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Thread: LA area workshop on selling crafts to galleries

  1. #1
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    LA area workshop on selling crafts to galleries

    This might be of interest to some living in and around the Los Angeles area.
    Attached Files Attached Files

  2. #2
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    Cool, and thanks for the heads-up. I've got a show in Claremont the day before, but I just might be able to make it to this presentation.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  3. #3
    Man I wish I could attend that That is an area I need some schoolin' in.

  4. #4
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    thats cheap for that kind of help..
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  5. #5
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    Vaughn, you can find the campus map on this web page:
    http://cms.cerritos.edu/campus-guide

    Parking on the weekends should be free. It was free two years ago when I took a class. You might want to call campus parking/police to confirm.

    The Wood manufacturing technology building is pretty close to the Health Science building. They usually have Sunday classes until 5:00PM. I think you should take a peek if you decide to attend the workshop. Do look at their DC behind the WD building.

  6. #6
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    Well, despite running late and dealing with freeway traffic, I made it to Claremont College and attended the presentation Sunday. (Thank goodness for Internet-connected cellphones. I got to the college and couldn't find the right building, so I pulled up the college's website and found the campus map. I got to the presentation a few minutes late, but there were still a number of people streaming into the lecture hall after I got there.) The workshop was very interesting; I picked up some good insights and had a few other observations confirmed.

    As mentioned in the PDF file Mohammad linked to, the presentation was by Carol Sauvion, who's the owner of the 28-year-old Freehand Gallery in LA. She's also the Executive Producer of the Craft in America TV series. (I've not seen the series, but it has apparently won a Peabody award, and it's well-regarded.)

    The attendees were primarily students in the Claremont College woodworking program, so some of what was discussed centered around furniture and cabinet making. Still, she offered a number of tips for artists trying to get their work into galleries, presented from the viewpoint of the gallery owner.

    • One point she brought up is that many of her customers want to be emotionally invested in the artist and the art piece when they buy a piece. If they know the artist's story, and the story behind the artwork, they tend to connect to both better, and they are more compelled to purchase a piece. What would you rather buy...a nice bowl from some guy you don't know, or a similar bowl made of wood salvaged from Hurricane Katrina, turned by an interesting guy living on the bayou?


    • When you approach a gallery trying to sell your work directly to them, know beforehand what you need to make for the piece. Don't hem and haw about the price, and don't ask the gallery owner to set the price for you. She warned that most galleries these days are expecting to make 100% markup (she called it 50%)...they need to double their money in order to make it worth their time.


    • When you show your work to a gallery owner, leave your ego in the car. A good gallery owner knows what his or her clientele will buy, and you should not be offended if your work is not a good match for their gallery. Carol arranged for one of the students to bring 7 or 8 pieces to the presentation, including flatwork jewelry boxes, bandsaw boxes, and a couple turned pieces (including a turned wood box made to look like a pink-frosted cupcake). She discussed each piece and why it would or would not be a good match for her gallery. The metal-banded treasure chest jewelry box was well done, but she had no interest in it, since it was not something her clients would want. On the other hand, she would have ordered a dozen of the cupcake boxes on the spot, though. She also really liked a small natural edge bowl, and said she'd buy one of those any day of the week. (Figuratively speaking, I'm sure.)


    • She stressed the importance of developing your own clientele, and making sure they know where your work is available and when new pieces are made. Every sale should result in a name on your mailing list, and that list should be promoted to with gusto. No real revelation there, but many artists fail at the promotion aspect of the business. (Sound familiar Rob?)


    • As a gallery owner, she's acutely aware of how the Internet has changed the art sales landscape. She said there are a lot of galleries that have closed in the past few years since many artists are now selling directly from the web. I have long maintained that things like turned pieces sell better in person, because people get a better appreciation for a piece if they can hold it in their hands and feel it. I mentioned this point to her, and told her I consider that to be an important part of the sales cycle for me. She agreed, but pointed out that once a customer is familiar with an artist's work and knows the what kind of quality to expect, then they are much more likely to make other purchases via the web. Which again ties back into the whole mailing list concept and staying in steady contact with your customers. Let them know about new pieces, and let them know where they can be purchased.


    • On an Internet-related note, she stressed that artists should not sell their work for less on the web than they are selling for in the galleries. Undercutting the gallery prices is a quick way to get an owner mad, and will ensure you won't be selling any more pieces there.


    • Many artists who are starting out end up selling pieces on consignment, instead of selling directly to the gallery. (Carol's gallery has both consignment pieces and pieces they've purchased outright for resale.) She stressed the importance of making sure the gallery has insurance to cover the loss or damage of consigned pieces. And here again, know beforehand what you need to make price-wise, and don't expect the gallery owner to tell you what it should sell for.


    • Lastly, she made it clear that selling art is not a fast path to riches. You don't see a lot of wealthy artists, and there's a reason why. There's only room for a few Sam Maloofs and John Jordans in the world at a time, and there's a lot of competition for those rarefied spots. While there are a number of good artists making their livings working with wood, they are usually paying the bills with cabinet work or other contract work, while pursuing their art on the side.

    So that's the Cliff Notes version of the workshop. It was worth the 2 1/2 drive time for me, and I hope my write-up can offer some insights for others.

    Thanks for the heads-up Mohammad.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  7. #7
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    Excellent report Vaughn

    Confirms a lot that most of us know for sure, the "Know your own price" thing is surely important, and the personal connection bit, I know that works for sure.

    Cheers!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  8. #8
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    Thanks Vaughn! Great points to know.
    A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. -Henry David Thoreau
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  9. #9
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    Thanks for posting your notes Vaughn. I am glad the presentation was useful. When you said 'Claremont College', I was like Oh Uh Vaughn went to the wrong college.

  10. #10
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    Vaughn,
    Thanks for the report... very interesting and well done. The seminar sounded like I would have enjoyed it as well.

    Your point about people touch and feeling pieces before they buy is right on point.
    My wife was helping me at the summer shows and was prompted to tell people that my turnings were "Fondle ware".
    Some of the buyers would touch and handled the pieces almost reverently. I've even had to literally take a piece out of their hands so I could wrap up the sale.
    Chuck
    Tellico Plains, TN
    https://www.etsy.com/shop/TellicoTurnings
    My parents taught me to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder to find any.
    If you go looking for trouble, it will usually find you.

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