The Craft Market on Balance: Metal Art and Sculpture

Artist Bud Scheffel on anticipating the market

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Bud Scheffel has a passion for art; a gift for creating high-end sculpture in metal and glass; and has had the rare ability to both anticipate new markets and to know how to create products that sell well to discriminating, high-end buyers.

He started his career in 1982, at age 22, traveling internationally as a graphic designer and art director and worked all over the U.S., Europe and Asia, including in Milan, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and New York. Upon his return in 1987, he started his own ad agency in New York City, which he later moved to the Catskill Mountains near Woodstock, New York.

He met his future wife and partner, Ursula Perry, who was principal in her own business – a rep firm devoted to the American Craft and International Gift industries. Together they pooled their resources to launch Earth Saver Wind Sculpture, which became known as one of the most progressive, inspiring metal craft lines of home and garden sculpture in the gift industry.

“When we started, there were very few companies doing metal sculpture, but I did a lot of research and saw that there was a need for the many mail order catalogs to have beautiful art pieces to feature on the cover. I’d called on Plough & Hearth Magazine when I was selling advertising, and my wife was already selling her company’s wind chimes to them, so I reached out to their gift buyer first and began working with them and other mail order catalogs to sell my original metal sculptures for home and garden.

“My work became very popular, and I sold to every mail order house you could think of.  In fact, for a while it was just me and three or four other guys in the country selling that, and we built up metal as a strong category over four or five years until it was a major art form, as it is now, for the garden. But about ten years ago, China entered the market and in a few short years they killed the industry for the independent artists by copying our concepts and our designs and then selling them far more cheaply. We couldn’t compete and were forced to move from wholesale to retail sales if we wanted to survive – today, there’s no wholesale market for American-made in this category.”

For Scheffel, the unwelcome push out of the wholesale market meant rethinking his entire business model. It also got him thinking differently about himself as an artist and about what type of art he wanted to do.

“The economics outside wholesale were very different. I moved from selling seventy-four to a hundred and forty-four units at a time to companies to selling one-by-one at retail. Fortunately, my kids were grown and our expenses were less, so I could sell direct to consumers and make it work. I also discovered the upside for me, which was that working as an artist again gave me the chance to focus on the creative side of the work rather than on the administrative and business ends, which were what I’d had to do to support a large production model. But very few working artists have that luxury. And now, the retail craft business is changing again, this time because of the Internet.

“What you see when you go to most craft shows is the majority of vendors selling items that cost $100 or less. What that means is that you have to make a lot of product quickly, and you need to sell a lot to even make back the cost of your booth, which can cost thousands of dollars for the more exclusive shows.

“I’ve concentrated my efforts on the high-end, juried shows. There are about twenty that I go to, and you will find work there being sold in the $500/$1000/$5000+ range, but it takes a lot to get accepted at that level, and you have to be prepared to pay your dues first.

“I think the best shows are the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore, One of a Kind in Chicago, the Smithsonian Craft Show in D.C., and for outdoor garden – the Philadelphia Flower Show, which is great because it’s an eight or nine day show with 300,000 attendees. It’s one of the biggest in the garden world.

Bud Scheffel, www.earthsaverwindsculpture.com, is rethinking his current business model and moving more toward large sculpture and corporate work, since he’s seeing fewer quality retail craft shows and the market is undergoing more change.

“I see a lot fewer new vendors at the craft shows these days, and many who are there have been in the industry a long time and seem to me to be less willing to change and try new ideas. However, I do believe quality will endure and that those who make good products can make headway if they do their research and learn the business as well as the art side.

“I’d particularly recommend learning how to market and price your work, getting good quality studio photos done to showcase your pieces properly, and researching to find out which shows are best for you to attend. Zapplication is the best reference site for that, and you can also check Sunshine Artist Magazine, which does a report of show rankings.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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Woodworking on Wheels – Pop-up Arts Ed

Beth Ireland, Wood Sculptor and Educator

Many folks may not realize it if they don’t have kids,  but schools are besieged right now, lacking classrooms, and no more art, shop, or science class. But I’ve seen how much of a difference introducing art can make in their lives.  –Beth Ireland

13 Beth Ireland art1 13 Beth Ireland art3

 

13 Beth Ireland bagThinking outside the box comes naturally to Beth Ireland. Whether making herself a feature in her own art installation (well, that was in a box she built – but definitely non-traditional); mixing wood with tinsel, polymer, toys and other unusual material to create bowls and vessels; or as in her recent adventure, turning a cargo van into a wood turner’s traveling workshop; she takes a novel approach people love.

The cargo-van-workshop also has a mini bedroom and bath to serve as mobile living quarters when Ireland is on the road traveling to schools and colleges to teach woodworking across the country. She coordinates with project partner, Artist Jenn Moller who shares her passion for bringing art instruction to kids, particularly those in troubled areas, whose districts (more and more these days) don’t have budget for arts education. Now in its fourth year, their program called Turning Around America, has introduced thousands of kids to woodturning and woodworking, and the results can serve as a model for future thinking about arts ed.

“When we conceived of a traveling educational program, our main goal was to empower people through the simple act of making an object in wood. The first project consisted of a seven-month journey around the country teaching hand skills through wood turning and woodworking to as many groups and individuals possible,” says Ireland. Given that today a lot of adults as well as kids don’t learn how to use tools to build and fix things as they once did; that alone would have been great, but Ireland and Moller also discovered that young people really latched onto what they were doing.

Their most recent program, entitled Turning Around Boston, was part of an initiative sponsored by the Eliot School to bring a basic woodworking experience to Boston Public School students who ranged in age from kindergarten through high school. Ireland and Moller, along with local volunteers, introduced more than 1,000 young people to woodworking. According to Moller, “The most consistent statement we heard from teachers and parents was, ‘I have never seen them concentrate so well.’” Moller said she’s wondered, “What is it about working with tools to solve problems that engages so many students? I believe it is in our human DNA and, as budgets are cut and electives are eliminated, the wonderful benefit of developing hand skills and working in wood has been taken away from many public school children. It is one thing to understand this intellectually and another to witness the besieged state many schools are in because of funding problems and problematic politics”. Ireland agrees and has great concern about the increasing disparity between the haves and have-nots in our society. She’s seeing so many children who are being left behind in areas where arts education is considered a luxury.

“What we’ve also seen is that kids can have very different responses to the opportunity – those with less access and privilege often have been some of our most creative and motivated students. Whereas some schools we’ve visited that had many thousands of dollars’ worth of tools and equipment, but people there weren’t getting the kids excited and engaged, so it was all going unused.” Ireland’s also run programs outside the U.S. including one last fall in Guatemala – where adults and kids were both involved in the program and were often very interested in designing their own custom tools for work and home.

Next up for Ireland is to run a woodturning intensive for adults at the Center For Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine from January through March 2014. But more arts ed will also be happening, and she welcomes invitations from schools and communities to bring woodworking and art to their hometown. More information is at http://bethireland.net and www.turningaroundamerica.com.

Beth Ireland is a Woodturner/Sculptor who draws upon a lifetime of professional, traditional Woodturning/Woodworking skills to explore sculpture, architecture and relational aesthetics. Her belief in the power of the object drives her work, exploring the idea of memory locked in objects, and the creation of object as a visible symbol of memory. Working alone and collaboratively she delves into the anthropological meaning of making in our modern lives.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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Gold, Silver and Tin: Metalsmithing with Marlene True

Marlene True, Metal Sculptor

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As an undergraduate student, Marlene True thought she would pursue ceramics, her first love in art. But when she took an elective in metal work, she found she loved the range of materials and techniques that involved.

She did find it challenging to find ways to bring color to the metal work, but that changed when she heard a lecture by Bobby Hansson, author of The Fine Art of the Tin Can, which provided a whole new medium that she found she loved and is still using today in her art along with other metals.

Tin cans, which are actually made from mild steel with a thin tin coating, proved to be colorful, lightweight, yet structurally strong, so allowed for working in larger pieces. True knew that in the process of fabricating, soldering would remove painted images, but discovered she could use gold plating and powder coating to get the surface color she wanted.  Fabrication methods such as Cold-connecting gave her the ability to build pieces while retaining the original color or image.

True started working with tin ten years ago and, by 2008, she felt really established with it.  She sold at craft shows and found she loved talking with people and engaging – and saw that consumers often wanted to share what they knew about the history of some of her found tin items – whether they were food cans, cosmetic tins, or other types of old containers. She also enjoyed doing research and finding out more about the product’s background and how it had changed – both in its graphic design and usage over the years. When at one point her work turned to using bottle caps to make tiny spoons and other items, she discovered people had some very particular brand loyalty to favorite types of soda and beer!

While selling at craft shows she found that she needed to make a lot of production items to have enough inventory to sell, and through that process learned she preferred working at her bench making one of a kind pieces which kept the work moving in new directions.

Following graduate school at East Carolina University, she was invited to teach at Pocosin Arts in Columbia, North Carolina. She enjoyed the experience and asked to do a metalwork residency and, since they didn’t have their own metal studio, she brought her own bench and material and had a fantastic experience. True then helped write a grant to get a metals program started and, when the grant came through, she stayed on to teach a Jewelry and Business class. “It’s a great place to be, and now we have students and teachers coming from all over for all sorts of metals and jewelry classes.”

True has embraced the business side herself and believes artists must be prepared to be active with that if they want to gain traction for their art and career. “It’s time-consuming. You have to order materials, do your accounting, handle photography and advertising, attend shows, and teach courses. Perhaps you can get help with some of it, but most people have to expect to spend about fifty percent of their time on the business side of the work. It’s best if you can view it as part of your creative process.”

Personally, True has found that the big challenge is managing her time. “You can easily spend every waking hour doing your artwork and what’s related to it. I try to keep a balance with my personal life – and find that stepping away for a bit helps me get refreshed to do better in my art.”

Her main tip for artists is: Don’t rush! “I find when I teach, students are often anxious to get to the end point of a project quickly. I tell them that, if they try to find a shortcut and rush through the work, they’ll usually pay for it in the end trying to correct something that a little more time spent in the beginning would have made a non-issue.”

For those interested in working in metal, she recommends The Society of North American Goldsmiths, which was the most helpful to her in learning more about the field through conferences, workshops and the opportunity to meet other artists. “They run a lot of exhibitions of work, so people can enter art into shows. I’ve also found their Maker’s Profiles very helpful because it provides a place for people to post images of their work and news about what they’re doing – like a mini website, but even better because you get the benefit of traffic from a large audience.”

True is now Director of Pocosin Arts, where she still does some teaching and continues with her own artwork. Her work can be seen at Penland Gallery, Penland, NC; Dow Gallery, Deer Island, ME;

Metal Museum Store, Memphis, TN; Facèré Gallery, Seattle, WA; and Equinox Gallery, San Antonio, TX. She’ll be teaching at Thomas Mann Studio Flux in New Orleans from October 30 – November 5 and then in scheduled to teach at West Dean College in Chichester, West Sussex, UK from May 2 – 5.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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Exploring with Fiber, Images and Mixed Media: Artist Wen Redmond

"Touch the Soul" - mixed media

“Touch the Soul” – mixed media

"Landlocked" - digital fiber

“Landlocked” – digital fiber

"Shine" - holographic images

“Shine” – holographic images

Inspiration: images, the outdoors, feelings, evolving techniques – and getting into flow during the art process. Rules: not many, but two are — Stop listening to other people. Try new things.

While many artists enjoy working with specific steps and structure, Artist Wen Redmond prefers the and alchemy of mixing original images, mixed media materials, substrates and mediums and responding to what evolves. Not someone to create the same thing over and over, she constantly changes her work and processes. One of her variety of workshops is called Serendipity Collage, and it includes painting, dying, stamping screen-printing, mono printing, stitching and other means of surface design. The emphasis is to catch the muse, go with the flow and allowing the materials to inspire art making.

Materials: fiber, fabric, paper, foil, photographs, scotch tape, paint, fabric dye, photocopies, thread, lace, leaves, coffee grinds, tea leaves, seeds, molding paste, wire mesh – and whatever inspires and seems to fit a piece.

During her career, she’s made art-to-wear-clothing, wall art, jewelry, art books and several signature digital imagery works. She uses a wide range of materials and particularly likes working with non-precious material – you’d be surprised what coffee grounds can do to add interest and texture — and she’s constantly exploring and expanding the boundaries of what can be done.

In describing her work, Redmond has said, “Fiber art has sustained my creative impulses since 1973. It’s a fluid and expanding art form.” Early on in her career, she moved from making art for personal gifts to making art to sell, including pieced wearable clothing and jewelry and wall art. “You have to be a business person to be an artist,” she explains. “It’s easier to find a market today because of the Internet, since you don’t have to run to each brick and mortar store and gallery to try to find the right venues to sell your work. I’ve done that, and I’ve also done the art and craft fair route, and it’s a lot of work and folks don’t realize that when they start out. Now, you can promote your artwork and programs you teach online. I have an art blog, a blog about my workshops and a website. That said, I also have placed my work in galleries. More recently, I’ve been doing more teaching, which I’ve found very rewarding.”

She will be leading workshops in Quilt Surface Design Symposium, Columbus, OH from May 26-June 8; the Abrusso School of Creative Art, Italy from Sept 2-8, 2014, and the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops in Greenville, New York from December 4-7.

Early on, Redmond found the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, an art guild in the state where she lives, was very helpful in finding opportunities. Initially, she was juried into one of their shows and then began selling her work at numerous galleries in New Hampshire and then branched outside the state. Her work can be found nationally.

Wen’s work lately has been creating larger scale wall art and abstract collage, which is a form she gravitates toward. “I like the effect you can get with transparency when working in layers because when you view collaged art from a distance you see the overall picture, and as you get closer, you find there’s a lot to discover hidden underneath. She often uses watercolor paper as a base. She has learned how to use different mediums and materials to get desired textures, effects and images into her Media Mix work.”

Redmond has created several signature techniques, including the Serendipity Collage Technique published in Cloth, Paper, Scissors Magazine; and her Digital Fiber Techniques. Holographic Images, using printed photographs on silk organza to create a unique 3-D effect, published in Quilting Arts Magazine and featured on Quilting Arts TV. Textured Photographs is her most recent publication both in magazine and now a DVD workshop. Her workshops are available on Interweave.

Her work has been exhibited nationally including at Fiber Philadelphia, Art Quilt Elements, Columbia University, Craft Boston, and the Museum of AQS in Kentucky.

She’s represented by galleries including the League of New Hampshire Galleries; the Tappan Zee Gallery, NY; the Textile Center, MN; the Visions Gallery Shop, CA and the York Art Association, ME.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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Discover the World of Doll Art

 

Barbara Campbell doll art1

Barbara Campbell doll art2

By Barbara Campbell, former editor and current writer about doll art and artists

One-of-a-kind figures sculpted in a semblance of the human form, in sizes from miniature to approximately 25-inches, reside under the title “figurative art.” When these figures, no matter the medium from which they are constructed, wear fabric costumes they are called art dolls. Because these figures can be priced from a few dollars to thousands, each artist must find a particularly appreciative marketplace.

All forms of doll design are time consuming and the materials are costly so when a doll-maker arrives at the decision to tempt collectors he or she must evaluate venues appropriate to their skill level as well as to pocketbook and time. To set aside a block of hours or days from the creative process to pursue sales is to interrupt an artist’s concentration and, collectively, such activities consume great amounts of time and focus.

A beginner may begin testing their potential at local street or mall fairs and at class exhibitions. Doll artist, Bonnie Prebula, teaches a Facebook class titled, Techiques to Self-Promote Your Art for Success & Sales where she advises setting up kiosks in shopping centers. From there, Bonnie does make-and-take and how-to projects and uses an I-Pad to display pictures of her art. Keep the kiosk interesting by inviting guest artists to demonstrate materials and techniques. She says, “Extend your circles by joining groups, volunteering for causes that interest you and attend open meetings. Develop post cards and business cards with pictures. Utilize the social media, develop a website and set up a blog using the free WordPress platform.

As the complements and buyers increase the doll-maker moves on to professional exhibitions and shows, art galleries, joining doll organizations and approaching editors of publications that feature objects made in the mode and material in which they work. Publications serving the doll community are Art Doll Quarterly, Doll Collector, Doll Castle News and Dolls magazine that features the current enthusiasm of BJDs (ball-jointed dolls). Other likely sources are publications about working with the individual materials used in doll construction: fabric, beading, clay and wood.

As a past editor of publications that support the doll community and a patron of The National Institute of American Doll Artists (NIADA), I counsel artists to establish a routine of sending photos of recently completed work to every editor of a suitable publication. Include all the pertinent information about the doll: name, size, materials, and anecdotes about its origins. Do not become discouraged if photos are not acknowledged or used; subjects, even editors, change and one never knows when a photo on file will fit. This also serves as a record of improvement, changes in direction, consistency, dedication, etc.

There is constant movement within the ranks of doll artists, making it difficult for newcomers to be noticed. Be pro-active; use the Internet to source doll clubs, publications, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, ETSY and eBay. Most organizations are now global; examples are The United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC), NIADA and ODACA (Original Doll Artist Council of America). Joining local doll clubs usually will access UFDC membership. NIADA and ODACA welcome qualified newcomers as individual artist and patron members. Both hold annual conferences with sales opportunities and sponsor classes taught by their Master Artists.

Below are synopses by and about doll artists who have persevered to attain public awareness of their art form. Every person profiled here learned through various steps and stages that to successfully market art dolls, the artist must begin by marketing him or herself.

Nina Tugarina, a graduate of the Kharkov Art Institute (now the Academy of Art) in the Ukraine now resides in the United States. Nina began making one-of-a-kind dolls in 2009 and became a NIADA artist in 2012. That is a meteoric rise and testament to her abilities. Nevertheless, she encountered extreme difficulty in finding buyers, relating those efforts to, “Finding the right husband for your daughter.” Citing from experience, she states, “Facebook works if there is already a circle of buyers familiar with the work; in my case, a place to brag about my newest pieces. I find EBAY and ETSY works best for low-priced items. Well-known artists dominate the expensive sales. NIADA conferences provide updated information about dolls and doll artists to the publications, which spread the word and are extremely helpful.”

Victoria Rose Martin initially encountered difficulty finding a material suitable to the many standards doll artists face: workability and suitability to design, and archival quality. She explains, “I began with polymer clay because I didn’t have a kiln, but found it fragile and a bias against polymers from gallery owners. Through experimentation, I established the ratio of clay and tensile strength and found a material that combined those qualities with sustainability. I simply wouldn’t give up.”

Welcomed as a NIADA Artist in 2013, Victoria Rose attributes her successes to the Internet, explaining, “The Internet has been indispensible for building connections. I am able to design marketable pieces through online printing companies, post images on social networks, and galleries and publishes are able to find me.

“Marketing campaigns are comparable to compounding interest; each piece builds on the next. It’s imperative to make work that truly honors who you are as both artist and person.”

Susan Fosnot also gained NIADA Artist status in 2013. She states, ruefully, “I have thought of myself as the Anti-Marketer. My successes seem to be in spite of my efforts.”

She says that beginning with local doll shows was, “encouraging because onlookers liked the work, but sales weren’t great and I continue to remain unknown locally. Being published in doll magazines has brought some success and calls continue years after publication.”

Two organizations play a role in Susan’s past successes and future plans. “Since 2006 I’ve been showing at UFDC conventions and did well until the economy tanked. Becoming a NIADA artist is a stamp of approval and I feel artistically freer by that acceptance. It is a credential, a mark of authenticity, a PH.D. in doll-making. My dolls are classified as rag dolls and rag dolls are not highly valued. I’m hopeful the annual NIADA Show & Sale will introduce me to new markets and collectors interested in dolls as artistic statements.”

Janet Bodin already had an extensive background in needlework, beading and felting when she first encountered art dolls at the 1996 International Quilt Festival, an annual event in Houston, Texas. After pursuing an intensive schedule of classes with numerous teachers, she began designing original figurative sculptures in 1998.

Soon after, Janet began marketing those first sculptures and remarks about how much has changed since the late 90s. “Social media has brought about an awareness that was lacking.  I now use Facebook and Pinterest, maintain a Website and blog, and email notices to friends and customers about upcoming shows that I will participate in. Artists are my best customers.” Her figures have been exhibited in galleries and juried exhibitions and widely published.

Janet is a member of ODACA and TAODA (Texas Association of Original Doll Artists), several art organizations, and submitted a doll for critique at each 2012 and 2013 NIADA Conference. She says, “I attend conferences for the pure joy of being surrounded by the most beautiful dolls in the world and the artists who make them. It is inspiring and educational to be associated with the very best in our business.”

Sharrie Wing was one of the wunderkinds of the 2013 NIADA Conference. She is still in the midst of artistic discovery, defining a signature, and making a presence. Previously, Sharrie enjoyed local success but realized that today’s economy has forced a need to offer variety. She’s learned that, “Customers may buy inexpensive pieces while admiring the art dolls, efforts that allow for exposure and the distribution of business cards. Customers have contacted me after a show.”

As a figurative artist just breaking into larger markets, Sharrie shares two decisions she’s found beneficial—becoming a NIADA Patron and establishing an online presence. She states, “NIADA membership provides worldwide networking opportunities and attending conference allows me to see firsthand what most interests buyers.”

And the Internet, she says, “Puts me in touch with fellow artists and potential collectors. My goal is to be published in the doll magazines. Perhaps there is a collector waiting to see something that speaks to them and will be proud to own my work.”

Kate Church titles her figures “sculptural puppetry” and describes them as a combination of the line and form of sculpture with the playful anima of puppetry.  Kate’s story is included here as an example of a person with a goal, set early, which utilized education, critique and willpower to fulfill that ambition. She studied sculpture, printmaking, textile design and graphic arts before and after embarking into period of teaching art. All the while Kate continually entered exhibits in her native Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, eventually adding a select group of prestigious U.S. and Canadian retail shows. She became a designer for the Cirque du Soleil’s licensed figures, marketed worldwide.

The sum total of those experiences, enhanced by the critiques by established artists and the public, caused continual growth of her workmanship, but Kate remained mostly anonymous. Changing that perception was another journey. She explains, “I had decided to develop a small production company to make pieces to sell locally. A friend came across the NIADA Website and once I saw the work, I felt strongly that to be accepted as part of that incredibly gifted group of artists would prove a level of professional accomplishment and build respect for my work.

“Learning that NIADA’s Patrons assisted their artists to achieve recognition was a unique concept. I had made a living from the hard work and long hours it takes to fill a booth at a large craft market. I am proud of making it alone, but to be recognized and accepted in the art world was the ultimate goal and I longed to see it happen.”

Barbara Campbell, a free lance writer and editor, is former editor of Ceramic World, Ceramics, Doll Collector, Doll Crafter and a Patron of the National Institute of American Doll Artsts. Barbara lives on the Pacific coast of Washington State.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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Tips for Putting the Arts in Arts Marketing

13 Bender & Lynch - Ninja Marketing art

Ninja marketing

 Marketers David Bender and A. Tyler Lynch

Arts marketing requires finding a balance between honoring the artist as creator, the artist as business person, and the art itself as an entity inspired by the artist’s vision, yet open to the emotion and interpretation of people who experience it. Easy to see why artists can get overwhelmed at the thought of doing this themselves.

However, having a good overview of marketing and knowing which tools you can use can make all the difference. I recently attended a session for artists run by David Bender and A. Tyler Lynch at the international puppetry conference near Philadelphia. They covered key elements of marketing communication, including social media, physical meetings and presentations, email outreach, phone calls, online ads, events, and having a meaningful website presence. They correctly pointed out that the website is the hub for the rest. It’s  where the artist gets to articulate his or her vision, lay out credentials, provide background to help the audience understand how they’ve evolved their work, and share news and events of importance.

Email and physical marketing; which can include presentations, workshops, pop-up events, ticket giveaways, backstage and studio tours, prize promotions and handouts. These are ways to directly spread the word and give potential customers a taste of the product. Social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ — work best on the 80/20 rule, where 20% of the communication is about your own product and 80% is sharing information of interest to the community as a whole, such as news articles, events, trends, and tips. For handouts, make your business cards bold and your posters eye-catching and reusable (leave space in the middle to add event information, so you can print the general piece once and then print or copy specific information in later).

Bender and Lynch shared some excellent tools. For social, they recommended the ever-popular Hootsuite, which makes sharing articles and information quick and easy (grabs part of a headline, a shortened URL, and allows you to immediately post, or pre-schedule a post to one or more social media platforms). They recommend loading up a couple weeks’ worth of posts, so you don’t have to find something every day. Where can you find good news to post? Try Zite, which will aggregate news of topical interest. And, if you’re tight on time, bookmark those stories to read later using Pocket.

When to schedule the posts? Depends on your audience, but as a rule of thumb, Bender and Lynch said, “8:30 am (lots of people commuting, so keep it short, upbeat, simple); 11:30 am (getting ready for lunch, should be fun, can be a little longer – a great time for video); 3:30 pm (may be bored at work & game for some engaging copy & video); 6:30 pm & weekends (great for longer-form articles and when you want people to spend time with the material.

As events and news happen, make sure to do good publicity. Bender and Lynch stressed that traditional media has more impact on potential customers than the others combined, particularly in the area of arts and entertainment. “TV is gold,” they said. Niche marketing is also very important – try to find five niches outside your primary audience to expand your base.

And, finally, remember that successful engagement is a two-way street. Think about what will be of value to your audience and provide those things. Consider what will make it easy for people to participate. And once they do, thank them and make a plan to nurture your new relationship, so they will be yours for the long haul.

David Bender runs the Philadelphia Center for Architecture and is in the process of launching The Phantasmagoria, a collection of experiences that will celebrate local and international artwork that animates the inanimate: puppetry, animation, robotics, movement theater, shadow shows, automatons, and more. A. Tyler Lynch is a software and social media consultant specializing in small to medium sized businesses. His clients have included Bain & Company and the NFL’s New England Patriots.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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Immersion Learning for Art at Peters Valley NJ

Kristin Muller, Executive Director

Peters Valley School of Craft

Making time to do art can be a challenge, particularly when it’s not your day job. And, even when it is part of your weekly schedule, the distractions of email, social media, and other daily demands can put what’s left for creative time at a premium. “Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, New Jersey is one of just a few places in the country to offer an immersion program for craft where people can go to explore new areas and to move their art to a new level. New and returning students go there to learn from artists working in multiple disciplines,” says Kristin Muller, Peter’s Valley’s Executive Director.

“What we offer is different from attending a class or a workshop because we have everything right here on site. Many people who come stay on campus, so they’re working, eating and socializing with our resident artists and staff and with the artists who are teaching here during the time of their stay. At any given time, we have classes in ceramics, metalworking, fiber arts, jewelry, woodworking and other media, so people have a chance to explore beyond their own area. Further, since courses run over a 3-5 day period, it requires more of a time commitment, so we get pretty committed students. Our process is also different than a lot of other programs because the focus is more on process than on producing a product.

“This is a tough time for people working in the arts, particularly with what’s happening at the government level. We’re all feeling it, and it’s important to realize that we need to support the arts and arts education. At the same time, many people recognize the value of this type of learning and how it can contribute to society, business and other areas. Artists learn to be problem-solvers, and here we’re teaching those skills, which are very important.

“Our organization, like many in the field, is looking for new ways to expand our outreach and gain more visibility. We’re exploring bringing artists into schools, expanding into assisted living, and recommending artists for special needs programming.

“Programs here run between May and September. We offer around 125 workshops. There are 30 buildings on our campus, which is in the Delaware Water Gap and part of the National Park Service. We have a store, and at the end of September each year, we hold a large craft fair. This year, the Fair will be September 28th-29th. Overall, we handle about 600 students in the course of the season.

“I’ve been here about four years, and right now we – the administration and our Board – are running a lot of assessments to see how we will handle future funding, how we can improve operations, and to see what kinds of business systems and marketing will help us meet our needs over the long term.

“We’re also always talking with artists and arts professionals about what’s going on in the field, since as with many fields, so much is changing, and we will all benefit from working together”.

Kristin Muller is also a passionate ceramic artist and writer.  She grew up in both South and North America attending schools in Argentina, Chile and the United States.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Studio Arts from Southern Connecticut State University and a Graduate Certificate in Ceramics from Hood College where she is completing a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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New Roles for Puppets in the Arts

Robert Smythe, Festival Director, Puppeteers of America

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Adventure of a Boy and His Dog on the High Seas -Mum Puppet Theatre

Adventure of a Boy and His Dog on the High Seas: Mum Puppet Theatre

As with many artistic fields, the world of puppetry is seeing a lot of change. Performers are facing new challenges in an increasingly complex marketplace, but there are new opportunities for crossover in the arts as well.  This month, more than 500 puppeteers came from across the U.S. to participate in Puppet Festival (r)Evolution, hosted at Swarthmore College and organized by Robert Smythe, this year’s festival director for The Puppeteers of America.

Today, puppets, are finding their way into an increasing number of arts disciplines and Smythe believes this reflects a growing understanding that puppets can play a unique role that goes beyond special effects or standing in for human characters. “People engage differently with puppets, because puppets represent an alternate type of reality, and so require a person to suspend disbelief and be willing to connect with the character differently than we would with one portrayed by a person,” says Smythe. “What you realize once you’ve worked with puppets, is that they broaden the range of possibilities for telling a story. For example, in theater, you normally have to allow time for action to shift – whether that involves making a scenery change, or having characters move in or out of the action. With puppets, you’re working in an alternate reality, so they can say and do things the people can’t, they can appear and disappear instantly, and exist in a fantasy world.

“The integration of puppetry with other fields such as theater, music and dance, reflects a larger trend in puppetry, which is that it’s become a much more collaborative art form than it’s traditionally been which I believe is a good thing. In the past, if you wanted to do your art, you’d hire staff you’d teach your methods to, and then you’d focus on having the group create your vision. Now, people in the field are much more specialized, and no one’s expected to do everything. As a result, you gain the benefit of having a group of individuals with specific talents, training and expertise, come together to produce a great performance.

“The Internet has also had a big impact, and we’ve seen that effect even in the make up of our conference. It used to be that the people who attended were primarily coming to learn how to build and operate puppets. Now, anyone can learn that online. So, we shifted our focus to be more about what you’d do after that, so our focus is on storytelling, performance and about the business of puppetry. Our organization also wants to create a place for people to connect and to learn from each other.”

Not surprisingly, technology is also a driving factor in change. There are many new things possible and at the same time, new questions are arising about what puppets even are. Some practitioners would prefer to see that answered in the purist, traditional form; but others see a lot of overlap with disciplines like robotics, animatronics, and even with computers, which is why one of the festival workshops was about creating digital puppets.

Robert Smythe has been working with puppets for about 45 years. He is the Director of Writing for The Puppet Theater at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and the Director of the 2013 National Festival of the Puppeteers of America. He was also founder of Mum Puppettheatre, which ran in Philadelphia for more than twenty years.

For more information, visit The Puppeteers of America.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

 

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Arts Funding Cuts May Push Growth to the Fringe (Festival)

Leila Ghaznavi, Founder, Pantea Productions

13 Silken Veils-Leila

Silken Veils, Pantea Productions
performed at Edinburgh & Philadelphia Fringe Festivals

As organizations and artists gird for another round of cuts to arts funding, communities may want to take a page from cities like Cincinnati, Rochester and Wilmington where the arts get a boost from city fringe festivals. Financed by the participants, fringe festivals provide the added benefit of supporting Main Street and the larger community, and bringing visibility to area artists.

Many rightly associate the fringe with the granddaddy of them all, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which began in the late 1940s. But today, there are an increasing number of festivals throughout the country and internationally. The United States Association of Fringe Festivals lists more than twenty. Some of the best known are the New York International Fringe Festival, the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival,  and the more recent Hollywood Fringe Festival. There are also the London Festival Fringe, the Toronto Fringe Festival , and the Adelaide Fringe Festival

“The value of the fringe is that it can provide ready-made audiences for artists and companies that might not be able to attract high-volume crowds on their own, “says Leila Ghaznavi, Founder of Pantea Productions, a multi-disciplinary theater company. Ghaznavi’s taken her own productions, including Silken Veils and Beyond the Light, to fringe festivals and has advised individuals and organizations on how to successfully market their performances at the festivals. She also helps groups evaluate whether the fringe can be a good fit for their needs.

“Many kinds of performances can work in a fringe environment, and it’s excellent for collaborating across disciplines. So you can mix dance with theater and spoken word, or music and performance art with videography. It’s about having quality over quantity, doing experimentation and looking for new ways to engage.

“The more innovative the show is the better because that’s what the audience at a fringe expects. There are performances done in short bursts, at non-traditional venues, and also as site-specific work, where the audience moves from place to place following a narrative as part of experiencing the event. Events can range from a fully cast play at a large performance venue , or I’ve seen a performance where the it was done in an elevator with the elevator going up and down.

“I advise people to think carefully about what they want to gain from being part of a fringe. Some want to test new work and get audience feedback. Others are further along and are prepared to make a big splash. When someone wants to make a splash, I tell them to bring their “A” game and plan to do a lot of advance marketing.

“You need to do more than just the basics – giving out postcards, posters, fliers, and local advertising –to get noticed. You also need to find ways to get directly to consumers; everything from walking the streets in costume to offering creative prize promotions and giveaways – anything to help you stand out from the crowd.

“I remind them of the old marketing adage about the ‘Rule of 7,’ which says that a prospect must hear your message seven times before they’ll buy or take action.”

Leila Ghaznavi who recently spoke at the Puppet Festival R(e)volution conference, is an Iranian-American playwright, actor, puppeteer and the founder of Pantea Productions. Her father immigrated to the U.S. from the village of Rahaghi with fifty dollars and a prayer rug. Her mother grew up in West Virginia and is a daughter of the American Revolution. She has an MFA from California Institute of the Arts, a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College in music composition and is a graduate of the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater. Much of her work explores the rights and roles of women across the globe. Her other talents include acting, directing, writing, aerial acrobatics, puppetry and clowning.

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Arts Initiative Sends Bronx Kids to College Free

Neil Waldman, Illustrator and Arts Educator for Change

13 Nicholas Flachsbart art1

Take motivated students from a low-income area, add art instruction, benchmarks for high grades, and the prospect of a ticket to a first-tier college and, if you’re author and illustrator Neil Waldman, you’ve got The Fred Dolan Art Academy in Bronx, NY. Founded seven years ago and recognized by The New York Times and New York Daily News for its innovation and success, Waldman’s initiative has just gained a new revenue stream, Dream Yard Press, a not-for-profit children’s publishing house founded by Waldman, and which is publishing its first picture book, Al and Teddy.  Here’s the latest on his education art initiative:

What prompted you to start the Fred Dolan Art Academy?

I grew up in the blue-collar neighborhoods of the east Bronx. It was a world of factory workers, plumbers, and shopkeepers. But my love was for drawing and painting, and I soon came to realize that if I wanted to do those things for the rest of my life, I’d have to go to college. I managed to do just that, and eventually became a writer and illustrator of children’s books.
It was during that time that a dream began rising within me – to return to the neighborhoods of my youth, find young artists there, and help them go to college. With this in mind, I created the Fred Dolan Art Academy, named after a recently departed friend. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTy6rqgV9oY&feature=em-share_video_user. The Fred Dolan Art Academy is a free Saturday school whose mission is to help young Bronx artists to build their portfolios, while encouraging them to raise their grades, so that they can be accepted to college. To date, 23 students have graduated from the program, all going to college with scholarships.
We’ve done this by giving the kids hope for a better future. Teaching them art has served as a bridge to academic success because they now understand that if they work on their art and raise their grade point averages, they’ll be eligible for scholarships to college.
Were they kids who had interest or particular talent in art?
The students who join the program are lovers of art, but we don’t require any art background or skill set to be accepted.
I think that talent is overrated. I believe in commitment and passion for art (or any other field). If people work hard and diligently, there’s no reason they can’t succeed . . . And we’ve never rejected a single youngster. All we require is that they attend classes every Saturday, and work steadily while they’re with us. In most cases, our graduates choose art as a career, but some have decided to pursue other fields in college. Some are now majoring in architecture, finance, creative writing, and theatre.
Do you think you’d have gotten similar results with other subjects?
Yes. I think it could happen with any subject. But our expertise is in art. The academy’s teachers are all successful artists and art educators, capable of teaching the skills necessary to succeed in the art field. But our kids come from families where no one has ever gone to college. And so there’s no understanding of the importance of a college education.
We’ve been doing this for 7 years now, and the data bank is growing. Every one of our 23 graduates is now in college with a scholarship. Our success is proving that hope is the most powerful tool. Without hope, there’s no reason to succeed in school. With hope, the goal of a college education becomes real, and our students have begun to realize that it’s possible to spend their lives doing what they love most.
What are your thoughts about future of arts funding?
Unfortunately, when school budgets drop, art and music are first to be cut. That’s a shame . . . and a concern. I’m hoping that through programs like ours, people will begin to realize that art can be a vehicle that leads to academic success, career fulfillment, and ultimately, the transformation of one’s life.
Who has stepped up to the plate to help?
We’ve had wonderful people offering their help and services, and we are very grateful to them.
We started with a Kickstarter campaign and received donations ranging from $10 to $1500. That provided seed money for Dream Yard Press, which is our new publishing venture. Our first book, Al and Teddy, (audio book, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCwJikL7BGg&feature=em-share_video_user) will be published in December. All proceeds will go to supporting the Fred Dolan Art Academy.
Cornelius Van Wright, Robert Casilla, and other artists are serving as teachers there; a lawyer named Mitchell Pines has volunteered to help set us up as an independent not-for-profit corporation; Bill and Beth Johnson have donated their time writing the teacher’s guide for the book, and setting up an educational outreach program, where we’re hoping to get donations of $250 from individuals who want to gift a carton of 28 Al and Teddy books to a teacher of their choice.
This all makes a big difference because we can make more profits on book sales, and use that to support our students. We’ve found that it costs about $1000/year to support each student in the program.
What’s surprised you most about doing this?
Everything has come together in a seemingly effortless manner. One after the other, people have continually come forward and volunteered their time and expertise. I’ve been amazed at how much they’ve done to help us further the program.
What are your dreams for this project?
My dream is that we can help all the kids who want to be part of the program. So far, we’ve helped 23 Bronx kids go on to some of the top colleges with full scholarships, and the schools they’ve gone to - Dartmouth, the Rhode Island School of Design, NYU, USC, SUNY Purchase, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Now, word of the program’s success has begun to spread. This year for the first time, we’ve had to turn kids away. Looking at the faces of those kids was sadder than anything I’d ever imagined So I’ve created Dream Yard Press, a not-for-profit publisher of children’s books in the Bronx. All the proceeds from sales of our books will go to the academy.”AL and TEDDY” is our first picture book. It’s the story of love and friendship between 2 brothers, and the power of art to transform their lives. I’ll attach 2 images from the book, and “A Bronx Diary,” the story of the Genesis of the academy.
We’ve had articles so far in The New York Times, the New York Daily News and others in recognition of this as an important model for what can be done via arts education to make a difference. My goal is for the academy to grow. I’d love to have “AL and TEDDY” considered for awards, so we can help more and more kids. In the long run, it would be great to have our own facility, and to show what’s possible to make a difference in the lives of kids who need help breaking out of what can seem like dead-end situations.
How can people help?
We’d welcome hearing from people who can help as teachers; in fundraising, non-profit and publishing advisors. We also particularly need help in creating an “AL and TEDDY” website.
Individuals can help us to by:
  • Purchasing a copy of “AL and TEDDY” http://raabassociat.es/14e2Rbh
  • Gifting an “AL and TEDDY” book box to your favorite middle school teachers.
Neil Waldman has been writing and illustrating children’s books for 40 years. His books have won the Christopher Award, the National Jewish Book Award, the A.L.A. Notable Award, the School Library Journal Best Book Award, and many others. Notable among these is a gold medal from the United Nations in a closed international competition in which Waldman was chosen to represent the United States. The world body selected his entry as the official poster for the International Year of Peace. Today it hangs in the halls of the U. N. General Assembly. He has designed postage stamps for thirteen nations, written and illustrated more than fifty books for young people, and has illustrated the covers of seven Newbery Award winners
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