Think Art Loud

Inspiring, Encouraging, and Promoting the Handmade Arts and Artists

Archive for the ‘Free For All Friday’ Category

FiberArts Cafe

So, if you are a fiber artist in or around the New Jersey area, you might want to check-out the FiberArts Cafe. The FiberArts Cafe is owned by Carol V. Moore and is located in Millville, New Jersey. Whether you are a knitter, crocheter, needlepoint artist, or any other form of fiber artist, the FiberArts Cafe is sure to be a place you’ll enjoy visiting. They carry all manor of supplies, tools, books, and also offer workshops.

In addition to the wool, bamboo, alpaca, cotton, and acrylic yarns that the FiberArts Cafe carries, they also carry an selection of more unusual yarns, as well as, yarns that have been handmade locally! Also of note, is that the store carries work made by local fiber artists, so be sure to stop by and appreciate their work!

Interested? Great! Here’s where you can find them!

501 N. High Street, Ste. L
Millville, New Jersey 08322

Store Hours:

Tuesday-Saturday: 10am – 6pm
Sunday: noon – 6pm

Group meet: Monday & Wednesday: 6pm – 8pm

Website
Facebook
Twitter

Beautiful Memories of the Past by Nina Gore Art

Nina Gore of Nina Gore Art is a henna artist. Now generally, when you think of henna, you think of it being applied on a person, and while Nina also applies henna to skin, Nina Gore takes henna out of the realm of temporary body art and into the realm of fine art. By applying the henna technique to other materials such as glass, paper, and canvas, Nina Gore Art also allows those who may be uncomfortable with body art to enjoy the beauty of henna in another fashion: as a painting. Not only that, but she has found that, unlike when applied on a body, the henna won’t fade over time like it otherwise would.

A Vibrant Peacock by Nina Gore Art

Nina Gore has an amazing eye for pattern and composition! In addition to the henna, sometimes Nina will combine it with oil pastels bringing an entirely new dimension to her work: that of colour.

If you would like to see more work by Nina Gore Art, here’s where you can find her:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Store (Saatchi Art online art gallery)

If you do a lot of shows, or have higher priced items, then you’ve probably considered, or will eventually be considering, accepting credit cards at shows. Accepting credit cards at shows really does make quite an impact on your sales. Since I started accepting credit cards at shows, I’ve noticed not only increased sales, but also an increase in the average price, so I would definitely encourage other artists to look into accepting credit cards. However, as there are several different options out there for doing so it can be very confusing to find which method would be the best one for you.

Most methods require that you have a merchant account service (sometimes banks offer this) which will rent or sell you the credit card processing equipment. Some of the methods will approve/decline the cards right away, while others record the needed information requiring you to phone the information into your merchant account service to complete the payment(s).

Regular credit card processors and merchant accounts can be very expensive. Besides the cost of the equipment, merchant accounts charge a monthly fee (whether or not you’ve actually processed any cards that month), as well as, transaction fees for each credit card payment (the % varies for each credit card company).

Thankfully, these merchant account services are no longer the only options out there for accepting credit cards, Other options out there are: Intuit GoPayment, Square, or PayPal’s card reader. All three of these options allow you to accept credit cards via a smartphone and know straight away if the card is approved or declined. I use Square and absolutely love it. The card readers are free and there’s no monthly fee, so the only cost is a small transaction fee which is the same for all credit card types. Square is the method I would most recommend, but I know others that have used Intuit GoPayment and PayPal that are also really happy with their choice. Whichever one you choose (if you choose to accept credit cards via a smartphone), just be sure to do your research as two which phones they are or are not compatible with.

A Summer Walk - Eve Botelho

Eve Botelho is an amazing fiber artist! Originally from Sussex, England, she now resides in upstate New York. Eve has had a love for the textile/fiber arts from a young age, and, as her grandmother was a dress designer and milliner, it sounds like it must run in her family.

Trees in a Field of Golden Rods - Eve Botelho

Eve Botelho graduated from Loughborough University with a BFA in Textile Design, and specializes in creating beautiful embroidered works of art. The detail she puts into her work (whether landscapes, 3D creations, etc.) is just stunning! She is a member of several fiber art guilds and shows/sells her work both through galleries, as well as, craft shows through the U.S. and Canada.

If you would like to know more about Eve Botelho and her work, here’s where you can find her:

Website

I know this should go without saying, but when selling your work online it is extremely important to have excellent product photography. Since your potential customers can’t see and feel the piece in person, your description and the product photography are all they have to help them make their decision. Your photography can, and often will, be the difference between being able to sell your work online or seemingly endless frustration of wondering why your work is not selling. They say a picture says a thousand words, so ask yourself, what is your product photography saying about you and your work? You may be an amazing artist, but if you don’t have great photographs of your work then potential customers can’t see that. And even worse, your product photography can also give the impression that you don’t really care and aren’t all that serious about what you do. If the photographs of your work are suffering in quality, then, in all likelihood, many people will not even bother to read the descriptions let alone consider buying. I have been to a number of online stores where I left straight away without looking at anything because of the poor photography. However, despite the fact that we all know that we need great images of our work if we are going to sell it online, how many of us actually do? This is particularly an issue when you are just starting to try and sell online. Sometimes, I think we get in such a hurry to get our work listed in our stores as quickly as possible that we make due with lesser quality images than we should.

But great product photography is about more than just whether or not the piece is in focus or that you have the right lighting, it’s also about how it is presented in the photograph. What kind of background are you using to photograph on? Is it distracting/detracting from the piece being photographed? And, unless, you are using props, there should never be objects other than the piece being photographed in the picture. I have seen a lot of product photography where the photographer was not careful about what was in the background of the picture and it really hurts the presentation of what you are trying to show. People will focus their attention on the distractions in the background, rather than on the artwork being photographed. Some people will tell you to never use any props in your product photography to ensure that there are no distractions and your work is presented as professionally as possible, however, I really think that it depends on what you are photographing. I use a lot of props when I photograph my jewelry (usually rocks and shells), and I do this for several reasons. One, I like the aesthetic of the photographs when it’s done right, but also because of the nature of what I photograph. I do a lot of work with chainmaille, however, chainmaille is not always the easiest thing to photograph in terms of getting enough of the piece in the image while also getting the small details of the weaves in focus. By using props, I am able to photograph a larger area of the jewelry in a smaller amount of actual space. It allows me to be able to get most, if not all, of the piece in the picture without having to have the camera so far from the piece that the details of the piece become too difficult to see (particularly in the case of micromaille). However, if you choose to use props in your product photography, be careful as they can just as easily hurt your photography as they can help it.

Product photography will never be easy. It just has too many variables that can mess it up, (incorrect lighting, distracting background, poor choice/unnecessary use of props, difficulty focusing, camera shake, etc.). However, despite all of its headaches it is well worth taking the extra time to make sure that it is done as best as you possibly can, and will help eliminate, or at least reduce, one of the common hurdles and frustrations with online selling. Remember that they represent more than just the pieces being photographed, but also the professionalism and quality of your business itself so put your best foot forward!

Consignment vs wholesale is another of those decisions that is likely never going to be easy to decide, and both have their upsides and their downsides. When it comes to considering consignment vs wholesale, first of all, make sure that you are ready to take either step as both can cause a lot of damage to your business if you rush into either one too fast. You don’t have to wait till you have learned everything there is about your particular art media before you start considering consignment or wholesale (as that is never going to happen! There will also be something new to learn or improve upon no matter how long you’ve been doing it). However, you also shouldn’t just run out to every gift shop/gallery in your area if you’ve really only just started making/selling your art. When looking to interest a retail venue in either consigning or wholesaling your work you need to be confident not just in the quality of your work, but also in your pricing, knowing what your art is about, who your market is, and (particularly in the case of wholesale) your ability to keep up with a demand for more product is your work does well.

If this issue of consignment vs wholesale is new too you, then, once you feel you are ready to pursue it, you should really start with consignment. Consignment is a good entry into the world of third-party sellers. Besides generally being easier to come-by and wholesale, it also helps you to build up your professional resume which can help you down the road should you start looking for wholesale venues. However, there are some definite risks involved with consignment: damage, theft, lost, and, of course, trusting that those you are consigning your work with are honest. Whenever possible, get a consignment contract in writing and signed by all parties involved! First of all, a good consignment contract will explain to you when you get paid, how you get paid, and cover all other relevant issues such as who is liable in case your work is damaged, lost, or stolen (some galleries/stores will compensate you in the event any of those happen, but others will not). And secondly, having a signed consignment contract allows you legal recourse in the event that the consignment venue is acting dishonestly. It’s one of those things that you hope you will never need to use, but best have just in case.

With wholesale, you have the benefit of being paid up front, unlike consignment where you wait, hope, and pray that you make a sale. However, your selling price for wholesale will be lower than that for consignment, and wholesalers can be much harder to find. Also, before considering wholesale, make sure that all your legal business documentation is in order as tax numbers are likely to be required for any wholesale agreement.

When considering consignment vs wholesale, really take into consideration what kind of an artist you are. Do you enjoy making the same designs over and over with only a few modifications, or do you thrive on making completely one-of-a-kind work? Knowing where you stand on this will help you identify whether you are better suited to consignment or to wholesale. If you don’t like making the same or similar thing over and over and over, than wholesale may not be for you. So before you push too far forward with making a decision on consignment vs wholesale, take a minute to consider how well either one fits your business, not just where it is right now, but where you want to take it down the road.

With sites like Handmade Artists, Etsy, Artfire, Zibbet, etc., it’s been made so easy to ‘set up shop’ online that selling offline might get neglected. You sign-up, make your page, and beginning listing and promoting as much as possible and wait (hope) for the sales to come. However, while the Internet is certainly a necessary part of any business, where you are going to get the most sales will almost never be online, but where people can see your artwork for themselves and talk to the artist about it.  If you intend to make a serious business out of your handmade products, selling offline is generally going to be even more critical than making sure you have an online presence. As difficult as it can be to know where online is the best place for you to sell, selling offline is often even more difficult, however, it is a very important part of most any business. Finding the best method/venue for selling offline is not at all an easy task, and can be extremely frustrating in the beginning, but very rewarding.

If you are new to selling offline, you quite possibly find the thought a little overwhelming and may not be sure where to even begin: begin locally. Find out about any craft shows, art fairs, bazaars, farmers markets, etc. that are going on in your area and give a few of them a try. Even if they turn out to not be the right kind of show for you, you will still be able to learn from the experience and it will help you in finding the right shows for your work. Start small, don’t just jump into the deep end of the pool without having learned how to swim.  When I first started selling offline, I started with the small craft shows in my area. They were one-day shows that cost $25-$30 a table. With most of them, I didn’t even make my table cost. Discouraging? Yes, however, I still learned a lot from those shows. I learned how the whole process of apply to and preparing for a show works, how to display your product, interaction with potential customers, and they still got my jewelry out where it could be seen and any amount of exposure gotten from shows (whether they are good or bad shows) is always a good thing. I also got some very valuable feedback about my jewelry because of these shows which helped me to realize that my work wasn’t doing well there not because there was something wrong with my work, but because they simply weren’t the right kind of shows. Both the other vendors, as well as, the patrons at the shows kept telling me that what I needed were not the craft shows, but the art fairs. Once I started trying the fine art shows, I found that they were right. I’ve gone from shows where I couldn’t even make back the $25 booth fee to shows costing between $100-$200 and making in 1 or 2 days the equivalent of 2-3 months of checks at my part-time job.

So, if you are just starting to sell at offline venues, get your feet wet first with the small shows in your area to get a feel for how shows work and what kind of show does well for you.  Local shows, you can often find out about at your chamber of commerce office, or sometimes even posted around town on public bulletin boards.  Once you gotten more comfortable doing shows and have a better feel for what kind of show you need, you can begin looking farther afield from where you live.   There are all sorts of websites out there to help you find shows, as well as, printed publications that can assist you in finding shows.

Other options for selling offline are selling via consignment or wholesale, however, I would really recommend you approach either of these options very carefully and not rush into them before you are ready to.

I know some take issue with how Pinterest works (does it or does it now violate copyright laws, etc.), and can be a bit of a hot topic. However, I thought I’d blog about the usefulness of Pinterest for businesses, and in particular, handmade businesses.

First of all, Pinterest can be a great marketing platform. Pin the image/description of one of your art pieces from its website listing and you now have a free advertizement with store link and one that can spread across Pinterest to reach more than just those that follow your account. The more people that your pin reaches, the greater the probability that that pin will result in a sale, and yes, sales do get made because of Pinterest. I had two sales last year that I know can be traced back to one of my Pinterst followers. It’s not guaranteed, but then there is never that guarantee with any form of advertizing/marketing. You just keep at it, and, eventually, the sales begin to come in.

However, Pinterest as a marketing platform is the tip of its usefulness to handmade businesses. Besides showing off your work, Pinterest can also work as the online version of what is called an ‘inspiration morgue’ (a binder, box, etc. that artists/designers use to store objects and photographs that could provide inspiration for future project ideas). You can use the boards to organize different forms of project inspiration, (colour, texture, pattern.?), keep better track of tutorials than simply using your browser’s ‘bookmark’ feature, brainstorm display ideas, etc.

Pinterest really is a valuable organizational and marketing tool. If you haven’t tried it yet for your handmade business, I would strongly suggest you consider giving it a try!

I know some people really enjoy social media marketing and promoting, for me though, it’s something that I’ve struggled with. How to do it well, what social media platforms should I use, how much time to spend marketing/promoting, etc. It can all be rather overwhelming, especially at first.

Social media marketing, while not always the most enjoyable, is an essential part of any business. Not only does it keep you in touch with those that already know and love your work, but it also helps you to reach out to others who will and who might otherwise not be able to find out about your work. However, there is such a thing as having too many social media accounts: if you can’t properly keep up with and maintain the accounts you , then you probably have too many. With as many different social media sites that there are now, the reality is that you can’t do all of them; if you try to do too many you won’t be able to market well on any of them because you don’t have enough time to properly devote to each of your accounts.

So how do you pick which ones to keep, and which ones to write off? First of all, know how much time are able to give to social media marketing to determine how many you think you will be able to keep up with. Once you know that, you can start looking at which ones are best for you and your business.

These days, having a Facebook page is an absolute must, so regardless of which other social media sites you choose, make sure this is one of them. But otherwise, know your audience. Where are they most likely to be reached? Twitter? Instagram? Plurk? Stumbleupon? Tumbler? Pinterest? Some other social media site not listed here or not yet invented (you know they’re going to come out with more!)? Also, if after giving a fair try to one of these sites, if you find it isn’t doing well, then maybe it’s time to re-evalute the value of that site or maybe even your audience. However, if you do decide to let an account die, be sure to make an announcement of where you are moving to so that any followers that truly care to keep up with what’s going on know where to find you.

The more time you invest in social media marketing, the easier it will get. You may also find that you can now handle keeping up with more accounts than you could before and be able to expand. So, even if you think you are maxed out when it comes to social media networks, keep your ears open as to what’s new. You never know, you may be able to replace an account that’s not doing so well, or someday find yourself able to/wanting to expand your social media reach.

Last week I blogged about some of the major issues with Etsy and why they are no longer necessarily the best choice for selling your artwork. So I that maybe this week it would be a good idea to go over what some of the Etsy alternatives are.

Artfire:

One of the first Etsy alternatives that you will likely hear of is Artfire. Some people love it and have been doing well there. Artfire, like Etsy, started well. It provided an alternative to Etsy for handmade artists that were tired of all the fee of Etsy. However, again just like Etsy, the site has begun to have problems and the same exact problems of Etsy: manufactured products and reselling of someone else’s handmade work.

Zibbet:

Zibbet is one of the newer Etsy alternatives out there. I haven’t tried this one, so I don’t know a whole lot about it, but I do know a number of people that have set up shop on Zibbit and so far I’ve been hearing good things about them. Zibbet has two types of seller memberships: a free basic package and a paid premium. You can have up to 50 store listings with the free membership and unlimited with the paid premium membership. A premium membership costs $9.95 a month or you can choose a yearly subscription of $89 and save $30.

Handmade Artists:

I love Handmade Artists and have had a store on there for years now. Handmade Artists does not have the same kind of traffic that Etsy has, but it is still a fairly young site and it is growing and will continue to grow. The administrators of the site are Etsy exiles and have been careful to keep the site handmade and create a site that address all the other issues that people did not like about Etsy. A store on Handmade Artists costs $5 a month or you can choose a yearly subscription of $50, making it also one of the lowest cost Etsy alternatives.

Indiemade:

Indiemade is great! Indiemade websites are specifically for artists and so they have all the tools and features that you need to create your own site. They also don’t cost you an arm and a leg! Their packages range from $4.95 to $19.95 (domain names must be purchased separately from a third party) I have a website with them and I love it.

Indiemade is just one of the many options out there for having your own website. Other options are Art span, FASO (Fine Art Studios Online), or of course hiring a web/graphic designer to make you a site. Some have also used free sites like Weebly or Wix for their website. Personally, I’m very hesitant to use a free website for a business site. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m just skeptical that a free site will have everything that a business site will need, look professional, and not have something wrong with it. Websites cost money to start and maintain (domain name fees, hosting fees, etc.) so I’m automatically skeptical about free websites and start thinking about other free web services like Tripod, Anglefire, and (the now dead) GeoCities (which are all awful and should never be used for business!!).

This is just a a small sampling of the Etsy alternatives that are now out there. There are many more options for both the marketplace style websites and for stand-alone websites so don’t feel like you have to choose Etsy just becasue it’s the most known. Also, don’t think you have to limit yourself to just one. If you’re not certain which is the best for you than perhaps try a couple and see how they go and decide from there which one(s) you want to keep. I tried Etsy, Artfire, Ebay, Bonanza, Handmade Artists, The Maille Market (a chainmaille only marketplace), and Indiemade before finding the right fit for me and am happy with my store on Handmade Artists and my stand-alone website through Indiemade.

(Sorry for the late post! I know it’s Saturday and the post title says ‘Friday’ but I started it yesterday and then time conspired against me not allowing me to finish it in time.)

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