Its great to have friends who know a thing or two and are willing to share. Carla Lejade is a retired Marketing expert and a dear friend. Here is what she had to say in an interview about branding.
Brand (verb) – To mark indelibly.
“A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” (American Marketing Association).
Barbara: Why is it important to do branding?
Carla: Because the most important thing in selling something is getting repeat business, branding facilitates that. If you create a pair of socks, and people buy them, you want them to like what they bought so much that they come back and buy more. Your branding will begin to sell your product for you so you can spend more time in “creative mode” than “selling mode”. So, that’s why it is important.
Barbara: How do you brand yourself?
Carla: You have to decide what you want to communicate, what you’re selling and who you are. You need to be able to communicate this in one or two words. If you were in an elevator for example, and someone said: “Barbara what do you do?” you have to be able to answer in two or three words, exactly what you do. Maybe it’s “Portrait Weaving”, maybe it’s something much bigger than that.This is the hardest part of branding: to come up with what your mission is, what you are trying to do and communicate. This is critical.
Once you’ve decided what you’re trying to communicate, you have to use it repeatedly on everything that you create. Use this on all your communications and in your signature on your business cards, on your mailings and web presence…. Also, with everybody you talk to. This is who you are.
When you’re an artist it makes sense to use your name because being an artist is having your name identification. Take Picasso for instance, there was a certain way he wrote his name that everyone became familiar with. He had a very unusual, cool name that people remembered.
There are other artists that have done a really good job of branding themselves. Peter Max is a good example of a brand that uses his name with a very cool and memorable logo. It was also consistent with his art and it became synonymous with that colorful playful Australian.
Barbara: Does branding art differ from other sorts of branding?
Carla: I don’t think it really does differ from other sorts of branding because it’s the same concept: becoming known for something, or delivery of some service or product that is pleasing to people, so that they want to buy it continuously, or tell their friends about it. It’s the same thing: trying to get people to recognize your brand so that they will buy again. Brand recognition and awareness of your product leads to sales. The ultimate goal in branding is to get sales.
What I see quite often with artists is that they get caught up in the creative process, working in a vacuum. You’re never going to sell anything unless you establish awareness of your product and develop a demand for what you’re creating.
Barbara: What can I do as an artist to create awareness of my brand?
Carla: You could have a laundry list of things you should do. First you need to have a website. You can make one yourself or have one made very inexpensively and put up your art. I’m not suggesting its necessary that you sell your art on the website, it’s just a way of having your own gallery. You also need a business card with your brand, your name and your website. Everybody you meet and interact with should get this card. Suggest they look at your art on the website. This gives you a way of showing what you do without the necessity of being in a professional art gallery.
Create a letterhead and a logo: your envelopes, everything you douses the same logo. A logo can incorporate your name in a stand-out font. Use it as a master brand above your name to identify your brand.
Be consistent and use it over a long period of time. You don’t change your brand every year. You stick with it because that’s what you’re building on, it’s the foundation.
Live your brand to the best of your ability, but be true to yourself. I have a house called Casa Zappato which is tied to Red Shoe Living. Everything is about Red Shoe Living for me. You have to decide what the big thing for you is.
Some interesting sites about branding:
My first, and only commission, was a great learning experience. I had to create a contract/letter, deal with pricing, scheduling, ordering enough materials, deal with a client, design a piece with a client desires in mind and part with a piece I loved.
As I mentioned in my previous post about my commission Pam Patrie was particularly helpful. At Pam’s suggestion, I wrote a letter/agreement instead of a formal contract, with all the information I felt appropriate. I even designed my letterhead for this. The information in the letter/agreement included price, size, time frame, and payment schedule. I wrote that I would send a woven sample for approval before beginning the weaving. I told my client I would create more than one version of the design and she would choose which she preferred.
A 50% deposit at the beginning was requested and 50% at delivery. Some people like to do three payments, 1/3 to begin, 1/3 at the halfway point and the last 1/3 at delivery. You may also want to have a separate fee for the design process. I have heard of someone who designed a tapestry only to have the client take the design to another place to weave it. You may want to have a stipulation in your contract to counter this possibility.
I established the price up front. My client gave me her budget and I tried to work within that constraint. In the end I should have charged more than I did. I felt I couldn’t skimp and I had committed to the price, so I was good with my decision. This was my first commission. You may want to build a cushion into your pricing.
I use a square foot pricing system. The amount is based on size, sett and complexity. Some people I have spoken to believe that a commission should be a higher price point than work you do on speculation. If you decide to do this you can either add an amount on top of the price you would normally charge or add to the square foot amount.
You can read more about pricing in the following four articles:
I gave myself lots of time with my commission. I knew I had some previous commitments that would keep me from weaving for periods of time and I knew I would have other work on my looms as well. You can always finish early and pleasantly surprise your client. Finish late, and you will disappoint which is not a good practice. So, build in a good cushion. You may get sick, or have some other unforeseen occurrence that keeps you from your loom. Remember to build in time for designing, client approval, acquiring materials, weaving, finishing, mounting if appropriate, photography, shipping costs if appropriate or actual hand delivery.
The only limiting factor I had was the color of the proposed wall, which was yellow. When I saw a photo of the site I knew my decision to use bright colors was appropriate, as opposed to the clients first choice of tans and browns which I felt were inappropriate for both the subject and the wall color. When working with a specific site consider size, color, sett, scale, light and, of course, the image.
For my commission, at a sett of 8 epi, I figured on one half pound of weft per square foot. I actually weighed previous work of the same sett to come up with the weight. This assured me I would have enough yarn to complete the piece. If you are working in a finer sett you would use less, of course, and more for a courser sett.
After choosing yarn from my stash I got out my scale and was careful to order more than enough yarn. I also made sure I had enough warp of the correct size for my sett. I made a pipe loom specifically for the size of the piece I would weave, as I always do.
Dealing with the client
I was very fortunate to have a client who came to completely trust me and my judgment. In our agreement I was to weave a sample and send it to her for approval. This would have been after she received the two design options to choose from with yarn samples. When I spoke to my client after she approved the design, she told me not to bother weaving the sample. She completely trusted me and didn’t need the weaving. This client basically gave me carte blanche. This is the exception not the rule. Be prepared to have some bumps in the road. Know when to stick to your guns and when to compromise.
My client wanted a tapestry of her granddaughter. During a long conversation I learned about her daughter’s death and some details that lead me to my concept for the tapestry. I wanted to represent five generations of women in her family. The only person you see in the tapestry is her granddaughter Sophie. The other four are represented by imagery and words. When I told my client my concept she was thrilled. I had her send me images and anything else of importance to her, to help me. Among the items I received were lots of photos, a poem and words to a song. These came in drips and drabs as I encouraged her to send more. This gave me lots of fodder for designing. I took my time with this stage. I created several iterations of a design but nothing was clicking. As I mentioned in my article Commission: A Dream Client I decided to go to my local museum and see if I could find inspiration, which I did, but not where I expected to find it. Inspiration came from a photo in an art book. As for the palette, my client liked the colors of a previous piece she purchased from me: tans and browns. After speaking to her and seeing all the photos she sent along with a photo of where she planned to hang the piece, that yellow wall, I knew tans and browns wouldn’t be appropriate. I went for bold color, lots of orange, pinks, blues, and golden hair.
Here’s what I learned from the process:
Have an open mind. I asked for others opinions and found inspiration in an unexpected place. In the end I trusted my instincts.
Don’t rush the process. Give yourself enough time with a cushion for the unknown.
Use your client if appropriate. My client sent me lots of images that had meaning to her.
Respect your clients wishes, but know when to aim them in a different direction. I completely changed the palette and added the representative imagery.
Don’t compromise your artistic integrity. I would not have taken this commission if I didn’t like the subject matter. I’m a figurative artist, I wouldn’t do a landscape for instance.
I kept a record of my process from the contract to the completed work including all the iterations of the design, yarns used, images considered, used and not. I made a copy of much of this and made two identical books, one for myself, and one for my client. She was very happy to receive the process book. I use my copy when I have a solo show. It helps people understand the process of designing. I also have daily photos of the weaving. I did not include these in the process book but I could have.
As an aside, a nice personal touch is to have notecards or postcards printed of the work to give to the client. What better advertisement than a happy client giving a card of your artwork that they love to their friends and family .
Make it go further
In the commissioned tapestry is an image of a blue bird. I decided to weave the bird as a small tapestry I could put up for sale. It was already designed, I had the yarn, why not.
This was a wonderful experience and I feel very fortunate that it went so smoothly. I’m sure if I do another commission it won’t be the same. Commissions are a great way to stretch your skills and abilities. Just be sure you are being true to yourself and when you write a contract you give yourself enough time and pay.
My First Commission: A Dream Client and an Intimate Story to Tell (Reprinted from Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot Magazine )
In the summer of 2014, I attended Convergence, the Handweaver’s Guild of America’s bi-annual conference. Over the past 20+ years I’ve been to several of these conferences and have always come home inspired. That summer, I came home with so much more.
I always bring my business cards and 4 x 6 postcards of my work wherever I go, including Convergence. During a series of four short classes on selling and marketing I kept a small pile of the postcards on the table in front of me for people to see and take. A conference participant from across the aisle came over and asked for one of my cards. She also asked if I do commissions. I replied: “I would consider it.” That’s code for: I’ve never done a commission before; I’m interested if I can weave something interesting and challenging.
Just one day after my return home from the conference an email arrived from Shelly, the woman who asked for my card in class. She was inquiring about prices and the availability of three tapestries that she saw on my website (that was a first). I was quite surprised and very excited. Although I’ve been weaving tapestries since 2003, sales have been few and far between. I gave Shelly the information she requested and asked if she was still interested in a commission. In her response email, she chose one tapestry and sent a few “photos to consider for a possible commission.” Shelly asked that the subject for the commissioned piece be her young granddaughter, Sophie. In our correspondence Shelly gave me a modest budget, enough to do a small portrait. Then she received the tapestry she purchased from my website. In her next email, Shelly wrote that she loved the tapestry and would like me to portray Sophie in similar style and colors to the piece she had purchased, a line drawing in blacks and browns. Shelly also wrote that she likes pastel colors.
In subsequent emails Shelley shared a bit of her life with me. I learned that her daughter, Sophie’s aunt, had died just a few months earlier after a protracted illness. Shelley was “looking for something to bring a smile.” Then, she quadrupled her budget! I was so excited! This was an incredible validation of my work. And now I had the space to be creative and the opportunity to use my art to “bring a smile” to the family. Shelly was a dream client. We spoke several times about her wishes for the tapestry but she gave me carte blanche with the design.
When Shelley told me of her daughter’s death it immediately became obvious to me that I needed to portray generations of women in the family, including Sophie, Sophie’s aunt, Shelley and Shelly’s mother and grandmother. I decided the only literal figure would be Sophie with everyone else portrayed symbolically. Shelly liked the idea; we talked about symbols that would represent each person. Over the next few weeks, at my request, Shelly sent me many family photos and other information for me to sift through.
Because this was my first commission I thought I needed to do some research about the process. I spoke with people I know who have done commissions. I also asked on the tapestry list. Pam Patrie was particularly helpful. We spoke on the phone and she had some great suggestions regarding contract ideas. At Pam’s suggestion, I wrote a letter/agreement with all the information I felt appropriate. It was in a letter form instead of a formal contract. My client received the letter, signed it with no questions and mailed it back quickly with a 50% deposit.
The design process included many hours of work and rework and getting feedback from friends and fellow weavers. I used a combination of working with images in Photoshop using filters and printing out images for cutting and pasting. Once I had my first working design I printed it in different colorways. At one point I thought I had “The Design” but something about it irked me and I just couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me. I put the design aside and went to the Portland Museum of Art for inspiration. While in Portland I combed the local used book stores for art books. When I returned home I showed my husband the what I had found. While flipping through a book of paintings by Peruvian artist Fernando de Szyszlo, I had my “Aha!” moment. I realized that it was the design’s background that was bothering me. I now knew what to do with the background! I cut out the image of Sophie and laid it on top of one of de Szyszlo’s paintings. It made the image of Sophie pop! I took a small section of the painting and reinterpreted it as I wove.
The tapestry is 44 inches tall by 19 inches wide, set at 8 ends per inch with a seine twine warp. I used several threads of mercerized cotton floss for the image of Sophie. The rest of the tapestry is wool. The luster of the cotton is juxtaposed against the depth of the wool allowing the image of the child to stand out. I sewed the slits as I wove.
The piece was woven on a 6-foot tall loom with legs of varying lengths. I started with long legs and, as I wove up the warp and needed to lower the fell line, the legs got progressively shorter. I also changed the height of my sitting position as I needed to rise with the weaving, going from a low stool to an old adjustable draftsman’s chair. The loom is a black pipe frame with threaded rod to tension. It’s an Archie Brennan design that can be found on his website: brennanmaffei.com.
I finished “Sophie” in early spring but had a solo show at The Center for Maine Craft in Gardener, Maine in April and May, 2015. I wanted the tapestry to be part of my show. Shelly was extremely gracious and agreed to delay taking possession of the tapestry for two additional months. I was thrilled to include “Sophie” in my show.
Finally, in May, Shelley and her husband arrived at my studio to pick up Sophie. At that moment, I saw the first of many smiles that my tapestry, “Sophie,” would bring to Shelly’s family.
This was a great learning experience. I had to create a contract/letter, deal with pricing, scheduling, ordering enough materials, deal with a client, design a piece with a client in mind and part with a piece I loved. I will write more about this in a later post.
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”