Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So You Want to Be A Fused Glass Artist. Part III: Determine How to Sell Your Art

For most people, if you decide to become a fused glass artist, you will need to decide how to sell your work. Why? First glass can be expensive. And, as you learn, you'll want to invest in more supplies and tools to help you create new pieces of work. Also, as you make more, you'll need to figure out how to get rid of all of your creations. There's only so much you can give away, so selling makes sense.

There are many options for selling your work. The main areas are listed below:
  1. Online - This can be your own website or an online sales site such as Etsy. I notice many fused glass jewelers sell via online sites. However, effectively maintaining a presence on a site can be a full time job as you must constantly list and relist to be shown on the first few pages. There are also people who sell functional fused glass plates and art on online sites. While not as competitive as the jewelry category, relisting is also important. An important thing to consider is the pricing and quality of your work compared to what's listed on the site. Another option is to sell via your own website. However, for most artists starting out, it's difficult to have a large enough base to generate enough traffic and sales.
  2. Shows - There are many levels of shows from local craft shows, to juried art fairs, to the higher-end juried prestige shows. This is what I choose to do. In my opinion, it's much less work than what is required to support an online shop (each show is typically over a weekend) and I enjoy interacting with my customers. My ideal show is one that is juried with a similar quality level of artists (about 150). Since I don't participate in many shows, I can be a little selective. I prefer local shows with overnight security (so you don't have to pack up every night) and where all the artists are grouped together on the main street (so you don't have to worry as much about having a bad booth location). If you decide to sell via shows, I suggest you visit them in advance to get a sense of the traffic and other artists. Applications are typically due 3-6 months before the show date and require a booth photo as well as photos of your work.
  3. Wholesale to shops - this can range from visiting your local artisan shop to see if the owner would be willing to sell your work to participating in national wholesale shows that attract shop buyers. This isn't an option that I've explored mainly because shops tend to take 40-60% of the sales price. This is because the shops provide the marketing and retail space. Wholesale is a good option if you don't like participating in art shows or if you decide to make glass fusing more of a full time job. Wholesale can open up sales opportunities if you participate in national shows as these shows attract buyers from across the country. However, national shows also require a higher degree of professionalism and cost, especially in your booth presentation. You also should be sure that you can make and deliver a large volume of merchandise in a timely manner.
  4. Galleries - similar to wholesale, galleries tend to take a 40-60% of the sales price. However, rather than buying the merchandise upfront, some galleries may offer your work on consignment, which means that you don't get paid until your work sells. Galleries tend to attract a higher end clientele, which is great if you create higher end work. It should be noted that typically what you sell through wholesale will be different than what you sell through a gallery. Gallery work is more one of a kind or limited edition art whereas wholesale work is more mass produced work at a lower price point. Selling through galleries can also help bolster your reputation.
There are many ways to sell your work. You need to find the way that works best for you. A couple questions to ask yourself:
  • How much do you want to make and sell?
  • How much effort you want to put into selling?
  • Do you like interacting with people?
Hope this helps. If you have any additional questions or thoughts, please feel free to contact me.

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