I have a number of commissions going into Christmas and, temporarily, all is in hand. I have my work in a couple of new venues, namely, The Kingston Glass Studio & Gallery and The Art Gallery of Hamilton Gift Shop.
The show at the Art Gallery of Hamilton went well - I sold a couple of pieces. I was really impressed with how the work was displayed. The lighting was fantastic!
I am starting to assemble wood and research for my two solo shows next year. They are at least ten months away but I am already starting to panic. I have to put together some 40 pieces, 20 of them with historical documentation and this on top of my regular work. However, I am really looking forward to these shows, especially History in the Making.
This year I have had a number of people bring me their own wood so that they could have something to evoke the memories of what that wood represents. To this end, I have made an addition to the website that answers some of the initial questions that arise when going down this road. Please have a look at the Custom Made page and let me know what you think. I would be interested in your feedback.
I know that this next year is going to be a busy one but I am still hoping to get some more videos completed and up on the site. I want to get the stick vase series completed and I have been shooting some raw footage on various tips and techniques that I have been using.
There is something that has been bugging me for sometime and this year it has come to the forefront. The issue is how I and my fellow crafts people and artists are treated on the one hand and how we treat others on the other.
The artists and crafts people in my area are regularly asked to donate to various causes, charities and events. We are seduced by free advertising, getting our name out and the inevitable tax receipt. Our group is extremely generous and we seldom say no. We are easy marks. I have a couple of groups to whom I regularly give my work and am happy to do so regardless of any return. It is the others in my area that wish me to give to them also.
Here is what happens. I am offered promotion of my website and work on Facebook, a picture on their website, a page in their brochure, a tax receipt, promotion at their event, a pair of tickets to their event, etc. We enjoy a wonderful correspondence up until I ship the piece. Then nothing. I check Facebook - nothing or maybe a passing reference - no web link. I check the website - nothing. Months later I receive a tax receipt and nothing else. I resolve not to get sucked in again.
One group that I had been giving a couple of pairs of wooden earrings to for several years contacted me this past spring for a donation. I said that I would give them the usual. They said that they wanted one of my artistic pieces. This was quite a jump up from a couple of pair of $20 earrings. I was promised some serious profile at their event, tickets, prominent position on their website and on Facebook and they even offered to come and pick up the piece. I selected some work that I could consider for this and let them choose the piece that they wanted. The work had a retail value of $1000. I put a reserve bid on it for $500.
In the course of events, my wife delivered the piece to their offices. Several days later, they phoned to see if they could come and pick the piece up. We explained that it had already been delivered. The first red flag should have gone up then. I checked their website and Facebook page - nothing. I was busy in the studio and the time went by. Sometime later a friend mentioned that my piece sold for the minimum bid of $500. I had not been sent tickets to the event as promised. I have still not received the tax receipt nor any word on how the event went. Not a thank you, nothing.
This was not the only time this happened this year but it perhaps the most extreme. I think that groups that want work from us should adhere to a code that respects those who donate. Here's what I would like to see: promotion, especially a web link, acknowledgement of receipt of the work, a tax receipt sent in a timely manner, a letter of thanks that includes how much the piece sold for and to whom it was sold including contact information where possible and a report on the event; how much was raised, how successful it was, etc.
On the other hand, I am troubled by how we crafts people and artists treat our galleries. Some in our group think that the galleries are ripping them off by charging a 50% commission (this is the standard - some are higher and some are lower).
First of all, the galleries perform a very valuable service - they sell our work. They have the trained staff that know their market, clientele, and the work that sells. They have the location and the biz smarts that many of us don't have. They allow us to do what we do best - we make things.
Secondly, the galleries market for us. They advertise and promote their stores and locations on a year round basis. They take care of this expense for us. They protect our work and wrap it and ship it across the world. All we have to do is send them more when they call.
Thirdly, they give us referrals. They send an interested customer to our studios, perhaps for a commission or for a piece that the gallery doesn't have.
For all of this we begrudge them their 50%. Some of us sell our work at a lower price in our studio than in the gallery. We encourage customers to come to us instead of going to the gallery. What some of us don't realize is that the 50% that the gallery takes is the same 50% that we must use to do our own marketing if we are to sell outside of the gallery. If we sell at a lower price than the gallery we are short changing ourselves twice - once because we are willing to take less for our time and secondly because the gallery will not continue to carry our work if we undercut them.
When a customer says that they saw our work in a gallery we should send the gallery a finder's fee. This is usually about 20%. The gallery has an investment in this customer and needs to be compensated. Also, if the gallery refers a client to a studio, this is not a freeby. The artist must take the time to establish with the gallery who is going to do what. If the studio is going to handle the whole transaction then the gallery should get a finders fee. If the studio is going to make the piece but the gallery will look after selling and shipping to the customer then the gallery should get its regular commission.
What we need are standard agreements that we can sign with those that want us to donate so that they will respect our wishes. We could establish this by saying that we will only consider groups that are willing to enter into this agreement with us.
Many of us sign consignment agreements with our galleries. However some very prestigious galleries have minimal agreements. It is up to us to develop this kind of agreement where we state in writing that we will work with the galleries in honouring our commitments to each other.
I have had a very good relationship with my galleries over the years. I have paid the finder's fee when I have been able to determine how the customer found out about me. I promote my galleries on my website and include all information on them such as directions, maps, open times, addresses, and other contact information. I have done joint marketing with some of my galleries. I have been well rewarded for my commitment to my galleries. They are my sales staff and have done an outstanding job in selling my work. So much so, that I encourage potential customers to visit a gallery as opposed to coming to the studio.
There, I've said my piece. Comments are welcome.