Tag Archives: art

The pleasure of learning something entirely new…

How often do we, as adults, set out to learn a completely new skill?GlassBlowing

I don’t mean learning how a new phone works, or becoming familiar with the latest version of an established piece of software – I mean learning a skill unlike the ones we already have.
Possibly not very often if you’re at all like me.

Considering how refreshing learning a new skill can be, especially if it’s learnt for pleasure rather than for work, this tells me lots of us are missing out on a real pleasure, and possibly on new life chances too.

Jenny and I have been thinking about this recently and decided that we would set out to gain some new skills by attending courses in art forms completely new to us. We’d like to offer a wider range of classes at our studio-gallery and that’s part of our motivation to look for new skills.

Since that point (about 18 months ago) we’ve progressed a fair distance in our desire to develop our capabilities as glass fusers, for instance. In fact, our beginner’s classes in glass fusing (which we ‘Fusion-Inclusion’ as we focus on using inclusions to make fused glass art) have become our 3rd most popular class, right behind our stained glass beginners’ classes.

We’re at the point now that our starter kiln is pretty much fully used all the time and the capabilities (and cost) of a larger kiln is often on our minds.

Another one of these new skills is to be the subject for future classes at Vitreus Art and I’m keeping our powder dry on this one! Suffice to say we set out on a certificated course to gain an appreciation of how the art-form ‘works’ and to figure out if we could build our proficiency to a level that would enable us to teach our own students in time.

Of course we don’t expect to be brilliant straight away, but we flatter ourselves that with practice, plenty of ideas to experiment with and recourse to our organisational and planning skills we’ll be able to put on a good show when we feel we’re ready.

We’ve enjoyed (and learned from) the process of following a structured teaching environment too – it’s not all about the new skill, some of the learning has been about the process of learning!
And more recently we tried something even more removed from our present artistic activities – glass blowing.

We set out with no expectation that we would ever want to blow glass on our own.
This was purely for pleasure and to satisfy an urge Jenny has nursed since seeing glass makers on the Venetian island of Murano where some of the world’s most accomplished glass-blowers make their magic.
And what a blast it was!

We chose to attend a one-day introduction to glass blowing at ‘The Glass Hub’ near Bath, in the UK. One of several creative businesses located on a farm complex, the whole place feels like it’s dedicated to artistic endeavour, which is a stimulating environment to learn in – no adult-education at a formal college feels like this!

Glass blowing is hot, potentially dangerous, exciting, and a little scary.

In stark contrast to much of our own glass work, glass-blowing is very much ‘in the moment’ – things happen quickly, glass heats and cools rapidly, the processes need to be timed carefully.

Our tutor Dylan was at pains to apologise for seeming to bark instructions at us but we understood perfectly why that was – something needs to be done – re-heating the glass, rolling it, shaping the molten glass, blowing air in to the embryonic vessel – and there’s little time for thinking, it’s all about action!

The end results were (to be completely candid) not perfect!

We watched Dylan and his colleagues effortlessly melting, shaping, colouring all manner of beautiful blown glass vessels and then made lumpy, uneven attempts of our own. But we love what we’ve made, and we loved every minute of the process. It’s fast moving, sweaty and challenging, but the emotional high of making something recognisably like a glass object from scratch is powerful.

The patience and skill demonstrated by our tutors, their delicately timed interventions, and the humour of the whole class left us a bit breathless and a lot excited!

Now we understand the ‘high’ our own students have told us about – learning new skills, the pleasure of owning a piece of art you’ve made, the collaborative experience of working with craftspeople to create something long-lasting – we’ve felt it and we always hope to deliver that same feeling in our own studio.

From now on we’ll be thinking a lot more about how we can spread that pleasure – it’s not just about making something, it’s about discovering that our hands can achieve results we hadn’t imagined, and enjoying the distinctive pleasure of learning new skills.

What sort of art-form would you like to try that’s new to you?
How would you like to learn a new craft skill and discover what your hands can achieve?

You could do worse than having a look at the classes and courses we run at Vitreus Art.
We’ll help you discover tghe pleasure of learning something new!

Who would start a gallery with the economy the way it is?

It’s a good question – who would start a gallery with the economy the way it is?

I intended to write this a year ago, when our gallery-workshop was just a few months old.
Back then we felt full of optimism but still heard nagging inner voices telling us we were a bit daft for even thinking of setting up what was effectively a shop, just when so many others were going to the wall.

On top of that, it was necessary for Jenny to leave the stability (and predictable income!) of a regular job. What were we thinking?

One year on from that part-written blog post and nearly a year and a half since we got our slightly sweaty hands on the keys to unit 4 Wakefield Country Courtyard the optimism is still there, the inner voices have been quelled and our early marketing efforts have paid off.VitreusArt-gallery-studio-Wakefield-Country-Courtyard

We’re delighted to have regular customers who seem to come in just after we’ve put new stock on display.
Our classes are steadily drawing new would-be and established artists and crafters keen to develop their skills or gain new ones.
Our studio is being used to create interesting (sometimes amazing) projects by students.
And we’re finding that folks who used to visit the Courtyard have started returning, having discovered that there’s more to see, do, eat and drink than there used to be.

So of course we’re optimistic – we’re working hard to make our business a success and seeing that pay off.

Some of the things that have really worked for us include:

Having a mix of income – we sell our own stained and fused glass, we sell other artists’ work for a commission, we run a host of our own classes in fusing, stained glass, glass appliqué and more.

We also have a talented band of artists who teach their own art forms to students for us, and we make our space and facilities available for a small fee to those who want to create but lack the tools or a suitable place to work at home.

We’ve built up a really good mailing list over the years. Our regular emails get open rates and click-through rates (which is actually much more important than opens) that are significantly higher than is common in our line of business.

A testament to this is that we’ve just taught a couple of ladies who joined our mailing list after attending our third ever class about 10 years ago; they’ve been receiving our monthly emails ever since and got in touch to ask for a private class at our studio this year.

We keep up our advertising in local magazines. When we get visitors telling us they saw us in a local magazine we know our adverts are being seen. Of course this doesn’t translate in to ROI, but we’re still ‘young’ and working to build our footfall.

We’ve also taken a leading role in encouraging our neighbouring businesses to join us in co-op advertising and that’s making a noticeable difference to the footfall across the site. It’s tempting to ease off on the advertising now we’re in our second year –it costs money after all – but we plan to keep the momentum up.

Running demo days and taster days to show visitors what we’ve got going on. These have been a huge success for us, and are a blast to run too. We invite our artists to join us for our demo days, and show off their skills.
Visitors get to see artists in action and are often inspired to join a class and have a go themselves.

The outcomes of our taster days are similar – we give customers the chance to try one of our glass crafts in a short session for just a fiver. Many then book a place on a full class knowing that they’ll enjoy it, thus reducing the risk!

Listening to customers and hunting out work we think they will like. We’ve tried hard to find work that synchronises with what our customers tell us they like, or actively looking for. We’ve also had to learn that what we like may not appeal to our customers. We remind ourselves every now and again that we are not our own customers!

Of course there’s a lot more we do that’s helping bring in customers – giving talks at WIs for example.
It’s all part of doing what we can to build our gallery, grow our reputation and help our lovely customers own or give art as a present, or even make their own art.

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve seen art you like, have tried a class and enjoyed it, or if you’re an artist yourself.

If you’d like to visit and find out about art and craft classes or check out the art we’ve got on display you’ll find us here:

Vitreus Art, Unit 4 Wakefield Country Courtyard,
Off the A5, near Potterspury, Northants NN12 7QX
Tel 01327 810320

Join our email newsletter group here…

VitreusArt-mapWakefield-Country-Courtyard

 

So you want to get your art in to a gallery?

So you want to sell your work in a gallery?

As Jenny and I approach our anniversary of running a gallery, and having been submitting and selling work through galleries for more than 10 years we have some experience of both angles.

Just how does an artist get their work shown in a gallery, and what can an artist do to help promote their work?

 Are you ready to sell through galleries?

Before even thinking about which galleries to approach, it’s time to think about what stage of your artistic career you’ve reached. Do you have an identity as an artist, does your work have a style of its own? Do you have a body of work that the potential buyer would recognise as the work of one artist?

It seems harsh to say this but…. if your work looks like a random collection in different styles and media when shown on the same wall, then perhaps it’s not ready to be sent to a gallery.

Do you have a website (with a proper domain, not www.angelcakes21.wix.com), up to date with your latest work and great photos? Proper business cards?!

Next – do your research. Find galleries that have work at a similar price point or feel or subject as yours – don’t expect a fine art gallery to take watercolours of local scenes, or prints. And high-end work isn’t likely to be suitable for a gallery that majors on affordable art.  Visit galleries, figure out which look to be a good match, and pay attention to their stock and artist selection.

 Presenting your work

We see this as two related but different subjects – getting your work ready to be shown (and sold) and getting your work in to a gallery.

Firstly – it’s an old cliché but it’s true – the frame (at least partly) sells your work; a good frame, sympathetic to the art, well made and stylish, will significantly enhance the saleability of your work.

The converse – a frame that doesn’t fit the shape, size and colour of the work, or one that is cheaply or poorly made – cheapens the work, and reduces its wall appeal.

We often see work shown to us in a varying range of frame styles.To the gallery owner this says – doesn’t care about the work sufficiently, doesn’t imagine it being bought and hung in a customer’s home, isn’t serious about selling their work.
I’m sure that’s not you, is it?

Take a look at art by known artists in local galleries. Now compare the standard of framing with yours. Be honest with yourself!

And where you’re offering mounted work without frames – how is the quality of the mount? And does the cellophane wrapper look neat? Have you included a card or some info about you in the wrapper?
Un-framed or un-mounted prints are meant to be lower in price than originals, but not cheap-looking!

And what about photos? Great photos really help sell art – on your website, on artfinder, when pitching to galleries or submitting work to exhibitions. A photo of a framed and glazed piece with poor lighting, reflections, keystone distortion or a distracting background will do the opposite!

Even established artists sometimes forget to take photos before they send off their work to be framed but new artists can’t afford to make this mistake.

In our gallery we rarely accept work from artists who can’t supply good photos. Once a piece has been framed it’s very hard to get a decent pic to use on websites, social media and promotions.

And as for getting your work considered by a gallery….

Most days in our gallery an artist will call in with work they want to show us. And almost every time, we’re busy with customers, or working on a piece of our own on the workbench, or up a ladder, re-hanging….

The chances are, if you call at a gallery without an appointment the gallery owner won’t be able to take the time to talk to you and look at your work.

A much better approach is to call or email and ask how the gallery likes to be approached. At least you then know how best to get an audience! Most galleries will ask you to send a few photos and a link to your website.

The photos you send may well be the determining factor so we suggest do as you’re asked, and send good piccys!

If the gallery owner likes what you send you’ll hear from them – galleries are often looking for new work of sellable quality so make sure your photos do justice to your work.

Remember – the gallery only makes money on art that appeals to customers enough to get them to part with money; work that is unlikely to sell isn’t going to be accepted!

A response that is guaranteed to fail is – ‘my work can’t be photographed / has to be seen in person / I’m worried my images will be copied’. Really?

If you’re invited to call in with examples, make sure your work is ready to sell – framed, mounted, wrapped, clean, un-marked and your best current work. Work that is old, marked, damaged or just lack-lustre may well shut that opportunity down before you’ve got started.
And be prepared – artist statement, expected wall prices, stock list, info and photos the gallery can use to promote your work…

 Pricing and commissions

Here’s a thorny one a lot of artists get wrong – offering the same work for sale in a gallery and on their website at different prices. Don’t do this please! Decide on a price that leaves room for the commission the gallery charges, and make sure that price is THE price – wherever else that piece is pictured.

And if someone contacts you and asks if you can offer a reduction by trading directly, we suggest you politely decline and direct the customer back to the gallery. You may get a sale this way, but you’ll damage the relationship you have with the gallery for the long term.

It’s important to be clear about prices – low priced work generates such a low commission any respectable gallery is likely to turn the work down – it generates too little income for the wall space occupied.

Most galleries charge 40-50% commission on sales – make sure your wall price (the price the piece will be sold at) allows enough for that commission and for you to make what your work deserves.

If the gallery puts someone in touch with you to commission a bespoke piece, paying the gallery a finders-fee will keep that relationship sweet. We don’t charge a ‘contact’ commission in these circumstances, but many galleries do.

And while we’re on the subject of commission, let’s deal with that question we’ve all heard – what does a gallery do for its 40 (or 50)%?

  • It provides a safe place for you to display your work to the public, including potential buyers
  • It covers its rent, rates, staff costs, insurance and utilities
  • It promotes both your work, and you as an artist to buyers – working to bring in new potential customers for you
  • It provides feedback – what’s being looked at, what’s not, what you could sell more of, what not to make more of
  • It often will provide advice and pointers towards enhancing your professionalism as an artist
  • It takes credit card payments and deals with the admin of sales and artist payments
  • And many more intangibles….

Professionalism

We encourage you to also consider your approach to being an artist.

Have you registered as self-employed, for example? Even if you have a ‘normal’ job being registered as self-employed means you’ll be keeping on top of taxes, expenses and your business admin.

Have you run your own shows or open studios, or done some local press work?
Is your work well-presented and ready to sell?

Do you understand your market, and work to reflect the tastes of that market?
Are you organised with stock lists and prices?

Do you turn up to appointments or exhibitions or promotional events on time and do what you can to promote yourself AND the gallery you’re working with?

Promoting your work and the galleries you work with

That last point above prompts me to delve a little more in to this subject in another post.

For now, ask yourself – am I doing a good job of promoting myself?

  • These days a personal, up-to-date business website is the minimum required.
  • An active presence on social media promoting your work and your gallery partners is expected too these days.
  • Do you email your contact list when you create new work, or get work accepted by a new gallery?
  • Do you look for ways to mention your work and the galleries where it can be seen?
  • It’s certainly not enough to get work accepted by a gallery and then forget about it.

The more you do to expand your audience, to engage with new customers and to direct art lovers to your galleries the better your sales will be, and the faster your reputation as an artist to be followed will grow!

Galleries have finite wall space – artists that actively work to boost sales will get more of that wall space, and will be invited to share in joint promotions, events, private views, and all sorts of other ways to grow sales and reputation. Don’t miss out!

I hope this is useful to you; good luck and happy selling!
Mike

“Lovely space, really nice work” – warning – Facebook meme within

“Lovely space, really nice work” – a recent comment from a visitor to our gallery and 11427176_10204465462260814_7970850652963678962_nstained glass studio in Northamptonshire.

By now, most people will have seen one of the many Facebook memes going around telling us that every time we buy something from an artist or craft maker we buy a little piece of unique creativity, directing money in to the local economy, helping those artists survive and continue to enrich our lives.

Well, of course I agree with the sentiment, even if I find the memes themselves often a bit saccharine.

And just recently I’ve seen several blog posts from independent shop owners reminding us that small shops and independent cafes or restaurants need to be supported if they are to survive.

Again, I agree wholeheartedly.

Every day something seems to make the chances of survival for small retailers a little poorer – out of town developments, parking restrictions in our towns, tax law changes that give large multi-nationals an unfair competitive advantage.

By design, our business at Vitreus Art is not dependent only on sales of art and crafts – we have a well-attended programme of craft courses plus the art holidays we run in Cornwall and a steady stream of stained glass commissions to keep us busy.

But as a small business we still face many of the same challenges and so we’d like to invite you to help all small retailers continue to offer you nice things the big chain stores don’t!

So what can you do to help keep Britain’s high streets and shopping centres vibrant and independent?

One)
If you see a piece of art in a gallery, or something handmade and delightful, or are tempted by a delicious-looking cake in the window of a tea shop, don’t say ‘I’ll come back and get some Christmas presents later / bring my friend to tea here next year’.

How about buying that piece of art now if you can afford it (art is its own reward!)?
How about biding a while now with a cup of proper tea and a slice of home-made cake?How about getting a huge headstart on the December crowds by buying your Christmas presents now, when you see them, from a crafter at a fair, or a local art gallery or handmade gift shop?

Two)
If you’re in the market for original, collectable art, buy art created by an artist who’s still alive – the dead ones don’t need the money!
History is littered with musical geniuses and artists who died poor and then got rich!

Three)
Instead of waiting for your retirement to try a new craft or take up paint brushes, find a spare Saturday or evening, book yourself on an art or craft course and start creating straight away. Imagine how skilled you’ll be when you do retire!

Four)
If you’re on a tight budget, instead of buying greetings cards (printed in high volume overseas) from high street chains (whose designers and artists receive a mere fraction of the price you pay) buy your cards from a local gallery or gift shop.

I can tell you for every card we sell in our gallery at Wakefield Country Courtyard, the artist gets a useful reward for their work, and not just an insultingly tiny percentage!

Five)
Tell your friends about what you’ve done! Share the business’s Facebook page, join their email newsletter and spread the word!

By doing these things you’ll be playing a part in keeping an artist alive and you’ll be helping the gallery or shop owner stay in business.
If they thrive, that’s one less ‘lovely space’ with ‘really nice work’ in danger of becoming a betting shop or tax-avoiding-paying chain coffee shop!

Thanks for reading!

P.S. You can visit us in person at:
Vitreus Art @ Wakefield
Unit 4, Wakefield Country Courtyard
Near Potterspury, off the A5
NN12 7QX

And online at:
www.vitreus-art.co.uk

And we have greetings cards!

Won’t get fooled again? Let’s hope not. And here’s a suggestion…

_72731124_72731123From the album ‘Who’s Next’ by The Who, the loosely political ‘revolution’s coming’ song written by Pete Townshend:

Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again

I’m not thinking of Heston Blumenthal who quoted the line in connection to the latest outbreak of norovirus at one of his restaurants. Especially because it wasn’t the first time, so clearly he was fooled again!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-26006223

No, I’m thinking about Martin Lang, the business man who has discovered that the Chagall painting he bought is a £100,000 fake. and he may not get to keep it either, as according to French law it should be burned to prevent it from being passed off as genuine to another punter.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-26081005

My suggestion to Martin Lang (and anyone else who loves art)

Maybe Mr Lang isn’t too short of cash and he can afford to buy something else to fill that annoyingly vacant space on his wall?

Well, Martin (may I call you Martin?)….here’s my suggestion to avoid getting fooled again.

Buy a piece of art from an artist who’s still alive to vouch for the piece. Yes, I made it, yes it’s not a copy, yes, thanks for your patronage!

From my admittedly non-objective point of view quite a few benefits accrue when somneone buys a piece of art from a living artist. Add your own if I missed any:

  • You help an artist make a living, thus contributing to the viability of a community of creative people who havent harmed any nation’s finances, unlike some
  • You get something with a story behind it – you can tell people about this great artist you know
  • It might go up in value – and if you help to widen the audience for the artist’s work the worth of the piece may increase more
  • You show people you have not only great taste but also originality and that’s cool
  • Members of the opposite sex may find you more desirable because of your humanity (this is not guaranteed though)
  • You’ll be a genuine patron of the arts without having to pretend or be an oligarch
  • Above all – you’ll feel good about your decision, with little likelihood of buyer’s remorse and no chance you’ll have to burn it because the French government says so

So go out, look at some new art, maybe make an investment, and enjoy.
Will your purchase repay you generously over time?

You better you better you bet!
Apologies to Pete Towshend (again).

Happy hunting
Mike