Overheard Conversations: How to Be a Better Matchmaker
by Luann Udell on 4/23/2015 7:54:01 AM
This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. Luann also writes a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”
Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match….but what’s the catch??
Today’s lesson didn’t come from the gym, although it was another conversation I overheard this week.
Person A told their friend, Person B, about an opportunity they might be interested in. (For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to call them Ann and Bob.)
Ann knew Bob was looking for an opportunity just like this. Ann listed the reasons why this might be just what he was looking for–the price, the time, the location, the trade-offs. Bob listened enthusiastically.
Ann also knows a lot about Bob–his strengths (and weaknesses), his habits, his way of doing things.
So, although Bob was saying “yes”, she asked him an unusual question before taking the matter any further.
“On a scale of one-to-ten,” she said, “How committed are you to this opportunity?”
Bob was taken aback. He said, “Wow, you sound like a nurse! ‘How bad is the pain, on a scale of one-to-ten?’ Heh heh!”
But Ann stood her ground. “Look,” she said. “Before I approach the guy about talking to you, I need to know how seriously you are considering this.”
Bob quickly replied, “Nine!” and that’s the last of the conversation I heard. I had to get back to my studio.
Ann’s question stayed with me. Obviously, she didn’t want to go out on a limb to introduce the opportunity-holder to Bob. If Bob is truly eager to act, it will benefit all three of them. But if Bob isn’t really interested, it will be lose-lose-lose, a waste of time and energy for everyone involved.
“On a scale of one-to-ten….” What a wonderful, non-confrontational question to ask, to qualify the ‘buyer’.
How many times have we been in situations like this, acting as the agent of change for someone else? For the sake of clarity, let’s continue this as us trying to do something for someone else. But picture it the other way, too–someone trying to do something for us.
We recommend a gallery to a fellow artist. Or we think a friend might like another artist’s work, and urge the artist to contact that friend. Or we think we know the perfect space for someone who says they need a studio. A customer is waxing enthusiastic about our artwork, and we want to get it into their hands/home/heart.
In every case, we see ourselves as ‘helping’ someone out, doing them a favor out of the goodness of our heart. We’re simply giving them what they want, right? We’re trying to match up their need with the right opportunity.
Sometimes, it is a simple thing. That space really is perfect for them, they really are looking for that opportunity, they really do want that painting–and the matchmaking is complete.
Often, however, there are reasons why it just won’t work for that person. The cost might be out of their range. They’re actually not ready to take that step. They’re just not into doing anymore shows, right now, or not interested in doing the gallery thing.
In fact, more often that not, what people say is holding them back, isn’t. Either they’re not ready to say why, or they just don’t know.
Whatever the reason, without us knowing what they’re really thinking, this might result in us giving even stronger encouragement, to the point of arm-twisting. And when they don’t take us up on our offer/favor/opportunity, we might get frustrated and annoyed.
Now imagine the situation reversed. Usually, when someone offers me something like this, I appreciate their intentions. I try to stay open rather than squish their offer with a fast ‘no’.
But eventually, I need to also be clear about how serious I am about following their suggestion(s).
“On a scale of one-to-ten”…. What a nice way for all of us to get clear on what we really want! And on what we’re willing/not willing to do to get it.
Now instead of yes-or-no, we can talk about where we are on that scale. “One, two, three” means “no way!”. “Three, four, five” could mean “probably not, but I’m still listening.” “Six, seven, eight” means “Mmmmm….I’m open to negotiation”. And “nine or ten” means, “let’s make it happen!”
See? Sometimes crunching the numbers makes a great match!
If you’re an exhibiting artist, try breaking this rule. My latest column at Fine Art Views, a blog about marketing art, may surprise you!
Last week, artist Sharon Weaver wrote a column for FineArtViews about entering art competitions. It was a good flow chart for your decision-making process.
In addition to the excellent reasons Sharon gave, there’s another big reason to enter an art competition: To get your work in front of a particular judge/juror.
(I’m going to use “juror” for both terms, because your work will be juried into these shows, and then judged for awards on its merits. The same person may fulfill both functions, but not necessarily.)
The juror may be an established, well-known artist. They may be the owner or manager of a prestigious gallery. They may be a curator associated with an art museum, or an independent curator. Or an art reviewer, an art dealer, art critic, art consultant or art appraiser. Depending on your professional goals for your work, this may be a golden opportunity to have your work seen by this particular juror. That alone may be worth the price of admission. It often is for me!
And consequently, that is also an excellent reason to contact the juror after the show—especially if you receive an award.
But…and here’s the kicker…
You should also contact the juror even if you didn’t win an award, and even if you did NOT get juried into the show!
Now that I reread that title, it looks like I’m saying I’m too hot (as in physically desirable) to blog. I’m not. I’m too hot (temperature-wise) to blog.
So I’m doing the lazy blog thing and giving you a good summer rerun.
Actually, I look kinda hot in that photo. But I don’t look like that anymore. Sorry!! And….
Your to-do list is really a travel brochure.
My plate is loaded. Full up. Spilling over.
I have so many projects in the air, I’ve been suffering major brain buzz. I hardly even know where to start.
Now, life coach and writer Martha Beck has a great article on how to unhook yourself from a to-do list. I think she actually suggests scheduling “empty time” in there.
And I know my life is so much more than a to-do list. One of her clients, on her deathbed, jokingly said, “At least this is one more thing I can cross off my to-do list!”
But I needed something more. Something that felt more like my whole approach to life. And this morning, I found it.
I was writing my morning pages–the “brain data dump” I try to do every morning. Sure enough, “more things I have to do” kept popping up as I wrote, and I dutifully added them to today’s ever-growing list. It’s already so long, I couldn’t possible complete the tasks in a week, let alone a day.
With a big sigh, I started to prioritize my tasks. What could wait? Which ones were more important? Which IS more important–the ones about my family? The ones about the latest foster puppy? The new open studio tour I’m working on? Cleaning my studio so I can HAVE an open studio? What about my upcoming surgery? Should I focus on getting healthy? What about my phone date with Lyedie this afternoon? (You can read more about integral coach Lyedie Lydecker here and read my article about her here.
Ah. Lyedie. What was that she said about time?
It’s not about priorities. It’s not even about balance–balancing family time with art time, friend time with exercise, pet care with health care.
It’s about awareness, and intention, and engagement.
For me, it’s about crafting a whole life. Seeing, learning, participating, growing. Not sideways(sigh), but inside-ways.
That’s when it hit me. What my to-do list really is.
It’s a travel guide for my life.
It’s not an AAA road map. It’s a list of possibilities.
Priority be damned.
Some of these tasks aren’t high priority. But they also won’t take much time or effort. Or I can do them on my way to another, “higher priority” task.
Some are totally unimportant. But I like doing them. They look like work, but they are actually fun.
Even some of the most important ones aren’t necessarily time-sensitive. They’re big, but they can wait. And sometimes, they can’t happen until other smaller, simpler steps are taken.
But what really blew me away today was thinking about the unimportant, quick, not fun, actually dreaded tasks on my list from a week ago.
It involved picking something up from a person I’ve had totally negative encounters with. This person is sarcastic and resentful, in a job they hate and not getting the recognition they feel they deserve.
I thoroughly dreaded the pick-up, and had to force myself to do it. Actually, I did it first because I wanted to get it over with.
I decided to be my higher self for just a few minutes. I said I was sorry for the circumstances behind their donation.
And the walls of anger came tumbling down.
I’m sorry to be so circumspect, but want to protect their privacy. Let’s just say that I saw another side to this person, a totally different aspect of their life that blew me away. They opened up to me, sharing their sadness and joy, their dreams and hopes.
It turns out I was able to speak to that in a way that encouraged and supported them. I gave them the small thank-you gift I’d prepared, and they were delighted and grateful.
Now, the point here isn’t that all people (okay, almost all people) have an inner beauty, if only we knew where to look.
The point is, this was an item on my to-do list I’d dreaded. And it was actually a door into something powerful and profound.
There was a connection, a reconciliation, a new way to interact with this person in the future.
And it all came from a place I never could have predicted.
Now I’m sitting here with that same to-do list.
It looks different. It doesn’t seem to fill me with as much anxiety. Time doesn’t seem like a upside-down bottle of sand with grains running out the bottom.
It looks like a travel guide to a mysterious, exciting and beautiful new country, a country I’ve wanted to visit all my life..
Here’s my latest article at Fine Art Views Newsletter called
QUESTIONS YOU DON’T HAVE TO ANSWER: Do You Have a Website?
When asked for a donation for a fundraiser, ask yourself what you’re REALLY giving away.
This is a reprint of an article I wrote five years ago. My good friend and fellow artist Nicole Caulfield came across it after a discussion about artists donating artwork. It still stands today, so here it is.
A thread came up on a discussion forum earlier this week, about whether, and how, artists should donate their work to auctions for charity.
There was an earnest discussion about who donates to what, and how. But nobody pointed out the downsides.
It can cheapen your work.
For most artists and craftspeople, our cost of materials (except for gold and precious stones) are negligible. Our prices depend on our creativity, our time, our skill–and what people will pay for our work.
At an auction, what people will pay can be a disaster.
Because most people attend such charity auctions to get a deal.
If you don’t believe me, ask a gallery.
I did. They said they BEG their artists not to donate work, for this exact reason. Of course, they have something at stake–they want to represent your and hopefully be the only one in the area to represent you. But they also are vested in having your work GAIN value, not lose value.
It’s funny, doctors are not asked to contribute medical services, and teachers are not asked to donate tutoring. I’ve never seen lawyers donate free legal advice. They may do pro bono work, but that’s not what they donate to auctions. Not to say it’s NEVER done, but I’ve not seen it. I believe this says something about the perceived value of our work–because artists get hit up a LOT for donations.
“Struggling artists” (including musicians) are often encouraged to donate for the “exposure” the event will create for them. To quote Jack White, artist and author of books about the marketing of art, “Artists die of exposure.”
My personal experience shows what kind of “exposure” you are risking. Take this chance to learn from someone else’s (mine!) mistake for a change.
I donated a wall hanging to a prestigious benefit auction in Boston. The show was filled with work by well-known book illustrators. (By the way, illustrators–who make commissioned art for use in books–have already been paid for their artwork.)
I attended the event, excited about connecting with art lovers who might be intrigued by my work. It turns out it wasn’t really an art show. Ski trips, wine cases and gift certificates were also being auctioned off.
I overheard countless conversations by the attendees that distressed me. (I knew some of them and I knew how much money they made) They were chortling about how cheaply they could bid on their favorite items in the silent auction. One woman had her eye on a beautiful handmade quilt, with exquisite piecing and sewing. She absolutely loved it. It was wonderful!
She also didn’t want to bid more than $40 on it.
I left before my work came up for bids.
A year later, a couple with the winning bid on my wall hanging came to my booth at a craft fair. Okay! This was it! It was working! Now they were going to become my collectors!
Not. They’d come to brag to me how cheaply they’d won it.
They weren’t even looking for me. They’d come to the fair on a whim, for the first time. They just happened to walk by my booth and recognized my work.
My booth was full of customers. The couple told me (loudly, of course) about their experience. “We got it for $35!!”, they exclaimed. (This was a small wall hanging valued at $350.) They couldn’t believe their good fortune. “It was so beautiful, and nobody else bid on it!” They went on and on about how excited they were to get “such a deal!”
Then they left. They didn’t even buying a tie tack.
The silence in my booth was deafening.
They meant well, I suppose, but it was humiliating.
So much for “exposure”. My work had been “exposed” as being worth $35. A hall full of people had watched as my work was devalued and ignored, with a repeat performance there in my booth.
I didn’t acquire a new customer, because they didn’t buy anything else, and I never saw them again.
I didn’t even have the tax write-off for the act, because tax law clearly states ARTISTS can only write off the cost of materials in the piece. Only people who actually BUY your art and donate it can write off the full value of the work.
And I cringe every time I think of them showing off the work in their home to visitors. “Guess how much we paid for this!” they probably chortle gleefully. “Only $35!!” What a steal! What a bargain!
OUCH. NOT how I want to be remembered.
That was years ago, and I’ve learned my lesson. I now carefully consider how and when I contribute my work.
Ask any gallery that represents artists, and they will tell you the same thing. Those auctions may be dedicated to “a good cause”, but people buy for one reason–they’re getting a deal. A bargain. Is that how you want your work to be marketed?
The ONLY time I saw this work was with an artist whose work and reputation were already strong–a strong collector base already well-established. His work was in demand because he was already at full production.
His piece started a bidding war, and went for MORE than the stated value. But his was the ONLY painting out of HUNDREDS of donated works that did so. Everyone–I mean EVERYONE–else’s work went for a fraction of the stated value.
Strong words, I know. And this is not an iron-clad rule for me.
I’m much more willing to contribute money or time to a cause dear to my heart. There are a few organizations I have supported with donations of artwork.
But I’ve also learned to say no graciously.
Here are guidelines that help me narrow the field that might also help YOU.
If your aim is to gain “exposure” (and I’ve already cautioned you how this can backfire), then at least donate something people will SEE. Now, if I donate anything, I donate jewelry, because at least someone will WEAR it. If it generates comments, perhaps the person will rave about the piece instead of raving about how cheaply they got it…
I pick fundraisers I care deeply about. And I let them know I’ve made an exception for them because of that. (This also controls how often my work is seen at charity auctions.)
Better yet is to suggest a CUSTOMER donate your work.
Or to offer to donate a portion of your profits to the cause. I’ve made special pieces with this in mind. I displayed them with a sign saying, “Profits from this pin are donated to such-and-such organization”. This is win/win–for you, for the charity, even for the customer. Your work holds its full value, the charity gets its donation, the customer gets to participate.
Or donate something free WITH PURCHASE. A free bracelet with the purchase of a necklace. Or a free sculpture with the purchase of a wall hanging.
Or offer a ONE-TIME discount. Bruce Baker, speaker and writer on the business of craft, cautions that customers tend to view even “one-time” discounts as PERMANENT discounts. I tried it once, and he’s right. But it’s still an option.
At the very least, offer to provide the item for your wholesale price. That is, the charity acquires it for what a store would pay for it. And set a minimum bid. More and more art organizations are using this model for their auctions, because it’s more artist-friendly. One person from such an art org confided in me, “We realized that saying we supported artists, then constantly asking them to donate work, was a contradiction of our mission statement!” Yes.
How do you say no to such requests graciously?
Tell them you get asked so often for such contributions, you now contribute once or twice a year to carefully-considered causes. You consider all requests, then make your decision in….pick a month or two. Say, June and December. And you are very sorry, but you’ve already made your decision for the year.
If you like the organization, ask them to submit a request in time for next year’s selection process.
Buy an ad in their event program. It will get you the same exposure and you won’t be donating your work at bargain prices.
Or send them a check. At least that’s tax deductible.