Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Is My Work Right For Your Show"

I hear the above question a lot.

What the person is really saying is "will my stuff sell at that show. Will the return on my investment (time, show fees, etc) pay off".

That's a great question, and one of the hardest. I think it also reflects lack of knowledge about the very important business of targeted marketing.

Creativity is generally the 'fun' easy part of what we do. I can stay out in my studio until midnight creating something fun and new and colorful and meaningful. And that's generally what I enjoy the most. But that is clearly not enough!

I've seen fabulously creative folks show up at a show and do poorly just because the event wasn't well attended by folks who were interested in buying that person's artwork/craftwork.

New folks assume that it is the responsibility of the show promoters to attract an audience. While that is partially true, it won't guarantee your art-buying audience. I did ArtFest in Dallas this year...and one of the marketing strategies was to bill it as a dog-friendly event and get that demographic to attend. And do you know what? It worked! We had droves of and families, of all walks of life, attending the event with their dogs. But do you know what else? Folks who have a dog with them, particularly an average to large dog, won't go into a 10 x 10 semi-crowded booth space full of tail-height glass work!

We each have to build up a following and target our past customers and potential customers, getting them to attend the shows we much as possible.


First, does your work encourage re-purchasing? I know a potter that does all of his work in just a few colors/styles..and makes an incredible array of pieces in each theme. Folks return time and again to purchase pieces to add to their (growing) collection of his themed work...

If you're a jeweler who just does pendants, consider adding earrings, bracelets, pins, etc in a carefully-targeted someone who has bought previously, can add to their collection.

Secondly, let your audience know what is new with you. Adding sterling silver to your glass pendants? Tell 'em! Learn to do Keum-Boo or colored-pencil-on-copper? Tell 'em. Do you have a new theme? Tell 'em!

Thirdly, consider offering an incentive for folks to come to your show and buy from you. Offer a small discount for returning customers. Or offer a 'free sample' of something that you can afford to give away. Now, maybe if your medium is large-scale bronze cast sculptures, that's not feasible, but your job is to think outside of the box. So do it!

Good luck. It's a jungle out there!


Monday, July 6, 2009

"What Kind of Tent Do I Need For Shows"

This question frequently comes up for artists and crafters who are either new to doing shows OR want to move from 'indoor' to 'outdoor' shows.

There is a myriad of considerations and a progression of cost/complexity as follows.

The standard tent size is 10' x 10'. Whatever you buy, get that size.

For a first-time crafter, I'd start with an EZ-Up brand tent. I strongly, strongly, strongly, recommend you stick with that brand name. I got mine a couple of years ago at Sam's for about $150. You can also order them from EZ-Up on the web... For that price you get the frame, the nylon top and four walls that tie onto the frame and then zip together. It is sturdy enough for one-day shows and the occasional multi-day show (where you'll use the walls at night, etc) in decent weather. These tents are the easiest to erect and easiest to bring down. Unfortunately, "easy up means easy down". If you get inclement weather, high winds, etc, this tent may not fare as well as others mentioned below.

Now, note I made a pretty strong recommendation for that particular brand. Why? I've seen at least 6 of the Ez-Up knock-offs (and you can get them at sporting goods stores, E-Bay, etc for about $100) in one or more of the aluminum frame struts just snapped in two when it was being put up or being taken down. My friend bought one on E-Bay and the first time she used it, one of these metal struts broke. Can she still use it? Yes...sort of..but she'll need to splint it and 'mess' with it every time she sets it up or takes it down. The same thing happened with my friend Julie. She bought a dozen of these at a good price from a discount sporting goods store...with the identical results.

My E-Z up is a couple of years old, has had hard use and is still going strong...well worth the extra $50 I paid for it.

Now, after you've used your E-Z up and you start doing serious shows, multi-day shows and inclement weather shows, what do you do? This is where the serious "festival tents" come into play. These are manufactured by several makers (mine is a Craft Hut) and cost around $1000 for the frame, top and four sides.

What do you get for that? A much sturdier frame (which is also harder than an EZ-Up to put together/take down), much, much sturdier vinyl..probably five times as thick and waterproof an the EZ-Up and uber-strong nylon zippers that take an extreme amount of punishment. Weighted down, these things will withstand gale-force wind, horrific rain/lightning, etc. Note I said "weighted down"...something you want to do with all tents...see below. With Festival tents you also get many more options, since these are generally custom-sewn. Options include awnings on 3-4 sides; matching banners, colors other than white, vented skylights, stabilizer bars, screen panels, alternate sizes (10' x 20', etc). I've used these tents that have been in use for 10-15 years and still going strong. I've only had my Craft Hut for a year and so cannot speak to its' longetivity..but I get glowing recommendations from other artists.

Weights - Regardless of the kind of tent you use, weigh it down. to withstand wind and rain! The smart shows require weights. How? I purchased a long piece of 4-inch plastic PVC pipe, four PVC end caps, some PVC primer and PVC glue, four loooong eye bolts, some strong nylon webbing and two bags of quick-setting cement...all from Home Depot. I cut the PVC pipe into four equal lenghts and glue on the caps with the primer and glue. Once those are dry (20 minutes, maximum) I mixed up the cement and poured into each of the four pipes, standing them on their ends. Before the cement starts to set, I insert the looooong eye bolts into the end of each of my weights. Once dry, these weigh about 55 lbs apiece...generally the required minimum is 35 or so pounds of weight per corner. I then loop the nylon webbing through each eye bolt and hang one on each corner..and have withstood significant wind and rain this past year. See the picture to the left: My Craft hut, minus sidewalls and with my weights..gotta paint them pretty though!

Others use big barrels of water, spiral tent stakes (which are preferable for dirt/grass, but what if you're setting up on asphalt or concrete?) or 25-50 pound free weights attached to the tent legs.

Fire Retardance - some shows will require you to produce a certificant attesting to the fact that your tent is made of fire retardent material. I don't think EZ-Ups are. My Craft Hut came with such a certificate without my asking for it.

Keeping It Clean and Dry - Both options will deteriorate if you store the tents wet, allowing mold and mildew to form. If you break down in heavy dew or rain, set it up when you get home and allow it to dry thoroughly. If it gets mold, find out what the manufacturer recommends to remove/kill the live mold.

So there we have now know about at least two options for tents and then a little bit about taking care of it and making it work for you. Good luck out there!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Golden Opportunity or a Really Bad Show? How Did I Decide?

This morning I got an invitation to a show happening in Dallas...

Once you've been on 'the circuit" for awhile, this happens quite regularly; you get applications or invitations from schools and churches and hair salons and art festivals and galleries and... and the list goes on.

This one was for a first-time music festival, StarFest, in downtown Dallas. Not only did I immediately reject it, but sent a pretty straightforward note 'counseling' these fools about their chances at attracting any artist!

What were the deal-breakers?

First of all, was the cost. For a well-known, well-established 2-day art festival with decent promotion, a jury and the caveat that no re-sellers are allowed (Resellers being defined as folks who buy and then resell the work in over 50% of the case), I expect to pay between $150 and $300 plus jury fees for a 10' x 10' space. This entity wanted $400 if I sent my money in by June 1st and $550 if after June 1st. Strike one!

Now, does that mean that $400 is just plain too much? Not at all! Put me in an established Fine Crafts show that caters to wholesale buyers (art galleries, gift shops, etc) and I'll expect to pay north of $1000K for even a small one of these...and it'll be worth it. SOFA, in Chicago might be several thousand...but those are geared toward my audience, guarantees me access to folks interested in purchasing large quantities of high-quality work and puts me in a crowd of like-craftspeople/artists.

The second "strike" is that all of the advertisement and brochures and materials that accompanied the application advertised this purely as a music festival. I don't know about you, but when I see an ad for a music festival, I'm going for the music..not to look at 100 art booths! If you want me to pay top dollar, bill it as an art event! Strike Two!

Thirdly, this is a brand new event. No one knows how it'll do or who it will attract. I don't mind taking some risks and trying a brand-new festival or show, but don't also expect me to pay 40% more for the booth until it's well-established as a superior show!

Some other things I look for that are important:

How well organized is the show? I recently signed up and paid my $25 entry fee for a small one-day show at a local community animal shelter. I had a Saturday show booked and had nothing, it was close and had some potential, as they were billing at least a couple of well-known artists' presence. So why did I bail at the last minute? They never aknowledged receipt of my application, addressed set-up or tear-down times or gave any of the applying artists any info about the show. They gave no information about the required donation, etc... And if the 'organizers' (SIC) can't return your calls or e-mails, how're they going to put on a good show, promote well and do all of those things that'll make it worth your while? Ditto for a seemingly good show that is announced a month or two out....if they're that late in the game, how's their other organization and promotion.

Now, find those good shows and spread the word! We need more of them!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You Wanna Do More Art Shows?

Today, a fairly new artist/crafter asked the question "How do I find out about more art shows".

I've posted a long answer for a seemingly short question, but first, a story:

Years ago, my artistic and fabric-loving friend, Reid, was my art-idol....I'd do one or two shows a year and always was amazed by the number of shows she got into that I'd not even heard was amazing..and I told her so.

These days, she comes by my booth and just laughs, because I do twice as many shows as she

So here's some concrete tips for getting info about shows..but you've gotta think in the long term...:

1). The first 'thing' is to ask other artists....what shows are 'out there' and how do you get into them.

2). E-mail your artist friends and acquaintances once a month and some of them will share. The good ones aren't threatened by other artists. They know better. Besides, if your mother comes to see you at a show, she might end up buying something from me! Ask Sheyne and Tefi and many, many other artists...their moms all bought from me! Smile.

3) Know that Spring and Fall is our busy time, at least for most indoor/outdoor festivals... April 1-June 15th and then Sept through the first weekend in December...THAT is when you'll do shows..they don't happen in the summer or during the X-mas holidays/winter... That means start checking intensively about 3-4 months in advance...for the smaller shows. The larger shows can jury up to a year in advance.....

4). Watch known sources. Check Craig's List under "Artists" at least once a week. I see a couple of good shows a month posted.

5). If you're in Dallas, join Dang (Dallas Artists' Networking Group) and other groups that will know about Art/Craft/Jewelry shows, etc. Go to and find DANG. There are lots of other groups. Church groups, neighborhood groups, fraternal organizations, schools and civic groups, communities...

6) Remember what I said about the long-term approach? Watch the paper, etc for'll see small and large shows listed. By the time yous see that "come to our show this weekend" announcement, you've missed getting in, right? So mark your Outlook calendar for 8 months from today..put in the name of the show, a URL if they have a website, etc, and then google them four months out and apply next year....see the long term pattern developing?

7) Google "Art Shows" and you'll see Z'application and EventLister and those kinds of entities pop up. Get on their lists, even if they're not the kind of show you want to do today...I was on Z'application for the past three years..this year I juried into, and got into, two of theres....surprise, surprise. We evolve! Check out sources such as The Craft Report and similar trade rags....if you don't want to subscribe, share a subscription with a friend or group of crafty friends...or look for it quarterly in a bookstore or the like.

8) Network with other artists. Ask them not only about shows they know about, but also, what shows are good. But be careful...just because it sucked for them doesn't mean it'll suck for you. I have a friend, Jill the Potter. She did the Arlington Center Street Festival with me. Everyone (but me) did poorly. I did a fairly large amount in one day! Three weeks ago, we both did a show called The Funky Finds Spring Fling. It pretty much sucked for me, but it was her single best show take everything with a grain of salt.

9) I follow the 3X rule... Do a show three times before deciding it's not for you...unless it's clearly not your cup of tea (i.e. you're selling hand-turned wooden pens and everyone else is selling pretty-colored plastic office supply pens...not your kind of show). Why three times? The first time, folks will 'discover' you..and might buy something, but probably not... The second time, folks may remember you and hope you'll be there...and will buy IF they remember you. The third year, they'll expect you to be there. Heck, they may come to the show JUST to look for you and buy a piece that's been percolating for a year! If they want what you sell, they'll buy yours over the other me!

10) Finally, focus on what you do between those busy times.... Create new and exciting pieces with that 'Wow' factor; Work on that display; Look for other ways to sell....

I hope that got you started. Come to my Craft Circle or a free "new artist" class sometime and ask me more...or bring wine and sweet talk it out of

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Promotion and Rolling With The Punches

This weekend I did a Saturday first-time show. My sales covered all of my expenses and fees, but were otherwise uninspiring.

My initial thoughts? "First-time show... The economy... Fort Worth..." etc. But I generally aknowledge that success is sometimes purely a crap-shoot. Mood or whim or location or whatever can contribute to an 'off day'..and I had one.

Imagine my surprise when another vendor and friend at the same exact show commented that it had been her single most successful show ever!

Who knows why, but two things stood out for me:

1) She had fresh work, just produced/finished that week and;

2) She'd invited tons of folks she knew, had sold to before, were family and friends, etc.

Maybe just excitement, fresh work and promotion did it. Or maybe not...but it doesn't hurt!


Friday, April 3, 2009

Special Event Insurance for Art Shows

This may be considered off-topic for a blog that guides new artists and crafters about showing and other business topics, but having gone through what is retrospectively an arduous process, I'm going to at least speak to the issues. Just remember where you saw this and come back when the info is needed.

Recently I agreed to investigate Special Event insurance for an art event I'm helping to put on; an indoor art show. The venue required this as part of our doing the event there.

The first questions we had to find out, and submit to the various insurance carriers were these:

  • What is the date and location of the event?
  • How many people will attend?
  • What is the required amount of coverage?
  • Will you serve alcohol and require that to be covered by liability insurance?

Armed with this info, and a few other facts; the name of the event, etc, I proceeded to get quotes. I went to both to a local insurer and to several internet companies. I got quotes ranging from $275 for a one-day festival to $2000!

My experience is that it is critical to have the right date range and attendee amounts. Both significantly affect the price.

I went to the internet insurer first and accepted a Thursday-Sunday date range, despite our event being only on a Saturday, thinking "how much can it matter". I also put in 2000-3000 attendees, again thinking "how much can this matter"?

The quote came back as around $900 if we served alcohol and about $500 if we didn't; way too much for our meager budget.

I then went back to the same insurer and limited the coverage to just the day of the show and entered in 1000 attendees (since this was closer to what we expected anyway). The quote dropped from $500-ish to $265-ish; still more than expected but closer to what we could afford.

I went back one more time and put in 800 attendees; our best guesstimate. This made no difference. It appears that Event Insurance applies some kind of minimum liability and that 1000 attendees is the lower limit of this particular carrier.

In the meantime, my brick-and-mortar insurer came back with a quote of about $500.for the $1M, etc, etc. I sent her the name of the internet insurer and asked about the delta between her quote and theirs. Her response?

Internet companies have lower fees, as one might expect BUT she also advised that one should make sure to use an insurance company that is rated A- or better. Apparently this rating tells the consumer how capable an entity is of actually paying a claim, should one arise....knock on wood.

Good luck!

Friday, March 27, 2009

How many times have you gone into an artist/crafter's booth at a festival or show, signed their mailing list, only to hear nothing ever again from them?

As artists/crafters we're guilty of collecting people's information but then doing nothing with that information. This blog will expand on some ideas about how to get the most bang out of your mailing list:

  • I recommend that you collect only what you'll use. If you only send out e-mails, don't collect addresses, etc. Make it simple and easy for your 'fans' to sign up for your mailing list.

  • Offer an incentive to sign up on your list; a drawing at the end of the show; a 10% off coupon that can be used to purchase your work, etc.

  • Once you have the list, enter it into your computer and back it up so you can't lose it. Some folks keep lists of buyers separate from 'lookers'. Some separate folks interested in classes from art buyers. Collect and organize it the way you'll use it.

  • If your mailing list grows over time, it can get out of date. I also find that folks' handwriting sometimes leads to my entering the wrong e-mail address. How do I get around that? First of all, at the end of each day of a show, I enter my e-mail addresses and send out an immediate message thanking them for signing up on my list AND I offer them a 10% off coupon to be used in purchasing my work in the future. What I'm really doing is checking whether I've got the correct address. Any bounce-backs from that days' addresses allows me to look at the list more closely and correct the addresses. If I can't correct them, I knock them off of the I don't get future 'bounce-backs'. I'm also trying to incentivize them to return to my booth the next day and purchase that piece that's been nagging at them since they left the venue. Sometimes it works.

  • I use my mailing list only for a monthly newsletter and special show announcements. For the latter, if you keep a separate list of people who have purchased items from you, send them a 10% or 20%-off coupon for one item in your booth. I have a potter acquaintance that does that and not only does he have great attendance at his shows, but these folks buy around 50% of the time!

  • When you send out things to your e-mail list, blind copy everyone so that everyone's privacy is maintained AND so no one can steal your hard-earned e-mail list. If another artist or crafter can see those names, what is to prevent them from placing those names on their own list?

  • Always offer some way for people to unsubscribe. I put a statement in small print saying, basically, "reply with 'unsubscribe' in the subject line to be removed from my list".

Good luck! And next time I sign up on your list, I hope to hear from you!


Thursday, March 12, 2009

A common question for folks new to showing/selling at Festivals and Fairs is "what is important".

Ask four artists, you'll get five answers. Smile. This is what is important to me:

First of all, you want your buyer to be comfortable, spend as much time in your booth and completeliy understand your product and your pricing. These things are important to that end:

  • Make sure your display and your booth is clean and organized. Ever wander into a too-cluttered store and get overwhelmed or confused? When your customer is overwhelmed and confused they don't buy; they leave. Keep it uber-simple!

  • Put prices on everything! I'll never forget once at Cottonwood, a new sculptor displayed 6-10 bronze sculptures, one of which I liked. A lot. However there were no prices anywhere. And I wasn't about to ask, lest they be out of my price range. So I walked on to the next booth. Price everything.

  • Broad array of sizes, colors, price points. It is important to have a broad selection of products, colors and, most importantly, price points. My products range from $22 to $600....there's something for everyone who wants my work. The budget minded folks can't spend big bucks. The art-snobs think they have to. Please them both!

  • Your signage should be consistent in color, background, ‘feel’ and theme. Remember "simple"? Keep it simple, and professional! No Cacophony!

  • Have change and, preferably, take credit cards. This conveys professionalism and makes it easy for your customer to spend plenty at your booth.

  • Greet everyone that comes in your booth and then get out of the way!

Finally, besides your product, what do you need in your booth? Here’s what I take:

My tent (if needed), setup tools and weights.

Pro-Panels and/or Grid Wall as my background – eliminates distracting background and lends to a contiguous theme in my booth. Simple is good.

2’ x 4’ folding plastic tables (2) with matching tablecloths that go to the floor…enabling me to store stuff underneath. A chair or stool to sit on.

My signage…the Kessler Craftsman sign, some product photos, a sign indicating that I take MasterCard and Visa, etc.

Lighting. I take either my stained glass lamps as my product if that’s ALL I’m selling OR I take goose-neck clip-on lights that I got from Wal-Mart for about $15 each. Of late, I’ve started using Track lighting mounted on a bar over my Pro-Panel setup. See my booth someday… Lighting is important…if they can’t see it well, they won’t buy it!

My display stuff. I use risers, bust and ring displays for jewelry, trays and stands for other items, small gridwall, etc. Display things cleanly and attractively!

Packaging stuff. I have small shopping bags, t-shirt bags, earring and candle-holder boxes and then tissue paper. This makes it easy for gift-giving and conveys and extra sense of professionalism.

A money box (some folks use aprons) with plenty of $1s, a credit card machine and credit card slips, a tiny calculator, receipt book and a filled out tax table with tax already filled in for my most popular items.

Sign-up sheets for mailing list, classes, etc.

Business cards and show postcards for any future shows.

Electrical cords (long and the thickest, most heaviest gauge you can afford…lest you throw breakers), power strips, duct tape and extra light bulbs.

My “emergency kit”. It has: Pens, a Sharpie, matches, razor blades/X-acto knife & scissors, screwdriver and pliers, parts for my booth pro-panels and grid-wall, T-pins, thumbtacks and velcro strips, zip ties and a couple of spring clamps , extra business cards, adhesive price labels, duct tape and scotch tape, a pad of paper, some clean shop towels, aspirin and Tums, sunscreen, lip balm, an extra t-shirt and bandanna, trash bags, etc. I also bring a “10% off” and a “20% off” sign just in case! I also bring extra jewelry findings, jewelry pliers, etc for jewelry adjustments/modifications.

I bring bottled water and, for longer shows, food. Nuts, carrots, apples etc…’munchie food’ in a tiny ice chest.

Sometimes I bring: A source for music…a small portable CD/IPOD player and speakers; candles for my candleholders; I sometimes do work in my booth…items I need for that; a laptop or sketch pad for really slow times.

Most of all, bring your sense of humor and desire to have fun!


Friday, February 13, 2009

Promoting Yourself and Your Work

In this new year, I'm getting lots of new show announcements and contemplating my artistic and show goals for 2009.

As you contemplate doing this (and be active in this.. don't just 'drift'...), decide, in a volitional manner, what you want to become.

Do you want to keep things small and informal? Do you want to do art festivals and craft fairs? Do you want to sell in gift shops? Do you want to show/sell in a formal art gallery. Do you want to sell supplies, materials or teach your craft.

Pick one or two and focus on doing those well..and then you can expand as you 'master' the initial ones Once you have a sense of what you want to be, consider these tips:

  • Focus on promoting to that audience as a priority

  • Create the work that appeals to that audience

Have a logo and a 'package' that is professionally designed and printed. Yes, I'm sure your brother-in-law did his own logo in Word, but it looks like it! Get some serious professional help if you want a serious, professional image. And make sure all of your materials are coherent, work well together and promote the same concept. Large companies don't have branding guidelines and design guides for the fun of it!

Your promotional package should include, at a minimum:

  • Business cards that can double as price labels, earring cards, etc.

  • A sign with your business name, logo and URL of your website or Etsy shop

  • An electronic logo that may be used with one-off letterhead, sent to festivals, etc.

  • Website, Etsy page, Blog or, at least, a Flickr page with pictures of your work.

Your package can also include:

  • Website with schedule of events, shopping cart, etc.

  • Postcards (with future shows, class schedule, contact info, etc)

  • Booth and Gallery signage

  • Gallery Support Signage - name and logo, 'about the artist', bio, etc.

  • Biography and/or Artist's Vita

  • Product tags with info, 'the story', your logo, price 'block', etc.

Also, set goal to promote your work more. Whether that means applying for new shows and new groups at a frequency that's comfortable or approaching a new venue for your work... Set a goal and do it!

Keep track of what promotional activities create sales and do those activities more. Forget what is fun or easy. Do what works!

Think outside of the box when it comes to promotion. I know of a painter who issued a press release everytime she completed a new painting. Overdoing it? Maybe. Grandiose? Maybe. But she makes a living selling acrylic paintings on E-Bay!

What will get your work in front of buyers?

Now. Go start promoting what you do!


Friday, January 16, 2009

Taking Photographs of Your Work or How Important Can Good Pictures of Buttons Be?

You've heard folks speak to the importance of high-quality photographs. And as a former semi-commercial tabletop photography, I've got an advantage. I'd like to share some tips that will get you photographs that will help you promote and sell your work:

1. Invest in, or borrow a good digital camera. "Good" means at least 5 mega-pixels and some ability to control the camera (i.e. not full-automatic). Don't think that you have to spend thousands of dollars; get a decent camera and know how to use it!

What controls do you need? At least these:

  • adjustable white balance..for daylight, flourescent and indoor/incandescent lighting

  • Adjustable, manual depth of everything is in focus

  • Zoom, so that you can crop your picture in the camera.

  • A tripod mount. See below.

2. Learn how to use your camera and any lighting you use. See above. Knowledge and a barely adequate camera beats out a fabulous camera that you can't use.

Wanna buy some buttons?

3. Get a demo version or other inexpensive version of photo-editing software and learn to use just these 5 tools:

  • Brighten/darken

  • Contrast

  • Sharpen

  • Saturation/hue

  • Color cast/color temperature

All of the other 'tools' in Photoshop may be nice to have, but only if you're an ad exec, a retoucher or making your living at photography as art.

4. Keep a small area permanently set up to take pictures. As one who produces tons of pieces every so often, I'm guilty of not taking pics of my work and then selling it before I can take photos.

Recently I set up a small table with two Home Depot lights and matching bulbs in my 'junk room'. It's perpetually ready for a shoot; I put a small piece on the background of the week (usually an interesting board and rock combination...see the picture to the left) and shoot a couple of pictures so I can edit one good one. This morning I took 2 pictures of about 30 small glass pieces. If I would have had to set up the camera and lights, it wouldn't have happened.

My friend and artist Rachel Hoehn keeps a roll of 4-foot backdrop paper on a dowel in her she can immediately pull down the paper, take a couple of quick shots and then roll things back up.

5. Use a tripod or other stable way to hold the camera still. This will not only reduce blur, but you'll be more methodical about your images (note we segued from 'pictures'..that one 'takes' to "images' that one 'makes').

6. Mix it up - vary your backgrounds, have alternative people wear your stuff, etc. I change out my backgrounds (different wood, rocks, props) every couple of weeks so that my work doesn't get stale.

7. If there is one thing that the digital age has brought us, it's uber-cheap 'film'. Take lots of pictures. Take the best one and then crop it several different ways and save 'large' and 'small' versions of it.

8. My permanent small setup uses a cheap table, two cheap Home Depot lights, sheets of white typing paper to diffuse the harsh glare of the lights, a $75 tripod and my background props. The Home Depot lights were around $10 each. Soften that hard lighting with white cloth or white paper. Get matching daylight bulbs and always replace both if you have to change'll get more consistent color that way.

9. Consider doing a 'photo party'. Get 3-5 crafty friends together and share knowledge, equipment and get pictures to boot!

10. Use your pictures to tell a story. In the world of visual art, make sure your pictures represent what you do!

11. Edit mercilessly and seek out others' opinions on which images work. Just becasue your daughter looks extra-cute modeling that fabulous polymer necklace, be objective about the necklace and decide if that image captures the essence of your work? Can your future buyer see the details? Are the colors accurate on the computer screen? If not, select another image!

12. The 'art' isn't the photo you're taking. Your handmade product/art is! Strive for clean, well-lit photos that show off what you do.

So go set up that mini studio, learn how to use that old digital, and take pictures that you can be proud of!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

12 Suggestions for Jurying for a Show - What Do I Do?

For new artists/crafters, the thought of jurying for a show can be intimidating.

I'll never forget my first....mercifully easy, in its' own way. I'd been doing glass, furniture and picture frames and one of the principals in the Oak Cliff Artisans happened to be taking a walk by my house with a neighbor and they say me working on some of my Mission picture frames and stopped in for a look.

This gal was apparently impressed and so invited me to the next OCA meeting and asked me to bring some pictures of my and wood.

I dutifully showed up with a CD ROM of 10-20 pictures thinking we'd all have 'show and tell'. I was the only one whose work we looked at. Later I learned that they'd voted me 'in' to OCA and that's how I got into my first art show.

Most of us don't have it so easy. We get an application for a show and see that "submit pictures for the jury" and get nervous...

Here's some tips to prepare..and now is the time to start thinking about this, folks!
  • 1) Submit no more than the required pictures unless you truly have a compelling reason to do so.
  • 2) Take, or have someone take really good pictures! Have someone take really good pictures! Am I clear? Nothing is worse than getting an application with fuzzy, bad images. As a many-times juror it makes me wonder if the work is as sloppy as the pictures. Better to submit 3 good pictures than 5 mediocre ones! Get good pictures!
  • 3) Submit in a small enough file size (if electronic) to get through their firewall, but make them big enough so the details of your work shows through. If that means submitting a CD ROM with 3MB pictures, so be it!
  • 4) Some shows (sigh!) still ask for slides... You can go to BWC on Maple Avenue and have them make slides from .jpgs. You can even e-mail the .jpg file and then just pick up the slides when they're ready. Cost is around $5 - $7 per slide... FYI, you usually get your slides back if you submit with a SASE.
  • 5) Be prepared to submit a good picture of your booth display. Artfest and many other shows use this as a good way to cull out the 'also rans'. You might do stunning work, but if your display consists of a couple of 2x4 easels and a card table, they don't want you. If you don't have such a picture, set up your entire display in your living room or your driveway and take photos. See #2. Take good pictures!
  • 6) Label all of your .jpg files with your name or artist moniker. If they mix them up with something else, you'll benefit when they can identify which pics are yours.
  • 7) Fill out the application completely and submit with a letter on letterhead. You want to specify the show you're applying for, you want to express excitement about being in their show and you want to reference that you 'get' what their show is all about. Recently I applied for a show in which it was clear as a bell they'd been burned by 'resellers' or folks that didn't make most of their own jewelry components. My letter and my application made clear what parts I did and what parts I purchased. I "got" that they want 80% handmade components!
  • 8) When you're filling out an application, think about the jury's perspective and try to be strategic about getting in. I'll give you an example. My biggest seller is my glass pendants. That means "jewelry". Shows are overrun by Jewelry folks and painters/photographers. So when I jury, I say that no more than 1/3 of my booth is jewelry..and emphasize my glass lamps and sconces and, sometimes, even my Mission furniture (even though I rarely bring more than a few pieces to a show). This gets the juror away from thinking "oh great... Another jeweler"...and raises your chances of getting in.
  • 9) If there is any way to call or e-mail someone with the show, do so. Be friendly, funny, whatever makes them remember you and endear you to them. IF they have any influence in the process, it'll help you in the long run. If not, they still may come by your booth and meet you..and maybe buy something! I've had that happen!
  • 10) Get your materials in on time...always. That said, if you miss a deadline, call them or e-mail them and see if the deadline has/can be extended. I've been the lucky beneficiary of this two times last year... Be nice, kow-tow and accept "no" graciously if that's the answer.
  • 11) Try not to take this whole thing personally...hard but true. You may never know why they didn't accept you into the show. Maybe 900 folks applied for the 125-booth show and they picked nothing but the creme of the crop. Maybe they didn't think your work would 'fit' in the scheme of the show. Maybe they had too many folks who produce baby items or jewelry or glass and wanted to balance it with a broader selection of work. Go the the show and see if you can speculate what might have gotten you in.
  • 12) Finally, have fun and don't sweat the small stuff!

Monday, January 5, 2009

13 Ways to Organize Your Life In Craft

The following is a reprint of an article from The Craft Report:

13 Ways to Organize Your Life In Craft

Set regular business hours. Let your friends and family know that these are times when you will not be available for social visits or phone calls. This is your job. Act like it!

Leave phone calls to your answering machine or voice mail, and set aside a half hour a day, for example, to return phone calls to customers. Let friends and family know you will call them as soon as you have some free time.

Set aside time, even if it is only a few minutes, to relax. Set a "closing" time each day that you will put down your work and leave it until tomorrow. Some artists may work non-stop until a project is finished, but doing this consistently and consecutively can take its toll.

In the same vein, take regular, although perhaps brief, breaks. Walk outside for some air, run errands, etc., just to get a few minutes away from your work. Not only is this good for your peace of mind, but also for your body, which can get stiff from sitting or standing in one position for long periods of time.

Pick one day each week to do certain tasks: Mondays for mailing invoices, Tuesdays for follow-up calls on overdue bills, Wednesdays for ordering supplies, Thursdays for research/reading about your field or your market, Fridays for thinking and creativity -- focus completely on your work and new ideas.

Seek assistance in areas of your work that you can't manage and are letting slide, e.g., financial records, invoices, bill collecting, order fulfillment. Even an assistant who is paid to come to your studio once a month and update all billing and collect on overdue invoices may free up a greater deal of your time than you realize.

Talk to other artists. Other people may have learned valuable management tips through their own experiences or from other artists. Ask your neighbors at a craft show how they keep records, manage invoicing and collecting, ship orders, purchase supplies, etc.

Visit online news groups. Internet sites like The Crafts Report's online discussion group
( and the alt.crafts.professional newsgroup are online forums for craftspeople to share professional problems and solutions, or just keep in touch with other people with similar lives or situations.

Set realistic deadlines. Deadlines can help you stay on track from day to day, and if followed, will help you avoid hectic "crunch times" like pre-show inventory preparation and promotion, or submission deadlines for juried shows or competitions that seemed so far away just a few weeks ago. Set a deadline for having your pre-show mailing printed and ready to go in plenty of time. Set a deadline for having your work photographed and slides ready to mail. Mark a calendar and check it every day to see what you need to accomplish.

Prioritize. Whatever you have on the calendar for each day, do that first. If you have multiple tasks scheduled, decide which one is the most important and do that first. Anything unfinished should become the next day's priority.

Stop and think. This works if you're feeling overwhelmed -- you have too much to do and too little time, and all you can do is think about how much you have to do and how you'll never get it all done. Sit down and think about what is most important, and go from there.

Set aside the last few minutes of every day to review completed and unfinished tasks, and plan for tomorrow's tasks.

And, finally, take the time each day to appreciate your work and the fact that you can make money doing work that you love. If you're not feeling very appreciative of your work at the moment, ask yourself, "Why not?" and then try to think of possible solutions. If the bills are piling up and dealing with customers is making you dread answering the phone or making necessary phone calls, perhaps you can consider hiring a part-time business manager. Will the costs be offset by the extra time (and peace of mind) you will have to invest in your work? If not, what are your other options? Think about it and make it happen, so that you can enjoy the life you lead to its fullest.

Friday, January 2, 2009

WalMart Mentality and Telling the Story

How often do we go to an art festival or a craft show and find either ridiculously low-priced goods in the booth next to us OR we discover that the show has not been limited to handmade goods and the folks all around us are selling imported jewelry or other mass-produced, low cost items.

The dilemma is how do I, as a lone, single-artist entity compete with what I'll call "The Wal-Mart Mentality"..the expectation that my price for a beautiful hand-made fused glass pendant compete with someone who buys them by the gross from China?

My answer is "Tell the story"! That, and quality/uniquity of your work, absolutely will differentiate you from the importers and also rans. It has been my experience that if I point out the features of a piece that make it unique AND I tell the story of what inspired that piece, what inspires me in general and if I talk about how my work is done, the folks that matter will 'get it'! I can assure you that some folks are willing to pay more for something with 'a story' than something without. I'll give you an example: Folks who have been to my home have seen the 6-foot tall neon rooster that graces my living room. When I bought him, no one knew where he'd come from or what his story was. He had fabulous value to me or I'd not have purchased him, sure enough. A few months ago one of my glass students and her husband visited me. Her husband recognized the sign from a long-defunct Mexican Restaurant in Lakewood. Not much of a story but much more than I knew at the time...and the value of the piece literally doubled in my mind!

I could (and maybe will, at some point) post a blog on how crafters devalue what we do by pricing low, spec work, etc, but I'll save that for another day. Just know that the pieces in your booth or on your Etsy site, or wherever you show, will sell much better if the story is crystal clear.

I'll close with one more example. I have an artist friend whose work is just stunning!, etc... She does a line of beautiful wooden pendants with birds adorning them....very nice pieces. I was with a friend in a gallery that sold her pendants and my friend bought a lovely piece with a beautiful cardinal. I noted that in an e-mail to my artist friend. She replied with the story about how her Grandmother had loved birds, trips to her grandmothers house were filled with visions of, and stories about birds, and as such, these formed an emotional connection to her grandmother..and carried a little piece of her grandmother in each finished bird pendant. My advice to her? Make a little tag that tells that exact story...and in doing so, establish why she does this, an emotional and historical connection and, in doing so, attract a wider art-buying audience!

Tell the story!