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Polymer Clay Central DRStamping Forum

Janice West
Marketing Your Arts and Crafts - Creative Ways to Profit from Your Work
by Janice West
The Summit Group - Fort Worth Texas
(Click on the Title Link Above to Purchase This Book)

The Interview:

Deb - Which came first, your love of writing or crafts?

Janice - When I was a child, I participated in lots of activities that utilized crafts. I was a Girl Scout and my mother was a Girl Scout leader. She was always looking for good craft ideas for our troop. I have written for as long as I remember. I always kept a diary and really enjoyed writing short stories for school.

Deb - How did you decide to write the book?

Janice - I had been selling my ceramics for a few years and so had been keeping records of the various possibilities involved with selling arts and crafts. I have a Masters in Business Administration from Texas Christian University so the business part of art always fascinated me. An editor suggested that I incorporate the ways of selling that I had thought of over the years into a book. At first, she couldn't believe that there were so many ways to market arts and crafts. She asked me to come up with a list, so that night I compiled a long list to give her an idea of what I was talking about. When I showed the list to her, it was the first time I found her absolutely speechless! She was impressed that there were so many different possibilities for selling arts and crafts. Then I just followed up with writing more information that I thought would directly help people find their way through the selling maze.

Deb - So the ideas in the book are from your experience selling your art?

Janice - Some of them I have tried; others are from watching and learning from other crafter's experiences; yet others came from tips from industry insiders.

Deb - When you first started selling your art, did you find the store owners and buyers receptive?

Janice - You know, I have always found store owners and buyers happy to talk to artisans. Now, they may say something like, "This is a busy time for me. Could you please call me back later?" A store's lifeblood comes from finding new/interesting/intriguing items to offer to their customers. Buyers are well aware of that and thus, always on the lookout for the exceptional. However, they do expect the caller to be professional and courteous and to respect their time.

Deb - When is the best time a approach buyers for seasonal items?

Janice - As far as approaching buyers, that depends on the type of store. We are seeing stores offer holiday season merchandise earlier and earlier every year. The time to approach would differ between a chain operated store and a mom-and-pop outfit. The larger the store, the more rules they have in regard to buying merchandise. So, the larger stores would be looking for merchandise much earlier in the year. Catalogs would be looking even earlier. Another neat way to sell is through holiday house boutiques. There is one located in a house built in the 1800's in Flower Mound, Texas. The actual sale takes place around the third week every November from Thursday Night to Sunday. They start to prepare for their November sale in February!

Deb - What advice would you give to someone deciding to market their art?

Janice - I would advise them to pay attention to the various ways arts and crafts are sold, and to try to take their wonderful artistic creativity to the business side of art. For instance, one of the neatest business cards I ever got was from Judi-Kins. In addition to having their name, address and phone number on the card, they stamped a colorful image of one of their stamps on each card with different colors of ink. So each business card showed an example of their work. Their cards are quite memorable and people like to get AND KEEP business cards that are cleverly designed.

Deb - When you said "the business side of art" earlier, how does that differ from the hobbyist?

Janice - I think that it is advantageous for everyone who decides to sell their work to start thinking as early as possible about the business side of art. Most people who sell their arts and crafts start out as hobbyists but then their families and friends start saying, "You could make money by selling your wonderful work." Some just want to make enough money to buy supplies and attend out-of-town conferences. Others want to make enough for it to be a livelihood. To me, that's one of the neatest aspects about arts and crafts, people can sell as little or as much as they want to make. For instance, a woman started selling crafts at a local Coomers in Fort Worth. Now she sells her crafts at nine Coomers stores located throughout the United States. That's another thing, sometimes certain craft items are more popular in different parts of the country. By trying to sell in different ways in different places, the crafter can explore additional markets.

Deb - How do you find out what is popular in other areas?

Janice - A lot of times crafters don't realize that many holiday boutiques (which are located all over the US) welcome applications from everyone, no matter where they are located. Same for museum stores and gift boutiques.

Deb - So you would recommend submitting samples to a lot of different sources?

Janice - In fact, sometimes people who are located out-of-state fare really well because the buyers are looking for something that their local clientele has not seen yet. Other times, buyers like crafters who can provide customers with products that represent the ambiance of the local area. For example, one of the most popular craft items sold at one of the Anatole Hotel Gift Shops is a chip-and-salsa-dip ceramic set, even though it retails for over $60.

Deb - What do you think is the most common mistake made by the first time seller?

Janice - What I heard from buyers was that their biggest disappointment is when crafters make promises that they do not keep. For instance, if a crafter promises to have an item(s) delivered by a certain date, the buyer is counting on that promise. If the item doesn't arrive there is an empty space on their shelf. Customers do not like to visit stores with empty shelves.

Deb - Do you think crafters underestimate the demand for their product?

Janice - Sometimes that can happen. Certain products do take off and become in demand by customers. If an artisan promises to have twenty items delivered by such-and-such date and they make good on their promise that's all they can be expected to do. If the public wants to buy another twenty items then the buyer will place a re-order which makes everybody happy.

Deb - Going back to your book, there are a lot of wonderful pieces pictured, how did you find them all?

Janice - I'm glad that you asked me that question! These are pictures that were taken by or for the artists and crafters whose experiences I chronicled throughout my book. That's why I wrote their name/name of artwork/chapter so hopefully as people are reading they will get to know both the artisan and the type of work they sell.

Deb - That's really neat, do you know if any of them have been contacted as a result of the book?

Janice - I hope people have received calls because their work was pictured. You know, that's another way to build your bio, to be able to list the names of various magazines and books in which your artistic work has appeared. Building a bio is important.

Deb - So even for someone who may not be interested in selling their art at the present time. it's still a good idea to get their name out there.

Janice - I also took the work of many artisans with me when I made television (and even radio) appearances. I think that we all like for others to recognize and acknowledge our work as being special.

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