test or rejected designs that you did not purchase and you cannot credit the design as your own.

In this post I have shown the work of four designers. They are just my personal taste and not a representation of all graphic design that can be purchased on-line.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Magnet Giveaway

Sign up to our February Newsletter before 5 February 2010 and you will be entered into a free draw to win these gorgeous magnets created by artist and illustrator Lauren Alexander (I really want to keep these for myself).

About our newsletter: there are articles about arts business, features on different artists, updates and useful links too. The next newsletter will be "SPARKLE" the Jewellery edition with information for jewellers and silversmiths.

And the winner is.....
Jane of Hooked Yarn has won a bubbly fused glass dish created from the studio of Glassprimitif.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Design Social

DesignSocial >> 52 Projects >>52 Weeks

"Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and the pupil are the same individual" - Arthur Koestler

I am Andrea Eaton, a twenty-something South African creative based in London. DesignSocial is my creative project for 2010.
Over the next year I plan to complete 52 separate creative projects in 52 weeks. DesignSocial was inspired by a 2009/2010 course offered at Central Saint Martins “
100 Design Projects” and, from what I understand, its core concept is exercising and diversifying creativity. I have morphed this idea into a project of my own which I hope will also help to broaden my own creative horizons.
I have invited friends, family, colleagues and creative peers to submit briefs from which I will select projects for each week of the year to follow. Each effected project will be displayed on the DesignSocial blog alongside its original brief and notes on how I devised each concept.The project is intended to be social and fun, with 'pretend' briefs that may or may not include real companies/events/situations etc. As a freelancer, it’s not in my interest to do 'real work' for free through the DesignSocial challenge, but my aims here are to learn, to inspire, and to share my findings along the way. I try to encourage other creatives to submit ideas for projects that they themselves would love to work on.
Having received some interesting and challenging briefs so far, I am still hoping for more submissions during early January 2010, after which I hope to have at least secured a schedule for the first few months of the year.

Support the DesignSocial challenge by submitting your own creative brief! I also encourage anyone who is keen, to join me in tackling these briefs - I will gladly display any creative work submissions alongside my own - I think it would be great to share ideas and outcomes!

In the words of the late, great Paul Arden, "Do not covet your ideas. Give away everything you know and more will come back to you".

For more information please visit the DesignSocial website: , or email Andrea on:
Follow DesignSocial on Twitter: @DesignSocial52 and join the DesignSocial Facebook group.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Know Your Competition

Many artists and artisans sell on social selling sites such as Folksy and Etsy. These sites are great way to showcase your work but it is also quite difficult to get noticed amongst the plethora of other on-line shops. But you can use your competition to your advantage by doing some research on them and using this information to help you to devise your on-line strategy.
Firstly, do you know who your competition is? If you create a totally unique craft (such as My Furoshiki for example) it may not be obvious at first. If you are selling a popular item then you will find this type of research easier. I’m going to take myself as an example.
My direct competition comes in 4 categories:
1. Hand made fused glass, stained glass, blown glass and lampwork beads
2. Faux glass such as glass tile pendants and imported fake “murano” and foiled glass from China
3. Jewellery, including resin jewellery
4. Gifts ranging in price from £5 - £20.
Hand made glass is easy to identify as competition – we come in the same categories on Folksy and Etsy – and this also applies to jewellery. The competition I don’t like is the nasty mass produced foiled glass from China (BTW – if you buy it – the glass hasn’t been annealed in the kiln and can fracture at any time). It’s cheap, it’s nasty, it’s not durable and some people can be duped into thinking it’s hand made. Grrr! (Don’t get me started).
The most difficult to identify is the competition from similar priced items.

There’s that expression – “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” but your competitors aren’t necessarily your enemies, they can be really useful friends instead. I belong to a glass team on Etsy, the CGGE, and it has been one of the most useful things I have done there. We exchange ideas, learn from each other and promote each other too (treasuries, Etsy-minis, challenges and competitions).
So what information do you need to know from your competitors? Here’s a little exercise.
Select 3 shops that sell the same/similar products to you and look at:
Their pricing
Their descriptions
How many sales they make
How they market their craft
Which other sites they sell on
Their strengths
Their weaknesses
What makes them better than you.
You should be able to use this information to help you to identify any weaknesses in your business. You should NOT use this information to mimic your competitor or infringe their copyright or poach their customers.
What are you going to do with all this information?
Looking at your competitors can really focus your mind on what your shop is all about. It can help you to see how you can improve your product/presentation/shop by comparison.
Pricing – does your competitor sell their stuff for more than you/less than you/the same as you? Undercutting your competitor may be a bad move because you could be underselling yourself, cutting your profit margin or devaluing your work.
Now is the time to go back and think about the kind of customer you want to attract. Think about whether you are trying to attract the hand made buyer or the bargain hunter. (When I realised that I couldn’t compete with a lot of Etsy glass sellers on price I increased my prices by 10% and my sales increased).

Descriptions – how effective are their descriptions? Are they interesting to read, light hearted, straight to the point or basic? Re-assess your own descriptions but remember, original thought will attract more sales than copying – copying will attract bad feeling.

Sales – how many sales a month is each competitor making? Compare these with your own. You can match the number of sales to the quality of their craft/price of their craft and this will help you to anticipate the number of sales you should be striving to make. Working out basic averages can be useful here.

Marketing – how much marketing does your competition carry out on on-line? Where else do they market? How often does their name pop up on a Google search? Are they hanging out in the forums? What devices do they foster for customer loyalty? (Sales, BOGOFs, special offers, freebies).

Strengths and Weaknesses – your competitor may be strong in one area and weak in another. It may be that their product isn’t very good but their prices are competitive. They may create lovely crafts but not know how to promote themselves.
What makes them better than you? Find it out and fix it!

If you can’t beat ‘em… Competition is great – it keeps us on our toes and helps us to evaluate what we are doing. It also helps us to move away from a saturated market or spot a gap in the market too. By getting together with your competition you can support each other, promote, share ideas and compare. Creating a team on Folksy Teams or Indiepublic is a great way to start.
But if you want to beat the competition too take time to do thorough research, identify the information that’s relevant and apply it to your business. I hope you noticed that I didn’t once ask you to analyse their actual product. You don’t need to copy your competitors’ items to be a successful seller.