Sunday, March 11, 2007

Two Shows, Two Approaches

I am intently working to get ready for my two upcoming shows. One retail, and one wholesale. While I am making product for both, there is a different purpose and focus. For one, I am making samples, and for the other, inventory.

When you do a retail show, you make as much inventory as you can, and hope that you will sell much of it. But you are taking a risk as to whether or not the work will sell, or it will be the right work for the audience at that show. But you get to have the immediate feedback from the person who will own the item, or give it as a gift. You get to make the connection on a personal level with them. That can be extremely gratifying.
For the wholesale show, I am making up sample pieces that shops and galleries can order. This has been a big break through for me. I have always had the mindset that my work is one of a kind, and it is not really possible for me to make designs that can be reproduced. But in reality, I can make the same general design again and again, especially with my jewelry. I have done that. I have made quite a few of my koi waterfall pendants. Each one is different, but there is a sense of repetition to them. And there are other designs that I have made many times over.

What I am trying to do is to remove some of the variability. Each piece will still have the images or designs that I draw by hand, but I will not reinvent the wheel each time I make a piece.
Once I made the decision to do this I sat down with a pad of paper, and began drawing out sketches of the designs that I know have done well in the past, and in some cases a few similar but new designs. The flower drawings always do well, so I added a few other varieties of flowers. And I am thinking about the color options to offer in some of the more geometric patterns.
Why do I want to do this? There are several reasons. First it will make it easier for someone to order work from me. They will have a clearer idea of what I have to offer, and what it will look like. They will understand that each piece will still be one of a kind in many ways, but the general design will be repeatable.
I will be able to produce catalogs, and other materials for wholesale inquiries that are more consistent and again the work will have some sense of reproducibility.
And there is the inventory issue. I will not have to have inventory of many, many pieces to post and photograph for my page on I will not have to be constantly updating the pictures. I can make some of the work in advance in anticipation of orders, but I can also make the work to fill orders, as they come in.
My resistance to this in the past came from several places. I think first and foremost is that it takes some confidence in your designs and work to narrow down and focus. To be able to say, these are the pieces I make, and this is the work that people buy most frequently. After two years of retail shows with many of these designs, I can say which work people gravitate towards.
And it will simplify my life. I cannot continue to re-invent the wheel with each and every piece I make. I will still draw and color in each piece by hand. I love to draw, and I do not want to lose this part of the process. I feel like I put a bit more of me into each piece this way. I believe that part of what makes handcrafted work special is the energy that the artist transfers to the work in the process of creation. By holding onto these steps that I love, I will infuse more positive energy into each piece than if I were to create drawings and then transfer them onto the clay with other techniques. I have tried this. I have tried to do things with efficiency in mind. In the end, I am never as happy with the outcome as when I just do the drawings.
With Crafts Boston less than three weeks away, it may seem insane to be trying to create samples for my wholesale show now. Why not wait until after the show is over, and spend next month doing it? Well, there is the time line. I need to make samples, to photograph, to create a catalog, which needs to be printed, shipped to me, and then have some of those shipped out to Las Vegas. Ideally, I need to have everything shipped to arrive in Las Vegas by April 24th.
I am also trying to design my booth for the ACRE show. I will be renting much of my booth set-up instead of shipping my booth. In the long run, I think this is the best option for me. So I need to be deciding what I need to order, and putting those orders into the system within the next few weeks.
I can wait till after Crafts Boston for some tasks. Like creating an order form. I have already sent my mailing list and images into for the postcards. I am waiting for the stickers to arrive from Crafts Boston to do my mailing for that show. Can you see why it pays to have that mailing list ready to go?
So, if you don't hear from me for a few days, you will know why! I have an Art Salon meeting tomorrow. I am looking forward to that time with this great group of artists. Then there are doctors and dentist appointments on the calendar for next week, and all the usual activities to chauffeur the kids to during the week. I will try to squeeze in a few posts here and there to share with you some of what happens as I travel along these two paths simultaneously.

1 comment:

Libby said...

Best of luck with both shows. Beautiful work as always. I'm in awe of your juggling skills, art, business, family.