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.

Share

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Share

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.

Share