Category Archives: Marketing Yourself

Why original art is like a good cigar…

They say that the metaphor is the lazy writer’s best friend…

Che Guevara and a Montecristo cigar
How is art like a good cigar?

Why is (original) art like a good cigar?

Firstly – choosing art needs time and attention – you don’t want to commit yourself to a piece of art that offered an initial flash of excitement, but later comes to annoy, or disappoint.

A cigar is the same – a few hasty puffs may leave you light-headed.
Much better to set aside some time for contemplation.

Artists – if you can give your prospective clients the opportunity to ‘test drive’ a piece or two in their own homes, you stand a better chance of making the sale  and developing a longer-term relationship with that customer. Just make sure you know where the piece is going, and get an agreement that the customer takes on the risk of damage while in their custody!

Secondly – no two ‘real’ cigars are the same. They’re hand-made (not supermarket cigars obviously). Variations in taste, draw, burning time, and consistency during the smoke are surprisingly wide between examples of the same cigar from the same box.

It’s the same with art – artists don’t always produce work to their best standard, and what you see in a studio or gallery on one day may represent the best they’ve created or not. If you like the style, seek the artist out and see what else they have to offer!

Artists – turn your stock at galleries over from time to time, and make sure you can be found on the internet! And consider if the work you’re presenting is the best you’ve done.

Next – cut your cloth according to your means. I’m fond of the Montecristo No.4 – the choice of Che Guevara and other revolutionaries. But it’s not cheap, and takes nearly an hour to enjoy. Often I don’t have the time, so I’ll ‘compromise’ on a No. 5 – shorter, less expensive, quicker to smoke and less ostentatious.

With art, be realistic about the space you have for a piece, and the environment it will live in. If you have a small space, or a small budget – get the best you can to fit within.

Artists – if you can offer work at a range of price points you might be able to win a customer who will buy larger or higher-priced work from you later. A good reason to stay in touch, via mail, email, regular open studios or open evenings – these have all worked for me or artists I know.

Lastly – aficionados of most things are avid consumers of information about their passions. The internet is awash with cigar forums, reviews, info about where the best tobacco leaves are to be grown, the best climates and harvesting methods, the merits of different types of constructions, the best humidors and on and on and on…

Those seeking out exciting art are likely to do their research, and will enjoy finding out how pieces came in to being. The more info an artist provides about their work, and the more they ‘augment’ the story about the pieces they make, the more enthusiastic the eventual buyers are likely to be.

Running demo days, being able to talk about their skills at Open Studios, using video to show what they do, creating rich experiences on their websites – these all help to build an exciting and informative picture for the customer. I’ve seen how this can work, and aim to do so with my and Jenny’s stained glass work.

I’m off to devote a little time to artistic contemplation. And a nice cigar.
Let me know if I’ve missed any other parallels between art and cigars!





Herts Open Studios – another chance to meet artists at work

Stuart Grieve - photographer and digital artist
Infra-red photograph by Stuart Grieve

Here it is again – Herts Open Studios, organised by HVAF.
This year is the 21st anniversary of the biggest and most diverse art event in Hertfordshire – the county which boasts Henry Moore among its best known artists.

Each year we (Jenny Timms and I) ponder on the inevitable hard work that we know will be involved in putting on a good show.

Each year we remind ourselves that the chance to meet art lovers, talk about what we do and what they like, and to demonstrate how our stained glass is created is an invaluable opportunity.

The way we look at it is this:

  • It’s a chance to communicate to others our passion for what we do
  • It’s an opportunity to show that we know what we’re doing!
  • It’s a great vehicle for gauging opinion on some of our experimental ideas – which may get turned into viable pieces of art or they might get abandoned.
  • It’s an enjoyable social gathering, with artists and members of the public mixing and talking about what they’ve seen and which studios they plan to see next.
  • And it’s a buying opportunity – you can buy art direct from the artists who created it, at prices that are likely to be much lower than in galleries.

This year we’ll be exhibiting  in the garden of fellow artist and good friend Stuart Grieve and his wife Margaret.

Stuart will be showing his new Infra-Red photographs – very ethereal, almost ghostly – and large originals and prints of his very striking digital art.

We’ll also be crossing fingers for weather too, but come rain or shine we’ll be showing so do visit us – even if you need your umbrella!

You can see details of all the other artists in the Dacorum area here:

You can see examples of Stuart’s work here:

We’ll be at:
41 Hempstead Lane, Potten End, Herts HP4 2RZ.
Look for the yellow signs and please don’t park on the grass!

  • Sat 10th – 11am to 5pm
  • Sun 11th 11am to 4pm
  • Sat 17th – 11am to 5pm
  • Sun 18th 11am to 4pm
  • Sat 24th – 11am to 5pm
  • Sun 25th 11am to 4pm

Visit for details of all the studios open during the season.

And as an extra incentive to visitors, we’ll be making Christmas decorations (we have a big order to fulfill) and we’ll be selling them to visitors at half their usual price…

Hope to see you there!

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,


Open Studios – get out there and meet some artists, see some art!

Jenny working during 2010 Open Studios
Jenny working during 2010 Open Studios

Living in Buckinghamshire, we’re taking part in Bucks Open Studios, superbly organised by the gallery-owning dynamo that is Trisha Woodcock.

If you’ve not been to an Open Studio before (and there are loads of Open Studios events all over the country at different times throughout the year), then put simply it’s an art event when artists invite the public in to their working space to see what they do, and find out about what it’s like being an artist.

This is a much more direct way of  seeing art and finding out how it’s created than visiting a gallery, as the main principle is that the artist is present during the Open Studio!

However, we’ve always been aware of the argument that says an Open Studio should take place in the working environment, to give people a genuine flavour of the artistic life. But what if you work from home, as many of us do, and what if you’re uncomfortable with strangers wandering around in your house, or if the space is just not suitable?

Well, in previous years, Jenny and I (Vitreus Art Stained Glass) have hired a hall or a meeting room with other artists and put on a show.

Some artists tell us this isn’t a real ‘Open Studio’.
We’ve always been very clear, though,  that we’d be doing demos, running hands-on sessions for anyone that wanted to try a bit of glass cutting, or encaustic wax painting, or whatever.
We feel this is much more involving than opening a studio and letting people wander around, without any artistic work taking place.

It’s always been our belief that demonstrating what we do is good for us as it shows our competence, it helps to communicate the complexity and time involved in making a piece, and our visitors have always seemed interested in learning more.

So we’re especially pleased that the organisers of Bucks Open Studios have  identify the venues where artists will be working or demonstrating by including an ‘artistic endeavour’ flag alongside the web and printed directory entries for those artists that will be working, even if they’re not in what we’d recognise as a studio. Hurrah!

This year we’ll be exhibiting and demonstrating outside my (Mike’s) house, under cover. We’ll be able to show you what we do, what’s involved and let you have a go if you’re so inclined.

There are several other artists in Bucks we know well whose studios are well worth visiting too – so we hope that if you live in or around Buckinghamshire you’ll get out and see some art. And some artistic endeavour!

Julie Lue – Painting – Wendover
Jeremy White and Godfrey Thorpe – Ceramics – Wendover
Laura Boswell – Printmaking – Winslow
Jessica Ecott – Fused glass – Haddenham
Ros Long (By Hand Books) – Bookmaking – Stoke Mandeville

Hope to see you out there….


Flickr – fantastic for artists of all kinds

Stained glass garden panel finished, ready for cleaning
Stained glass garden panel finished, ready for cleaning

You know how sometimes you wish you’d started using something a long while ago because it’s just so brilliant?

That’s the position I’m in with Flickr. I’ve been recommending Flickr to artists who didn’t feel the need for a website of their own, or who couldn’t afford one (although ‘free’ websites are readily available now).

Because we’ve had our own website from the start we’ve put off developing a presence on Flickr, but now we have, boy do we wish we’d done it before!

We’re using it to publish photos of students on our stained glass classes.
Of course we’ve been taking photos of class attendees working, and the pieces they make, since we started teaching about 3 years ago. But we’ve lacked that simple way to make them available without selecting and emailing them.

Instead, any of our students can choose to copy the images that feature them or their work and save them.

Why didn’t we do that before?!

Have a look at our Flickr stream and let me know what you think.

And of course, we want other folks to be able to see what we do – after all, we’re looking to drive traffic to our website and grow our visitors and business.

So we’ve added folders of stained glass pieces we’ve made as commissions, and a selection of glass art from our archives too.

What a great way to get your artwork in front of a larger audience – I’m sold!

To all artists capable of photographing their work – Flickr is a brilliant marketing opportunity for you – it just needs a bit of thought and planning.

A couple of tips:

  • Make sure you get good photos of whatever it is you’re doing – a good selection of shots that are in focus, well-lit and well composed is invaluable for all sorts of marketing activities
  • Make sure you get the permission of your students (or anyone else in the shot) to use the photo
  • Take photos at the highest resolution your camera offers, and downsize on your PC if necessary
  • Keep a record of which photo is where and when – useful as an archive and helps to track your progress as an artist
  • Don’t post the high-resolution versions on Flickr – you’ll use up your 300mb monthly allowance very quickly – resize them first
  • Tag the images to aid search engine indexing – think about which words people might use if they were looking for photos of what you do
  • Watermark your images if there’s a chance others might use them for unauthorised commercial use
  • Fill in your profile on Flickr so people can find you, contact you, or visit your website

If you’re an artist or a craftworker, or an avid user of Flickr, I’d love to hear any other tips you have that others can benefit from!

Happy posting….Mike