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!


TesoriTrovati said...

You are always so insightful! I appreciate what you have shared. I would like to put a plan in motion to do just that, to contact boutiques and galleries that might be a good fit for my work. For me it is about time. I have so limited time to create and even less time to find the right spot as a fit. I also appreciate the line about keeping the special ones for yourself. That is why I have such a burgeoning collection of jewelry! But it is time to let some go. I am reading on... enjoy the day. Erin

cw whitedogjewelry said...

Once again, very helpful, thank you Andrew.

Lorelei Eurto said...

I had read somewhere that shop owners weren't too keen on the "drop in" so I decided an email with links to my photo galleries would probably be my best bet. Had no idea the owner would contact me right away and I was so happy she did. Patience is not one of my best virtues.
I also want to mention that being totally new to this concept, I wasn't sure how much I should share in my "lack of experience" so as not to come off looking like a clueless artist. I felt comfortable enough to tell the owner that I was a "newbie" and she was more than willing to make suggestions which I was so grateful for!