Monday, March 16, 2009

Are you art market ready?

Attn: Art Market needs Local Artists.
You've signed up and paid the fee, but is your booth market ready? Art Market crowds (especially in smaller cities) are a bit different from those that frequent art festivals or shows. The weekender is looking for a quick, Saturday-feel-good purchase, and is not likely to spend the big bucks on a whim. My advice: plan a smaller booth layout, reminiscent of your larger festival booth, but not as expansive. Focus on a variety of your smaller items and as always, make sure there is something there for even the youngest collectors!

Fine artists have a tougher time moving their work at markets because much of their work is out of the "quick purchase" price point. For these artists: how can you reproduce your images or produce the same quality of work to make it affordable on a smaller scale or are there items that you can make that are cohesive with your style, but are more cost efficient for an art market?

*Not all art markets are profitable for artists. A good rule of thumb for lining up this season's market schedule is to check out market websites and call fellow artists who have participated in the past. Ask questions! Find out if there are any other artists signed up in your medium? Then pick one or two markets that you feel comfortable with, sign up and advertise your butt off through postcards or fliers, email, and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Don't leave the success of an art market in the hands of the organizers, build your booth around your audience needs and get the word out!

Recommended Art Markets in the Greenville, SC area:
Happy Art Marketing!
*artwork above is by Billy FRED Hellams (

Monday, March 9, 2009

Caps and Hats Comfort Project

Caps and Hats Comfort Project

I am collecting caps and hats for people, young and old, who are battling cancer and are going through the troubling side affect of losing their hair. I can’t imagine how devastating that is for someone! I have lost several relatives to cancer, and I have seen how it impacts family, friends, and the community. I can’t provide a cure, and I’m not one to raise money, but I can provide some comfort.

If you would like to help me, please attach an encouraging note to a cap or hat (handmade or purchased) and send it to:

Caps and Hats Comfort Project
PO Box 1
Slater, SC 29683

I will be distributing the Caps and Hats to facilities treating these guys and gals in need. If you have any questions, please call (864) 320-3002

Thank you for your generosity!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A little bit of strategic planning can save your festival season!

Have you planned out your festival season? Art Festival season is coming quickly and deadlines for applications are looming. The economy has changed since the last season, which wasn’t a happy indication of things to come, was it? Many artists saw a huge dip in sales, and this year, some of the big shows are taking hiatus due to lack of sponsorship and anticipated dips in sales and participation. Art in the Park (Greenville, SC) – case and point. How are you going to weather these tough times? Here are some tips for strategic planning to set yourself up for a successful festival season in 2009.
* Don’t over commit.
Booth fees and art supplies are expensive. It is better to sign up for a few bigger shows and focus on doing well, then dividing your resources over too many big shows and taking a chance. If you depend on shows for income, then this is especially important for you. Focus on those tried and true shows, and add a few small shows in your region to your schedule. Maybe try some of the one day shows or one of the local weekly or monthly art markets that have low booth fees and little time commitment. People are not spending as much money as they used to, so the likelihood of seeing a return on an out of town, high cost festival might be unrealistic. Galleries and collectors have modified their shopping habits, but have you modified your strategies to accommodate? How are you going to modify your methods to keep sales up?
* Vary your inventory. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into an artist’s booth where nothing was under $30. This is a giant mistake that artists make across the board, and I have never understood why. I advise my clients to have three categories of work in their booths: 1) high end items, 2) middle items, 3) bread and butter items.

The chance of selling higher end items is fairly low, but there are still people with disposable income, so don’t neglect their pocketbooks! Higher end items take longer to produce, and take up more space in your car when traveling, so don’t waste valuable space in your booth or creative time with these items for festivals. (Save them for the gallery shows.) Only pack a few high end items for festivals and when designing your booth for this season, make sure they are a focal point inside your booth to draw people to your space. Think of them as signs or billboards that need prominent placement to draw attention.

Middle items are those pieces that may cost as little as $40 and as much as $250. These items are your pieces with tried and true steady sales. The majority of your booth should consist of middle items. For many artists, these items will be sales that will make your festival worth while.

I am a firm believer in Bread and Butter items. I think even the most prominent artists should have some sort of item that is affordable to the youngest of collectors. Bread and Butter items are smaller items that generally cost $30 or less (ideally $15 or less). These items, with the right display, will sell even if nothing else moves.

I’ve seen several artists who take advantage of this method. One of my favorites is Jude Stuecker. ( Jude is a fiber artist from Asheville, NC. Her booth set up is ideal. Her bread and butter items are small fabric collage pouches. She also has middle item wall hangings, clothing and a couple of larger pieces available.

* Advertise
Never, ever leave it up to the festival to advertise for you. Always have a mailing list sign up in your festival booth to build your mailing list. Make sure you are on Facebook and keep a running blog. Don’t wait until the week of the show to start advertising, either. List your upcoming shows on your site, and send periodic updates out to the masses. Invest in postcards (include your website on them!)or a flier of your upcoming festivals which can be placed in your booth and mailed out to your list. Email your local paper’s editor and give them the scoop, especially if you have something big coming up. Are you going to be at a prestigious show or are you working on a big piece? Are you going to be in a gallery opening or in open studios? Editors are always looking for something interesting to write about. Get on their radar and make sure local editors and regional magazines are on your mailing list!

There are so many factors that must line up just perfectly for any show to go off without any hitches. But you can take some proactive measures to increase your chances of a lucrative show. One last thing: people like to connect with the artist. At shows, make sure you are interacting with the audience. If people aren’t coming into your booth, make sure they can see your smiling face. Wave. Welcome people in. Put out a bowl of suckers for the kids. Pass out postcards with upcoming show dates to adults and invite them to sign up for your email list. And if the show is a complete bust, don’t throw up your hands in disgust. Take some time to get to know the other artists, and discuss the show. Why wasn’t there an audience? What could you, as artists, do for the next show to make sure there are more people? I can never guarantee a successful show, nor can a festival organizer, but learning to take charge and making some time for strategic planning this festival season will go a long way to weathering this economic storm.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Overcoming Creative Road Blocks

There are moments in ever artists’ career where he or she questions the ability to move forward as a creative. This often comes out of a personal catastrophe which becomes an emotional creative block, not the easy kind you can easily push out of the way, but a "the life just dealt you a big emotional blow kind" and left it sitting in the middle of the road. These boulders hit us hard, like a death in the family, a relationship break-up or long-term depression.

As an artist consultant and creative coach, I work with clients to press through the trials of being a successful artist. The nature of creativity is that it is often volatile and often artists need an outside force to push them along and keep them on track with their career goals. Several of my clients have had to bust through emotional blocks, so I thought I’d pass on the methods that carried them through.

All artists approach creativity differently. Some artists approach their work from a technical standpoint: the method, the technique, but some artists are blindly following the heart through their medium, and when emotional turmoil strikes, their creative flow is completely deflated. My suggestion to those of you who find yourself creatively blocked because of an emotional pitfall, is to swing the other way. Seek out the technicality or method of your craft. If you are a painter, refer to the classics to find your pace, or go to the park and sketch forms. A photographer? Look through your lense to find line and space relation, instead of inspiration. A potter? Go back to hand building 101. Pull an image from a pottery magazine and recreate the form.

What if you don't feel like crafting at all? Research a new means of marketing your work through a social media outlet such as Twitter or Facebook, or check out a new blogging site. Do you need to reorder business cards, or do you need to research art shows and festivals? Focus on the business aspects of your craft for a while and take a break from creating. Don't lay down your pencil and retire your craft, just continue from another place of being and stay on your track to success. Sometimes, emotional blows can keep artists from creating anything, ever again, so it's important, during the time that you really don't feel like working, to just keep pushing your art career forward and not stall out.

And by the way, this method works well for those on the other side of creativity as well. If you work from method and technique, and find yourself stumped, allow yourself some time to play with your tools. Forget how they are supposed to be used, or what your line should look like. Forget about meter or pace. Let your hand lead you outside the lines, pull out a journal and free write, or try collaging from old magazines and photographs. Take some time to roam and eventually, over time, you'll veer back on course.