Rent-to-Own Art – A Potential Boon to Buyers and Artists

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by Andre Smith

Many people linger in museums, longing to bring such beauty into their homes, perhaps dreaming of someday investing in artwork. So, what restricts that wish to a dream? For many art lovers and would-be buyers, the art market seems too complex and daunting, or art prices appear economically out-of-reach.

To accommodate this widespread but largely unfulfilled interest in art acquisition, many major museums and smaller galleries have started offering rental and rent-to-own programs, such as San Francisco’s MOMA.

While art rental has a long tradition, especially among corporate clients, the rent-to-own movement is increasingly gaining popularity. In many cases, the arrangement may benefit the buyer, the selling institution and the artist. Buyers get to see how they like “living with” the painting or sculpture before they commit to a major expenditure. As a result, individuals who would not usually consider purchasing art “whet their appetites” and just might begin a lifelong habit of collecting.

In the meantime, throughout the rental period, the gallery makes artwork available to appreciative eyes, which would otherwise be displayed at considerable expense, or kept out-of-sight in storage areas. In the long run, the gallery and artist also benefit, as the pool of potential buyers increases.

When a work is displayed in a home instead of a gallery setting, it instantly creates the word-of-mouth buzz that galleries usually labor to generate. Imagine that you’ve just acquired a beautiful piece of artwork, and you may only have it for a couple months: Wouldn’t you tell your friends, show it off with a dinner party or two, and flood your social media streams with proud images?

How Rent-to-Own Programs Work

In general, rent-to-own agreements are based around a commitment-free rental period, followed by the opportunity to make a purchase. Beyond that, individual programs can vary widely in the agreement details. According to BBC reports, two or three-month rentals are fairly common. Rental terms of a few months allow individuals to try out living with the artwork without burdening themselves with an excessively long commitment.

Pricing can also vary widely. As an example, the San Francisco MOMA might rent out a piece worth $30,000 for a little over $1000 per month. Taxes and installation charges also apply, and insurance costs will also vary. As with any rent-to-own arrangement, should the renter eventually decide to purchase, the final purchase price will be lowered to partially reflect the funds already invested during the rental period. For example, the Seattle Art Museum lets buyers put half of the rental fees toward the purchase price.

Expanding the Pool of Buyers

In general, the rent-to-own arrangement appeals to potential buyers for a few simple reasons. It allows them to enjoy artwork, in their homes, without committing to a major investment. Plus, for those interested in an eventual purchase, beginning with a rental significantly lowers the pressure and the risk of “buyer’s remorse.” As a result, risk-shy investors and novice art buyers are especially likely to find the option attractive.
Rent-to-own arrangements also offer a convenient alternative for a range of specific scenarios. For new companies in high-end sectors, acquiring the right artwork is fundamental to creating the office environment that gives clients the right impression. However, the cost of purchasing art outright can prove prohibitive for startups. By choosing to rent, with the option to buy, companies can suit their spending to meet the changing budget of their growing business.

Aiding Artists

Given the increasingly popularity of the rent-to-own arrangement, why should the scheme be of interest to artists? Firstly, by working with galleries that specialize in rentals, artists can massively increase their exposure. Although you may typically imagine your artwork to eventually grace a handsome home, consider how many more people will see a piece that hangs in a workplace. High-end hotels and competitive firms constitute many of the most ardent art renters. Many galleries, such as CKI Fine Art Rental, have specialized services to shepherd such clients through the art rental and rent-to-own process.

As an added bonus, letting galleries rent out your artworks ensures that they will be loved and appreciated. Instead of hanging at the back of a gallery, waiting to be purchased, your artwork will be continuously pleasing viewers. And at the same time, a growing public will be getting to know your name.

Andre Smith is a writer from Brisbane. His great passion is art – he’s an admirer of Ansel Adams‘ work and Asian fine art. You can connect with him on Google+.
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Content Meets Utility Marketing

Wondering how to drive more traffic to your business via your website, blog, and social media sites? Consider these stats on data per minute on the Internet (and that was last year, so of course even more now):

-204,166,667 email messages

-2,000,000 search queries on Google

-684,478 users share on Facebook

-1,300,000 video views

-47,000 app downloads

In the marketing world, the messaging has been that “content is king,” which makes sense given that we know consumers have been getting more and more fatigued and resistant to advertising. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, “more than nine out of ten B2B marketers are using some form of content marketing.” So that’s not the problem, the issue moving forward is in how to create content that will get noticed – and how to engage consumers in a way that will create loyalty to you and your brand.

Very difficult these days, but Jay Baer, author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype, and Mitch Joel, author of Ctrl Alt Delete and Six Pixels of Separation, are evangelists for the concept of utility marketing, which suggests that content focus and consumer engagement should shift from promoting the value of a product or brand to developing a user experience that is concrete and useful to the consumer. It’s a welcome shift from pumping out quantity messaging to looking for new ways to engage in a meaningful way.

Baer says, “Success flows to organizations that inform, not organizations that promote. Three key concepts described in his book are to provide “Self-Serve Information,” which is to figure out what you can provide that can be most useful to your consumers, thus establishing yourself as an ongoing source of information; “Radical Transparency,” anticipating and providing answers to the questions they may have about you; and “Real-Time Relevancy,” which is about being prepared to provide information timed when it’s most useful to the consumer. 

Joel believesthe next five years will be about the brands that can actually create a level of utility for the consumer.” He sees an era of increased personalization that requires different types of messaging not just by knowing your audience, but by media platform.

This is the ideal to be able to engage meaningfully and even specifically, but may feel overwhelming if you’re running your own business and trying to create at the same time. Something like being told to: “do everything, get to know everyone personally, and think outside the box.” However, taking a step back, it’s a way you should already be thinking. First, think in audience segments. What do you know that you can teach them? You can share information on new techniques, how to present, how to research, how to make a story or a piece of art extraordinary. Second, consider how others have shared that knowledge in the past? What new tools are there now, or new ideas you have for engaging them in a different way? What’s particular about your work, and are there specific times when that information can be most useful – at a particular time of the year, for special programming and events, in conjunction with trends or what’s happening in the news?

Third – and here it’s tougher – how can you learn enough about your customers, and how can you engage with them personally? Truthfully, you probably can’t if you’re thinking of them individually, but if you think in segments, you certainly can – and you can use different messaging, platforms and tactics to reach them. The trick is to break the message down in meaningful ways and then customize based on what you know about them.

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Marketing Authentically via Storytelling and Story-doing

14 Storytelling, Storydoing

Storytelling and storydoing are the new “it” words in marketing, advertising and pr. No longer are we focused on, catchy phrases and attention-grabbing headlines. From tech to tofu, we want more than just concepts, we want to bond over our products and the people who create and sell them. But think carefully about positioning, because with storytelling’s new marketing sibling, “storydoing,” we are being asked to live the brand we create.

 With storytelling, it would seem you couldn’t dream up a better scenario for writers and artists, and it’s true, we have great stories to tell and the skill to drive them home. But, as Colin Robinson, co-founder of OR Books, pointed out somewhat kiddingly, I think, in an article for The Guardian,if writers today are ubiquitous, readers seem an increasingly endangered species.” Robinson was alluding to book authors, but the point is the same. We have tons of content, what we need is to have an audience that cares to read it.

With marketing, that means cultivating the right audience and finding ways to get your story heard. To brand in a meaningful way, you must identify the connecting strands that run through your work, your own story, and how you want to be known in the marketplace and give your audience good reason to identify with you.

What works? Take a page from what corporations do for their brands. Look at your body of work as though you were the head of a company – what would your mission statement be?

Doing this brings your target audience into focus and informs the role you intend to play.  It also provides the underpinning of your marketing communications strategy and the tone of your messaging. A corporation would then go deeper and look at what content, information, and experiences it could provide that would be consistent with the brand and voice of the company and appealing to its audience in an ongoing way.

Content can be practical – giving tips on what you know, and what consumers want to know; personal – providing an opportunity for them to get to know you better – and for you to know them; experiential – offering ways for them to connect directly with you, which could be via events, contests, or other activities; educational – video works great for that, or humorous.

Humor’s worked perfectly for Amsterdam’s Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, which figured if they couldn’t be at the top of the city’s list of hotels, they’d stake a claim for being best at the bottom with the slogan, “It  Can’t Get Any Worse”. Their website proudly offers a list of amenities the hotel doesn’t offer: No Tennis, No Room Service, No Bellhop, etc. But that messaging’s proved perfect for attracting their audience of students, backpackers and others who, instead of seeing any of this as a negative, pride themselves on surviving a stay at the world’s worst hotel — and they brag about it to others.

Storydoing is about exemplifying what a company stands for and connecting over that with customers. The outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, does that by producing environmental content campaigns and materials that focus on issues of concern to the outdoor enthusiasts who buy from them. But they go beyond what other companies do by taking a long view of the commitment to the topic they and their consumers care about, and they believe this will be to long-term success.

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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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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

 

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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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