Saturday, May 11, 2013
Notes from the Other Side of the Counter: Part 4: Dress to Impress...
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.