PARTICIPATORY SPORT FOR CRAFT ARTISTS
While the “white boxes” of galleries and museums might be an obvious choice for your work, you never know what opportunities can come from thinking about and exploring audiences beyond these venues.
During the past 2 years I’ve conducted over 200 Voice of the Customer (VOC) interviews. The most common terms I heard from my customers were bridal show and fashion runway. Now before any of you start thinking tacky plastic pearls or start screaming “SELL OUT”, let me be very clear that nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed in what inspires my work or all of the intense handwork that goes into every single one-of-a-kind piece I create. The only thing that has changed is I now have an audience in addition to galleries and museums with which to share my work.
By exploring and connecting with individuals in both the bridal and fashion show markets, a whole slew of opportunities have opened up which have played a major role in the rapid expansion and success of my business, including the HUGE opportunity to present my work on the runway at NY Fashion Week! The funny thing about all of this is that I often hear phrases like, “This is so far beyond jewelry, it’s art!” or “These pieces should be in a museum.” coming from the bridal and fashion market. While many gallery visitors and art collectors say things like, “Couldn’t you see this on the runway?” or “I muusssttt have this for my wedding.” Go figure.
So, how do you find the “Outside the White Box” venue(s) that makes sense for you? First, know what your business is all about. Are you only going to make one-of-a-kind pieces, production work or a mix of both? The bridal and fashion markets make sense for me because 100% of my business is one-offs and private commissions, similar to couture fashion and custom bridal, so the transition to marketing myself as a couture jeweler is relatively easy.
Second, make a point to see your work through your customers’ eyes. We’re often way too close to our work to see past our own ideas, concepts or self-perceived faults. Put your pieces in front of others and ask them, “What do you think?” You’ll be amazed at what comes up, especially if you don’t provide a narrative or any other information about the piece, unless asked. I use this variation of the Voice of the Customer technique with every new collection of work and only answer the specific questions I’m asked about each piece because what I think and my narrative for the collection doesn’t matter. The work must stand on it’s own and all that matters is how my customers connect to the work and the narrative they project onto it.
Third, pay attention to and investigate the common things your customers say about the work. Are there certain markets or venues they see your work also fitting into? Can they help you connect with individuals in those areas? You’ll be amazed by how much others will be willing to help you succeed if your stunning work is backed up with a fantastic professional demeanor.
You may be afraid to try something different, I know I was, but the risk and potential rewards of trying something new are far better than the regret of what if….
Thanks for reading,
June 4-6, 2012 Best Business Practices for Craft Artists, Touchstone Center for Craft
June 17-25, 2012 From Hobby to Small Business: Essential Tools to Make You Successful, Art Paradise in Portugal
Sometimes we need a bit of a distance for our own work to see its full potential.
Again a very useful post, thanks Michelle.
And wonderful that your work was on the catwalk, well done!
Thanks for this wonderful post, Michelle !!
I agree with you and I have also asked this question a lot about where do I want my work to go.
I am in the process of making a big change and a huge step into the direction of my work and myself as an artist.
I want to offer my work in both ways: One-of-a-kind and production. I can see a big potential to reach much more people with a production collection but I also love the one on one connection with my clients and my one-of-a-kind pieces.
Hi Helga and Lorena,
I'm so happy to hear that each of you found this post helpful. It's great that you're thinking about these issues and exploring new opportunities for all kinds of work. While you're on this journey, be sure to set aside some time for listening to your customers as they can help you make connections with others and help you grow far faster than you might think.
Thank You Michelle.
I am learning a lot about the business part, it is overwhelming. Need to know more about art licensing , etc.
Also about manufacturing my designs and what is the best way to go and where to do it, etc... Lots and lots to learn.
I love to make my pieces and have the one of a kind and limited edition but a lot of my followers may not have the budget to get one of those pieces, this is why I think making a production line will give a lot of the the opportunity to buy my designs.
You're very welcome. The biz side can be overwhelming but it can also be a ton of fun. Let's set up a time to chat via Skype. BTW I have a friend who just licensed some of her work and I think she would be a great connection for you too.
That sounds very good !!!
Thanks Michelle !