Thanks to everyone who came to support the Del Ray Artisan Holiday Market this month. Personally I had a great time. I met some new people, made some new friends, and I got to know some old friends a little better. Best of all I had the thrill of seeing people leave with my art in their shopping bag. Now that is a real holiday blessing.
The feedback on my art this weekend was good. Here are a few more pictures followed by the lessons I have learned from my customers this fall.
As many of you know, this is my second year creating and selling my art under the business name: Cut Sew Create Studio. Creating art is fun, selling art is sometimes hard; and there are no blue prints for how to do it. My personal goal is to establish myself as a working artist by the time I retire in a few years. I consider the positive feed back from family, friends and customers a good sign that I'm headed in the right direction.
So I've created an end of the year list about what I've learned during these first two years. The list will be my blue print for 2013. While the initial points are specific to me; I've broadened them to apply to any emerging artist. Who knows, maybe this will end up as an article that helps another artist as they begin their journey.
TEN THINGS I LEARN FROM
MY CUSTOMERS THIS YEAR
Reminders for me, advise for other artists
Lesson 1: Create more art with "diet Coke" cans. I use recycled soda cans in almost all of my art. And I had started trying to hide the various brand names. But all year long my customers asked for specific brands; so that's what I plan to do this winter. The lesson learned here is once you identify a niche audience, pay attention to their input and expand your creative efforts in that direction. In other words, listen to your customers.
Lesson 2: Add "man" colors; art that works for men or boys.
It seems too many of my color choices are pastel. Color as an element of your art is very important to the customer. It has to fit into their home. Clearly artist can't make color choices that work for everyone. But your art will not sell well if you only create from a monochromatic pallet or if you use the same colors over and over. To sell your art, there must be some diversity within your color pallet.
Lesson 4: Keep "recycled houses" in the collection. These pieces make my customers smile too; especially when they see the low price tag. And since I can make them quickly, I can keep the price low. Items like this give people who can't afford larger more expensive items an option. These small low priced objects also make great gifts for special occasions. That means they are often what you can count on to cover the cost of your show entry fee or booth rental fee.
Lesson 5: Keep my price points mixed. I was fortunate this past year to have sold items at a wide range of price points. Providing a range of pricing is especially important when you are just starting out. Once you establish a customer base and have a small following this may not be as important. But, again, if you want to cover your costs your customers need high, low and in the middle pricing options.
Lesson 6: Create a new themed series. I was fortunate this fall to sell all five pieces in two different series I had created. Working in a series gives me a chance to stretch and expand my skills and creative ideas. More important it gives my customers options within parameters they've already decided they like. This is important because often a customer will have trouble making up their mind. If they have options, they could end up buying two pieces instead of just one. It worked twice for me this fall.
Lesson 7: Keep creating pieces that incorporate free motion quilting as a background. I love free motion quilting, and I'm getting pretty good at it. What's important there is to identify the techniques that you really enjoy, and then keep using them. Your enthusiasm for your art will come through in the finished product. And when your customers feel that emotion they are much more likely to purchase your art.
Lesson 8: Keep using thrift store frames. My art is all created from recycled materials. But to make it even greener, and more economical to produce, I only use frames I purchase at thrift stores. And I've learned this fall that my customers really appreciate this point. People who frequent art and handicraft shows are looking specifically for hand made merchandise. And very often those customers also place a high value on the concepts of recycling, up-cycling, and sustainability. If you can find a way to show them that you share their concern they will be more likely to promote you to their friends. And they will be more likely to become repeat or returning customers.
Lesson 9: Make a business name sign and a process explanation board. I need to hit the who, what and how harder with my art display. It's important not to make your customer guess about who they are dealing with. A cute business name is just that, a cute business name. If you are serious about your art, your customers will want to know and remember your name. And if you create your art with an unusual technique or with interesting materials your customers need to see that. But don't expect them to stop and read a full page single spaced word document with your picture at the top. Keep it short and simple and as visual if possible; after all you are an artist. Be creative not boring.
10: Reopen my ETSY store and create a Facebook or Pintrest business page. All of these represent the need to expand my marketing and to keep up with technology. For another artist that expansion could be purchasing a mobile credit card processing tool. What's important is to demonstrate that you are keeping up with the times and that you are in the know.
ETSY remains hot! Honestly, it can be a lot of work for an emerging artist and often without a lot of initial return. But if you tell your customers that you have an online store, they are more likely to take and keep your marketing material. And that's important because it means they can find you 3-4 months from now when they are really ready to make a purchase.
Facebook and Pintrest may not be as important as a site like ETSY, but they are both forms of hot technology that can make you and your art look very current to younger consumers. And face it, all three of these options are about networking, something experienced artists have been doing for a long time. The concept is proven, it's just the tools that have changed.
None of this is rocket science. All I know is that it's a good blue print for my new year and I hope it helps others in some small way.