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.
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.