More often than not, when someone makes a suggestion or recommendation to you it is with good intentions. This happens frequently in the art world. Friends, family, gallery owners, customers and collectors, they all want to share with you their opinion, offer a suggestion, or make a recommendation.
When we start out in our art businesses we are like sponges; absorbing everything we can, taking it all in, listening, and learning. Then we gather the courage to approach a gallery to sell our work or apply to a show. Yes! And if we are fortunate our work is accepted into the gallery or into the show.
So now we’re happily selling and a suggestion comes along; “Have you thought about making polka-dot widgets? I think they’d sell really well.” “I think you should check out the Twiddly Fest. It is great and people sell a lot.”
Hmm, okay, that isn’t something that I normally make or a show I’ve thought about doing but maybe I’ll try it.
So now you’ve made 30 polka dot widgets and after three months not a single one has sold. Or you try the Twiddly Fest and you question whether the other work is handcrafted or imported and wonder why everyone is buying the $5 and $10 blippities. Your work is nice, people have said so, but then they look at your prices and put it back on the table.
Good Intentions. What happened?
Swept up by the excitement of our work being purchased and being encouraged by people with an interest in our work we often take some steps that aren’t true to our nature. It is all part of the learning process and part of gaining self-confidence. Internally we question the suggestion or recommendation and yet sometimes we convince ourselves to give it a go even though we still feel a little unsure about it.
Believe me I’ve been there, done that.
When artist friends who are starting out are faced with these situations I recommend the following:
- Walk the show if at all possible. See for yourself firsthand if your work fits in (quality, price point, etc.)
- If you can’t walk the show, ask someone who has done the show what their impressions were. Ask about the promoter’s organization, layout, support, marketing and who the people are that come to this show. Doing a show is more than just how much someone sold.
- The same applies to a store or gallery that someone might recommend. Visit the store first. You’re ultra modern work may not fit in with the country decor.
- Make a sample of the suggested item to see if it can be constructed and/or if it really is what the person envisioned.
- Or make a few pieces to sell on a trial basis. If they do sell well you can always make more. If they don’t sell you now have all these widgets in your inventory with no place to go.
- Begin to learn the market you are trying to target with your work. Think demographics (male/female, age, income, city/suburban/rural and so forth.) A general idea is better than no idea.
- Go with your gut feeling. You can graciously thank the person for their suggestion or recommendation and tell them you’ll consider it. And you should think about it even if for only a short period of time. You’ll know if it feels right.
That last one isn’t always easy. It can take some time to get there because we want to see our work sell. We want to make money. We want people to enjoy our work. But if you don’t truly enjoy making it yourself all the best intentions won’t matter.