Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
WAS I WRONG?
Today I thought was a good day...went and dropped off some jewelry at a gallery. I was warmly welcomed by the gallery attendant, giving me her undivided attention. As she was checking in my wares, I wondered around the brightly lit gallery. Looking and absorbing at all of the wonderful brightly colored paintings, gorgeous ceramic, photography, sculptures, and handcrafted jewelry. It was so uplifting to see all of this talented art in one beautiful space. I could feel all my creative juices flowing and the inspiration that it yielded.
I had a few minutes to check on my other account at a museum almost across the street. I walk in the front door into a dimly lit space. Not a sound was made but the heels of my shoes. Priceless paintings adorned the sober space, intimidated to turn back to look, I Forged on quickly to the gift shop in the rear.
I gasped as soon as I saw my jewelry in the museum's gift shop! On the wall was this 6 foot tall bright turquoise paisley fabric patted board. On it was about 35 pieces of BUY AND SELL CHINESE JEWELRY and dispersed through it was my handcrafted jewelry! I had to get up close and to hunt and seek my own pieces because of the background.
I asked for the manager and calmly asked when I could have my jewelry returned.
I emailed the director, and explained and also stated in other words that there are many, many local jewelry artist out there why are they buying Chinese garbage...AND putting mine with it.
As I was saddened by this experience, I quickly began comparing what the difference between gift shops at a museum and an art gallery.
Was this standard for museums to buy garbage to supply their gift shops? Remembering other museums that I have visited I am thinking yes. It saddens me to think that I would expect more.
There are no guarantees how your work will be displayed in either type of location owned and operated by someone else. But I don't think you can generalize about museums and galleries if that's what you are doing. My experience contradicts your experience, but I'm not selling jewelry.
I think both commercial galleries and museum stores get lured into the Merchandise Mart shows looking to find easy profit making goodies. That means they'll offer cheap junk. I've seen commercial galleries do it as well. But why did the museum think that interspersing yours with the junk was a good idea? Not!
I'm wondering why you are selling in two different establishments so close together? Both establishments are competing for sales of your jewelry despite not having the same mission overall.
There's a gallery in the small town near our home in which we've shown just to do something in the off season. They sell Merchandise Mart goodies, including jams and spreads and chocolate covered coffee beans, plus art and craft supplies! Yikes! Can you imagine art next to that stuff? It can look like the old Stuckey's or something if not appropriately arranged. Anyway, I asked them to section off areas and make LARGE name signs for the specific professional artists they would be showing so that there's NAME RECOGNITION for them.
That simple technique distinguishes the artist made stuff from the mass market made. It also adds class to the gallery, as if to say, "Look who's art we are getting to show and offer you." I got a wood turner friend to put his work in there as well and for a while the gallery had his wares interspersed with Merchandise Mart fare. It was awful. Soon after they provided his work his own section and displayed his LARGE name sign, it started to sell.
The interesting thing about it is the gallery has a laser engraver, and that's what we used to make name signs in wood. Really a nice touch and didn't cost much of anything to do. Their machine will laser engrave in a board up to 24 inches long. So the signs are significant.
Yes, I guess everyone is right. I believe what it boils down to is the way things are group, named and not grouped and dispersed with other merchandise.
I was approached by the Art Institute of Chicago last year and in the end we couldn't come to a deal. Their markup is so incredibly high that to sell my OOAK, hand made by just me, pieces at a reasonable price I would have barely been able to cover my cost of materials - basically no profit. In the end I had to say "thank you for the compliment, but it won't work". Very disappointing, but if that is their markup it would be less surprising to see imports in their stores.
I do have work in two smaller museum galleries with normal markups, but neither one is remotely near me and I have not visited. I did ask for photos of how my work is displayed, both to put them on my website, and to see what was going on.
Wendy Rosen who created the Buyers Market of American Craft which recently has become the American Made Show has been a crusader for American Made for a very long time ... I did a podcast with her a few years ago about her position. She picketed the Smithsonian when she found China made products in their gift shop and at the Grand Canyon because there were "Indian" products in that gift shop instead of goods made by American Indians. It is raising one consciousness at a time.