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Blogs and Columns

Anne Nye Column -- Selling Smart

Hello and Welcome Back! Below is the second in a series of "Art Into Business" columns that D&L Art Glass Supply is offering to the glass art community. The purpose of these columns is to Stir Your Juices: To inspire your art and to help you transition to making money with your art if that is your goal.

We will send these columns to our customers and to friends we've met at shows and events. The columns will be delivered via email and will also live permanently on our website (under the "Tips and Tutorials" menu tab  > "Blogs & Columns). Please feel free to forward these columns to anyone who you think would enjoy them. 

Thanks for your positive and helpful feedback to the last column. We'd love to hear from you (or hear from you again). Let us know what topics you'd like to see covered, or any comments you have on the columns. Let us know either by email info@dlartglass.com or by comment on the D&L Art Glass Supply Facebook page. Thank you.

Art Into Business

Selling Smart: Marketing for Success!

by Anne Nye

I started marketing my art full time back in 1998. Before that I worked as a graphic designer for about thirty years. When I completed art school I settled for a career in graphics because I didn't believe I could make a living doing what I really loved. During that time I created ad campaigns for everything from cars to dog treats with a hefty stint as in-house artist for a chain of restaurants where I was responsible for a complete range of marketing materials from menus to billboards. The experience gained has been worth its weight in gold to me as an artist. While I don't claim to be a marketing expert, I love sharing what I've learned and, hopefully, help artists do what it took me so long to figure out.

The Right Product

Anne Nye Poppy Field

Art is like any other product. It needs to be defined into a 'story' that you know how to tell in all your marketing materials. I knew I wanted to make art that brought joy to people. But in the beginning I couldn't seem to find a way to get my work into galleries. I really began to work in glass because there were so many painters.

Define your story

What's the core theme and mood of your work? What are you hoping to communicate? The product/brand you have now will not necessarily be the one you will have in the future. It's an on-going, evolving process. As you change and grow as a person and artist, so will your art. If you're like me, you have to make a living now. So let's figure out how to sell what you have.

The Right Venue
Art Gallery In the last twelve years I've shown my work in a lot of different venues—some more successful that others. Basically I did lots of art fairs and shows and in 2000 opened the Blue Pomegranate Gallery along with a close friend and metal artist, which we ran together for ten years. I stepped out of it about a year ago to devote more time to my art but it's still my 'home' gallery and I'm still pretty involved. From there I moved into wholesale sales with my production lines and continue to market my fine art line to higher end galleries. Along the way I've tried licensing, art reps and a few other things that didn't work so well.

Street Fairs and Public Art Shows. For me, this was a great way to start. Beginning expenses are usually small and it's a great 'test market' for your work.

Choosing the right show: There is a big difference between an Art Show and an Art Sale, even if they aren't billed this way. Here are a few questions to consider when choosing a show:

  • Target Market? Shows that are adult focused rather than family focused sell more art! If there are a lot of other events tied to the show and people are looking for entertainment for their kids, they aren't necessarily going to buy art.

  • Advertising? This is where a lot of your entry fee goes so make sure they will do their job.

  • Reputation & Credibility? Look for Juried Shows featuring 'Made In USA Work'. Submit good photos of a good variety of your best work. Often you need a booth photo or layout. See if you can borrow a tent and do a mock up. If possible, talk to artists who have done the show before. Is it an established show or just beginning? New shows need to be more heavily advertised and should cost less.

  • Location, location, location? Where is the show and where will you be placed? Some shows mix everyone up in a first come, first served manner and some lump all the glass artists together. I always preferred to be next to a different medium if possible. My business partner and I used to get two spaces together. She had contemporary metal art and I had colorful glass and together we made a bigger splash! If you can attend the show the year before, look at traffic patterns, restrooms, shade and anything else that will make your customers comfortable.

Make it easy to buy: The Top 10 "Must Haves" for any Art Fair:

1. Credit cards are a must! And it's so easy now with an iPad or smart phone. I use Square Up but also have heard good things about Pro Pay and others.

2. Be Prepared: Have plenty of change and sales receipt books, and don't forget another book for commissions. Of course, bags. Again there are online companies that offer affordable products. Don't use old bags and newspaper unless you're really trying to make a green statement or something. Forget the starving artist mentality—you need to look successful to be successful!

3. Business cards & Bios: Business cards can be ordered cheaply online these days. Vista Prints & Overnite Prints are two I've used. A short note here: When designing your card, make it easy to read. Do NOT use script lettering and definitely NOT all caps! Add a small, good photo of a piece of your art that represents who you are. Black type on a white or off-white card in a size that can be read by your target market! Include web address, email and phone. Order plenty and give them away like candy!

  • A Bio is simply a 'story card' that tells a bit more about your work. Add photos of a couple of major pieces but no prices. If you are already in other galleries, you can add those that are prestigious or nearby. If you've won awards or participated in shows that are well known, that's good to include as well. Usually you can find a local digital printing company for these and have them printed in 1/4 or 1/2 page size to make it easy to put in a purse or shopping bag.

4. Mailing lists: Get people to sign up by reassuring them that you won't sell the list or deluge them with marketing. If you plan to do other shows at all, your mailing list is pure gold!

5. Old marketing adage: "Sell the sizzle, not the steak!" There's a bit of mystique about being an artist and that's part of the 'sizzle'. When they buy a piece your art glass, they are buying, in part, a peek inside the artist's life. Talk about how you make your work, how you began in glass. Have an opening sales pitch: "Welcome, are you familiar with my work?" is a good opening gambit.

6. Team Work: Some shows provide relief 'booth sitters' but a sitter is usually just that. Having someone else to help sell and to tag team with difficult customers is really important. And it's easier to sell someone else's work than your own anyway. Offer delivery after the show if possible. Make it easy to buy!

Tent Setup for Art Glass Show

7. Booth & Displays: Find out what the requirements are for the specific show. You don't have to spend a fortune, but it needs to be very sturdy and weighted down in case of wind. We used cinderblocks fitted with wood so we could screw the tent legs down and raise the tent roof—a good thing. You can build, buy and sometimes rent all sorts of display tables but most shows provide simple conference-style tables. You will need skirting to hide storage tubs etc.— simple white table cloths will do. Keep it simple and clean. Make your art the focus! Use 2x4's to raise tables up so that the art is closer to eye level. Glass blocks make inexpensive risers for individual pieces. Group according to color and size.

8. Signage: Simple, clear & easy to read titles and prices is the rule here. If you expect rain at all, use waterproof tags & markers! A master price list is a necessity in case you're not there or a price falls off.

9. Pricing: Prices MUST be RETAIL! Do NOT undercut your store sales, current or future! Ideally, have a wide variety of price points: Under $50, under $100 and so on. If you are just starting out and are not independently wealthy, you'll probably have some low-ticket pieces for under $30.

  • Promote, but don't discount! In other words, you can have a 'bogo' promotion or a special price for a group of items but don't let people talk you down like it's a flea market. Explain how the cost of glass is linked to precious metals etc. so they understand your pricing.
  • Add at least 20% for commission work. Make that the 'norm'. You can always waive it if it's something you really want to do and think it's a deal breaker. (I'll write about commissions in more depth in future columns.)
  • Friends and Family Discounts: This gets tricky and I'd suggest you don't make a practice of it. I still do it sometimes (no more than 10%) but it's the exception rather than the rule, which makes it more special.

10. Your Game Face: Dress for success and greet customers with warmth and positive enthusiasm. You will need chairs for an occasional sit down but please don't sit the whole time! Your body language will speak much louder than your sales pitch. If nobody's in your booth, it's a good time to re-merchandise. Time to move things around and make new displays. Don't let yourself get down or look bored. Art shows are short and you've worked hard to prepare—make it all work for you.

Art Show After Care: I strongly recommend you keep a journal or some kind of notes about each show. Record the weather, your placement, any problems or new ideas. Send out small cards to a few choice customers that say: "Congratulations on your art purchase! I'm so happy to know my work went to a good home..." etc. It may sound gushy but people love that kind of personal attention and they won't forget you or your work, which is what it's all about.

No matter what you do, have fun! Enjoy the process. You will make mistakes, but then you'll have new stories to tell and better ways to tell them!

Anne Nye studied fine art at the University of Idaho and California College of Arts & Crafts. She is a mostly-self-taught glass artist with a strong background in painting and graphic design. Anne runs a successful studio in Omaha, has been a part-owner of an art gallery, and teaches her frit-painting methods at D&L Art Glass Supply and other venues.


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