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!


  1. Great idea! For awhile I have thought about adding a hang tag to my totes that let my customers know who they are supporting. To tell them that I am a WAHM with two little ones, one of which has special needs. I am going to Vistaprint to order some cards now!

  2. On a similar note... I name my pieces and I find sometimes people will connect with the names... the name will invoke a memory or a thought or something, and they feel they have to have it. Its also a good thing because its easy for people to remember that they liked "Eternal" vs. liking "L08754B".

    And in response to Caroline's comment - I think that is very powerful... it definitely was in my mind in the purchase (ok, purchases) I have made from you... as a fellow WAHM. You just never know what people will connect to.