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Recently it was suggested to someone on another thread that they
should try to consign their work with galleries or jewelry stores. I
have been considering doing this very thing and so though it might be
worth discussing. I have been selling my work to galleries and gift
stores for many years now. Previously, I was at loath to even think
about consignment. I feel that many times a gallery or store does not
value your work as much when it is consigned. I own my own little
store/gallery and have found myself guilty of this attitude before. I
have listened to fellow artists/jewelers complain about the way that
their consigned work was displayed in other stores and galleries. The
most common complaint seems that the work is given very poor
positioning; i.e. bottom shelf, no light, or back corner. I was in the
gallery of a close friend the other day, and watched her actively sway
a customer who was considering two pieces to the less expensive piece
of jewelry. When I asked her why, she replied “I owned that one, the
other one was consigned.” Several years ago, I eliminated the majority
of consigned pieces that I carried in my shop. I discovered that with
consignment, I was much more likely to take in something that didn’t
appeal to my established clientele or work with the “flavor” of my
store. As for my own work, I had a hard time justifying giving a store
product on consignment and tying up all my resources when other stores
were willing to pay for it. Once a store was given a line on
consignment, they almost never wanted to switch to paying for it.
Also, if a store couldn’t spend $200 or $300 to try out a line that
they claimed to love… well that seemed questionable in itself. So why
consider it now? Because I’m trying to break into a much higher price
point. So now there would fewer galleries that would be able to carry
the work successfully and a modest trial order might have to be $3,000
to $5,000 or more to have any selection. Consigning now seems doubly
unappealing due to how much money would be tied up in unpaid consigned
inventory. Yet, I have notice many artists that make the high end
pieces resort to consignment. The two consignment artists that I kept
in my own store, I wouldn’t have been able to carry otherwise and I
feature their work prominently. So how does everyone feel out there?
Is consignment a necessary evil of higher priced work? …Mary

I have put in my 2 cents worth on this issue before, so I won’t go
into detail. It is my opinion that consignment works best if you use
it to reward stores that already carry your work. I would never
consign an entire line of work. However if I have someone who really
supports me, I will be very generous in consigning special pieces to
them. I have some pieces that retail in the $10,000 range that are
attention grabbing show pieces. I don’t expect to sell one every
year, but they do wonders for attracting people to my other work that
averages more around the $1,000 range.

Larry Seiger

There are no easy answers to the question raised. If you sell to the
shop owner , you are limited to the items that the shop can afford and
the tastes of the majority of the costumers. Having both been an
artist and a shop owner I know some of the problems. In any shop,
the best space in the shop will be devoted to the items that sell the
best. No matter where the item is placed in the shop , if it is not
selling, then it must be because the show mananger gave you a poor
location in the shop. The real reasons may be something else. The
item may be priced wrong, the item may be in the wrong packaging. I
have found that the appearance of the display has more to do with
sales then a lot of other factors. Major corporations spend a great
deal of time and effort to figure out the display for each item that
they sell. We need to do the same. More to the point. If you sell
you are working on the store’s money. If you consign, you are working
with your own money. When you approach a store, you should look over
the store before you agree to consign and talk with the owners about
location, price and display before you agree to the terms of
consignment. Mike

First, I would not put my things in a store where they are selling
their own work. Nature tells you they will want to sell their stuff
first. I don’t like consignment but sometimes you have to do it to
get your things shown. I find that consignment allows a storeowner
that doesn’t have much merchandise to dress up their store, with no
obligation to sell your stuff. If it is a gallery that only sells
work by other artist at least you would have a equal chance to sell
your work.You can also have an agreement that they buy out right a
certain amount or pieces and then they can have more consignment. I
try to get them to buy first before saying I will consider
consignment. If they really like your work they will be willing to
strike a bargain between the two of you, if not maybe you don’t need
to deal with them.

Second only have your work assigned for a period of time. I will
arrange to take back a few really nice pieces for a show if I am
doing one while I have my things are on consignment. This way I
don’t loose a sale while it is sitting in someone’s store and not
selling. I also am always looking for better ways of handling getting
my work sold. If there are more idea, please let us all know. Roxan in
Pa. where it is a beautiful day.

Roxan in Pa: Your letter on consignment considerations was right on
the money! It is very very very true that some shops will take your
product on consignment just to fill up their shop and make customers
think that the owners either made or purchased your work, there by
making themselves look good while they steer them to the products that
they really have money in and leaving your product as fluff. Making
it clear in writing from the start can prevent hard feelings later.
This is how you make your living and if they don’t move your product
along with theirs you go hungry. I have found that giving them a
healthy percentage is an incentive for them to move your products.
Having a written contract between both parties is not just a nicety.
It’s an absolute must. You not only cover the percentage of return to
the shop, what they expect from you, the type of material or quality
they expect. You should also state in plain language what you expect
from them. There should be a firm agreement as to who is responsible
for shrinkage (theft, fire, vandalism and the like). While this seems
like a common sense thing, you would be surprised at how many of these
merchants don’t either think of them or just plain don’t want and wont
want to take responsibility for your property. If they don’t, then
you shouldn’t do business with them. Theft is a BIG deal item. Who’s
responsible? Read the contract carefully and if you don’t like it ask
to amend it. If they say no then be prepared to get up and go!!!

Richard Blahnik