If anyone has any questions that were not addressed or asked at the PDS panel at SNAG, begin your conversation here and I/we will do our best to answer and assist.

Tags: art, artist, galleries, gallery, pds, practice, professional, sienna, snag

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What was the single most compelling idea that you took away from the PDS that will change the way you operate your gallery?
I am assuming you mean the panel I was on?
Some plain old personal things we all learn from speaking in public- sit up straighter, don't go on an on, speak clearly and probably less emotionally, make sure I know what the questions are before hand so that I can prepare honest answers that are thoughtful and helpful, less fidgeting... And as far as how I operate the gallery- I can't say that anything really dramatic/compelling has changed- not like it has when I have been a part of other discussions or conferences. I would have liked to hear more from the audience- their questions and dialogue-this would have been very helpful to me. All that being said- The most important thing I left with is that I am happy to be bricks and mortar AND online.
Hi Sienna,

Thanks for participating on the panel. The discussion did, in fact, continue in a much more direct immediate and intimate way on Saturday. The audience was very involved and enthusiastic.

Take care, Andy
I spoke to don today and he also said the discussion was great, sorry I missed it! next time...
It appears you are saying the end result of the PDS was a big shrug of the shoulders and "nothing new". It happens. Can't have epiphanies everywhere. Glad your sitting up straighter and speaking more clearly though. We all need to do more of that.

The question regarding gallery operations was really probing your vision of how the gallery business model will transition as new distribution channels become more widely accepted and used. It is inevitable that this will change the relationship between gallery, artist and collector. What are your feelings and perspective on this.
Not necessarily a shrug-just not any big thoughts. I should begin by saying that what I do is very specific- more so than the other galleries/shops represented on the panel. I am also the youngest and though I am not particularly "on it" when it comes to social media/web stuff etc... my friends are. I know what exists- I have been watching and learning intently for a few years, aware that this will aid my business in evolving. I know that other venues for selling work exist- they always have of course but they are now more prolific because of technology. I don't currently have any collectors who are purchasing and/or donating significant works who buy them from an internet site. Most of my artists make their work and then give it to me to do the rest. They are not interested in taking that time away from the actual work/idea creating energy. I cannot represent every artist making jewelry and I am not interested in doing that. It is great that Etsy exists and that an artist can sell through their own website- takes the pressure off of the galleries in many ways. Unfortunately there is a sense of watering down that takes place when what once seemed unusual an unique is more available- and it is without question that at least the way i show work- the "one of a kind" aspect is imperative and integral. It is more important than ever that I be stringent and focused. As difficult as it is for some to swallow (including myself sometimes) other peoples opinions matter. Studied, critical, and educated opinions really matter when someone is purchasing art. It doesn't mean that in the end we don't make our own decisions but even being on the etsy front page almost guarantees your chance of selling. I am ok with change. I don't know what will happen in the future ;-) but I have at least another 40+ years of doing this so I am damn well going to stay tuned in.
Thank you, Sienna, you raise some interesting points. We see a lot of confusion in our field regarding the Artist/Gallery relationship. You pointed out that what Sienna Gallery does is more specific than the other galleries on the panel. We understand that galleries can, and often are, very different from each other. Sienna is acknowledged as among the top galleries of its type in the country. Could you discuss some of the specific things you do that other galleries do not.

We strongly agree that critical opinion is an important factor in influencing and validating the purchase of art. Having invoked the “A” word, we are loath to muddy the water with any suggestion that Etsy caters to the same market as a top tier gallery. You do mention that Etsy (or sites like it) take the pressure off galleries. Perhaps you could elaborate on that thought.
I would like to preface what I write below by saying that what Sienna Gallery can not be seen as some sort of protocol for what a gallery in this field should do. I think in the jewelry/metals field the term "gallery" is used in many different ways. Some places are more shop-like but use the term gallery as a way of making clear that they are showcasing handmade work. Sienna Gallery is organized and operates more like a traditional fine art gallery. When the gallery first opened this was very important- no one was really showing this kind of work in that way. Over the past 10 years it has become very clear to me that this is really the only way I am interested in directing the gallery. It works for me and for my artists. So. We make a considerable effort to (in no particular order)
1. publish books/catalogs for each show which include written words by the artists and a critical thinker,
2. work with our artists to plan out solo exhibitions years down the road,
3. photograph and document all work in a professional format,
4. are aware of and work with museums and collectors to "place" pieces in appropriate institutions,
5. show a range of emerging and established artists; work with the emerging artists to "develop" their career and with established artist to continue to show their work appropriately and in consistent context.
6. A real effort is also made to work with the same artists over and over again... this allows for the career development we both are interested in. That being said- sometimes it doesn't work out and things change- many times i can't do for the artists what it is they need and then we will sometimes work together to come up with another plan of attack. After putting in tons of thought, money and energy into someones work I am not interested in just dumping them- If we can, together we find a way to take what we have done and make it successful in another format or retail venue.
7. In many ways I work more as a traditional "dealer" I lend works to exhibitions both retail and non- I do much of the paperwork and shipping for the artists when i can, I stay tuned into what is going on so that I can suggest my artists as lecturers, panelists, educators, and participants in group exhibitions.
8. conversations and decisions about pricing and market placement are also integral. I make a real effort to get some established artists work into a higher range. Working with emerging artists to price their work appropriately and if I am lucky and know I will be working with the artist for a while, we discuss the pricing in the future as a way of understanding how things should be now.
9. ads, web, publicity in general.
10. being there for questions and answers- deaths and births - good and bad- up and down. We are all humans and so lucky to be working so intimately with each other. The luxury of working with someone for a long time is that if things in our own lives go sour for a time and the creative flow slows or s*** just happens- we do not fade- just transition.

... i think i could keep going with this but maybe it is clear enough. I do want to add that I can only do this very intense representation for a core group of people- this group fluctuates over time and has additions at the front and back. I could not and do not do this for everyone- sometimes it not necessary and other times the artist is not prepared to make the commitment. Sometimes my interest in the work fades or we do not see how the relationship can profit on either end. Then there are difficult decisions to be made.
This brings me to your second questions "taking the pressure off". If I can not continue working with an artist but they are clearly dedicated and serious about their work and the work is strong- having other opportunities for them is really important. Sites like Etsy help, other gallery type places popping up help as well- I am a fool if I think I can ask for exclusivity from everyone I show. I do usually ask for it from my core group and so far as long as I do my job correctly it is not a problem.Phew! I definitely should have learned to type with more than just 2 fingers!
We are much impressed Sienna. You are more lucid and articulate with two fingers than many people using ten. First, we would like to thank you for sharing your vision and method of operating Sienna Gallery. There are many misconceptions of the role a gallery should/could play in its relationship with the artist. While you're approach could easily be classified as "best of breed", as you point out it is by no means anywhere near the norm.
Even so, we are certain that you have provided an invaluable "peek behind the curtain" for many of the artists on Crafthaus who follow these discussions.

In our experience, what you express exemplifies a well balanced partnership between the gallery and artist. In such a relationship both parties take a mutual interest in the other's advancement. This is a far cry from the adversarial relationship expressed by many an artist and gallery alike.

We were once told by a gallerist that working with artists was a bit like babysitting a group of poodles. They are very beautiful, high-tempered and exciting to work with, but the trick is to keep them from occasionally s******* on the carpet and biting you.

That said, we feel it is important for artists to understand the proper role they play in the artist/gallery relationship. Would you share your thoughts and experience on what you expect from the artist, and what artists can do to be better partners with galleries.
Busy running around behind my artists with a plastic bag right now ;-)... and getting ready for the STIMULUS show to open at the end of June... want to respond and will but want to do it in a well-thought out way that is helpful and not when I am so busy... give a me some time. Thank you for your nice words above! S


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Masthead Credits

Bettina Matzkuhn, Vancouver, BC


30cm h x 96 cm w
Fabric collage, machine and hand embroidery.

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