Keeping up with what’s happening in the art world is useful, especially if you want to sell your work. Do you read relevant periodicals? I regularly read American Craft, Fiber Art Now, Sculpture Magazine (because my husband gets it), Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot, Surface Design, Northern Journeys, a local art periodical and occasionally the New York Times art section. In a past issue of American Craft I read an article about collecting and collectors. That led me to thinking about how to develop collectors so I did an online search.
Here’s what I learned:
The new crop of collectors are not collecting in the same manner as we, or our parents and grandparents collected. They generally don’t focus on one or two items, They’re eclectic in their tastes. They are also put off by galleries where you have to ring a bell and be buzzed in. They like to see work in context, as in a grouping one might have in their home. Also, there is an up and coming movement for small, I mean tiny, homes where there isn’t much room for collecting.
So what does that mean to us as a contemporary tapestry artists? On my website, I plan to have in situ shots of my work. I’m considering taking some of my tapestries to friends homes and photographing my work in different decorating styles: contemporary, urban, traditional you get the idea.
What else? Maybe you want to work small, even in miniature and appeal to the tiny homes or to people who don’t have deep pockets. That’s another way to develop collectors. Start them on small less expensive works. With luck and some marketing they’ll come back for more and maybe larger work in the future. Personally, I prefer working large so this would be a stretch for me.
There is a movement called Art Cards and Originals (ACEOs). This is a group of artists who realized there is a market for miniature art works on paper. Cards are sold either as originals or editions. If it’s a print it should say so, and it should be numbered and signed—usually on the back. There are simple guidelines for ACEOs. The largest venue for buying and selling ACEOs, by the way, is eBay. This seems to be specific to painting and drawing but why can’t tapestry be included? I have had cards made of a few of my tapestries and they sell.
I use a company called Overnight Prints. I ordered 500 cards for $363. That comes to 72 cents US each plus a fraction of a cent for cellophane sleeves and I sell them for $4 each. Not a bad mark up. I also give them away.
Use postcards to promote your work. I once received a commission to weave someone’s granddaughter because I had my postcard and on a table in front of me in a class I took on marketing. Sometimes I give them out instead of my business card. If the person likes the image the card will stay on their refrigerator or bulletin board a lot longer than a business card. I have several different images and give the one I think the person will resonate with most. On the front I have the image. On the back, I include information about the image, and my contact information. I also can put a label on the back with information about a show or teaching. A nice touch is to give some to the person who buys the artwork on the card. Can you see them giving out postcards with your artwork on them. Happy clients are the best advertising you have, bar none. So why not provide them with something that they’ll be happy to share with others?
A website gives you visibility 24/7. Having a place where people can give you their email on your page gives you a list of people who want to hear from you. These people are ten times more likely to buy your artwork than those who follow you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn. These are possible collectors. Use your email list to send out a newsletter letting people know where your work can be seen, awards you receive, talks you are giving, teaching gigs and open studio time. You can also use it to keep people updated on your work in progress. Don’t abuse it, but use it well.
If you use an email provider like MailChimp you can have up to 2,000 subscribers before you have to pay MailChimp a dime. (More reasons why artists should use MailChimp here.) You don’t want to use your personal email to send out manual newsletters.
There are lots of articles online about winning over collectors. Here are a few to check out:
That’s all for now,
Craft Industry Alliance (CIA) is a community of craft industry makers, suppliers, designers, content creators, educators, and service providers serious about small business. CIA offers content that many ATA members might find helpful. There are webinars on things like using mail chimp, crowd funding, making videos, legal info and more. Under Resources you’ll find information on branding, book keeping software, packaging suppliers, business plan templates . Their Blog has posts about choosing the right social media schedule, podcasts for creative entrepreneurs and free stock photo sites.
About two-thirds of the content is for members only like the articles in their Journal on subjects ranging from member profiles to social media image sizes and understanding print-on-demand products. The Forums offer a place to get many of your business questions answered by people who have experience. CIA has Groups for Etsy sellers, Shopify users and a bookkeeping club.
CIA and ATA have a reciprocal membership discount. ATA members get a 10% discount. Please email Mary Lane for the discount code.
Welsh artist Ros Hornbuckle has been weaving for over 20 years. She has much experience with sales and commission work having supplied shops and galleries in London, Stratford upon Avon, and Llangollen among other places. Presently, Ros is regularly exhibiting in galleries around Shropshire, where she lives, on the border with Wales, and in Wales itself. She also takes part in an annual Open Studios event in Oswestry. In this article, Ros shares with us how she has found success exhibiting, independently and with other medias as well as the hanging system she has come up with.
In the first part of my tapestry weaving life, in the 1970s and 80s, selling was easy. There were quite a few places to hang work: shops, galleries and craft centres. I had a studio in a craft centre for some years, where I was very visible. My work then was much simpler, more decorative, cost less, and I wove rugs as well. No internet either!
After a long period of weaving abstinence due to children and a full time job, the lure of the loom brought me back. My weaving now became more complex and I committed myself to creating the yarn entirely from local fleece. Not only is this more sustainable, but it enables me to experiment with colour and texture mixing during carding and spinning. The result is very different in appearance to weaving with mass produced yarn, and is far more expressive for me.
My experience of selling is very different now. There seem to be far more people creating art and the demand for wall space is great, while there are fewer places willing to take a risk with a medium that is unfamiliar such as tapestry, in the UK that is. I sense that some galleries don’t like mixing textiles with paintings and prints, and I agree that it can be difficult to display them together. I tried to solve this problem by forming a group with two painters, whose work is sympathetic to mine, called Earthscape. This succeeded in creating attractive exhibitions, but it required a lot of organisation and a large gallery. I think though, that this is a fruitful experiment to try if you can find the right artists, since your work looks better next to art that has some connection to yours.
Although I do take part in mixed art exhibitions, where I only display one or two pieces, I don’t think it’s very favourable to tapestry. Most people here have no knowledge of tapestry weaving or of what the process is. Because of this unfamiliarity I think it takes a substantial amount of work on display to begin that understanding, and interest in the viewer, and to induce them to consider buying one. The impact of colour and texture of a wall of tapestries is considerable- seeing a large exhibition is what drew me to it in the first place. That great blast of brilliant colour! So I have in the past few years tried to get a more substantial amount of my work on display in one place. But it is not easy. Many small galleries don’t have the space and the larger ones have their own agenda, which
doesn’t seem to include my kind of art. Private galleries with good mailing lists often only want paintings and prints, and nothing too big. Even big craft galleries want to stick to very well known artists or makers from their immediate vicinity. When I have had a reasonable amount of work exhibited I have sold, either during or afterwards. I do think that some people need time to let their desire to possess the tapestry grow. It can take years sometimes! Or to feel that they can afford it.
I am now producing work for a very big exhibition next year, in a gallery that is situated in an area that has provided me with much of my inspiration, in Wales. I need around 40 tapestries of varying size, and have almost finished weaving them! It is a debatable privilege though as it has meant I’ve had to weave more small work than I want to. Usually I sell more large tapestries, so it will be interesting to see the outcome. It feels like a big responsibility to make enough items of the right size for the space, which is a very very long corridor next to a big exhibition area.
When you are trying to hang work in a variety of very different spaces, the hanging system can be a challenge. I know that Velcro and a batten is preferable, but many places here can’t have their walls drilled. My compromise is to sew a fabric sleeve top and bottom. On the bottom I sew the title and my signature and I put a batten inside the top, to which I can fix d-rings and mirror plates if needed.
I have a website and Facebook Page, but I haven’t found them very useful for sales, except for a few occasions. I know that I buy art only when I experience it in reality, but I think the websites are useful for potential buyers to get an idea of all your work and to remind them of the images they saw in an exhibition.
It will be a relief to finish weaving for my future show, so I can return to my favourite subject, which is Rock Faces. And in any size I fancy! I already have created quite a number and have in mind some future gallery applications when I have a few more to present.
Most of the works of Ros Hornbuckle involve “Landscape,” exploring its textures and colours in an emotional context. She has two series “Rocks” and “Water.” The coastal landscape of Wales, with mountains, rocks, sea, birds, and the ever changing weather and light form the focus of much of her work. Occasionally Ros is inspired by stories or photographs of “People”
The first time I ever shipped a tapestry overseas was in 2006. I have to tell you it was with a bit of trepidation. I didn’t know if I would ever see my work again. I thought it was going to be expensive and was concerned about it getting through customs and back again. All these years later I have shipped work almost a dozen times to seven different countries on three continents. I’ve learned a few things that I can share.
One of my greatest and most expensive lessons relates to insurance. I shipped a tapestry to Serbia. I made the mistake of insuring it for the retail price. When I heard the cost of the shipping I almost fell over, but I paid it. Aside from the obvious issue of cost, I should have done one of two things:
1. Insure for the wholesale cost.
2. Go with the minimum insurance that comes with the shipping price.
You would only get the wholesale price if you sold the work, so why insure for retail? (See Methods Of Pricing). The second option: Go with the minimum insurance is what I now do. I have been told that when you insure for a large sum of money it is like a red flag to customs. I have had venues specifically say not to insure. They believe that this helps work move more smoothly through customs. I know it is a risk and I am willing to take it. If you are not, use option #1 or insure for what you are willing to take if your work is lost.
Pay attention to holidays. I recently shipped a tapestry to the Ukraine around Easter time. I paid for 3-5 day shipping, but because of a long Easter holiday in the Ukraine it wasn’t received for two weeks. I should have either shipped sooner or not wasted my money on the faster arrival. I would have known about the holiday delay if I had thought to ask the venue how it affected them before I shipped my work or looked it up online. You can actually find a holiday calendar for most countries.
I store my work in muslin bags that I make for each piece. On the bag, written in indelible marker, is the title of the piece and my name. When I ship work I place the piece, which is in the muslin bag, into a plastic bag that is then sealed. I use paper packing to stuff in the box and keep work from moving around. I also place packing paper top and bottom to pad the work on the ends. I make sure the box is larger than the tapestry so I can pad on all sides. Don’t use peanuts! Everyone hates them and customs may not put them back which leaves your work unprotected.
I use heavy cardboard boxes since work is shipped two times, there and back. I don’t recommend tubes. I once used a tube for a piece that was shipped to the UK. When it was returned the tube had obviously been opened, in customs I imagine. The plastic cap ends were missing and in their place was cellophane tape. I know that a small item I should have received was missing. At least with a box, the ends are integral with the rest of the package, so no lost caps. FedEx has a triangular box that is good for rolled tapestries.
Often the venue you are shipping to will send you detailed instructions regarding shipping and labeling. Sometimes they specify the carrier you should or should not use. One thing I have seen a few times is to write: “RETURNING TO ORIGINATOR” or something similar on the outside of the package. This is for customs. Some countries will try to charge a VAT tax. The happened to me once when I didn’t write: “RETURNING TO ORIGINATOR” on my box. The UK wanted to charge me VAT tax. Fortunately I shipped with FedEx and they handled the problem for me.
I have seen this go two ways. I shipped a piece to the Ukraine from the US. The venue specified using the US post office to ship. They gave me the pricing for different weights and I just had to weigh my box and buy the return label. Then, by the instructions of the venue I wired them the money for the return shipping. Unfortunately, this is an expensive way to go. My bank charged $40 US for the wire.
If you can use FedEx or your local postal service you just pay the return shipping up front and put the label in the box. If you have an account with them, it is even easier. Again, the venue will tell you what you should do. Always follow their instructions to the letter.
Make sure you have a tracking number and keep it safe until you have confirmation from the venue that the package arrived.
You do occasionally hear about someone who has lost work but I believe this is quite rare.
For more detailed information the website Art Business Info For Artists is an excellent resource put together by an artist.
This is a wonderful interview with Ulrika Leander. Ulrika talks about how she has been marketing and promoting her work including several useful ideas we can all try.
How long have you been weaving?
For over 50 years.
When and how did you begin to sell your work?
When I was in my early twenties. I had my first sale from an art exhibit in Sweden.
You have done many commissions, both liturgical and corporate. How has this work come to you?
For many years I advertised in the Guild books and that was worth every penny.
What is a guild book?
Years back a woman named Toni Sikes sold pages in a hard cover book to artists that were interested in getting commissions. The Guild books went out to art consultants, interior designers, collectors and architects around the country. Today the company is called CODAWORX and is a very professional website that connects artists with people that are looking for established artists.
I had many sales/commissions from that. The last 18 years I have been very fortunate to live in an area with lots of tourists and also wealthy people in second homes (The Eastern Shore of Maryland). Three days a week during the summer season I have kept the doors open for walk-ins and that has resulted in great sales/commissions.
Have you changed your marketing strategy since you began weaving? How has the internet changed how you market your work?
Yes, a few times and of course when Internet came into the picture it was an amazing change that opened so many new possibilities.
You have a blog, a website, an Etsy page and a Facebook page. How do you use each of them?
Blog: I write when I have something interesting to say. Lately I haven’t written anything and I should.
Website: I often refer people that are interested in my work to take a look at the website and especially the slideshow that explains the weaving process. Etsy page: worthless.
Would you please elaborate? Why is the Etsy page worthless?
I should have said for my work. I have shopped a lot of great stuff on Etsy. It’s probably because my tapestries are very large scale and quite expensive so people feel, like I would, that buying very expensive art from a website is too risky.
Facebook page: really a great way of keeping the visitors updated on my work. I have a group of people that follow me. It’s quick and easy to post and I think that the Facebook page probably is more effective than the website.
Effective in what way?
Well, because I constantly post updates on my ongoing tapestries and it has excited some, and made them interested in a particular piece. Showing the ongoing work gives the visitor a much greater appreciation of what goes into weaving a tapestry and I would say that helps them understand why a tapestry costs a lot of money.
Has the internet added to your sales? Do you use it for sales?
Yes, it certainly has added to my sales. More people stumble upon my work, people who didn’t know I was here.
Do you market your work in any other arenas?
Art competitions and exhibitions.
What have you tried that didn’t work?
Mailing out fancy cards and target e-mails.
Have you ever had your work in a gallery? If so, tell us about that experience.
I have had my work in many galleries. It’s a great way to showcase my work but it seldom leads to any sales.
That’s a surprise, do you have any thoughts on why that is?
People need time to think about if they really want to invest in an expensive piece of art. An art exhibition normally runs from one month up to two and it might not be enough time to decide if you love the piece enough and if you are ready to invest all that money. It’s not uncommon that people, weeks or even months after the exhibit has closed, contact the artist by themselves. Not fair to the gallery, but such is life.
Do you design your work with selling in mind or do you design what you want to weave and hope that it will sell?
I only design what I want to weave unless it’s a commission and that’s of course a different ballgame.
How do you advertise to get people into your studio?
I have a big road sign showing the inside of the studio and some of my tapestries plus a brochure box with information.
Is there a size or price range you find sells best for you?
It depends on the architectural environment.
You don’t put prices on your website. Why is that?
Because it might scare potential buyers away. I do e-mail my price list upon request. If you have a chance to talk to them and explain what is in involved in creating a tapestry the chances are much greater that the person will go ahead with the purchases.
What do you think of putting this explanation on your website? Why would you not do this?
No, no I could not put that on my web site because that comes from my gut feeling and it wouldn’t sound good. If people really are interested and want that information, I know they will e-mail me or pick up the phone.
How do you price your work?
It’s priced depending on the complexity of the design and the size of the tapestry.
Can you be more specific?
Working my whole life with designing and weaving tapestries, commissions or spec tapestries, I have found that having a set price is absolutely necessary. If a potential buyer comes to visit your studio with the intention to buy or commission a tapestry and you don’t have a set price you are fumbling in the dark and it’s very easy that you will get manipulated (the potential buyer wants to get a bargain) and you could end up with an agreed upon price that is not worth your time. I never, never negotiate my prices because over the many years in this business I have learned how much time it takes to design a tapestry, ho much time it takes to prepare the looms, the cost of the materials and most importantly, the many months of weaving the tapestry.
This might help you in understanding my pricing.
CONTEMPORARY TAPESTRY WEAVING
STUDIO PRICE LIST
TITLE SIZE PRICE
SOUL MATES 103” X 84” $9,000.00
LISTEN TO THE TREE 124” X 44” $18,200.00
A NEW DAY 68” X 84” $16,500.00
SNOW FALLING ON GEESE 71” X 47” $8,100.00
SWIFT SILVERTAILS PASSING 54” X 116” $18,300.00
BEFORE TIME 80” X 149” $18,000.00
MIDSUMMER 83” X 51” $10,000.00
OVER DANCING WATER 112” X 98” $32,300.00
BRIEF MOMENT 49” X 68” $18,500.00
SOLITUDE 31” X 86” $17,760.00
APPROXIMATE WEAVING TIME FOR A 4FT. X 8FT. TAPESTRY
COMPLEXITY WEAVING TIME
|COMPLEX SUPERIOR||14 MONTHS|
|THIS TABLE SHOWS THE LOCATION ON MY WEB SITE OF EXAMPLES OF EACH LEVEL OF DESIGN COMPLEXITY. THE NUMBERS REFER TO IMAGES IN EACH SECTION.|
COMPLEXITY SECTION NO. AND TITLE
|SIMPLE||GALLERY OF INSTALLED TAPESTRIES||11. OUR DUTY – OUR BOUNTY|
GALLERY OF LITURGICAL TAPESTRIES
GALLERY OF INSTALLED TAPESTRIES
GALLERY OF LITURGICAL TAPESTRIES
06. HEALING FLIGHT
10. MARY’S GIFT
GALLERY OF INSTALLED TAPESTRIES
GALLERY OF LITURGICAL TAPESTRIES
04. SEVEN FIFTEEN
10. FRAMES OF REFERENCE
19. INGRID AND GEY
09. LEAVING THE ARK
GALLERY LITURGICAL TAPESTRIES
GALLERY OF INSTALLED TAPESTRIES
|COMPLEX SUPERIOR||GALLERY OF INSTALLED TAPESTRIES||
14. IMAGE OF A GROWING SPRING
20. HIGH MEADOW
Ulrika Leander grew up in Sweden where to this day textile art is one of the most frequent forms of artistic expression found in public buildings, corporate offices, churches, health care facilities and in private homes.
The rich history and tradition of textile art and design became part of her consciousness at a very early age and the Scandinavian design aesthetic is a strong influence to this day.