Category Archives: resources

A NEW PHOTOGRAPHER 4 U

It’s been a long time since I last had my artwork professionally photographed. I’ve written before about my friend and photographer Jeff Baird, who died of lung cancer almost two years ago.

Digital cameras make it easy to take our own great pictures. Even technically-challenged moi can now set up a jewelry shot, touch it up a bit, and upload it to my online store or blog.

But sometimes you just need something more.

You need seriously good jury shots. Or a dynamite shot for a new ad. Or an image you can blow up to poster size and it still holds the detail.

That’s when you need the services of a good professional photographer. And I think I’ve found one!

Meet Ed Thomas, commercial photographer!

I met Ed when he and a friend started up the brand new Creative Professionals Guild of New Hampshire a year ago. Creative professionals encompasses all kinds of commercial artists: Photographers, graphic designers, illustrators, copy writers, and web designers. We just put on our very first show, “@Work, @Play”, and it’s already a huge success.

I first thought Ed might be my next photo guy when I saw this image he shot for Burdick Chocolate in Walpole, NH. I thought these were beautifully rusted keys. Nope. They’re chocolate!!

He offered to shoot my work, and I jumped at the chance to work with him.

My work is always a challenge to shoot the first time, but Ed jumped right in with skill and enthusiasm. Watching him work is amazing! I know how to fiddle around with my pictures. But he sees things I’m not even aware of until he points them out.

Yet he listened to my suggestions, even looking over what Jeff had done over the years. I found him easy to be with, good-humored and relaxed, yet efficient and detail-driven.

When we introduced ourselves at the first Guild meeting, I asked Ed what he felt his strengths were as a commercial photographer. He said, “I’m incredibly easy to get along with, and I’m a good listener. That’s really important when you’re going to spend a day in the studio with a photographer, working to get everything just right.” I can personally vouch for that!

Ed is experienced, his rates are reasonable, he’s just building his business here in Keene NH so he has openings in his schedule, and I personally vouch for him. He does clothing, food, portraits, product photography, landscapes, buildings–you name it, he does it. Give him a call when you need really great photography for those important marketing opportunities.

I’ve put in a few examples of Ed’s work. I’m very happy with our first session. I know there will be many more to come.

Bear Sculptures

Horse Sculptures

P.S. This is what I REALLY love about working with Ed. That fabulous rich rust colored background? It’s…. rust! A sheet of steel he bent to make that graduated-color look. We were looking for backgrounds and he pulled out a piece of steel, the back of which had rusted beautifully. I said, “Wow, that’s really cool lookin’!” He said, “Yeah! Let’s try it out!”

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Filed under art, business, craft, marketing, resources

NEW TO SHOWS, WHERE DO I START??

I’m going to be very lazy today, and share a post I made recently on a crafts forum.

A craftsperson posted that they were thinking about doing some shows. She was at a loss on where to begin designing a booth. Was there such a thing as a “booth designer” she could hire?

Someone responded that there are companies who design major exhibits for corporations and such, and perhaps one would be willing to freelance.

But probably not. I wish there were such services available to folks in our budget range. There’s a magazine devoted to the trade show industry called Exhibitor Magazine. Unfortunately, it’s geared to companies whose trade show budgets begin at “up to $50,000″ up to “over $1,000,000″.

The exhibit industry is geared toward displays manned by a team of people, setting up in huge indoor convention halls, and reconfiguring the entire display every couple years.

Consequently, anyone involved in that industry will probably not understand that most of us start out budgeting perhaps a tenth of that figure, maybe even less. They may not understand why your set-up has to be windproof, or how it will fit into your station wagon. They may be aware of poster services and display that start at hundreds and thousands of dollars. But they won’t be able to tell you why velcro ties are more cost-effective than zip ties.

But the magazine is still kinda fun to look through, it’s free, and some of the articles are good reads. A few months ago, it featured one of the best articles on fire safety/fire retardant booth materials I’ve ever read.

And it’s nice to know that sometimes even folks with exhibit budgets of tens and hundreds of thousand dollars still get to a show and realize their booth is too tall for the venue….

Other forumites mentioned Bruce Baker’s CD on Booth Display and Merchandising and I also highly recommend his CD. If, after listening to his CD and rolling through my Good Booths Gone Bad design series, you still have questions, you could ask Bruce for consult. And no, it’s not free, but it will be great advice.

The problem is, we can all tell you what to do and what not to do. It will still feel like (as I always say) someone handed you a pamphlet on driving laws, four tires and a seat belt and told you to design your car.

Ultimately, only you know all your needs and all your trade-offs, what you are willing to scrimp on and what you are willing to throw money at, what you are willing to put up with, what you won’t.

I feel your pain if you carry multiple lines. I have to have solid wall space for wall hangings, some sort of shelves for small sculptures, and cases for jewelry. No simple solutions there!

My best advice is to echo what another poster said, and start looking at other booths with a critical eye. Look at what people use for lighting, what tent they use, etc.

If vendors are not busy, most will be happy to offer you a suggestion or give you a source for their displays. But please–try not to treat them as a walking resource center, though. One of my (many) pet peeves is the people who try to “pick my brain” about everything in my booth. Especially in front of customers. I’ve paid good money to be at that show, and my primary focus is making enough money so I can keep doing my artwork. Be considerate of the artists’ time, unless they actually say they don’t mind talking with you.

Once you have a general idea of what might work for you, you can either search other online forums, and ask people’s opinions about things like tent choices, etc. Or you can ask to be directed to specific sites and displays for your product. For example, jewelry artist Rena Klingenberg has created an amazing website with tons of good information and advice about photographing, displaying and selling jewelry.

When you’ve narrowed your choices down, you can even look for artists who are selling off parts of their booth and display. I’ve bought lots of stuff at very reasonable prices from folks who were updating their booth or getting out of the business. For example, ProPanels has a section on their forums for artists selling or renting their ProPanel walls.

And last, don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Trying to get it “perfect” the first time will frustrate and exhaust you. (I know, because that’s what I do!) Try to just do “good enough”, then see what works and what doesn’t. You can always sell the ideas that don’t work to another new exhibitor. And new booth/tent/display stuff is coming out all the time, too.

I would come up with a snappy ending to this post, but Bunster is chewing through my jeans hem. Her latest way of letting me know she wants to be petted. I would teach her to use email, but then I’d have to give her access to my computer. And we all know where that would lead: Mystery boxes of jelly beans, purchased on Ebay, arriving at my doorstep daily.

P.S. In response to Rena Klingenberg’s wonderful suggestions in the comments section, here’s an article I wrote for the April issue of The Crafts Report on how I learned the hard way I was never going to win a Best Booth award.

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Filed under art, booth design, booth display, booth walls, business, craft, craft shows, display, Good booths gone bad, jewelry display, ProPanel, resources, selling, shows

BANNER BUY

I subscribe to a newsletter from Rena Klingenberg called Home Jewelry Business Success Tips. I always learn something new.

Last week, I read this article on web banners.

I’d been struggling with making my own banner. I love the one my beloved friend and photographer Jeff Baird had made for me. Unfortunately, I was having trouble formatting it to different applications, and there was no text in it. I always had to add that, sometimes with lamentable results.

I thought I’d play around making my own, but the learning curve was too steep. I just didn’t want to spend the next three weeks on this when I have so many other, more pressing things to take care of.

So I bought a banner from this guy for $30. I’ve never bought graphic services online before and I was a little nervous.

Even though I ordered the banner at the height of Labor Day weekend, Neil got back to me within a day or two. He sent a little survey, so he could get what colors I like, my style, what applications I needed it for, etc.

I’m pleased with the results. (You can see the new banner above.)

I’m pleased that Neil asked detailed questions about how I saw my art, my business, my brand. The results look similar to what I had, just a little fresher. I like that my signature is in there.

Most of all, I like that Neil picked up on something I hadn’t even articulated to him–that I lean towards a “museum-like” aesthetic in my work, in my display, and in my presentation. He liked the gray background Jeff had used in most of my images, and incorporated that into the banner as well.

Neil also featured the horse images prominently. Yes, I do other animals, even non-figural artifacts, and I’m feeling the urge to create some people artifacts now, too. But even when people fall in love with my bears, my otters, my birds, my pods and stones and shells, they still refer to me as “that woman who does the horses.” For better or worse, my horse has become my brand. And I’m secretly glad, because they are the heart stone, the first source, where all my work comes from.

My old banner will be at my website for a short while, if you’d like to compare the two.

And as always, lemme know what you think, okay?

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Filed under art, banner, business, craft, marketing, resources, selling, selling online, style, time management

TWITTERING

I’ve just discovered Twitter. Check it out and see if it’s something you’d be interested in. Here’s a good place to find out how it works.

It’s sort of like instant messaging for larger groups of people. Or micro-blogging. Posts have to be super-short–I think it’s 140 characters. But you can post as often as you like, or need. You can follow other people, and other people can elect to follow you.

It’s simple, it’s fun, and it’s like a tiny window into other people’s world. Crafted Webmaster Nicolette Tallmadge has interesting things to say about the Twitter phenomenon. (I always find interesting things at Nicolette’s website, and I hope you’ll check her out.

I’ve already found that people who constantly self-promote themselves are kinda boring. That could be an easy trap to fall into! On the other hand, it could be a great way to create instant news or announcements to your customers and blog followers. And it’s really fun to see the smaller details in a friend or family member’s life in real time….

If Twitter is just one more thing on your plate, don’t do it! But if you have a minute to sign up and try it out, let me know how it works for you.

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Filed under art, business, life, marketing, networking, resources, self promotion, social networking, Twitter

How to Halfway Wholesale: #5 Do More Reading!

This is one of the most fun tips you’ll ever get about how to build your wholesale business:

Read more magazines.

Stores and galleries pay big advertising bucks to attract customers. They advertise in local newspapers, regional and national magazines, and on the internet.

They jump at the chance for good publicity–being interviewed for articles, participating in fund raisers, joining in art walks. Sometimes they piggyback with other local businesses, like bed-and-breakfast establishments, to entice tourists and visitors. They ask to be listed on their artists’ websites, so the artists’ collectors know where to find their work.

You, the artist, can benefit from that. You are going to look for ads, articles, store listings and store reviews for venues that might be a good fit for your work.

Most of us get the first, most obvious places: general craft trade magazines. Magazines like AmericanStyle Magazine, American Craft Magazine, Niche Magazine, etc. deal with American craft in general. (The Crafts Report targets artists and craft retailers; Niche targets retailers; American Craft and American Style target collectors.) You will find tons of stores advertising in all of these magazines.

My very first wholesale mailing were stores culled from reviews in The Crafts Report, a monthly magazine for the crafts professional now available only by subscription. (When I first started reading it, you could find it in bookstores and craft supply stores.) They would review a few galleries in each issue, with information on their store location; clientele (tourist, retirees, college town, etc.); popular price points; focus (home wares, jewelry, wood); what they were looking for (bridal jewelry, bird baths) and whether they did wholesale, consignment or both.

I’d carefully read each entry and decide if the store looked like a potential customer, and add them to my mailing list.

What’s exciting is when you take this idea a few steps out, fine-tuning it to your craft and your aesthetic.

These trade magazines focus mostly on American contemporary craft. If your artwork is American country, then find the trade publications that cater to that aesthetic. Early American Life is a great magazine for upscale traditional American Crafts. I’m sure there are many, many more.

What about your medium? Every media has its own trade publication. And many stores that specialize in that media will advertise in those magazines. Sometimes the magazines feature artist interviews. If they mention the stores that carry their work (and your work is compatible but distinctive), check out the stores.

Now take it even further. What is your product? If you create items made from beach stones, have you check out magazines such as Coastal Living Magazine? (Yes, there is such a magazine!) If you make pet stuff, have you checked out the zillions of pet magazines out there, for every animal from the usual cats-and-dogs to birds, snakes and geckos? People love their pets!

If your accessories or jewelry is trendy or hip, have you checked out the advertisers and store reviews in Lucky Magazine? (I love this magazine. It is unabashedly devoted to….shopping!)

If your work fits a special interest group–runners, opera lovers, book collectors–there is a special interest magazine for you. Perhaps several!

What area of the country might be a good fit for your work? Try travel magazines that feature that region. Many will do in-depth articles on places of interest and things to see and do–including….shopping!

And then there’s lifestyle. This is one almost everyone overlooks. These can range from the general (I’m not going to link everything, it’s taking too long!!) like Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Women’s Day, Country Home, Country Living, Martha Stewart Living, etc. All of these either carry lots of like-minded store advertising, or feature great store reviews. Mary Englebreit’s Home Companion Magazine often features dozens of stores in a certain city or state, and artist interviews.

We also tend to think only of the magazines we see on our local magazine racks. But there’s a whole nother world of lifestyle magazines out there. In my area, there’s the obvious and venerable Yankee Magazine/. But there are also smaller publications like the brand new Monadnock Living Magazine. All will feature store ads and reviews that reflect the aesthetic and values of the magazine.

I traveled out west to a show last year, and had a one hour layover in a Utah airport. At the news stand were over a dozen regional and local lifestyle magazines I’d never heard of. I snagged as many copies as I could, and made note of the titles of others for future research.

To get the best results, take the time to check out each store as much as possible. Almost all stores now have some kind of web presence. See if you feel the store, location, aesthetic and mix of artists would be a good fit for your work. The store owners will also be glad you did–it shows you aren’t just throwing yourself at every store, but carefully choosing which ones might really be interested. They will be flattered you took the time not to waste their time.

Last, how do you find these magazines?

Check out big bookstores. They often carry magazines you won’t find at your local supermarket.

Check out your local library. If you have colleges and universities nearby, check out their libraries. They often carry large and eclectic collections of magazines.

Go on-line. Most magazines now have an internet presence. You may be able to snag a free sample copy. Or go in with like-minded friends on a few subscriptions. You might even go in with them on a group mailing to targeted stores.

Check out local news stands when you travel, especially at airports. They’re a gold mine for local/regional lifestyle magazines.

Share with friends. Ask around–you may be surprised at the variety of publications your friends subscribe to.

This is a stretch, but….. In one community we used to live in, the public library hosted a free magazine exchange. You brought your old magazines to them, they stored them and set them out in a “free” rack. You browsed this stash of free magazines and took whatever ones interested you. That was how I first found out about formerly esoteric magazines on geology and jewelry that I’d never heard of before. Maybe your local library, or craft guild, or school would consider a similar project.

Of course, all these great magazine ideas are also good candidates for a press release or new product release. But that’s a whole nother series of articles!

So get out there and get some cool magazines. The next time you take a coffee break, pull them out–and start your market research. Hey, you’re not goofing off–you’re working!!

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Filed under art, business, half-wholesale, marketing, resources, selling, wholesale