Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Two Hands

During the past few years many of us have seen a huge surge in interest and production of handmade items.  Some of it due to disgust and revolt of the rampant, mass-produced hysteria of consumerism and some of it is simply due to unemployed people trying to make a living the best way they can.  As someone who has made a living with their hands for most of my life, there are several false notions out there that I would like to address so that if there are others out there considering crafts or such as an income source, that they would not be discouraged by people who have no idea what they're talking about spouting a bunch of crappola.
1.  You can't make a living with art/ crafts in a bad economy.  Well, I tell you, going by the number of orders I'm getting for my work right now, I'd never know things were not good in this country if I didn't read the news.  Yes, I understand that it is the holiday season and people are buying more and it will drop off after the first of the year but.....people are buying.  If you make a good quality product and market it in the correct area, people will buy it.  You might have to make smaller items, as I have had to do, but you will sell lots of these.  My big, expensive casseroles are not moving, at all, but I am overrun with orders for small dessert bowls, soup bowls, mugs etc. and am bringing in a substantial amount of money from that.  People are fed up, for the most part, with cheap crap from China and are looking for an alternative.  These are the people you want to focus on and find.  Forget about the rest.  They wouldn't appreciate your work if they had a million dollars because some people just do not get handmade.
2.  I'd never be able to make enough money off it to pay for my time.  Now, if somebody is using this excuse simply because they don't really want to try to market their stuff, then fine.  However, if anybody really believes this, then I'd have to call bulls**t on ya.  It all comes down to where and to whom you market your work.  Yeah, if you go to flea markets and crap trying to sell handmade sweaters for what they are actually worth then people are going to laugh you out of the place.  BUT, if you market your work through high-end consignment shops, galleries or other alternative markets you are likely to find many customers.  There are still lots of people out there with money and who usually appreciate hand made.  Now, it must be of very good quality.  Lots of people nag me about how picky I am on my work.  I cull my work and a defect means I have more stuff to make mosaics out of, if you get my drift.  Bring out the ol' hammer!  You must be ruthless in judging your work.  You may also have to go cities 100 miles (or more) away but if you can find a place or places who will accept a large enough inventory then it can be worth the drive.  If you choose to do craft shows, only do the ones that insist on jurying the work and I personally never do one if the entry fee is below $75.  This insures most all the entries are going to be from serious artists and craftspeople and you are not going to have to deal with somebody next door selling foam lizards on a stick.  (been there, done that.)
I know a number of successful craftspeople who make their living solely from their art, so it is possible.  One fellow, who lives not far from me, makes furniture and has for most of his life.  Now, one chair or small table can go for $2,000- 8,000, so it is art, not just any ol' stick chair.  But he makes his living with it.  Yes, he has to travel and be very selective about where he shows but once you make a bit of a name people will begin to seek you out.

The thing is, even if you just make quilted potholders or clay jewelry; if your craftsmanship is good and it is a quality product, there are places and people who would love to carry your work.  Think big, forget the flea markets.  The environment in which works are shown determines their value.  That doesn't seem right but it is so, I guarantee you. Don't sell yourself short.  Don't be shy.  Most shop owners are happy to look at stuff because they are always looking for that great new product or artist.  I will say one thing though; don't lug a giant box into their store or gallery without asking first.  Many galleries ask that you submit your work electronically these days but you can walk in and ask about their submission policies.
And of course, online is okay too but I find that most people still want to hold the object in their hand before purchasing when it comes to craft.  I do sell some work online but for the most part, in person is the way to go. 


page said...

Look at all those gorgeous bowls!!!! I adore that glaze and my bowls. Are those all spoken for? My sister in law almost stole mine when she came to visit, she couldn't stop holding one of them and I'm too in love with them to give her one. So glad, and not surprised, that you are doing well selling your work.

Ed said...

Excellent post! I reached a point several years ago when I realized that it is much cheaper to buy something of high quality and costs a lot than to keep buying cheap crap that fails after a few years and has to be replaced. Since then, as my cheap crap has failed, I've been on a mission to replace it. It is hard at times to find quality stuff and at times I've been hoodwinked into buying cheap crap at a high price over the internet but for the most part, I have been happy and successful with the process.

edifice rex said...

Hey Page! thanks! and so glad you are enjoying your bowls so much.
Those are all spoken for; it was a special order for a woman who makes gift baskets. 2 bowls and some other locally products food etc. in each basket. but like I always say, I can make more! lol!

Hey Ed! thanks! I have been trying to do the same thing! It is hard sometimes but worth it.

Phelan said...

Those are some gorgeous bowls! And the advice is right on.

edifice rex said...

Hey Phelan! thank you! I appreciate that.

Woody said...

Well said! I would also agree with Ed's opinion on getting what you pay for. I'm so happy to hear that you are heavy handed with the quality hammer.

By the coffee cup rocks!

Rita said...

Thanks for sharing some of the information you have learned over time. I am great a making my product. Homemade soap, and all kinds of fabric items, kindle, ipad, and ipod cases. Clothes pin bags, childrens clothing, doll clothes but I have no idea where to market them. If you ever see a site that offers help in this area. I sure would appreciate it. Love your bowls and I will order some before long they are just to good to pass up.

Sissy said...

So agree with page. Gorgeous. What is the size?

edifice rex said...

Hey Woody! thanks man! Glad you are still enjoying your mug!

Hey Reet! well, in your case, online might be the way to go. Have you ever tried Etsy? Some people really like it and sell quite a bit there. I have heard that they have recently improved the site so it is easier for people to find your work. You might look into that. I know it's pretty inexpensive for sellers.

Hey Sissy! thanks! These are the dessert bowls which are about 4" x 2.5 ". They hold approximately 1 cup.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you're doing so well. You are absolutely right about quality and marketing. Beatrice and i have done the 'local cheapo' shows and wasted a day.
Have a Merry Christmas

edifice rex said...

Hey Gren! thanks; I appreciate that! Yeah, I learned my lesson the hard way about those non-juried shows and such! Merry Christmas to you and Bea!

Curmudgeon said...

I remember I used to make puzzle boxes out of burl. I'd go to the forest and find trees and cut out the burl or see something on the street if it was big enough and ask to cut the tree down or trim it for free. I'd have to send away for Koa, Madrone or black oak (my favorite) and etc. It barely paid for my time, band saw blades and etc. People loved them but it wasn't anything anywhere near what I could live off, and I'd hardly call them art. Now yours are art and worth the money and probably could yield a pretty good supplemental income in a good economy. Hey! I'd buy some culls. You can only make so many mosaics and they work better than any of my stuff. They are mega functional.

Here is a good 'made in America' video my Uncle sent me I know you would be interested in.

chickory said...

I totally agree with your assessment. I had a studio sale out at CHickory for the first time - mind you this is far out - almost to the dirt road of the cohutta wilderness....I made decent money. I do have an online store...its a bit easier for 2D work (not needing to hold it) but in the summer? my primary living is farmers market. I sell food flowers and art. I think the message is an integrated life - quality all around. people who want organic non GMO and non big agri food are the same people who buy handmade. My best seller is the funny chicken painting with the parts of a chicken cut up with funny uses.

People are indeed waking up the the reality of what cheap goods from china actually means both personally and globally.

wonderful post and wonderful pottery.

Baby Games said...

Excellent post! I reached a point several years ago when I realized that it is much cheaper to buy something of high quality and costs a lot than to keep buying cheap crap that fails after a few years and has to be replaced. Since then, as my cheap crap has failed, I've been on a mission to replace it. It is hard at times to find quality stuff and at times I've been hoodwinked into buying cheap crap at a high price over the internet but for the most part,