Finding a signature style while selling

Dear Fellow Orchidians, I have been making jewelry for about six
years as a hobbyist and now I am trying to turn pro. Conventional
marketing wisdom gleaned from several books and gallery pros
suggests that having mostly one style is what works best from a
marketing standpoint. My current problem/issue is that while I have
quite a body of work in total it has about three different stylistic
currents from machine-aesthetic to biomorphic/organic. This (I
guess) is the one of the many differences between making art and
running a business. Though I have heard other goldsmiths and
designers disparage the pigeon holes that their signature styles
have gotten them into, right now I would kind of like to have that
problem as long as it was helping me get rid of some inventory and
pay some bills. My big question: Is it possible to market your work
along the way to developing a signature style? Now did you "old
pro"s do it? I’d appreciate any suggestions. From the sunny-hazey
South. Regards, Bruce Raper

As someone who is fairly new to selling jewelry, I can relate to
your problem. When I first decided to sell jewelry, less than a year
ago, (silver wire and bead jewelry mostly) I thought that I should
make very simple, wearable styles that basically anyone could wear.
The problem with that was - these styles are everywhere, so why would
someone buy them from me when they could get them so much cheaper
mass-produced? I have since developed a line of products that people
who have seen my work recognize as mine, and while my newer jewelry
isn’t as universally wearable, it sells a lot better because it’s
different and because people like buying something from an artist,
and they want a piece to be recognizable as a specific artists’
style. That way when people comment on their necklace, they have a
story to tell - “Oh, I bought it from this local artist, she’s just
getting started, and…”

So I say yes, find a style that is yours and that is easy for you to
talk to people about, and that will make marketing about 100 times
easier. We all love making jewelry; most of us hate marketing, so
anything that makes that part easier will make you happier and more
productive, from a business standpoint. Once you have a repuation,
you can probably build on that and add new styles. I don’t know,
since I’m not there yet, but…=)

– Leah

 My big question: Is it possible to market your work along the way
to developing a signature style? 

Hi, Bruce,

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an “old pro”, but I would answer
in the affirmative. I have always had, and still have at least three
"lines". I can’t stand not to try new things. If I couldn’t, I might
as well be a plumber–at least they generally have a asteady income.
It is much more convenient for galleries, etc, if all your work is
recognizably from the same hand, but I don’t think mine will ever

At art fairs, I tend to group things by style in different cases. It
may put off judges (though I win a respectable number of prizes),
but customers don’t mind. In other situations, I may select one or
two types to show (a gallery, for example) and resupply with what
sells. Bit by bit, you may eliminate types that just aren’t
economically feasible, and/or (as in my case) you may have some less
interesting (to make) work that is profitable enough to subsidize
the time to make the pieces you hope may someday make you famous
;>). The hardest part can be chosing what to have photographed for
jury slides. My suggestion: don’t pay attention to them when a
prospectus says your slides must represent the full range of what
you make. Send a grouping that looks very coherent and similar in
style and materials. And, of course, your best slides, not
necessarily your best work. Good luck!


I have discussed this with a museum curator friend of mine when I
came across the idea of what curators consider when putting forth
names for museum shows. The question was about if an artist is “
mature” and there for worthy of a museum show. I hated the idea of a
mature artist, and resist it with every fiber of my being. BUT, the
idea was does this artist have a technique/style that they have made
their own. Have they really developed it and pushed it and come up
with something new?

I like looking at the inverse of stuff like this and what is not
said is that if an artist has a style can it sell and they still be a
real artist? My tack has been to develop a production line to fund
all my other manias. Since it is a production line and priced as such
there is no way in hell I can make all that stuff myself so I
subcontract the work of my own designs. That leaves my time for
commissions and one of yet fills my store with nothing but my design.

Sam Patania, Tucson