Friday, May 31, 2013

Interview on Beading Daily...

Are you a member of Beading Daily?  It's a wonderful resource for all things beady that shows up every day in your inbox!  (They also have a thriving community of beaders who participate in the forums and boards.)  I recently wrapped up the Notes From the Other Side of the Counter series of blog posts and had an interview with Jen VanBenschoten, the editor of Beading Daily.  If you're interested in checking it out, CLICK HERE.

Here are links to the ten-part blog series:

1. Letting Go of Ego.
2. Doing Homework.
3. First Date.
4. Dress to Impress.
5. Break It Down.
6. Playing Hardball.
7. Red Flags.
8. The Bitter Pill.
9. It Takes Two to Tango.
10. Mind Your Business.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Foxy Epoxy Giveaway on the Allegory Gallery Blog...

You could be a winner!  (Actually, three of you could be winners!)  In celebration of Kristal Wick's second book coming out, Allegory Gallery is hosting a giveaway of three copies of the new book, "Foxy Epoxy"!  Your's truly was a featured contributor in this book; I couldn't be more honored or thrilled about its release!  To find out how to win, CLICK HERE.  There are lots of ways to take home this prize!

New Classes at Allegory Gallery...

We've been working like crazy at putting together an intriguing and interesting line-up of classes this summer at THE ANNEX!  That's right, these classes will take place at the Annex space.  It's far from being ready, but the idea of having folks come in for classes sure does light the fire under one's bottom!

Anyway, there are classes listed taught by Jan Durkin and Maria Richmond!  It's very exciting to see the classes shape up.  I like that we're one of the only places to take such classes in the area.  Many of the classes are marked way down, especially compared to national conventions or big trade shows.  We feel strongly about encouraging creative education in the area and even though we're not making a ton of money off of the classes, we feel good about bringing such worthy programing to the region.

We will also be hosting classes on paper crafts and poetry!  So keep your eyes peeled for that!

To find out more about the classes that we'll be hosting at the Annex, CLICK HERE!  You can sign up online or in person at Allegory Gallery.  Whatever is easiest for you!  But please sign up early to reserve your spot and to let us prepare supplies and tools.

Flash Fire Challenges...

I was talking with a group of artists and writers not too long ago and we were all joking around about how we were "professional procrastinators" and how our best work is achieved in the scramble of the eleventh hour.  That little discussion planted a seed in my brain.

Not long after that, I recalled a conversation I had with artist, Amy Myers.  I met her years ago through a summer residency program and was fortunate enough to work under her guidance.  She said that one of the ways that she keeps motivated is by setting deadlines for herself and "psyching" herself up for a show, even if one isn't scheduled.  Not only did it keep her prolific, but the pieces never "went to waste", as they somehow always found a venue or project to be showcased in.  I guess it's a form of active visualization.

And it got me thinking... why not create a series of blog challenges to help grease the wheel?

I participated in the Fusion Beads 30 Day Bead Challenge and was popping out new work left and right.  I had a lot of fun in the process.  The daily challenge was at times... a little too challenging, and I didn't think that I could keep up with it for an extended period of time, let alone inspire others to play along with me on such a tight timeline.  On the other hand, if I allotted too much time, it'd lose the urgency and therefore lose some of the magic.  Frankly, if there are months and months to work on a project, I usually space out until the last minute anyhow.  (See the first paragraph of this post.)  So, I thought that I would reignite the old Weekly Word template and post a new prompt every Monday.  It would give me and those who are interested seven days to make "something".  It doesn't have to be anything overly complicated or time consuming... it just has to be something made inspired by the prompt.  It could be a piece of jewelry, a drawing, a poem, a song... anything.

As far as the prompts go, I was going to use words on pretty background again... BUT then I thought that I would take the opportunity to share some of my favorite artists, pieces of artwork and fashion designers.  If you're looking for a more cerebral and literary-based challenge (with a longer timeline), check out the Inspired by Reading Book Club.  It is a monthly challenge where participants are asked to create something inspired by the assigned reading.  To find out more about that, CLICK HERE.

Anyway, the Flash Fire Challenges are meant to spark creativity quickly... thusly, the "Flash Fire" part of the name.  The aim is for this project to be fun and informal.  If you make something for the challenge, leave a comment (to the corresponding post) with the link to your creation or send me a picture.

On a side note, the banner I made to designate the posts includes a background that I originally made for an online competition that I didn't win.  Folks were asked to redesign the banner of a blog and I ran with the "sparks of creativity" theme.  Even though I didn't take home the top prize, I liked what I made and decided to tweak it and give it a new life.  See!  The piece didn't go to waste!  Just like Amy said!

The first prompt will appear on Monday, June 3rd and will pick up from there.  Even if folks don't get involved, I'm still happy to just share what inspires me.  With that said, I do hope that you consider to join in on the fun!

I can't wait to see what you make!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Now In Print...

I used to be a fairly prolific writer for jewelry-making publications.  When we opened the shop, I took an "unofficial" sabbatical from designing projects for books and magazines.  There simply weren't enough hours in the day.  Even though I cut back drastically, I still managed to squeeze two contributions under my belt for 2013 so far.

I created three original designs (and a few variations for some of the projects) using two-part epoxy clay for Kristal Wick's new book, "Foxy Epoxy".   My pieces are featured amongst a menagerie of beautiful wearable art by some of the industry's most innovative designers.   I had a lot of fun and think the book turned out wonderfully.  CLICK HERE to find out more about the book!
The next book features a project that I originally created for BeadStyle magazine.  They reprinted the project in a book called, "Easy Beading: Volume 9".  The necklace is called, "Twilight Necklace" and is a multi-strand piece dripping with different kinds of pearls.  It also features a beautiful metal clay focal by Gail Crosman Moore.  CLICK HERE to check out the book.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Beaded Links...

A Bead A Day
Ever made a one-of-a-kind, intricate piece of jewelry and wished you had a mini version for every day?  Why not?  Lisa shares a new "every day" project. Jewelry Making
Load up with three brand spanking new earring tutorials!

Art Bead Scene
Check out Leah C's gorgeous bracelet, inspired by this month's challenge piece!

Beading Arts
Wire Month continues on Beading Arts, which features a simple project to wire up some button earrings for yourself!

Resin Crafts Blog!
Have you tried the new specialty-film, Jewelry Attitude?  It transformed an old beaded necklace!

Snap out of it, Jean! There's Beading to be done!
Jean got a Beading Pal from Ezel Findings and wants you to know how GREAT it is!

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Have you heard about the Prayers For Richie Fundraiser?  Andrew spotlights this very worthwhile cause created by Kathy Van Kleeck.

Notes from the Other Side of the Counter: Part 10: Mind Your Business...

In the previous section of this series, I covered what an artist can do to help a shop owner and briefly outlined how they can be proactive in their working relationship.  In this post, I'll discuss when and where it is important to draw the line.  (The title comes from something that Byron Katie teaches, but isn't directly reflective of her methods or "The Work".)

This is also the last official installment of the Notes from the Other Side of the Counter series.  If there are any questions that were not covered in the ten-part feature, leave them as a comment and I'll do a follow-up post to answer them.

10.  Mind Your Business.

Sometimes the proverb, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" couldn't be more true.  While the best working relationships between a gallery and an artist are ones built on a dynamic synergy and hard work from both parties, sometimes too much "help" can be a bad thing.  It's important to remind yourself, from time to time, of the roles each of you outlined when you both initiated the arrangement.

When you agree to work with a particular shop, you're making a deal with them to represent your work in the way that they operate.  Each shop is different and you have to honor how they conduct their business.  If you don't like it or don't approve, it is best to forego working together in the first place and find another venue that suits you better.  If you have questions about your role or what you should do, you should ALWAYS go directly to your contact person in that establishment unless informed otherwise.  Deal directly with the source.  Do not take it upon yourself to go above their heads or involve outside forces unless absolutely necessary and it is completely unavoidable.  It can cause a lot of frustration and sour a good thing.  Trust who you are working with and keep an open line of communication.

Make sure that you are both on the same page.  For instance, it might be tempting to run your own promotional campaign separate from the store, but you should check with the shop owner first and get their feedback.  They might have a very particular vision of how to market and brand the pieces within their store based on their experience, and by taking it upon yourself to do it yourself, you may be undermining their efforts.  I had a friend once create a flier (in Comic Sans font, no less) for the store that said we had "cheap crafty stuff".  Even though she meant it in a good way and only had the best intentions for the shop, it was not inline with how we wanted to market ourselves.  For instance, Dean & Deluca markets themselves as purveyors of gourmet grocery items and although they certainly have "yummy grub"– that particular phrasing doesn't match up with the image that they've built their business upon and probably won't make it into any official ad campaigns in the foreseeable future.

I often hear horror stories (usually from disgruntled artists) about shop owners who are making mountains of money off of the hard work of maltreated artists.  A dangerous "us" against "them" mindset is bandied about.  The truth of the matter is that there are far more lucrative ways to make a living.  Most shop owners are in the business because they love art and want to perpetuate beauty.  I can't think of anyone who runs a creative space who has purposefully set out to mistreat or take advantage of others.  Don't make assumptions about someone else's motivations or assume the worst about them until they've given you definitive reasons.  Most conflicts come from a lack of communication and poor clarity.  Not everyone is out to screw you over and make a buck off of you.

Remember that as an artist, it is not your responsibility to run the creative space.  Unless your help is requested, it's important to respect the shop owner's vision.  You can offer assistance and give feedback, but ultimately the shop is their baby.  And if you want to play with their baby, you've got to play by their rules.  When we opened our shop, it seemed like everyone who walked in the door had an opinion of how we should run it.  After awhile, I would cringe when I would hear statements that began with the words, "You should....".  I understand that they were just trying to be helpful and wanted to give advice that they thought would make us successful.  But when we opened the gallery, it wasn't to fulfill what others had envisioned, but to actualize our own hopes and dreams.  Cue Aretha Franklin and R-E-S-P-E-C-T that!

10.2:  Notes from the Other Side of the Counter.

When I began writing this series of posts, it began as a list of suggestions for a friend who was worried about approaching a gallery.  I wanted to give support and demystify a process that can sometimes be intimidating.  My advice is based upon my observations and experiences and is often times merely applied common sense.  The words that I have written are by no means the be-all and end-all authority. Every business operates differently and I invite readers of this series to take what is useful and disregard what isn't.  For those of you who have experience running a creative space or have experience as an artist working with the stores and galleries to sell and consign your work, I encourage you to share your knowledge and advice.  We were all beginners once.  And for those of you who are just starting out, I applaud you for taking the next step and wish you much success in your future endeavors!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Notes from the Other Side of the Counter: Part 9: It Takes Two to Tango...

I debated on what to call this entry.  One of the more direct titles was, "Make It Easy".  It picks up after an arrangement is agreed upon.

9.  It Takes Two to Tango.

One of the most common problems that I see in regards to a fledgling relationship is that once an artist lands a spot in the gallery, they dump their work on them and abandon it until it is time to collect their check.  While this can definitely work for some arrangements, what I usually see is that there's an initial burst of interest in the work and then it drops off or plateaus.  The best relationships of this type don't simply end with the initial transaction, but are in a sense a collaboration between the gallery and the artist.  The artist must take an active stance in continuing to promote their work.

If you already have a group of established customers from when you were selling your work independently, let them know where to find your work.  Celebrate the fact that you have a new working relationship!  If you have been selling online, sometimes your customers will enjoy being able to see a bigger selection in person and will make a point to swing by if they're in the area.  We had a group of people who were on their way from Michigan to Washington DC make a specific detour to stop by the store and see an artist's work in person.

It makes my stomach drop when an artist sends work and it's piled in a box without any indication of what anything is.  Be organized.  Not only will it help your own records, but it'll also help the shop owner to manage your work better.  It'll also save them time in trying to figure out what it is.  I also encourage artists to enclose an inventory list of what they are sending.  (Enclose two copies and have whoever receives the work to sign a copy and send it back for your records.)  Ask the shop if they want you to label the pieces yourself or have them label them.  If you label the pieces yourself, it is good to include a SKU.  A SKU is a "Stock Keeping Unit" and helps the shop keep track of the product, price, and quantity.  It doesn't have to be fancy or be a bar code, but sometimes it's as simple as the initials of the the artist, a letter identifying what kind of piece it is, and the number that corresponds to how many were sent.  Sometimes an artist will include the shop initials as well to differentiate different accounts and include a date.  For instance, if Jane Doe sent 12 necklaces to the Jewelry You Wear Emporium in 2009, the SKU for the seventh of the necklaces might have a code that looks like: JYWEJD09N7.  Even if they want to label the work, write it on the bag or a temporary tag when you send in your work.

While I'm on the subject of sending in one's work... after I've established a relationship with an artist, I don't really care too much about the packaging an artist sends their work in.  The packing material should be clean, not make a mess and not obscure the work too much, but other than that, you can save the bows, organza baggies, and wax seals for your retail customers.  Some of my personal horror stories include an artist who sent envelopes of their work that they sprinkled glitter in.  Even after vacuuming and wiping down everything with a wet paper towel, I am still finding specks of it years later.  One jewelry artist threw 50 pairs of LOOSE earrings into a box of packing peanuts.  It took me hours to sift through all the styrofoam madness and about as long to match all the pairs up.  The absolute worst was when an artist sent in their work and they recycled packaging styrofoam used for frozen fish.  It was summer and it smelled like the ocean had died in the box.

Not only does it help to send an inventory list, but it also helps to include promotional materials.  This includes business cards, a CD with high quality images of your work and yourself, an artist bio, and if your pieces require any specialized display.  Make it easy on the shop owner to promote you and your work.  This is particularly helpful if this is the first time in the area that you're showing.  They can use it for press releases, social media outlets and/or mailing lists.  And if there is anything specialized about a certain material or technique, include information about it.  The more a shop owner knows about the work, the better they're able to sell it.

Be clear about your prices.  I had one artist drop off a box of pieces and say, "Price it whatever you want."  It's not as easy as one would imagine to arbitrarily decide on a price.  Researching how much the individual components cost and then trying to tabulate how much time, effort and skill went into a piece can take hours.  Make it easy on both of you by developing a price that you want to make on each piece and suggesting it to the shop owner.  Make sure to take in account that they will either add a percentage on or factor that into the final retail price.  Don't end the conversation by naming a price and sticking to it.  Be open to their suggestions and be flexible.  They'll give you feedback on what things are going for in their store and offer up comparables.  Sometimes it might surprise you and you'll discover that you're not charging enough.

Another common mistake that I see is when an artist will have work in their own shops and the prices are not congruent with the prices in the gallery.  Don't compete with yourself.  Customers go irate when they buy something and do a little research and find out that they could have saved money by buying it directly from the artist.  I've known galleries who will drop an artist if they find out that the artist is either selling their work at the same price or less than what the shop paid for it or is offering it for.  One thing that I often times recommend an artist do, if they are still selling work themselves is to create a line specifically for the store.  This forces the customers to get it from the shop exclusively and prevents any ugly scenes.

Along those same lines of not competing with yourself, make sure that the creative spaces that you choose to work with aren't too close together.  Many shops that are in close proximity with one another want to carry different and unique work from their neighbors and don't want to compete with their friends and fellow members of the same merchant community.  Remember it's not about how many places you're represented at, but by the quality of the relationships you have.  Help the galleries you work with (and yourself) by spacing things out a little.

Offer help and ask if there's anything you can do.  Sometimes a shop owner will take you up on it and sometimes they'll pass.  I appreciate it when an artist shows interest in promoting their work.  I distinctly remember a conversation I had with an artist where I was talking about the event that I was going to through to launch the new line.  She said, "I don't care what you do to promote my work.  That's not my job.  That's your's."  Even though the quality of her work was great, I decided to pass on carrying it.  One of the common misconceptions is that a gallery works for an artist OR that an artist works for a gallery.  They work together.

Late one night I couldn't sleep and I tried to pass the time by watching a little TV.  Somehow I ended up on a lowbrow talk show about cheating spouses.  An expert on the topic said, "One of the best ways to prevent your spouse from cheating is to spend quality time with them."  The rationale was that if you're around more, there's less of a chance for them to be unfaithful.  It seemed like a no brainer to me and the same goes for working with a gallery.  Make your presence felt.  You don't have to smother a shop owner, but attending functions when you can or sending the occasional email will help keep you in the forefront of their mind and want to promote your work more.  You can also send them press releases for events you're involved in, snapshots of new work you're making or send a holiday card with an update of what you're up to.

Along the same lines of making your presence felt, make sure to keep the lines of communication open.  If you are hard to reach or it becomes difficult to get in touch with you, chances are the shop owner will eventually give up.

The beauty of a tango comes from when both partners are in sync and share a connection.  You can go through the motions and be proficient, but sharing a mutual goal and investing time to develop your rapport will make the steps seem effortless and simply sublime.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Banana Caterpillar Necklace...

One of my friends recently celebrated her birthday.  She is one of the most supportive and upbeat people I know and is always smiling!  I wanted to make her a little something to show how much I appreciate her friendship.  I don't always get a chance to express my gratitude for the people in my life, but when I do, I try to seize the opportunity!

She had said that she liked the color yellow.  I wanted to make something that was bright, cheerful, and fun!  I modified this design from a bracelet that I made a few years ago called the "Crystal Caterpillar Bracelet".  Basically it's a length of chain that is thickly embellished with wire-wrapped dangles.  The clusters of dangles are so full that it gives it the appearance of being a fuzzy caterpillar.

This is a close-up of the pendant.  I used Swarovski crystals in topaz and sunflower.  I also incorporated Javanese striped lampwork glass beads.  With the brownish stripes, the glass beads reminded me a little bit of a banana.  The "Banana Caterpillar" pendant was hung from some brass chain and pulled together with a toggle from Nina Designs flanked by more crystals.

When I gave it to her, she really seemed to enjoy it!  

Notes from the Other Side of the Counter: Part 8: The Bitter Pill...

Even though you can go through all these steps, there's still the potential that for whatever reason, it doesn't work out.  This installment sheds light on some of the possible reasons.

8.  The Bitter Pill.

Let's be completely honest... rejection sucks.  It's never fun to get your hopes up, only to be disappointed.  In the first segment of this series, I mentioned "letting go of ego" and how this practice is important to prevent one from torturing themselves and how it can be a beneficial learning experience.  The best way to discover why a particular space didn't pick your work up is to politely ask them for feedback on how you can improve your chances.  BUT their response is optional and not mandatory.  This article will address some of the possibilities of why they didn't take the plunge.

Space could be the issue.  A store layout is kind of like a real estate map.  If my years of living in New York City proved anything, it's that the less space there is to work with – the higher the prices are.  For a shop, each square inch must be utilized to its fullest potential to produce the biggest return.  This could translate into several different scenarios.  One is that they have work that they purchased outright and want to sell it above consignment pieces where they only make a percentage and don't have any upfront money invested in the pieces.  Another option is that they simply don't have the room to put another artist in.

I once applied for a three year graduate school program.  The review committee raved about my work and I thought I had it in the bag!  A few weeks later, I got a rejection letter.  I called them up and asked them why I didn't get in, especially after such glowing reviews.  They said that it had less to do with me and my work, but had more to do with the students that were already in the program.  Their work was vastly different and the professors that they hired were tailored specifically to this group of students' work.  Sometimes your work might be too different from the established artistic vision of the shop and they want to make a cohesive statement with the work they show.

Speaking of other artists, sometimes if they create work that consistently sells and is successful in a venue or are friendly with the owner, they can influence the outcome.  In the transitional time between the height of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, the main artists strongly encouraged Leo Castelli to focus exclusively on Pop Art and Conceptual work.  If he picked up an artist they didn't approve of, they'd threaten to walk.  So sometimes your relationships with other artists in the community can either help or hinder your chances.  I remember once when I had applied to teach a class at a large national show, my proposal was rejected because I had co-taught previously with a former (outspoken and overly aggressive) faculty member.  So be careful with who you align yourself with (or make enemies with).

Sometimes the quality of the materials can effect your chances.  I had one artist submit work that was made with the cheapest stuff possible (and wanted a pretty penny for it too).  I couldn't in good conscience sell it; I was worried that the beads would break or components would fall apart.  I always encourage artists to work with the best materials that they can afford.  Or if they do use a material that doesn't have any intrinsic value, to embrace its inherent properties to the best possible advantage or use a technique that elevates and transforms the material.  I've seen an artist take recycled bicycle inner-tubes and work magic on them and turn them into elegant, modern piece of jewelry.

The price is sometimes not right.  Pricing work can be one of the more difficult aspects of selling one's work.  Occasionally we've had to pass on selling someone's work, because it was simply priced too high.  Looking at the pieces, I could see in my mind that I would be sitting on them for years without any interest and they'd just take up valuable space.

Along those same lines, if it's too cost prohibitive to display the work, that can effect the likelihood of it being shown.  We worked with one artist who insisted that her pieces be overnighted from Asia and we would have to pick up the bill.  (The shipping was more than what we would make on the pieces if they all sold.)  She also wanted specific frames and special vellum mat boards.  Again, it was just too expensive and we would lose money on the sales... that is, if they sold.

Hard sales pitches can have the opposite effect.  One of my pet peeves is when someone walks in and they think they can "sell ice to an Eskimo" and try to use high pressure sales tactics to make me comply.  Sometimes the best way to spark a working relationship is to let the work speak for itself and be helpful in answering any questions the shop owner might have.  (Another problem comes from those who don't say anything.  My mind-reading skills aren't that great and it can be frustrating trying to guess what the artist wants to convey.)

If you're difficult and you know it, raise your hand!  Be honest with yourself.  If you know that you have a prickly disposition, it might be wise to arrange for someone else to approach prospective galleries.  There are agents/sales representatives out there who deal specifically with selling other's jewelry or artwork and act as a middleman that facilitate these deals.  That opens another can of worms though.  Sometimes you just need someone who is invested in your best interests to act on your behalf.  Jackson Pollack is a household name; one of the main reasons is that his wife and fellow artist, Lee Krasner, was a strong advocate of his work while Pollack was alive and after he passed.

Timing can be an issue.  Some creative spaces only accept new artists during certain times of the year or when they put a call for submissions out.  A prospective shop might want to investigate the salability of an artist's work by doing a limited engagement or a trunk show event to test the waters out; if they are booked for several months, they might not be looking until there's an opening in their schedule.

These are just a few examples of why a relationship might not work out.  There are countless others.  Maybe they had a bad day?  Maybe they didn't like the color of the shirt you wore when you walked in the door?  It really is very subjective.  It's hard swallowing the bitter pill of rejection, but if you must, try to learn from it and don't give up!

Carolyn Holland at Allegory Gallery...

This past Tuesday, we at Allegory Gallery were fortunate enough to welcome Carolyn Holland for the first Words in Process event of the season.  Carolyn did readings from her in-progress historically based novel, "Intertwined Love".  She also shared slides of places depicted in the book and passed out packets including word games.  It was a fascinating evening!

For the second half of the evening, several members of the audience shared pieces that they wrote, including Joe Stierheim, Amy Yanity, Joanne McGough, and Tom Beck.

If you haven't heard of Words in Process before, it's a reading series presented by poet, teacher and author, Amy Yanity.  The event takes place at Allegory Gallery on the second Tuesday of the month from 7PM to 9PM.  Each month, a new writer is featured.  They read some of their work and talk about what went into writing it.  The second half of the evening is an open mic and the audience is encouraged to talk about their writing processes.

Mark your calendars!  The next Words in Process event takes place on June 18th and will spotlight blogger, Melissa Firman.  Please join us if you are around!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Notes from the Other Side of the Counter: Part 7: Red Flags...

In most of the installments of this series, I've hinted at things to be weary of when working with a new gallery.  Here are a few more things to keep an eye out for.

7.  Red flags.

In a perfect world, every exchange with a creative space would be simply amazing and trouble free.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  I do believe that a good many of the most common problems can easily be resolved with a little caution.  The old adage is still true:  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

But knowing what to look for isn't always easy.  No one actually uses bright, big flags to mark their shortcomings and problem areas.  There are some things to be aware of that can help avoid sticky situations though.

Never pay someone upfront to show your work.  It's true that there are some business models like co-ops, artist collectives, and artisan malls that are an exception to this cautionary rule, but I would be highly leery of anyone who asks for money upfront.  What's to stop them from running off with your money?  If they do ask you for money before they've sold anything, ask if they'll be taking an additional percentage on work sold.  In our shop, we absorb the expenses of showing the work (utilities, rent, promotional materials, event supplies... etc.) into the percentage we make after a piece is sold.  I feel it makes us work harder to sell the pieces and a sign that we are invested in the artist.

Beware if it's too easy.  One of the things that sets a "good" creative space apart from an "okay" one is a clear and distinctive curatorial vision.  This vision sets a tone for the work available and is an integral part of branding a business.  If a shop owner says yes to everyone who walks in the door, the result is chaos and your work can be lost in the jumble.  For whatever reason, I also find that it's harder to collect payment from these establishments.  It might be because they're spread too thin or don't keep up with all the paperwork for the abundance of artists that they deal with.

Take caution if the name of the establishment changes frequently or they change ownership often.  I have met some truly unlucky business owners who kept running into trademark issues concerning their store name and had to change it multiple times within a short span of time.  This is a rarity though.  A trick that some less than legitimate shop owners perform is filing for bankruptcy and reopening under a new name.

Make sure that the lines of communication are open.  One of the fundamental pillars of a good relationship (whether business or otherwise) is healthy communication.  Keep in mind that everyone has a different opinion of what that entails and it may take some time before everyone is on the same page, but you should be alert of shop owners who purposely avoid talking to you or are constantly unavailable.  If you make an appointment to discuss business and they are aloof, uninterested, or don't show up... it usually indicates that there could be some serious problems.  A good shop owner will always make time for their artists.  They may need a gentle tap on the shoulder, but if you have to constantly hound them, it's not worth the heartache and frustration.

Take note of the merchandise and how frequently things are changed up.  If a gallery is selling work, their inventory should reflect that.  Of course, there might be seasonal factors that come into play and certain times of the year might be busier than others, but if you keep going back and seeing the same stuff, it probably means they aren't selling the pieces well and it might be best to find greener pastures elsewhere.

Signs of disrepair in shop say a lot.  We take a lot of pride in making sure that our store is not only clean, but aesthetically pleasing, and that things are displayed in a nice way.  If a store is dirty or their display is falling apart, it might mean that they aren't fully invested in selling the work and aren't maximizing their potential to present your product to the best effect.

While there are plenty of things to keep an eye out for, one of the biggest red flags to be aware of is the one that doesn't have any physical markers.  Trust you gut.  If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.  Use your intuition and put out those extrasensory feelers.  If you use a little bit of care and attention, it can save a lot of future pain.

Last Chance Sale...

If you've had your heart set on one of the art pieces available in the Allegory Gallery online shop, now is the time to take action!  This summer we're going to be redoing how we present the work online and the amount of time it'll be available for purchase.  Starting on June 1st, all current artwork will be taken down and will no longer be available for purchase online.

Find a piece that you love from Jessica Wiesel, Cynthia Thornton, Jen Tong, Kelly Russell, Jenny Davies-Reazor, Kathy Dorfer, and Sheila Thornton.

To help motivate reluctant collectors, we're offering a limited time coupon code.  Use "LASTCHANCE" at the time of check out to save 15% off your purchase of artwork.  Hurry!  This coupon is only good until June 1st and is only for items listed in the Art category.  CLICK HERE to check out the selection of artwork!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Inspired by Reading Update for May...

There's a little less than a week before the reveal of the May selection of the Inspired by Reading Book Club, "A Rumor of Gems" by Ellen Steiber.  We'll be sharing our creation online via a blog hop on Tuesday, May 28th!  We will also be having an in-person meet up at Allegory Gallery on the 28th as well!  The event at the shop starts at 6PM!  (I'm already dreaming up what fun treats I'll be serving to book club attendees!)

The next book is, "The Bucolic Plague" by Josh Kilmer-Purcell.  The reveal and meet-up for that book is June 25th.  For the full list of books and their designated months, CLICK HERE.  Don't forget that you can keep up to date with all our fun online!  CLICK HERE to check out our Facebook group page.  Jenny Davies-Reazor has also been moderating a Pinterest board for supplemental inspiration.  CLICK HERE to peruse the board.

Prayers For Richie Fundraiser...

I am just now catching up on some of my favorite blogs.  While I was tuned out, I missed the launch of a fundraiser created by my friend and fellow artist, Kathy Van Kleeck.  Kathy is a beautiful and thoughtful spirit.  When I was diagnosed with cancer, she was one of the first people to step up to the plate to help raise monies to help with my medical bills.  I really can't voice just how appreciative I was for all the help and healing energies that were sent my way.  The support was a blessing!  I know from my personal experience with cancer and the current hospital culture that it is an EXPENSIVE ordeal.  It's not just the medical bills themselves (which are exorbitant), but the time away from being able to work adds up too!

Anyway, Kathy is helping again!  This time she is helping her nephew who underwent treatment for a cancerous brain tumor.  To reward donors in the fundraiser, she has developed medallions in both bronze and fine silver.  A minimum donation of $10 can score one in bronze and $25 can land a silver one!  While I don't know Richie personally, I was moved by his story and his positive outlook.  I strongly encourage you to consider giving to this very worthwhile charity.  For more information, CLICK HERE.  Even if you can't give at this time, think about spreading the word.  Maybe someone you know can help out and will love to add a piece by Kathy to their collection!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Inspired By Reading In Print...

This is an article about the Inspired By Reading Book Club that appeared in the latest issue of the Ligonier Echo.  (Click the image to enlarge it.)  The next meet up is on May 28th at Allegory Gallery!  It is also the date of the reveal and blog hop!  To keep up with the book club, join the group's Facebook page.  CLICK HERE to check it out.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Beaded Links...

A Bead A Day
What does blogging mean to you?  Lisa's sharing her thoughts on the beauty of blogging!  Check it out! Jewelry Making
A new "frame" necklace tutorial up that incorporate some amazing mirror crystal beads.

Art Bead Scene
Are you looking for a place to start on a jewelry design to enter into our Art Bead Scene Monthly Challenges?  Lorelei has been creating color cord combinations inspired by the art piece chosen by the Art Bead Scene team.

Beading Arts
Cyndi has worked out an easy way to hang odd-shaped pieces from wire.

Resin Crafts Blog!
Making textured, colored and rubberstamped pendants is a breeze with Jewelry Clay!

Snap out of it, Jean!  There's beading to be done!
It is National Children's Book week!  Jean has a giveaway on her blog for a children's book written by a famous author, Elizabeth King Gerlach, which Jean herself illustrated!  Come over and sign up!  It is adorable!

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Using the Now That's a Jig!, Andrew made some fun earrings for a local musician!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Beading Idol...

The Bead Place is hosting a fun competition called, "Beading Idol".  It is patterned off the popular television show... including "celebrity" judges!  And guess who will be weighing in?  That's right!  I'll be helping evaluate this competition along with an illustrious panel of judges.  CLICK HERE for more information.

Westmoreland County Jewelry Artists Meet-up...

Last night, I attended the Westmoreland County Jewelry Artists meet-up in Greensburg.  I had a really good time!  The group is composed of a motley crew of jewelry artists from around the area.  Even though each of them has their own particular style and forte, they are able to offer encouragement and give guidance with their projects.  There's no shortage of talent here!  It's an active group, with at least two meet-ups scheduled a month.  If you're local, you should consider joining the group.  CLICK HERE to check out their Yahoo group.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Oval Spin Earrings...

Local musician, Jane West, stopped in the shop the other day.  She had a fun night in Pittsburgh planned and wanted equally fun earrings to go with her outfit for the evening.  I busted out the Now That's a Jig!, a roll of wire, and some "reconstituted" amber beads and got to work!

I used copper wire (that I later patinated in liver of sulfur) and the oval peg for Now That's a Jig! to form the base of the earrings.  I used a thinner wire and "floated" the amber-speckled acrylic beads in the middle of ovals.  I made sure to use a thinner gauge so that the holes had ample clearance for the beads to spin freely.  I think the earrings turned out nicely and are indeed a lot of fun!

Here's Jane modeling the earrings.  I haven't had a chance to ask her how her evening went, but regardless of the entertainment, she could amuse herself by playing with her earrings!  Once you start spinning the beads, it's hard to stop!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Notes from the Other Side of the Counter: Part 6: Playing Hardball...

In the last post, I went over some of the basics of outlining a business relationship and briefly touched (indirectly) on the subject of protecting oneself.  This segment sheds more light on what can be done to get the most out of the arrangement.

6.  Playing hardball.

It's tempting to mentally strap on your spiked shoulder pads, smear some warpaint under your eyes, and crank up the soundtrack of the main fight sequence in Gladiator before power walking into the prospective gallery's doors.   You might even think it's a good idea to channel the essence of Amanda Woodward from TV's Melrose Place (circa 1995) and crack some heads.  You are the artiste, after all!

However alluring this idea might be... just don't.

I see advice all the time that the only way to insure success is by playing hardball.  Unfortunately, however false it may be, this myth persists.

Here's the truth:
The prospective gallery is not obligated to show your work.  While your work may be unique and inventive, there are thousands of other artists who can take your place.  With the rise of the internet, it is even easier for the shop owner to replace an artist without batting an eyelash.

Personally, I would rather deal with someone who is personable, polite, and easy to get along with.  I have zero desire to deal with difficult personalities.  When someone gets an attitude and tries to force their position, I smile and show them the door.

The ramifications of being unpleasant don't just end with a single shop owner.  In many cases, they also know several other owners, are members of the local chamber of commerce, and/or belong to networking communities where they can share their experiences and potentially limit your abilities to grow your business.  People who are treated poorly tend to have good memories too.  So chances are, if you offend someone, they'll stay offended.

This is not to say that you should let a shop owner walk all over you and take advantage of you and your work.  But there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to handle it.  It is best to stay calm, collected and be respectful.  And... should things escalate, it is a good idea to call in a third party to not only moderate, but also to act as a witness.  This neutral third party can help alleviate instances where your word might be different than their's.  It is also helpful to document everything.  Make notations of every interaction.  This is a passive way to be proactive in defending yourself and your work without engaging in a direct fire fight that may adversely do more harm to your career than good.

The best business relationships are mutually beneficial and symbiotic.  I believe in the artists that I work with and their vision.  This belief helps me promote and sell their work.  I think that they believe in me and my vision as well.  I think that they understand that a venue is just a bunch of empty walls without a driving force behind the space.  This force holds everything together and transforms the gallery into more than just a place to buy things, but turns it into an experience and an event.  Rarely can this synergy be achieved out of dissonance and discord; it must be attained through a dynamic partnership and shared goals.

Sometimes it pays to be the nice guy.  (Sorry Heather Locklear!)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Beaded Links...

A Bead A Day
Looking for a way to get more involved in the beading and jewelry-making industry?  Becoming a Jewelry Making Ambassador could be your next step!

Art Bead Scene
"Vase With Flowers in Window" by Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, 1620 is a vibrant inspiration for May's Art Bead Scene Monthly Challenge.  Here are some handmade art beads and components to inspire your designs for May!

Beading Arts
Cyndi has kicked off "Wire Month" on Beading Arts by sharing a quick and easy earring project!

Resin Crafts Blog!
It is amazing what a little acrylic paint can do on resin clay pendants.  Carmi focussed on creating the look of a ceramic pendant without the kiln!

Snap out of it, Jean!  There's beading to be done!
Jean reviews a great book by Anna Elizabeth Draeger: Crystal Play: Fun & Fabulous Designs for Stitched Jewelry.

The Writing and Art of Andrew Thornton
Trying to help out those who want to sell their work in stores and galleries, Andrew sheds a little light on the process from the other side of the counter.

Notes from the Other Side of the Counter: Part 5: Break It Down...

In the past few posts, I've discussed the initial meeting.  This installment continues on that theme and explores some of the more business-oriented details.

5.  Break it down.

Each business functions differently.  Besides establishing a good rapport and presenting your work, the first sit down should also outline how your businesses will function together.  Sometimes this won't actually happen until the second or third meeting, but it is imperative that it should happen before there are any business transactions.  Do not leave any work unless you fully know what you're getting into.

It's important to establish the parameters of your working relationship.  Is the shop owner looking to buy your work straight out or consign it?  If they are planning on purchasing things upfront to resell in their gallery, it's your job to supply the shop owner with how you operate your wholesale accounts.  Some commonly asked questions you'll receive are:  What is your MSRP?  ("MSRP" means, "manufacturer's suggested retrial price".)  What is your pricing structure?  (This information outlines what their wholesale price is, if there are any minimums, and if there are any further discounts depending on quantity, frequency, and dollar amount.)  One of the most common terms for a wholesale discount is "keystone", which means "half".  When one is transitioning from independently selling one's work on their own into selling to galleries and boutiques, it can sting at first to see half of the money disappear off the top.  But you have to remember that selling in this way is very different than selling on your own.  Do a little research and see what others who are selling similar products are doing and how they configure their pricing structures.  But keep it simple.  If it takes you longer than five minutes to explain your wholesale policies, it probably means they're too complicated.

Generally, when a shop owner purchases finished jewelry or fine art straight out, it means they are pretty confident that this product will sell for them.  They are making an investment, in the hopes of a return.  Usually this means that the product that they are trying to sell is something that is a must-have essential, is backed by a quality brand, or is in limited supply and they are filling a demand.  For smaller stores, stocking an entire inventory of products purchased outright isn't that easy.  The likelihood of one of the smaller boutiques buying merchandise from someone that they haven't worked with before and from someone who doesn't have a household name is slim.  It's a risk, particularly in this economy, that few are willing to take when there are consignment options available.

If a shop is considering selling your work through consignment, it's their responsibility to supply the details of how they operate their consignment system.  Every store is different.  Don't make assumptions.  Some questions you should ask:  What is the percentage breakdown?  If a promotion is offered through the store, who's percentage does it get taken out of?  How long is the agreement for?  When are payments distributed to artists?  What is the policy on lost, stolen, broken, or returned merchandise? If materials are to be sent, what is their policy and who covers the bill?  Are there any fees associated with showing in the space?

For us, it's simple.  We offer a 50/50 split.  If we offer a sale or promotion in the store, the money comes out of our cut.  Generally we work in spans of three month intervals with the option to terminate at any time from both/either the gallery and/or the artist at their discretion.  At the end of this time, there is also an option to renew.  In most cases, we send out reimbursement checks at the end of every month.  This insures that all the funds go through properly.  For us, if the loss is under $500 we'll cover the amount of the lost or stolen merchandise.  If it's over that, we'll contact our insurance company and the funds will be distributed when we receive them.  For broken pieces, if it's a simple fix, the repairs are covered in-house.  If they are substantial, they're sent back to the artist at the expense of the gallery and the artist will be compensated for the damaged merchandise.  We do not accept returns or exchanges.  For most postage, the artist is responsible to send their pieces to the gallery and we will cover the shipping back.  Should all the pieces sell, we send money to cover the entire shipping.  We do not charge additional fees for showing with us.

I did a lot of research on consignment agreements and we felt this was a fair policy to have.  It favors the artist, which as an artist myself, I felt strongly about.  I have heard that 50/50 is too high for some.  For us, our percentage covers overhead like utilities, rent, promotional materials, event supplies, general upkeep, and the time and effort that goes into promoting and selling the work.  Since we have a smaller space, available realty in the store is a premium.  This forces us to be highly selective and diligent in maintaining our standing arrangements.  (What the latter part of the previous sentence means is that we want all of our artists to be treated equally and we won't modify the percentages or policies.)

Having work out on consignment can be really rewarding.  For the shop owner, it allows them to constantly offer an ever-changing array of talents and it allows a store to try out a new artist with minimal risk.  For the artist, it can supplement their income, allow them to focus on creating instead of selling, and it can be a way of gaining exposure in new markets and areas.

There are other methods of working with stores and galleries, like trunk shows (either in person or by mail), sidewalk sales, and special events (like fairs and maker's markets).  Sometimes artists come together and form co-ops.  Each of these options have their own intricate differences and it is highly variable depending on the venue.

One of the simplest ways to spell everything out is through a contract.  Depending on the venue, they may or may not use them.  I personally don't care for them (in general), as they're just more pieces of paper to keep track of and our selection process for our artists is so thorough that by the time we've made our decision to work together, we're both fine with verbal agreements.  (Of course, should an artist want one, we'll always honor their decision and have one drafted up.)  Should a gallery refuse after a formal request, it should raise a red flag.  As with all contracts, read the fine print and if you don't understand it, get help.  Should it be drafted in overly complicated legalese, there are craft attorneys that can help decipher and make sense of the contract and keep an eye out for anything unusual.  An excellent craft lawyer that I highly recommend is Tammy Browning-Smith.  She specializes in intellectual property and is an artist's advocate.

Of course, over the years and from both sides, I've heard a lot of horror stories.  Most of them could have been prevented by breaking it down.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Notes from the Other Side of the Counter: Part 4: Dress to Impress...

In the last installment, I briefly touched on setting up an appointment and some general "etiquette" guidelines for your first meeting.  In this segment, I'll be delving more deeply into presentation.

4.  Dress to Impress.

You don't have to have to roll up in the Gucci and Parada to set a good first impression, but there are things that you can do to make your "first date" more successful.  Presentation is a key factor in silently expressing the way you work and in a sense, conduct business.  I remember looking at the portfolio of a photographer who handed me a binder of images to consider.  The binder was falling apart, had napkins and menus stuck haphazardly in the front pocket AND the pages were STICKY!  Another transgression was that there was the same photograph of a polar bear over and over.  Needless to say, I was not impressed and passed on working with him.  What his portfolio said without him having to say a word is that he was sloppy, disorganized, and didn't care about wasting my time.

The way that you present your work says a lot.  It doesn't have to be extravagant or over-the-top, but it is a reflection of who you are and your "brand".  If you are totally outrageous, then don't dilute that.  Use that as a selling point.  This doesn't mean that you have to come in on a unicycle in a sequined leotard, but you can make subtle changes, like funky business cards or dressing the part.  One of the most successful jewelry artists I know has a gypsy persona and she totally embraces it with headscarfs, belly chains, and more rings on than number of fingers.  It works for her.  Find what works for you.

When thinking about presentation, think about it as curating an art show.  Chances are, you only have a few seconds per piece and you want it to convey the core message of your work.  Galleries generally like to work with artists who have a consistent look and cohesive feel to their work.  If you're all over the place, consider only showing the pieces that go together, but try not to fall into the same footsteps as our unfortunate photographer example by repeating the same work over and over.  It's assumed that if you are presenting a piece of work, it's something that can be replicated or at the very least, made like it.  If I see the same design or image over and over, I get a little bored and wonder if the person is a one-trick pony.

Come prepared.  Have business cards and a way to easily stay in contact.  Be able to talk about your work and some of the basics, like how much an average piece is, what is the usual turn over time... etc. If you don't know, don't make something up and over-promise.  Say that you'll find out and can follow-up.  If someone is really interested in the answer, they'll wait to find out.  I had a friend who offhandedly guaranteed that she could make a certain necklace for certain price.  When the shop owner contacted her about making a lot more, my friend ran out of supplies and realized that the price of the materials had went up drastically when she went to purchase more.  She was afraid that she would lose the shop as a client if she didn't make them for the price she quoted and ended up making the pieces for them, despite the difference in price.  Although it's good that she followed through on what she promised, she ended up losing money on this deal.

When showing your work to a prospective shop, treat it with the same care that you would like them to treat your pieces.  This doesn't mean that you have to don white gloves and handle each piece like it's made of spun sugar, but don't sling it around.  It sets a bad precedence.  Also, if you're showing pieces that are priced for a more high-end market, don't use an old shoebox and toilet paper.  It says cheap.  You don't need to have custom, hand-tooled leather cases by famous designers.  You can use inexpensive plastic trays with a fabric-covered liner.  Just as long as it's clean and presentable.  I personally like trays for jewelry and portfolios for fine art.  They allow the shop owner to quickly look through the work.

If you already have a displays, consider revisiting them from time to time.  I had one woman come in who was fairly well-known in the 90's and clearly spent a lot of time and money on her displays then.  Her display boards were covered in a white satiny material with raised flocking and had recessed areas for each piece.  The problem was that over the years, greasy hands had worn away some of the flocked designs and left stains around the edges of compartments.  Dust had accumulated in the cracks and they faintly smelled of cat pee.  Freshen things up and don't spend so much time and money on your display that you feel like you're obligated to use it.

And remember... if there's a chance that your presentation might be sticky, give it a quick wipe down.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Notes from the Other Side of the Counter: Part 3: First Date...

While the arrangement between an artist and the owner of a creative space is a professional one, I often times compare the early stages of establishing a business relationship to courtship.  In a lot of ways, there are many similarities.

3.  First Date.

It's my experience that if someone shows up in the middle of the night for a random booty call, chances are you'll slam the door in their face (unless the goods are too good to pass up or there's a fair amount of alcohol involved).  The same goes for pitching your work to a prospective shop.  I find it almost comical when someone rolls up with mountains of their work and expects me to drop several thousand dollars out of the blue.  What's even less appealing is seeing them roll around to the next shop trying to entice them with the same offer.  It's a red flag and not a pretty, celebratory one either.

Generally shop owners aren't just chillin' and waiting for the next person to show up and hock their wares.  (Well, unless they're a pawn shop or resale store.  In which case, that is part of what they do.)  Usually, shop owners of small businesses are running around like crazy trying to do a hundred and one things to keep their store afloat in the rough seas of this economy.  The best thing to do is to call or email to set up an appointment.  Not only is this courteous of the shop owner's time, but it'll make sure that they're prepared to look at your work and not be caught off guard.  They can then prepare to meet with you and make sure that they can give you their undivided attention.

The first official meeting is very much like a first date.  You both are representing who you are in the aims of creating a mutually beneficial relationship.  It's also the time to establish a positive rapport and outline what your hopes and expectations are.

Don't talk trash about your ex's.  In this case, if you worked with a gallery in past and it didn't work out, it's important to keep the details of why that working relationship ended to a minimum unless further prompted by the shop owner.  You might wonder why that should matter, but really it just sets a negative tone.  Instead of fostering a positive atmosphere where you can work on building a new relationship, it generates a negative one and plants in the prospective shop owner's mind all kind of scenarios that could go wrong.  I have seen people get frothy at the mouth with complaints about fellow members of the merchant community and rarely is it an attractive sight to see.

Also, in smaller communities, chances are, the owners know each other and you don't necessarily know what they're relationship is.  Maybe they're best friends and are planning to go out to lunch later.  It's best to stay positive and steer clear of the ex's.

Have you ever been on a date where the person sitting across from you didn't let you get a word in edgewise?  When someone comes into the shop and starts talking about the 101 ways that they're the best artist in the world without taking a break, I take the time to mentally plan out what I'm going to make for dinner.  Strike a balance between listening and expressing your hopes and concerns.  As much as you're introducing your work to them, they're introducing their space to you.  This should be the time that you BOTH use to set down the early framework of your working relationship.

As with all first dates and first meetings with a shop owner... always be on time, be polite, don't talk about sex, politics, or religion (unless you are 98% confident that they share your stances) and most importantly... don't pick your nose!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Notes from the Other Side of the Counter: Part 2: Doing Homework...

This is the second installment of this series and picks up where Part 1 leaves off.

2.  Doing Homework.

Not all stores, shops, and galleries are created equal.  That's what makes them beautiful.  They all represent different facets of a creative community.  Your job as the artist and free agent is to do your research on which ones will be the best fit.  Doing a little homework beforehand will save a lot of time and heartache in the future.

Scope the prospective shop out and see if you can envision your work being sold there.  Do you like the owner and/or the salespeople who will represent your work?  For instance, if you are the maker of pearl-studded leather cuff bracelets, it might be best to avoid pitching to a shop run by a vegan animal activist wearing your finest fur coat and crocodile pumps.  (It's a pain getting red paint out of vintage furs.)  

It's not just the people and the ambiance.  You've also got to consider the other artists being represented.  Are there others who are making something in a similar vein?  Does your work fit the average price point in the shop?  If your materials of choice consist of pony beads and stretchy cord, you might pass on high-end jewelry boutiques that sell diamond-encrusted gold bangles.  It's true that some shop owners will try to represent a wide range of price points to appeal to the widest audience, but a quick survey of tags will swiftly alert you to the average median range.

If you're curious about the relationship between the artists and the shop owner, make a mental note of the various artists that they represent and contact them.  (Keep in mind that a quick way to make an owner mad and/or get escorted out of a store is to bust out the cellphone camera and notepad.)  When approaching the established artists, tell them that you're considering showing with the particular space and ask them what their experiences have been with this particular shop.  Remember there's a fine line between being curious and invasive.  Respect their right to privacy if they don't care to share.

Another way of getting the low-down on a shop is to talk a little with some of the neighboring shops and see what they say.  Don't grill them like an interrogation on a primetime police drama, but causally bring it up.   If they have an opinion, they'll let you know!  Small towns and gossip go hand-in-hand, and while this might not be the most reliable form of research, it'll key you in on how the shop fits into the local scene and what challenges the area might be facing that the owner might not readily admit to.

And remember, for the latter two forms of "homework" take the opinions you uncover with a grain of salt.  Not everyone has the prospective store's (or your) best interests at heart.

This step is really an intuitive one.  It's sort of the dating (and healthy Facebook stalking) phase before proposing marriage.  The more you know, the better you can make informed decisions.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Notes from the Other Side of the Counter: Part 1: Letting Go Of Ego...

I recently saw a post from a friend who had called a shop up with hopes that they would carry her work.  She was understandably nervous and it got me thinking about my own experiences working with artists and what tips (from the other side of the counter) I could give to help improve others' chances of being picked up and making a successful impression.

When I first started writing this post, I thought that I could just make a quick list, but it soon became mammoth in proportions and I decided to break it down into daily segments.  This is the first of many.

1.  Letting go of Ego.

It sounds like the title of a self-help book (and probably is), but it is probably the biggest hurdle in putting yourself out there.  As an artist, you put so much of yourself into your work... but when it comes to selling your work, you've got to let go of the sentimental attachments and think about it as a sellable commodity.  But what does that mean?

Firstly, if a business does not pick up your work, it's not a personal attack.  There are a lot of other factors into making the decision to carry one's work.  Some will say "yes" and some will say "no".  Don't take it personally.  If they say no, be polite, courteous and don't burn any bridges.  Ask them that if they have a moment or two, to give you any constructive feedback on what you could do better.  They may or may not respond back.  Again, don't take it personal.

Secondly, you may have just learned a new technique and spent a lot of time, heartache, and money into mastering it.  You've invested in your creative business on many levels!  Sometimes those first pieces seem like hard won milestones that mark your evolution as an artist and a craftsperson.  The best advice is to save those for yourself.  Make another and sell that one.  My experience has been that artists who put these pieces into the shop tend to be overly protective of them, inflate their prices, and don't look at comparables.  Basically, they don't want to sell it.  Never submit anything to be sold that you don't want to sell.

Thirdly, it's not a competition.  At the end of your life, there's no one who will give you a gold star for scoring fifty stores and producing a thousand necklaces in an afternoon.  This isn't to say that you shouldn't work hard and strive for being successful in an endeavor, but the old cliche of "quality over quantity" rings true.  I get a sour feeling in my stomach when someone says, "You should carry my work because I show in 500 galleries."  While this may be a positive for some shop owners, for me, it says that they won't have time for me and I feel a little bit like another notch on the proverbial nightstand.

There's plenty of time and opportunity to express yourself and your particular point of view.  At this juncture, it's important to separate your passion from the selling process.  It's easy to get caught up in the validation game and seeking approval by these external factors.  Find joy in your personal process, there's nothing more appealing than that.

Check back tomorrow for the next installment.


Look what came in the mail!  Gina Chalfant of White Swan Illuminations sent this awesome connector pendant to me!  It's made from black porcelain that has a white glaze in the recesses.  Isn't it beautiful!  I just adore the bird face.

Last summer, Gina and some friends came out to the house and I showed them how to carve molds.  It was a lovely afternoon and I'm pleased as punch that she's still using this technique and using it beautifully!

We have a selection of her handmade porcelain pendants at Allegory Gallery.  Stop by and check them out if you're around!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Tassel Earrings...

A customer came into the shop the other day and I helped her put together a bracelet from a rather fancy strand of gemstones.  The ends of the strand were decorated with tassels.  (I never really understood why they added those.  Is it to reinforce that they're fancy or maybe some kind of secret pricing code?)

Instead of throwing the tassels away, I made earrings with them.  They're really simple.  Just jump rings added to the tassels to connect them to the leaver-back earwires.  I think they're fun!

Monday, May 06, 2013

More Inspired by Reading...

Patti Cahill was in Denver during the blog hop and wasn't able to update her blog until she got back.  CLICK HERE to check out her thoughts on the first book and to see the lovely glass pieces she made!

Spring Showcase...

A few months ago, we decided to extend the shows at Allegory Gallery.  One of the biggest complaints that we would get is that the exhibitions weren't up long enough and people wouldn't get a chance to see the art.  Even though most of the shows correspond with an online presence, it's just not the same.

In order to get the schedule to fall into place nicely, Diane Hawkey's show was moved to take the June/July slot.  This meant that the Project Wall would be barren once the artwork from Kathy Dorfer's show was sent off.

I decided to put together a "Spring Showcase" for the rest of May.  It features work from shows at Allegory Gallery since we've opened.  There are works by Jessica Wiesel, Cora Yee, Sheila Thornton, Kathy Dorfer, Kelly Russell, Danielle Demos, Jenny Davies-Reazor, Jen Tong, Cynthia Thornton, and Elizabeth Fisher.

Since a good bit of the RAMS merchandise has sold, I consolidated the display and used the other Project Wall to continue the showcase.

I think the Spring Showcase represents the diversity of the artists that we feature and is a welcome trip down memory lane.  Stop by and check it out if you're around!

May Day Masquerade at VOMA...

This past Saturday, Allegory Gallery participated in an event in Johnstown.  We had a table at the May Day Masquerade at VOMA.  VOMA is the Venue Of Merging Arts in the Cambria City section of town.  It's a wonderful creative space that used to be a church, but now hosts art shows, live music, and community workshops.

We heard that the powers that be at VOMA saw pictures on Facebook of our Steampunk Party we hosted back in February and that they liked it so much that they decided to have a Steampunk-themed event as well!

It was a lot of fun!  The costumes people created were very imaginative and intriguing.  I enjoyed seeing what people came up with and viewing the artwork from the show.  When I could sneak away from the table, I also really liked the music downstairs.  They had several DJs playing music and creating a raving good time.

I wish that I had taken more pictures throughout the evening, but it only dawned on me later that night that I had my camera with me.  Unfortunately, none of the pictures are captioned.  The masked disguises made it trickier to identify people.  For the people that I do recognize... well, I will leave their identities a mystery!

One of the things that I love about Steampunk is DIY spirit.  There aren't many readymade costumes available.  This forces people to re-imagine the ordinary into something truly unique and of their own making.

We're very proud that we were able to participate in this event and be a part of the action.  It was a lovely evening and so very encouraging to see so many people creatively engaged!  We loved meeting everyone and interacting with the local artistic community.