Monday, March 31, 2008

Crane Videos Up on YouTube

I have finished editing two videos about how to fold a crane from polymer clay, and posted them on YouTube for public viewing. I made quite a few beginner's errors, but I hope it still manages to convey the process reasonably well.

Folding Polymer Clay Cranes, Part 1


Folding Polymer Clay Cranes, Part 2

One of the biggest mistakes I learned, was thinking I could turn the camera sideways to film. While that might work wonderfully for still images to frame the image just the way you want, it doesn't work at all in video. The editing software accommodated my mistake, so, I had already invested lots and lots and lots of time by the time I uploaded it to YouTube. The result is a somewhat distorted image when posted on YouTube. Oh, well. No time for now to redo the filming. But if I ever decide to make a new video, I will have learned!

Another thing I learned; ten minute time limit on YouTube. The first cut of the video was about 16 minutes long. So, several re-cuts later, it is two videos, and a little choppier for all the re-editing. Have I set your expectations low enough yet?? :-)

I am sharing what I have learned in the last four plus years about how to fold polymer clay. Little tips and tricks learned with trial and error. My hope is that people will be willing to make a donation to this project in return for the information I am sharing. Granted, YouTube is all about free sharing of information and entertainment. But, it is also a fast, and accessible way for me to create a video about the cranes and get it out there. I am trusting the universe that if I share this, I will get what I need in return.

I know some will be surprised by my decision to share this process. It is something that I have built my business upon. It is a product that is distinctive to me. But I am ready to do this. The world could use a few more cranes. And, I do want to raise funds to support the Crane Project. It is counter intuitive perhaps to think that people will pay for something I have shared at no cost. But, people will pay an instructor, buy a book or magazine, or a DVD. It is kind of like the model some musicians are using. Pay what you want for the download. Trusting the universe. Not the kind of business model they teach in business school, but one that feels like the right one for me right now for this project. I will let you know how it turns out.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Margaux Lange, Whimsy and brains

I am a big fan of Margaux Lange's work. She uses traditional metalsmithing techniques, with new materials to create fresh and vibrant jewelry with Barbie doll parts as the focal point. I found Margaux's work shortly after a neighbor's outrage over what her daughter and my daughter's had done to Barbie dolls. Let's just say, it started with haircuts. This was the perfect antidote to my neighbor's outrage at the plastic surgery that had taken place. What Margaus is doing with Barbie, is artistry. But, it also has the whimsy appropriate to the material.

Margaux has a blog that I visit from time to time, and I just caught up this morning. She has a terrific post on the New Wave artists at ACC. We had some discussion of these artists at the Synergy conference occurring upstairs, excited by the possibilities this represented for new media such as polymer clay. But I for one, was not aware of how much controversy and confusion the presense of these artists was generating on the floor, among both the new and the established artists.

I think it is instructive of the turmoil of transistion. And if you think that the craft business is not in transistion, think again. As I posted last night, things are in motion, and if you don't move along with it, you will be left behind.

Artists like Margaux are embracing, and making sites like Etsy work. She references an indie retail show that was a complete bust for her. In all of this she is not sure where she fits as a craft artist at times. But, frankly, I think many of us feel that way these days. How much of the new do we want to try out? And how much of the traditional ways of being in business work just fine?

I don't think there is any one answer. I do think we have to continual monitor, measure and experiment. Trying out the new, and checking in regularly to see of the old is still working as well as it used to. Promoters and galleries are in a similar position. If they keep doing what they did ten years ago, they will find themselves in a fight for survival.

And we need communication. Without it there is distrust and animosity. That is clear from Margaux's post. It will not be resolved quickly and easily, but a peace will be reached eventually, most likely from a cross-pollination of the old and new.

I hear people sometimes speak dismissively of Etsy as a place where there is too many artists with low price and poor workmanship. That is there. But there is also work that is beautifully crafted, and not the least bit inexpensive. It hasn't been an outlet that works for me, but I have found success with, a site that is has it's share of derision. Both sites require more time and money spent than just putting items up on a page to make them work to best advantage. But both offer ways to maximize the chance to succeed. Showcases and Treasuries on Etsy. Featured items and co-op ads with

It is up to us to try and keep from feeling personally threatened by all the change that is going on around us. Change represents energy, and energy is what craft needs to stay alive and vital. When you feel yourself dismissing or criticizing some new faction in the world of craft, stop and ask yourself a few questions.

"Why is it bad?"

"How much do you really know about it?"

"Is there anyone involved whose work you respect?"

"What are they finding that you have not seen?"

The more conflict there is in the transistion, from either direction, the longer and more painful it will be. The more open exchange there is, the more chance there is for growth by all parties.

Things will always change. Are you open to change?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Maybe, This Stuff Works...

Just about five years ago, I started down the path of playing with polymer clay, and not long after, learning everything I could about the business of being in craft. You might think that someone with an MBA, would not need to learn much. But I have never in my life presumed expertise. And, after working in so many industries in the past, I knew I would have to learn what made the business of craft tick.

What have I learned in the last five years? LOTS! Some things the hard way, some the traditional way. But I certainly know more now than I did then. I'll try to summarize a few of those lessons here,

1. Doing matters. In the end, without action, it is nothing. Talk truly is cheap. Acting takes guts and often funds. But without taking action of some sort, nothing happens. And even when things go wrong....there is always an opportunity to learn, or to gain experience. Nothing has ever been a complete waste of my time. A few things came close. But I never came close to making those mistakes again.

2. The most successful are those who are usually just plugging away. You seldom see them complaining about much. Not because they are successful, and have nothing to complain about. No. It seems to me, that more often it is because they see little is gained from the complaint.

Complaining about ignorant or irritating customers, wholesale or retail, seldom does much except allow you to spend more time in a time drain. Complaining about artists who rip off others seldom is a well-spring for creativity. Complaining about how lousy the market is does not help you find new customers.

The successful are not Pollyannas. If anything they are hyper-realists. They realize that the only thing that is going to get them closer to their goals, whatever they might be is themselves. And no amount of complaining ever moved anyone forward. Usually it keeps them firmly planted in place as the rest of the world moves forward.

3. Perfectionism can be a crutch. It can be a way to avoid trying. It can be an excuse for item number 1. Good enough really is good enough. Don't get me wrong, craftsmanship matters. But, there is a line. Cross that line and you will never have anything leave your studio, and you will never be able re-coupe your investment in time if you try to sell your work.

4. Craftsmanship develops best in volume. Make something over and over and over again, and you will learn it and understand it in ways that are not possible in the first, the fifth, or possibly even the 100th piece.

5. Pricing never ever gets easy. You just reach a point of peace. You know you are covering your costs. You know your work will sell at a price. You are not selling it faster than you can make it. An equilibrium of sorts is reached, but it never maintains itself indefinitely.

6. Packaging matters. The best work in the world is enhanced with good marketing support materials. Some sort of packaging that tells your story or presents the work to best advantage will nearly always help sell the work a bit better than without it.

7. Understanding your customer is essential. It will help you answer so many other questions about how to bring your product to market. What shows to do? Pricing. Packaging. Colors. Designs. Where to advertise or publicize.

8. Even in a good market some will fail. Likewise in a lousy market some will succeed. Our success is more often influenced by our own actions than by those of the general climate. Those things matter, but they are not the only factor.

9. The world keeps moving, and so should you. New designs. New markets. New ways of getting your work out into the market. The internet is going to play an integral role as we move forward. If you are reading this you probably already sense this, if not know it and live it. Stay still and you will be left behind.

10. Going it alone is lonely. I love time on my own. But I can't say I would ever have learned as much, or gone as far as I have so far without the company of others.....virtually or in person. That new person at the show that you have been doing for years may know just the web guru that you need. The craftsperson who seems to be able to set up his booth with his eyes closed, because he probably can....will probably have some good advice if you are willing to listen. Sharing your dreams with others may mean that when they see the opportunity that is perfect for you, you will find out. Be a friend and make a friend. Your business will benefit, and so will you.

The title? It seems as if I should be in a lull right now. The economy is faltering. I had a large order with a catalog company cancelled. And yet, I am working like crazy. Orders are coming in. Opportunities dropping in my lap.

Why? Luck, perhaps. But maybe because I am working to stay focused on these essentials. I don't know. But I do know that the more I do that is alignment with the things I profess here, the more success comes my way. I get it wrong, like anyone. But I allow myself the error, and move forward. I hope that you can do the same with your business, and that it brings you the same satisfaction and success. I am looking forward to the lessons that the next five years will bring.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The 1000 Fan Model....modified

I found out about the idea of 1000 Fans through the Polymer Clay Notes blog. She recently pointed her readers to The Technium blog of Kevin Kelly where he outlines the 1000 Fan approach to building a business.

What he points out, and I believe can be easily missed, is that the 1000 number is a bit arbitrary. It is a number that represents a goal or target. A number that can be imagined, counted, created. It is a concrete representation of what you want to work towards to build a business that allows you to make a living.

So how many True Fans do you need to make a living?? That depends to some degree upon your business model. How do you sell your work? Retail or wholesale? Either way, what is your average sale? About what proportion of your sales come from repeat customers? Finally, what level of income do you want to acheive?

Based on looking at this information, I now have a target goal for a total number of wholesale accounts. 100. (0r more!) What I like about this is it establishes a measurable goal. Right now, I have 40+ active accounts. So, if I can get to 70 to 80 active accounts by the end of this year, I will be moving a good way towards that goal.

I like the idea of having a number of accounts as a target. I have been dissatisfied with measuring my business solely by sales, or by profitability. Those numbers matter, don't get me wrong. But, in my head, target a specific number of new, active accounts feels more viable than aiming for a growth in sales dollars. And in today's economic decline, getting those accounts lined up now, could potentially postition me well for when things turn around. And they will turn around. They always do.

This model of a number of fans can work for retail as well as wholesale. It can work if you teach to generate income. How many loyal students do you want to have? How many collectors? The bottom line is to convert your goal for making a living with your work into a target number. And then get busy, and work towards that target!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Judy's Brain Bits

This charming little phrase came out of a conversation with my husband this weekend. I was telling him that I couldn' t possibly cram one more thing onto my to-do list, or activities. I was full, beyond full, with commitments. If he tried, my head would explode, and he would have little bits of grey matter scattered, all over the place to clean up.

To which he replied, "Judy's Brain Bits". Over much laughter, we decided it would make a great name for a rock band!

So, what is on that list threatening the integrity of my cranium?

Preparing for ACRE is near the top. I have been trying to design the "invisible booth". A booth that seems to magically disappoear...fading back so all that is apparent is the work. Instead of trying to Wow! anyone with my booth design prowess, in an obvious way, at least, I am trying to Wow! them with my work. So I have been planning displays, determining what to rent, what I need to buy, and how to ship things. I have been figuring out which pictures I want to use for oversized images. I thinnk I have settled on the ones below.

I have been working on that mailing list, and deciding on a special offer to put on the postcard. That has to go out by the end of the week.
I need to come up with a "starter set". A way for someone to easily order a starter collection of jewelry to carry in their shop or gallery.
I have decided I will be putting together a video of how to fold a crane from polymer clay, that I will put on YouTube. My reason? To solicit donations for The Crane Project. More to come on the video later. The project is plugging along, slower than I would like right at the moment, with a few setbacks, but when I have a few hours, I am in the studio, cranking out cranes. I have about 200 cranes produced, but I have also applied for one grant, and have another grant application that has to be submitted in the next few weeks. The last one is with the Artist Valentine grant program I had written about earlier.

The other grant was with a group called Creative Capital Foundation. They have a great approach that focuses on developing artists in ways that will make their investment more meaningful in the long run. They also ask the artists to donate back to the organization a portion of any income generated by the project they fund. Paying back, so that others can benefit in the future. I will find out in June if I proceed to the next phase for that grant application process.

I have been playing around with a few other design ideas, one can be seen above in the green shibori necklace, in the second row, on the left. I am calling it Shibori Fringe.

Several orders have had to go out, and I am behind on one.
I had a wonderful opportunity to go up to New Hampshire for an evening meeting of the New Hampshire Polymer Clay Guild one night last week. I have gotten to know quite a few members through regional retreats, or through visits to the League of New Hampshire Craftsman's Guild fair at Mt. Sunapee, each summer. So, it is always nice to revisit and reacquaint, as well as to meet a few new faces. The reason for my visit was a roundtable discussion about the business of craft. Kathleen Dustin was also a part of the meeting, so it was wonderful to hear some of her insights into the market, pricing, and her approach to selling her work.

The things that remain on that list, untouched...

Making sure I have all the samples I need for the show.

Finalizing my price list, and getting it printed.

Figuring out how I will ship my materials to Las Vegas for the show.

Putting together an up to date press kit for the show.

Application for a display space nearby for next year....perhaps for the cranes.

I am sure there are many other things I have neglected, but they will pop up and make an appearance in that challenged grey matter if they are essential. And sometimes I forget a few things I intended to do, but the world never ends, does it? Perhaps those things were meant to fall of the list.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

History Lesson

At the recent Synergy Conference, during one of the panel discussions, Elise Winters commented that it would be wonderful if people could see the drawer full of "stuff" that precedes a more fully developed design. Her message was that work does not emerge fully developed. It takes time, trial, error, and a whole lotta ugly sometimes, before a concept reaches a point of "wow".

When I was preparing for my presentation at the conference, I had about 80 artists respond to a survey I put together. One of the comments that stayed with me was about a wish to have kept better records of the development of their work over time. Photos, etc.

Perhaps this is why I felt compelled to spend several hours yesterday, making my own little archive. And as I approach five years of polymer clay addiction, it is probably timely. That, and the fact that I finally had gotten around to setting up a Flickr account.

I highly recommend the journey. While much of the older work is truly cringe worthy, it is also intriguing to me to see patterns emerge. By collecting a selection of images from the hundreds and hundreds on my computer I can see a story. Watching how an idea starts in a rough form, and gradually develops with time. This collection shows some of the development behind my jewelry designs.

When you look at the series of crane pictures, it demonstrate what happens when you do something over and over again. You get better at it. The same can be seen with the vessels.

The earliest work is all over the place. Yet, there are certain things that appealed to me then, and appeal to me still. Who I was as an artist exists within some of that early work. I just couldn't see where I wanted to go with it yet.

In a way it is like any scrapbook of photos. When we look at old pictures of ourselves we cringe at the hairstyles and the fashion. But we also marvel at our youth. Perhaps we looked better than we thought we did at the time. Likewise, I cringed at designs, at finishing, at the photos themselves. But, I also see things there that I still connect with. Or some element that I want to go back and revisit again sometime in the future. Possibilities to still be explored.

I hope, in addition to providing you with a few good laughs, you will also see some of the process of how work emerges and develops. And I hope that you will make your own little archive of your history as an artist. What Elise is doing with her Polymer Art Archives looks at the overall history of the media. Our personal history is full of information as well. Take some time, and look the virtual scrapbook of your work. What patterns emerge? Where have you grown? Is there anything there that you want to revisit and go deeper into?

Thursday, March 13, 2008


My daughter and I were having a conversation the other day about working. She told me she could never be an entrepreneur. She could not imagine working so hard. I love it when someone makes an observation like this. It makes me pause and step back from what I am doing everyday, and see it in a new light.

I do work a lot. Every day. All seven. Too many hours by most any standard. But, for the most part, no one is making me work so much. No one but my own drive and desire. We recently had someone here doing some work on our house, and I commented to him about the hours he worked. He did this as a second job. His weekends, and long evenings were spent in a second job. He quickly questioned my comment in light of my own behavior. He had observed my workaholic tendencies as he spent time in our house. Once again, I had to step back and look at things from another point of view.

As my daughter and I talked, what I began to realize is that the "work" part of what I do is often around deadlines or drudge work that needs to be done. That is the part that most feels like work. But it is only a fraction of the time I spend "working". In comparison, I probably spend less time per week in these tasks that feel like work, than my husband spends at his job in a week. Most of what I do, I enjoy tremendously and so, feel pulled to spend the time doing it.

As I juggle several deadlines in the coming weeks, I am feeling a bit more overwhelmed and under more stress than I normally do. As I work towards these deadlines, I wonder if this is where the line between doing this as work, or as an avocation may lie. As a job, deadlines are regularly popping up on the radar. Show applications. Dates to ship work. Submission deadlines. Deadlines for running an ad, or doing a mailing. With a deadline we can't always follow our muse into the studio. Sometimes we have to shift our focus to the task that must be completed.

But, deadlines may also serve a purpose. A reason to push a piece further. A reason to get the photos taken. A reason to create a body of work. Without deadlines, sometimes things will drift about, to and fro, perhaps never getting the final focus and push to move it to completion.

Are you able to follow your muse at will? If so, do you sometimes find that it is hard to maintain focus or commitment? Or do you find that other obligations are your biggest challenge? Does the idea of the commitment of deadlines keep you from moving from a passionate avocation to an artrepreneur? Are deadlines a spur to move, or a roadblock in your life?

Monday, March 10, 2008


Can you ask for what you need or want? I don’t mean ask in the hypothetical sense, but really ask.
When I met my husband, it was love at first sight. We hit it off immediately. Within six weeks, he made a hypothetical proposal. Not the most romantic proposition, but he clearly wanted to know where he stood before he took the risk of asking for real. “Hypothetically” he asked, ”if I was to ask you to marry me, what do you think you would say?” Finding out what someone is likely to say before you ask the question makes it much easier to decide if you want to take the plunge for real. If the answer looks iffy, it is safer to avoid asking for real.
So what does this have to do with being an Artrepreneur? Well, let’s say you get people to your booth at a show. Or you get a gallery interested in your work. Can you close the sale? Can you ask for the order, or, do they walk away saying they have to think about it? And as they walk away, are you left saying, “What did I do wrong? Why didn’t they place the order?”
First, ask this. Did I ask for the sale?
Or, did I find out what the obstacles are to placing a sale? Did I ask, “What else do you need to know about my work to make a decision? Is there any questions I can clear up for you?”
At this moment, you are asking them to move from being on the fence, to making a choice. You are giving them a chance to voice their objections, if they have any. They may have a few issues that remain in their head. But, given the chance to verbalize these objections, they may, given a bit more space to talk, continue to talk themselves right out of their objections, and right into an order. If they had been able to leave the booth first, to think about it, the next thing they think about might be the work they are considering by another artist. You and your work are out of sight, out of mind.
The response might be, “I just want to be able to think about it a bit more. I think I have all the information I need”. At this point, you could thank them, and ask them to be sure to contact you if they have any questions.
Or, is it possible to create a sense of urgency? “This product line has been doing very well. I just introduced it, and already it is selling very well. As I receive more orders, my lead times will get longer. I know you are excited about this work, and I would hate to see you have to wait an excessive amount of time to get it for yourself.” Then wait. They may still move on. But, this new piece of information might just be the thing that helps them make a decision.
Asking for the sale is difficult. It is like asking for a date, or for another’s hand in marriage. We are risking rejection. So, we need to feel a degree of confidence to do that easily and comfortably. If we feel unsure about our work, our prices, our ability to satisfy the expectations of a potential customer, those words may not be able to comfortably fall out of our mouth. We rationalize our hesitancy by saying we don’t want to be pushy.
If you read through these scenarios, and say to yourself, “I couldn’t do that.” Maybe, you need to stop and ask why? Why not? Is there something about your work that feels uncertain? What is it? And, what can you do about it? How can you feel more confident about the work that you are putting out there so that you can comfortably have this dialogue with a potential customer? Answering this question may be what is needed to help eliminate the roadblock to asking for the order.
If you still feel like you can’t do it, ask yourself this, “Could I sell someone else’s work?” Think of another artist whose work you admire. Could you sell that work? Could you comfortably tell someone what is wonderful and unique about their work, and why they would want to own a piece for themselves, or place an order for their gallery? If you can, then your ability to sell is not where the problem lies. You need to fall in love with your own work. You need to believe that someone would want own your work, or carry it in a gallery. When you get to that point, these scenarios will naturally happen.
If you believe in your work. If you know your prices are fair and reasonable. If you know the customer loves the work. If all of these things are true, there is no reason in the world that you should not ask for the sale. You can deliver a value to the customer in return for the money they are spending. But, if you do not ask, do not assume that having good work is enough. Sometimes it is, but sometimes, people want you to ask!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Dream a Little Dream for You...

At the Synergy conference in Baltimore I taught a class called "Should I, or Shouldn't I?" The premise of the class was to help people decide whether or not they should take the leap into making their craft into a business. Now, you might think since the name of this blog is Artrepreneur, I think everyone should make that leap. But that is not the case.

I started out that class with two questions:

"What would you be doing in your life if you knew you absolutely could not fail?"


"What do you need to think about differently to
have the life your desire?"

I found these questions in a post on Tammy Vitale's blog. I was in the middle of preparing for the class, and these two jumped out at me as being the perfect way to launch my class. What is you dream? And what is in the way? In order to really decide what is right for you, these are questions you need to answer. I can tell you what my answer is, but it has nothing to do with your dreams, and your life. These questions, by the way, come from a book by Ken D. Foster, called, Ask and You Will Succeed: 1001 Ordinary Questions to Create Extraordinary Results

I wasn't always so clear on this idea that everyone needs to choose the right path for them, and where they are in their life. I guess you could say I was a little bit evangelical in my desire to have others experience how wonderful it is to be able to be in business as an artist. I was projecting my own enthusiasm on others. For someone who needed a nudge in that direction, and wanted to know that it was possible and worth the risk, I might have been on target in my encouragement. But for people who did not have that dream, I was completely misguided. If I subjected you to this, I can only apologize.

What I have come to understand, particularly as I began to explore this question of Should I or Shouldn't I, is that if it is not something you passionately or deeply desire, you should probably not travel down this rocky path. It ain't easy. To quote one of the artists who responded to a survey I did to prepare for this class:

“…, be realistic about what you'll earn. It's probably never going to be as much as you'd like. You should have a passion for what you're doing and the feeling that you'd shrivel up and die if you COULDN'T do it!”

There is more wisdom there than I could possibly express in a million blog posts. It is a struggle. But if you have to do it, you should! And if you feel like you can't, then it is matter of figuring out your particular roadblocks, and whether or not you can work around them.

So why did I decide I should? When I was a little girl, I spent hours upon hours drawing, and making things. I would sit on the front step with a friend, and we would draw. I would take classes as often as my parents would sign me up for one. I went through magazines that my mother bought, looking for craft projects I could do. I had to make things. I had to draw. Nobody ever had to compell me to do it.

But, when I was a deciding on where to go to college, and what to study, I found myself putting all that away. It was put in the hobby box, and it was time to get serious and pursue a career that would provide me with a paycheck. I was good in math and science, so I studied chemistry. Was I passionate about math and science. No. By my junior year, I knew I was going down the wrong path, but I was so used to doing what was expected of me, that I continued on. When I graduated, I knew I was not a chemist. Not in my heart at least. So, I went into sales, selling industrial gases. I was not necessarily drawn to sales either, but I knew it was going to be a better fit than the lab.

I went on to get my MBA, which I actually really enjoyed. Marketing has lots of room for creativity, and I enjoyed the math of finance and accounting. I went on to various marketing jobs. Always believing that I was going to find the job that was the right fit for me. I had thought the idea of starting my own business was attractive....but doing what??

I never did find the job that was the perfect fit. I wanted to fit it. I tried to make myself fit in. But I didn't. Sunday night became a time of dread. Back to work on Monday. Pretty soon it was Sunday afternoon, or Sunday morning. I would start buying the occasional lottery ticket when the misery index climbed. It was my way out. My path to my dream. If I win the lottery, I can go to art school, and be an artist!

Eventually, I was taking a career planning class at one of my jobs,....a particularly miserable job....and the main question we had to ask was, what is your ideal job. My answer, Artist. As if,.... But I could identify what it was about being an artist that I wanted in my job. Creative. Independent. Self-directed. Maybe I could find those things in another job?

I went on to one more job earning a regular paycheck. This time with a small start-up company. I ran marketing department, and had several people reporting to me. It wasn't too long before I found this job did not fit either. I also found myself pregnant soon after I started this job. A job that had me on the road often, and frequently over the weekend as well as during the week. I envisioned myself traveling all the time, and having a nanny to take care of my soon to be baby. I then thought about how I was away on weekends. How I was often working ten or twelve hours per day. Was this kid even going to know me? How much of an influence would I even be in their life? That was when things shifted for me. That was when I finally gave myself permission to step off the path that I was on, which I never really wanted to be on.

After this, it took me nearly ten years, and lots of false starts to find out what I wanted to be doing the rest of my life. But I did find it. I don't have the big paycheck or title anymore. But I also have never been happier. I am living my dream. One day I realized it had been years since I had bought a lottery ticket. I didn't need the escape hatch anymore. I was where I wanted to be.

So, are you living your dream? If not, what is in the way? What can you do to make your dream a reality? Even if you decide to pursue the dream it may take many years to get to the point that you realize that you are finally doing exactly what you want to be doing with your life. But, it does not mean that you shouldn't take that first step.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Tedium Central

I am doing a task I have known I should do for a long time, but never quite got around to it. I am building a mailing list of galleries. With the ACRE show coming up, I want to do what I can to maximize my success at the show....and the return on the money spent doing the show!

When I first starting selling at retail shows, I began my mailing list with the names of friends and acquaintances. It is the classic place to begin when you are starting from scratch. Over time, I added to that list with people who would sign my mailing list book at a show, or buy work from me at a show. Over time I have built up a decent size list.

Putting together a mailing list for a wholesale show is in some ways easier, and in some ways more tedious. With the internet, there is a wealth of information at our fingertips. But it means spending time sorting through all that information to find the shops and galleries that appear to be the best fit for your work.

How do you begin?? If you have done some wholesale sales, you have a start. If you have had any one ask you if you sell wholesale, they go on the list. Over the last several years, this list has grown to just over 100 entries. I have used this list in the past for an e-mail newsletter, and for my postcard mailing before ACRE last year.

But, the economy is tougher now. Now is not the time to put off doing the things we know we need to do to grow our business. So, I have spent the last two days adding to that list, and it now approaches 300 entries. How?

1. Magazines. American Style. Crafts Report. Looking at ads and gallery profiles. Sometimes it is an ad for an artist's work that has a list of several galleries that carry their work. If the work is similar enough in style (contemporary vs. rustic, colorful, etc.) than I add those galleries or shops to my list.

2. Internet. This is a multi-webbed approach, much like the internet itself. I might start searching for a gallery with Google, to find a street address, and then see several artists whose names come up in the search, because they have their work in that gallery. If I recognize an artist as someone whose work I think would complement my own, I go to their website and see if they have a list of shops and galleries. This can be a gold mine of information.

The other approach on-line is to go to artist's websites directly and see where they list to purchase their work. Inevitably, I find myself bouncing between these approaches. I may get a list of galleries from one site, but then I need to fill in information about the mailing addresses, and it is back to Google. Before long, I am on another artist's website.

There is no guarantee that the gallery or shop is still in business, or that you can find a good address. There is no guarantee that they will be going to the ACRE show. is a numbers game. The more people I get my work in front of, the more opportunities I will have to sell my work. If you want to think of it the other way, you have to get a certain number of rejections to get to the "yes!" This task could be building the number of "no's" to help find the "yes!"es.

Sometimes, when the economy is strong, and your work is in demand, you can coast along without doing all those things you know you should do, but never get around to. When the economy is slow, the most savvy will survive. And the savvy are working every opportunity they can to increase their chances of success.

The way I see it, I could spend this time whining about how crappy the economy is, and how so few people are buying craft......or.......I can get busy and find those people that are. This is not likely to be a stellar year for business overall. But even in the worst of times, some thrive. Sometimes it is because they are offering a product or service that is in greater demand when times are tough. Or, sometimes, it is because they put in that extra effort. They work to go against the flow, and build a strong business in spite of the economy. When the economy turns around, they already have momentum in their favor, and will likely be positioned for greater growth. That is where I want to position myself.

So I sit here at the computer. Googling. Sorting. Searching.

In the end, it will likely be time well spent.