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.
Pamela Palma and I had a great conversation about her work and how she has handled promotion and marketing. You can listen to the conversation here.
Here is a well written article about pricing. This is definitely worth the read.
Joanne Soroka shares with us how to write a press release and why you want one. She also shares with us some unusual, out-of-the-box ways artists have gotten attention for their work.
Getting Your Name Into Print
by Joanne Soroka
What’s the point? Why publicize?
To raise the profile of you and/or your product/works of art. To make money.
What you can publicize?
Examples include exhibitions, fashion shows, winning a prize or competition, a new product, getting a prestige client, getting a big contract, expanding your business and artist talks.
Where you can publicize it?
Local and national newspapers, specialist and general magazines, trade papers, the Internet, email, texts, posters, word of mouth, handbills, advertising, mail shots, etc.
Press releases and publicity
- Plan ahead, start on your publicity at least two to three weeks before the launch or equivalent.
- Be aware of deadlines e.g. magazines may need three months.
- Plan on the type(s) of publicity you wish to use.
- Research the publications you want to target e.g. are you looking for reviews or alerting the public? Is there a specialist publication for your discipline?
- Do you have any contacts?
- Do you have a budget?
- Create photos suitable for the purpose or hire a photographer.
- Be realistic about the amount of publicity you can get.
Before you start to write
- Who is your target audience?
- How are you going to interest them in your work or event?
- Do you have an ‘angle’?
- Possibly write more than one press release for different audiences and publications.
Angles and getting attention
TOO much clutter? Not enough space? The British artist Michael Landy has the ultimate solution to all his storage problems. I can’t think of anything I’ve seen in my life that remotely resembles his Break Down, a 14-day artist’s “performance” commissioned by Artangel, which is taking place on Oxford Street in London, in the former C&A department store at Marble Arch.
- What is special about your work or event?
- Think of a way to make it stand out from the other press releases e.g. the first, the biggest, connection with celebrity, arresting photo, etc.
- Use strong, inventive language to create interest.
- Don’t be afraid to use humour.
- You can be controversial, but with the realization of possible consequences.
- But keep it simple and direct.
- Have a press event where something exciting will happen that press photographers can photograph.
- Use photos with extra visual interest.
- But remember – subtlety does not usually work with the press.
Text of the press release
- Have a strong title.
- Who, what, when, where, why – summarize or list.
- The angle – what’s special?
- Quotes are good.
- Give a bit of background.
- Have links to photos, website, etc and where to get further information.
- Maximum one page or 400 words.
Examples of press release writing
- Tonight three students from Edinburgh College of Art are having the opening of an exhibition of their work at the Traverse Theatre Bar. Their work is inspired by nature and includes examples of jewelry, ceramics and glass.
- Rachel, James and Sally are great artist’s! There work is enspired by nature and their show is at the Travarse Theatre Bar starting tonight, October 19th at 6 pm. Come along and meet them.
- Brunel University student’s ‘Square-eyes’ design is set to combat child obesity 17, May, 2005 Gillian Swan, a final year design student from Brunel University in West London, has designed a unique insole for children’s shoes that records the amount of exercise a child does during a day and converts it to television watching time.
Presentation of material
- Proofread and show to someone else before you send it.
- Keep it simple.
- Remember timing e.g. Sunday evening is a good time to send emails, and don’t leave it until the last minute.
- It should be visually attractive and easy to read, i.e. double-spaced and in black ink on white paper.
- Send by post if in doubt.
- Address it to the right person and spell their name correctly.
- Be persistent.
- Make phone calls to editors and journalists.
- Repeat emails or email with new information and photos.
- Create other events.
- Respond quickly to enquiries, requests for photos, etc.
- But do not expect more than 10% response max.
Or do something different
In New York, a group of artists calling themselves Art-Anon have managed to get up the noses of almost every art gallery owner in the city’s fashionable Chelsea district with their RIDER Project – an art gallery in the back of a truck. “Our goal is to provoke the galleries of Chelsea as best we can,” founder Michele Gambetta told the New York Times, after parking her truck directly in front of yet another swanky art shop.
Other ways to get noticed
Doubtless it is a publicity stunt, but is it also art?
The graffiti artist Banksy has managed to smuggle in his latest work, a dead rat in a glass-fronted box, into the Natural History Museum where it was exhibited on a wall for several hours.
Staff did not notice that the rat was out of place amid the museum’s usual fare of dinosaur bones and artefacts from the animal kingdom.
The rat was stuffed and clad in wraparound sunglasses, scaled down to fit the top of its head, a rucksack on its back, and with a microphone in one paw.
A miniature spraycan sits at the departed rodent’s feet, while above it is sprayed in graffiti-style lettering “our time will come”.
- Spend time thinking about how to approach getting publicity.
- Think about audiences and what you want to achieve.
- Start small and local.
- Be as creative as you are in your studio work.
Joanne Soroka, who was born and brought up in Montreal and graduated from McGill University, now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh is a centre for tapestry weaving, and its Edinburgh College of Art was where she studied in the 1970s, leaving with a post-graduate diploma (with distinction). She went on to be the Artistic Director of the Edinburgh Tapestry Company (Dovecot Studios), before setting up her own studio, Ivory Tapestries, in 1987. She makes tapestries, other textiles and paperworks, with occasional forays into other media such as print and video. Her work hangs in the lobbies and boardrooms of well-known international companies such as the Chase Manhattan Bank and the Glenfiddich Distillery and in hotels in Japan. She has won numerous awards.
Joanne has exhibited around the world and has taught at Edinburgh College of Art and the University of Edinburgh. She is the author of Tapestry Weaving: Design and Technique, which is about to go into its fifth printing.
I asked Marilyn Rea-Menzies to write about her experience with marketing and promoting her tapestries. I think you will find her story a worthwhile read. Barbara Burns
In early 1991 I took a trip from Picton, New Zealand, where I was living at the time, to Christchurch, NZ. I sat outside the Arts Centre of Christchurch with a student of mine and said to her that one day I would have a studio here. It took about seven years for that dream to come to fruition, and in mid 1998 I shifted my looms into a brand new studio in the Artist Quarter of the Arts Centre. The Arts Centre of Christchurch is situated in beautiful Neo-Gothic Buildings which had once housed the University of Canterbury. When the university relocated out into the suburbs in the late 1970’s/80’s a group of interested people canvased the City Council to turn the buildings into an Arts Centre. This was done and from that time on it became a great tourist destination integral to the heart of the city. The Artist’s Quarter consisted of a group of studios for Craft/Artists and featured weavers, quilters, woodworkers and potters, bookmakers and the occasional painter. It became very popular with visitors and I worked in my studio there until the earthquake of February 2011 damaged the buildings so badly that the Arts Centre was closed. It is only just now, in 2018, starting to open once again.
I really enjoyed working in the Arts Centre in my public studio. I worked pretty much every day, though did take some time out now and again. The Arts Centre was open seven days a week and we were expected to keep our studios open for all of that time. That didn’t bother me too much as I am never happier than when I am working in my studio. Tourists and other visitors to Christchurch could come into the studio and see the work, see the processes in action and just chat, maybe buy some art work or commission something for their homes. It was through having a public studio that I was able to attract tapestry commissions, which kept me busy. I earned most of my income throughout those years. I am very much a people person so I did enjoy the contact with people and never minded them watching me work. There were some funny times though, such as the day a woman poked her face through the door, took one look and sniffed “Tedious!!!!!” then disappeared very quickly.
Working in a public studio also gave me opportunities to meet people I would never have met otherwise. I had Chelsea Clinton and her grandmother in my studio one day when her father was visiting Christchurch on a public visit as President of the United States. Chelsea sat at my loom and did a little bit of weaving on the Millennium Tapestry which was being woven at that time. It was a big thrill and I promised her I would never use her photograph for publicity purposes and of course, I never did. Helen Clark the Prime Minister of New Zealand was in my studio twice over that period, once to cut the Millennium Tapestry from the loom and celebrate that event.
When a visitor to my studio expressed interest in commissioning a tapestry, I would spend time with them, explaining the process and techniques of tapestry weaving. I would show them photographs of my past work and what others had commissioned, talk to them about what they liked, what sort of subject matter they would be interested in and ask them to send me photographs that I could work from. I would often request a photograph of the space where they would potentially hang the work and ask also what size they would expect the tapestry to be to fit nicely into their space. Once I had received all the information I needed, I would work on a design concept, often two or three concepts, send them to the client and they would choose the one they liked the best. Along with the concept I would send them a quote for the cost of the work, the time it would take to weave and all details of how it would be woven, the sett, colours, types of yarns, etc. I would also ask them to pay 25% of the cost of the work upfront,
25% half way through, and the 50% balance on completion of the work. The clients were always happy with this process for payment and it worked well. Throughout the weaving process the clients could visit the studio at any time if they lived locally, or if they lived away, I would send the progress photographs from time to time and keep in touch. Occasionally the client would also come and sit down at the loom and do a little bit of the weaving themselves. I felt that when this was possible it would give them a personal investment in the work and they really enjoyed doing this. They would also be invited to cut the tapestry from the loom when the weaving was finished, another way of involving them personally in the work. I did enjoy doing commissioned work and I only once had a client who was not happy with the finished product. Luckily it was only a small work and I actually wove a second one for her in a different colour way. She was happy with that and I was able to sell the first piece to another client, so that turned out okay in the end.
Since my shift to Hamilton I have not sold much of my work, no tapestries, but just the odd painting occasionally. I am a super annuitant (retired) now, at the age of 74, and I am still able to earn some extra income from teaching drawing and tapestry too. I have two flatmates that help me pay the rent.
I do not have a Gallery representing me, but at present I am working on a major body of work for an exhibition in October of this year. This exhibition will include tapestries, drawings and paintings, and will take place at the Wallace Gallery in Morrinsville. Working in a private studio and not taking commissions has given me the opportunity to develop my own themes and hopefully extend my practice in other ways as well. I am hoping that this exhibition will give me a greater profile amongst the Art World in the North Island, as my work is not so well known here as it is in Christchurch.
Pricing my work has always been difficult for me. Here in New Zealand we do not have a history of tapestry weaving, and most people think cross stitch and embroidery is tapestry, so my work is always difficult to sell. I am not very good at trying to sell it either. I do not create my work with selling in mind, as I think that can stop an artist from producing work that is important and has something to say. Most people, I find, want to buy the ‘pretty pictures,’ landscapes and such, and it is often only the collectors and galleries that will purchase more serious work. The Christchurch Art Gallery purchased two of my collaborative tapestries in 2005 and that was great. This happened because the director at the time had a real interest in textiles, hence the sale of my work.
I do have Facebook and Instagram and of course, my website, but I have had no luck in selling from any of these. I have found that they are great for making contact with other artists but as I am not sure how to promote the work well on these sites, I have made no sales. I have been looking for an agent, for someone who has these skills to sell my work for me, but that has not eventuated either. New Zealand is a small market and I have not had the recognition amongst those who can afford to buy expensive tapestries, to enable me to sell them easily. It has been a feast or a famine for me since I decided back in 1985 to become a full-time artist specializing in tapestry. I have had some very good commissions for public art works in the past, and these have enabled me to keep working. I have lived alone since I left my husband in 1985 and made that decision to make tapestry and art my life’s work, and it has been a bit of a struggle at times, but I have no regrets about that choice at all.
My website needs upgrading as I am unable to go into it myself and make any changes and this is not satisfactory. I have started to develop a new website, but it is often put into the ‘too hard basket.’ When I do manage to create a new website, I think that I would not put the prices on the website but have them POA, Price on application, as once a price is stated so publicly then it must remain at that price and cannot really be changed, no matter the circumstances. In conclusion, I have been weaving tapestries now for 38 years with hardly any time without something on my loom, and I feel it is a bit of an obsession, but hopefully a healthy one. Being an artist has helped to keep me well and healthy and I hope to have many more years to produce more good work.
Marilyn Rea-Menzies lives and works in New Zealand. Marilyn says about tapestry: The architectural process of building the tapestry, actually constructing the fabric and image together so that the two are physically and visually inseparable, relates very strongly to the process of constructing and building our lives and our living and working spaces.