Oct 24, 2010


Authenticity refers to the truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authenticity)

This week I have been bombarded with facebook friend requests, facebook events, emails and tweets. It's election week and all of sudden everyone wants to be 'my friend'. Now I'm not against shameless self-promotion or advertising, in fact I teach these things at the college. But I definitely don't like campaigns done poorly, without creativity and most importantly where the intentions that are not authentic. Coming into my social network just when you need me means that you are trying to use me, not help me or even like me (let alone really a friend).

Sorry, this is a bit of a rant, but I figure we can all learn from their mistakes. So how do you socially promote what you do and be authentic at the same time?
  1. PARTICIPATE, even before you need something. These guys should have joined twitter a year a go and joined in the conversation. If they think I could be there facebook friend, they should have done so a year a go and commented on things I do.
  2. ENGAGE the audience creatively, not just by posting that your canvassing went well today. Tell me how it changed your views and what new impact you will have.
  3. DIFFERENTIATE between social media channels. Your facebook statuses should not be the same as your tweets. They are two different channels and need to be used independently from each other. That also includes your news on your website, your blog and your email campaigns.

Sep 25, 2010

Too busy, too plain and too many

Last weekend I was at the Queen West Art Crawl, as a vendor, but also as a spectator of other booths and shoppers. Here are 3 of my main observations:

1. Although it is good marketing practice to collect contact information from potential buyers (via emails lists, mailing lists, etc), it shouldn't get in the way of the reason people are at the show. If you have a book for mailing lists, a guest book for comments, brochures for future shows, your business cards, a portfolio, all of these things cloud your art. They are actually competing with the real reason you're there - your art. By the time your potential customer has picked up a card, a brochure, signed even 1 of your 2 books and made polite conversation with you, they are too tired to look at your art. So be careful, have enough stuff to engage them, but don't make it too busy.

2. White space is important, but it can also be intimidating. If your booth looks too neat, too empty, customers are afraid to enter. Really. They think 'I shouldn't touch', or 'If there's only 3 things they must be really expensive" or "if there's only 3 things, they must be the 3 things that no one else wanted. Another draw back to the plain booth, is that people buy art from artists for a story (as I've mentioned before) and a plain booth doesn't tell a story. It doesn't say who you are. So you have be somewhere between too busy and too plain.

3. Throughout the show I had some friends visit - which I loved and needed for a bit of a break from polite talk and they even brought coffee. But I did notice that customers didn't ask questions or buy when I seemed 'too busy'. I also noticed that a booth just across from me had 3 girls 'working' the booth. One was the artist and 2 others were her supports. Great for the artist - minus the sales. People already feel intimidating entering tents, then add more people watching them makes it even harder. So when possible, leave your booth to visit with friends (leave in the care of someone while you leave though) or need a break. Don't make your tent the one with too many.

Sep 14, 2010

Heartbreaker vs love of my life

Last week, my son started grade 1. A big step in many minds, but to him it just seemed to be another day. I started putting little notes in his lunch bag when he was in JK - just to say I love him, or sneak him a kiss, especially on days he seemed to wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Well, I did one last week too as he is transitioning into his new grade 1 role. Apparently, I wasn't the only mom I found out on the school yard one morning.

Well, James asked me to stop sending them because he didn't want to get teased. It broke my heart. It really shouldn't have, because wasn't the purpose to make him happy? And if they weren't, then why should I be upset. Anyway, I was a little.

 James asked me while I was making lunch how to spell love. I told him, but so busy thinking about how he doesn't want me to send love notes anymore, I didn't even pause to think why he wanted to know. Well, this morning I was rummaging through my purse at a meeting and out fell a little note, a love note from James. He sure knew how to bring a smile to my face.

So how does this tie into business? Well, it doesn't totally. But it did get me thinking about are there things I do for my customers that are really things I would like as opposed to what they would like? Maybe it's time to ask them...

Jun 30, 2010

Borrow a book, call a friend

Well, learning from our kids is nothing new, but I thought I would share another life lesson I learned from my son a few summers ago. It's something that comes up over and over in both parenting and even in other aspects of my life as well.

James asked me if we could fishing. Not that big a deal, except the fact that I had never been fishing and had absolutely no idea where to begin. And that's how I answered thinking that would be the end of that and we would move on to something more within my comfort zone. But, not with James, he said 'well then let's go get a book from the library to learn how'. Darn library!

We did go to the library, read a book, stocked up on supplies (all the wrong supplies mind you), and headed down to the lake. Thank goodness for not catching anything that first time, I didn't even have pliers with me.

We then enlisted a friend, an avid fisherman, to take us on a fishing trip. We learned a ton, got the correct supplies and have since caught many fish together. All it took, was a little curiosity, the desire to learn, some good resources at hand, and a little practice. Sounds a lot like art doesn't it?

Jun 9, 2010

Rain Rain come today

Not usually the chant you would think of when heading off to an art show, but rain can sometimes be helpful for things other than our gardens. It can even be helpful for an outdoor art show - really it can.

This entry took me a few days since getting back from my last show, in the rain. Since Monday I have been hanging up my tent, my table cloths, my curtains and cards to dry. This is definitely not the fun or productive part of a show in the rain.

The productive part is that there's less window shoppers out on a rainy day. Which means that only the die-hards, ready to spend consumers venture out in the rain. So right off the bat, you have to work less to sell more. And on top of that, you don't lose those customers to 1. getting lost 2. getting tired 3. changing their mind. On a sunny day at an art show, shoppers will find something they like, but say 'I will buy it on the way out', or 'I will come back once I've found my friends'. And then they are gone forever (lost, tired, or changed their mind). In the rain, people are more impulsive, if they like it they will buy because they don't want to have to come back if they decide later they really want it.

So, yes in general, rainy days aren't that fun, but my experience shows that rainy days aren't that bad for sales, at least for the amount of work we have to do on those days.

Ok - time to fold the drying tent and pack it up for a rainy weekend show in London!

May 7, 2010

A Graceful Exit

Have you ever noticed that art galleries can seem intimidating? How about the stores that have a greeter at the door - does that intimidate you? A few years ago, a friend mentioned to me the idea of giving out Artist Directories as a way to gracefully let her non-customers out the door. And you know what? The construction on Princess / Ontario has done that for our Kollaboration show. At first I wasn't happy about this and then I remembered what it felt like to enter an intimidating gallery.

Providing a way for non-buyers to feel welcome to come and welcome to leave too is important so they will come back again when they are ready (or not ready) to buy. Giving them a way to gracefully decline makes them and you feel better; no uncomfortable moment. Whether you do it by handing them information for something else they may be interested in, sending an open invitation with no obligation, or even prompting an excuse for them (the weather, the construction), the KARMA in this has got to be good.

And with that said, NGB has our Mother's Day Open House this Sunday, so come on by, although it may be snowing... :-)

Apr 6, 2010

Collaboration is tricky for branding

Well, tomorrow is the end of a special project that I am apart of called Kollaboration Kingston. There's 16 artists working on several projects in small, medium and large scale works of art in all mediums to be shown at the Sandra Whitton Gallery for the month of May. It's been a truly amazing experience in many ways and I can't wait to see the outcome. (to read more about the project go the blog http://kollaborationkingston.blogspot.com/)

What I really found interesting about this project though is not the works of art being produced, but rather, the concept of collaboration and what it means to others and how it works too.

One of my main observations is that collaboration is easy for emerging artists and it's easy and inspiring for established artists. I think it's easy for emerging artists (and new entreprneuers in general too) because they (insert we, as I'm in this category too) haven't developed a hard core clientelle yet. We haven't branded ourselves yet, we still developing that. We still often venture all over the map, trying to find our niche and therefore we are willing to collaborate with anyone on anything, with hopes it may lead us down the path of success. Plus we are still in learning mode.

For established artists (and established businesses too) collaboration is a necessity to feed inspiration. They have been doing this long enough that they need to spice it up a bit. And they have such a dedicated following and clientelle now they don't have to worry about their brand. Their customers will be intrigued and follow them anywhere.

So, that leaves the mid-career artists and entrepreneurs, the ones stuck in isolation. They have struggled to find meaningful collaborations (from my view anyways) as they are at the point in their career that really defines them as an artist. They have a following, but still need to nuture them a bit. They have proven they know their art form, but still risk looking amateur. So collaborations can be very risky for them at this point in their career. What a hard place to be. The good news is that soon they will be so amazing they will all be established artists, with a diehard fan base and need the inspiration of collaboration.

My goal? Go from emerging to established... can it be done?

Mar 26, 2010

Tips on Etsy

Early in March I participated in a set of workshops about selling on Etsy. Dianne from DiBAjewellery facilitated the advanced workshop and here are some great tips and ideas that I picked up from her session (some directly from her and others from general discussion).

  1. Have an Etsy anniversary event
  2. Could what you sell also fit under supply?
  3. Update it frequently (throughout the day if possible)
  4. Bulk up your shop - lots of inventory gives the appearance of being serious
  5. Have various price points available to inspire easy sales
  6. Photography is key - it's all the customer has to go on, so make it good. Use all 5 slots, all angles including the back
  7. Use full descriptions with lots of detail including both imperial and metric measurements
  8. Put your location in your profile
  9. Use all 14 tags - ideas for tags include 'international', 'gift', colour, full name
  10. Create treasury's
  11. Participate in Etsy - forums, blog, labs
  12. Detail your policies - ie do your items come from a smoke-free or animal-free environment?
  13. Use the announcement section
  14. Tools to try www.etsyhacks.com and www.craftopolis.com.

Thanks Dianne for all the great tips!

Mar 5, 2010

Tooting my horn!

I got a huge wholesale order today - from a gallery in California. Yeah!

I surpased 100 followers on twitter yesterday. Yeah!

I sold a pair of earrings within 30 minutes of posting them to my etsy page. Yeah!

I was featured on the Baby Bundle Boutique Blog this week. Yeah!

Hey, everyone's got to toot their own horn once in a while :-)

Feb 23, 2010

Dealing with Rejection

We've all been there (at least I hope I'm not the only one) - you know, getting the rejection letter in the mail? Whether it's a grantwe didn't get, a show we got turned down for or a group we wanted to join says no. As artists we have to have pretty thick skin, because this can happen a lot.

Right now it's show application time. And in a few weeks we'll be finding out if we got in or not. It's also grant app time for the Ontario Crafts Council. People always ask me what shows I'm applying for this year. Do you know the number one way I deal with the possible rejection of not getting in? (healthy or not) - I don't tell anyone I applied until I know I got in. It saves face at least.

Here are a few other things I do / tell myself to keep a smile on my face:

1. Find something way more fun to do that weekend - like go camping or to a spa.
2. Take it as a learning opportunity and scrutinize who did get in to see how I can learn from them.
3. Commisserate with others in the same boat (if I spilled the beans that is).
4. Tell myself - they just don't understand what I do :-)

Feb 6, 2010

HST explained

I've been asked a lot lately and it got brought up again at the Kingston Arts Council workshop on Thursday night how the HST will work. Here's the simple low-down on how you will have to deal with taxes in 6 months time.

Basically it will be just like GST and no PST for business owners. If you currently are required to register for GST (revenue of more than $30,000 in the year) than you will be required to collect and remit HST. If you currently aren't required to and haven't registered for GST you will not have to.

PST will no longer be. You will not have a vendors permit, therefore you will not be tax exempt when you purchase supplies for resale, the tax amount will just become part of the regular expense of the item. You will not collect PST from your customers and therefore you will not remit anything to the government. So for a lot of artists this means that our prices will go down a bit in the eye of the customer! Yeah.

Sorry for the somewhat boring post today - we'll get back to more fun later this week.

Jan 27, 2010

When things go wrong

January is play month for me. I have given myself the entire month to work on projects I have had in my sketch book for a long time and never had the time to work on. The type of projects that may not work the first time. It tests my skills, challenges me, keeps things fresh and helps clear them out of my head so I can work on my more traditional style pieces.

I finished my marble piece. I started it in copper to see if it would work, then did it in sterling. Next, I am going to make the hole a bit bigger so the marble floats around (but will not fall out).

I finished setting my very precious red orange piece of glass. The design was not the important part here, it was using this very special piece of glass.

Lastly, I made a mess of a belt buckle. I did it in copper (better to learn on something less expensive). I love the patina on it, and my hammering worked out. But I learned two valuable things - the way I will have to set the glass is different (notice that it is broken) and on the back it needs to be a peg not a hook.

Oh and I learned exactly what I was suppose to. January is play month, and playing means that not everything will go as planned. It is not about the outcome, it truly is about the journey. When things go wrong, what did you learn along the way...

Jan 10, 2010

Fly like the wind

I had so much fun today, really! At first I was hesitant, then I was cautious, then I was adventurous, then I was silly, and then... I smiled and laughed. I went tobogganing with my 6 year old.

It was funny to watch all the parents standing around at the top of the hill, politely smiling as their children raced up and down the hill. Once in a while I would see one give in to their child (and their own inner child too) and get on the sled. By the bottom of the hill, I think they had forgotten their 'proper' place. They were laughing and being silly with snow in their hair. Every time a parent tried it, they didn't stop at one time, they went over and over; no longer standing politely at the top of the hill making small talk.

A friend of mine and I remarked about how it was kind of similar to what artists go through. Early in their (our) careers we have freedom and excitement. We try new things, we laugh when we fall and make mistakes and we get back up and try again. Just happy to be on the hill, er um, studio I mean. Then as time goes on, we get more serious. We start standing at our booths, at shows making polite conversation and producing art that sells (and with good reason - we have to pay the bills), taking less risks.

But at some point, we need to jump back on that sled - or even better - just on our bottoms, and fly like the wind down the hill and over the bump. Try something new, take some risks again - SMILE. And when you fall, laugh it off and get back up and try it again.