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.


Unknown said...

Thanks for this Andrew. Gives a lot to think about and very usefull.

Have a great day,


Unknown said...

Love this series. It's really helpful. Thanks for the effort put into this.

Love ya,

cw whitedogjewelry said...

Your information is very helpful. It is a bit intimidating for the inexperienced, but you give great incentive to accomplish my goal.
Thanks for your time and insight.

Marsha Hedrick said...

Excellent advice Andrew. You touched on a few points that I hadn't thought of, although what you said was generally in line with how I look at a place. I need to get of my rear end and go find some galleries so I am most interested in what you have to say from the perspective of a shop owner as well as an artist.


TesoriTrovati said...

Good point! Since I don't have a lot of time I need to be choosy as well. I recently made a piece for the Rusty Bits challenge with Brenda Schweder. I wandered into a new boutique down the street and the owner asked me about it. I had talked to her when she opened but with the costume jewelry she sells (very nice but all necklaces are like $35!!) I knew that my work would not be selling at my price points. So I sort of tabled it. Now that she saw this new piece she asked for more like it, one of a kind but with a story and she will sell it. Worth a shot! Now I need to carve out some time to make a collection! Wonderful advice... on to the next ... Enjoy the day! Erin

Lorelei Eurto said...

Believe it or not, shops that are a totally perfect fit are few and far between, causing me to go a little bit further outside of my local area. That's one of the reasons I really liked the shop I found recently. They have a lot of vintage-made-modern type pieces in their shops, and I think my tin will be a perfect fit. I also love that they could probably display my work on anything in the shop and it would really be a cohesive look. Once I realized I liked the shop, feel, and atmosphere, I was apprehensive when meeting the owner- because of the area the shop is in, I was worried that the owner would be a bit on the snotty side. Luckily she was down to earth and very very friendly!

Anonymous said...

Andrew, Thanks for your "great wealth" of info. I have been beading for almost five years and this is the best I have come across, wish I had this advice when I first started. Wish you all the success in the world.