Tag Archives: rowans

It’s been a funny sort of stained glass year…

Kinetic Op/Art - a 1.2m wide stained glass commission completed in 2012

Kinetic Op/Art – a 1.2m wide stained glass commission completed in 2012

Do you remember the fab Ronnie Barker sitcom Open all Hours, with Ronnie as G-g-g-granville and David Jason as his downtrodden assistant?
Then you’ll remember how each episode would conclude with Mr Barker standing outside his shop saying ‘It’s been a funny sort of day…’

It seems a bit premature to be reviewing the year with two months to go, but I’ve had several chats with artists lately and it’s made me reflective!

I don’t know about you, but we’ve sold more large pieces this year than in most previous years. Some people have still got money to spend on art, and we seem to have come in to contact with more of them lately.

We know how we’ve met some of them – some of them saw us at craft shows where our combination of demos, work on show and cheeky chat has really worked this year.

We’ve sold more pieces in galleries this year too – big and small. It’s always hard to know how those customers find us, but we can say that when we’ve put larger, higher priced pieces in galleries they’ve sold better than the affordable pieces we used to supply. Change of policy there for 2013 – we just need to make some larger pieces now ‘cos we’ve sold all the others!

And there’s another ‘learning’ from that – we need to make more time to make pieces to sell. In 2013 we’ll pass up on the early-season shows we used to do when the weather was freezing. Instead we’ll be cosy inside making stuff!

We’ve also won more large commissions this year too. Most of these have arisen out of shows we did, in some cases more than a year ago. So we’ll be making the most of the big shows we’ll do next year – more large work, more demos, more proactivity in networking and talking to potential art buyers.

We’ve also had more traffic via our website – especially looking for class places. Pat on the back for me there as I’ve been working on the SEO on our site a lot more this year. Even Panda and Penguin didn’t dent our traffic, which leads me to conclude that people are looking for us specifically. And that seems to be because we’ve also done more demo days and Open Studios this year.

Part of that has also been because we’ve worked more closely with venue owners on promoting our classes – through events like the one Stani Gallery organised early in the year and open days at Rowans Gallery in Brackley and the Herts Craft Collective at Radlett.

We’ve also found that demand for our Cornwall 5-day stained glass workshop has been stronger even than last year.
We’ve had repeat students, new students, and future students all contacting us throughout the year wanting places on classes already full up.

I’m also happy with the email list growth we’ve achieved – more sign-ups but crucially more active sign-ups. A large list of people who never respond is no good to anyone! I set myself the task of recruiting more subscribers and efforts in SEO, making subscription more valuable and in making our newsletters more entertaining is paying off.

And we’ve just come back from this year’s Cornwall workshop. A great class, great students, lovely work with a high percentage of pieces designed by our students, which is one of our objectives with the course. Thanks to all of our students then, for working so hard!

While we think we do a good job we seek feedback wherever we can, for improvement, new ideas to try out, and for ways to give our students more inspiration and stimulus. This year’s session has given both Jenny and me some good ideas which we’ll implement next year.

We also made more work for ourselves in Cornwall in setting up and packing up. We’ve already identified ways we can improve – to keep doing the same thing without considering what other ways there might be is daft I reckon!

So overall, my conclusions are:

  • there are people buying art (and other high-value discretionary purchases) – artists just need to attract and persuade them
  • being seen in public making art and demonstrating is infinitely more compelling than just standing around scratching one’s head
  • if you’re not sure a particular marketing activity is working, it probably aint – either the data is there or it isn’t.
  • people need to see and get close to art, particularly when it’s high in value – selling one-off art from websites is getting harder but a website can do the job of creating the introduction in advance
  • invest time in making work for galleries and they’ll invest more effort in selling it
  • take care of where your new customers are coming from – use your web stats to guide your efforts
  • make sure you keep in touch with your customers and contacts – art is a personal business
  • don’t keep doing things that aren’t working!

I’d like to hear your observations about 2012, and your own personal field of the arts – what are your aspirations or expectations for 2013?
Leave a comment or get in touch!

Happy creating,
Mike

P.S. You can see more of the commissions we’ve worked on this year on our Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Vitreus-Art/365501121283?fref=ts

You can see more about the stained glass we create here:
http://www.vitreus-art.co.uk/stained-glass-commissions.html

 

 

What does a gallery do for their 40(or more) percent?

The sculpture Garden at Obsidian Art

The sculpture garden at Obsidian Art

45% commission for selling my art work?

I hear this quite often – why should I pay a gallery 45% commission to sell my art?

Well, I expect the answer varies according to how serious one is as an artist, or which other channels one uses to sell one’s work.

I know for sure that aside from achieving sales, working with a gallery can be a valuable learning experience for the new but talented artist, and in fact that 45% or whatever they charge has to cover a lot of outgoings we artists might not think of!

First and most obvious, the gallery owner has to make a living by selling art – so they need to charge a commission that reflects the skill of selecting good work that matches the audience, displaying it attractively and the costs of being present and well-informed enough to sell it.

And don’t forget – we all have business premises to pay for – but a gallery, especially on a high street, will have much higher rent or other property costs to pay than we artists usually do.

And the gallery owner has to market the gallery (and by extension, your work) – advertising, PR and website promotions all cost money.

Then there are the general running costs of a gallery – electricity and water, display equipment to buy, and so on. Even just having a credit card machine costs around £30 per month, plus an annual merchant account fee.

I sometimes wonder if artists occasionally forget that galleries are businesses?
They have to make money and are often the owner’s sole livelihood, plus their pension pot.

So what does the artist get for their 45% surrendered?

I think I can summarise these in bullet points:

  • Access to an audience of potential buyers or commission enquirers
  • Professional feedback on what the public thinks about what’s on display
  • The means of finalising the transaction – taking cards, etc
  • Marketing exposure
  • The opportunity for one’s work to be seen alongside other artists, many of whom may be well established and highly sought after
  • Lastly – credibility – being in a gallery can be a real boost to self-esteem, and professional standing

And what might a gallery expect from the artist?

Any gallery owners who have more to contribute are invited to add a comment!

  • Professionalism – deliver what’s been agreed, keep the correspondence up to date and respond to enquiries quickly
  • Submit genuinely saleable work of a high standard
  • Turn over the pieces on show often to keep the display fresh
  • Be available to answer questions
  • Be realistic about what might sell and how to price the work
  • Undertake marketing of their own and include gallery details on their emails and promotional work
  • Don’t undercut – if the piece you delivered is on your website, don’t offer to sell it for less than the gallery is charging

So,  in the spirit of my penultimate bullet point, here are the galleries Jenny and I (Vitreus Art) work with most regularly!

Do get in touch and tell me about the best (or worst) galleries you’ve visited, worked with, or bought something from!

Happy selling,
Mike

 

Thanks Monty Don, Mastercrafts Stained Glass

Yes, thanks to Monty Don – much admired by green-fingered housewives (so I understand).

On the 19th April 2010 the BBC broadcast an episode of Monty Don’s programme Mastercrafts, following 3 stained glass novices as they  learned how to design and construct stained glass panels. The programme concluded with a competition to win and create a commission for a local school.
BBC programme link here…

The students were taught by hugely experienced artist Sophie Hussein over a period of 6 weeks. Naturally the 1-hour programme condensed the processes and left much out – but it was still a very interesting piece of TV.

For me it was good to see genuine crafts being given a respectful airing, rather than the superficial ‘here’s one I made earlier’ treatment by another programme last year. (No names, no pack drill…)

Why do I bring this up now, 6 months after the show aired?
Because yet again, at the weekend as Jenny and I were teaching a class of beginners on our one-day stained glass workshop, a member of the public visiting the adjacent gallery (Rowans Galley, Brackley) said to me – ‘Oh, I saw that programme with Monty Don and I thought – that would be nice to try.’

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said something like that to one of us when we’ve been exhibiting or demonstrating since the programme went out.

And a number of those keen, arty folks have signed up to one of our classes to find out how it’s done;  some have since gone out and bought the tools and got started on their own projects.

So thanks Monty, Sophie (and the 3 talented students featured)!

If you’ve been stimulated by the programme, or would like to try stained glass, we offer our Introduction to Stained Glass course just for you!
Get in touch to find out more or visit my stained glass website.
www.vitreus-art.co.uk/classes

I’d like to hear what got you started with your craft or artistic passion – leave a comment!