Monday, May 9, 2016

This blog has moved to my website...

I've moved my blog to my website, so please join me there! Check out my blog posts here.

Thanks,
Ellen

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thoughts on Artful Success

For the past nine weeks, I've been taking an online program called Artful Success. Taught by successful jewelry artist and entrepreneur Tonya Davidson, this program is especially targeted at the artist who needs help getting a new art practice off the ground or invigorating an existing one.

To those who have been selling their art for awhile, I encourage you to give this program a try. Even with business experience under your belt, you'll still learn oodles of helpful information that will enable you to take your art business to the next level.

To those who are just starting out -- you really NEED this program!!! Seriously, I can only dream about where I'd be now if this program had been available when I began selling my jewelry six years ago! It would have saved me countless hours, tons of headaches and likely even lots of money!

There's simply no need to reinvent the wheel now that Artful Success is here. Give it a try! You won't regret it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How socially networked are you?

Recently I added a few new techniques to my jewelry-making repertoire. Happy with the pendants I'd created, I listed them in my Etsy shop. With many thousands of pieces of jewelry available on Etsy, those pendants might have languished there unviewed and unpurchased for months on end. But I did something else after listing them. I posted photos and links on Facebook. And within days, all four of them sold!

In the Artful Success program I'm taking, Tonya taught us that Facebook now has over 750 million active users who spend over 700 billion minutes (that's billion with a B!) on Facebook every month! Wow, that's a huge audience! And the people who have "liked" my business page have essentially asked me to keep them informed about my jewelry, so it makes sense that I got sales. They're a targeted audience.

So if you have a business to promote, make sure you learn how to use social networking as part of your marketing plan. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, August 19, 2011

How's your website working for you?

Everyone knows a great website when they visit one, but do you really know the individual qualities that the best sites share? I have to admit that I didn't. I didn't realize that most people will only stay on a website for 3-5 seconds if they're not immediately grabbed and drawn in by something. And that they rarely really read online -- most just skim. As a writer, it hurts me to the core that no one (with the possible exception of my dear mother) is reading every word. I worked really hard on the text on that site!

In this week's edition of the Artful Success program, Tonya walked us through the basics of a good website and gave us tangible suggestions for making our sites better. We learned everything from design issues to consider (backgrounds, colors, navigation) to tips about content (tell your story, answer visitors' questions, vary your sentence length).

I knew that my website (a purchased template that I customized myself) had some issues, but after further thought, I've decided to take it in a different direction when I redesign it. And I will hire someone else to do it!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Why does art cost so much, you ask? Read this and find out...

I've been learning a lot about the science and art of pricing in my Artful Success class. Pricing is one of those thorn-in-the-side issues for all artists. Being creative types who are motivated not by dollars, but by things like inspiration, emotion, beauty and the very act of creating itself, artists often struggle with placing monetary value on their creations.

If there was just one universal formula used to price all artisan-crafted items, this might be easier. But it seems that there are as many formulas as there are works of art. Many seasoned artists don't even use a formula. And while most artists are trying to make a living (or at least a decent second income) with their craft, those who create just as a hobby often further muddy the waters by pricing their work so low that the competition threatens to destroy the artists' ability to make even a small profit, much less a living!

"So," ask those who do not make and sell art, "Why does art cost so much anyway?" For the uninitiated, here's a quick explanation that will hopefully help you understand what goes into the pricing of artisan-crafted work.

1. COGS (costs of goods sold) -- This includes materials and direct labor
  • Materials -- the actual stuff used to make the piece, such as metals (silver, gold, copper, brass), gemstones, glass, fabric, paint -- whatever it might be) Did you know that metals costs have skyrocketed in recent years? When I started making jewelry, silver was $7.00 per ounce. It is now hovering around $40.00! Per ounce! Also, there are fabrication charges. Most of us buy metals in wire or sheet form and we pay for the labor of the manufacturer to make the metal into that form.
  • Direct labor -- most artisan-crafted pieces take a fair amount of time and handwork to create (not to mention expertise that has often taken years to perfect). One of my wire-wrapped pieces can take as much as 6-12 hours, between fusing and shaping wire to create the frame, making headpins to mount gemstones and crystals, coiling and weaving the piece together, mounting gemstones and crystals, etc. Large paintings, of course, take much longer than that! Also, remember that many artists need to hire studio assistants as their businesses grow, so they're often not able to keep the labor costs as income. They need to pay others, too.
2. Indirect labor costs -- This is all the time and effort that is necessary to run a business. Most artists, in fact, spend as much or more time on indirect tasks than they do actually creating art. (I haven't been adding this!) Here are just a few things on this long task list:
  • researching and ordering materials
  • paperwork -- recording sales, taxes and expenses; keeping track of purchases, customers, etc.
  • packing and shipping orders
  • photographing new pieces
  • listing work for sale online or delivering items to galleries
  • recording what was used in creating each piece and removing it from inventory
  • marketing, branding, social networking
  • designing new pieces
3. Overhead -- These are actual costs other than the materials used to create a piece. (Yep, wasn't adding this either.) Once again this is a small section of a longer list:
  • Studio rental or maintenance of a home studio
  • utilities
  • insurance
  • advertising
  • show fees
  • office supplies and equipment
  • tools used in creating art
  • licenses and permits
  • membership and dues
  • bookkeeping/accountant
  • printing
  • credit card processing fees
  • education and travel
  • website design and hosting fees
4. Profit -- If the artist neglects to add a little of this to each piece, I learned, their business is destined to fail. (I have not been adding this either. Clearly, it's time to change my formula!)

Just today, I saw a news story about a local Seattle artist whose handpainted pendants were stolen out of her car. It was reported that $7000 of jewelry was taken. The worst part for me was reading the comments below the article. Shockingly, many people actually posted that there was no way her work could possibly be worth that much. Clearly, most people do not understand what goes into an art business, but it's shameful that they could be so cruel to a woman who just had two months' worth of work stolen from her!

So, next time you step into a gallery or a booth at an art show, please don't make discouraging comments about high prices or claim that you could "make that myself for far less." Perhaps you could make it for less. But you're probably just thinking of the materials costs. You won't be able to eat for long if you try to make a living selling art for that low price!

Art is an expression of the artist's heart and soul. A labor of love. But it's a business, too, so we need to make the numbers work. Very, very few artists are getting rich selling their creations, no matter what their pricing formula includes. So realize the value of a handcrafted piece of art and enjoy owning one if you can, and please be enriched by looking if you can't.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Your brand. It’s ok to have more than one…

I’ve been struggling with the idea of creating art that fills one small, clear niche versus creating several very different kinds of work that each draws its own target market. Everyone seems to have an opinion about which is the “right” way to go.

Both paths have definite pros and cons. If you specialize in one thing, you have the time and focus to become the very best one doing it. Tiny niches also seem to draw intensely loyal followers. But might you get bored working in one style or one media for a long time – perhaps your whole career?

If you do several things, you have the joy of never being bored and never feeling like you’ve “done that.” You’re always learning something new. But might you spread yourself so thin that you that you never really get good at any one thing?

I’ve been told by some (who have lots more art experience that I do) that I should choose one of my varied collections and stick with that. Let the others go. F-O-C-U-S. But I know lots of artists who do more than one thing: jewelry and painting, sculpture and 2D art, photography and mixed media. At least all of my pursuits are within the realm of jewelry! Well, except for freelance writing…  :-)

So I was glad to hear Tonya say during one of our recent Artful Success webinars that it’s ok to develop more than one niche, more than one brand. She shared the example of artist Hilary Pfeifer, who creates vast wall installations in galleries, but also sells handmade cake toppers on Etsy.

And it’s ok to link these varying pursuits under one umbrella – or choose to keep them separate. It’s up to you. I like that. That kind of freedom is, after all, one of the reasons I began making my own jewelry in the first place!

So I’m going to keep carving out all of my varied niches. But I promise that I won’t add anything new to my plate. At least not this month…

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Defining passion

"What do you do?"

I have a love/hate relationship with that question. It forces us to define ourselves by our jobs -- a definition that's often inaccurate. I don't always feel comfortable answering it, depending upon who's asking or how I'm feeling about my life that day. I admit that I do ask it of others, though, because it helps me get to know people better.

I read somewhere that Australians don't ask what you do. They ask instead, "What do you like to do?" I think that's wonderful -- and very telling. Makes me wonder if Australians are more fun or more balanced or less work-focused than Americans. Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from our friends down under.

Fortunately, part of my current vocation is also one of my passions. It hasn't always been that way. But I'm currently creating jewelry full-time, along with a little freelance writing.

In the Artful Success program I am taking, we were challenged to create a passion statement for our business. (This is similar to a mission statement, but designed to be more heart-centered and energetic.)

Since I have two very different kinds of customers, I created a passion statement for each:

1.  "I create unique, lovingly handcrafted jewelry that sets the wearer and her individual style apart from the crowd."

2.  "I create custom pet memorial pendants that comfort grieving people with a beautiful way to help them honor and memorialize their furry family members."

So now, go ahead, ask me what I do! I'm ready!