I’ve worked with a few galleries, strictly on a consignment
basis. The standard consignment fee in this area (metropolitan
Charlotte, NC) is 40%. Essentially, I establish the retail
price, and if the piece sells, they pay be 60% of that at the
end of the month. My understanding is that to sell to the same
galleries outright, they want a 50% discount off the retail
price… unless you have an established track record, in which
case, everything is negotiable.
You know, to be honest, I think everything is negotiable, but
they might not budge on the consignment fee unless you’ve got
I have my own “consignment agreement” I drew up in plain English
that basically states that if anything is missing, for any
reason, I will be paid for it. Also, if anything is damaged,
for reasons other than faulty craftsmanship or materials (i.e.,
it was abused) I will be paid as well. If a gallery isn’t
confident enough in their staff and security to agree to these
terms, I don’t want to deal with them anyway. And I do require
them to sign the agreement.
I think the gallery owners and managers respond favorably when
you go in as a professional and a business-person. They’ve
probably had their share of dealing with flaky artists who
disdain the world of business and make the working relationship
harder than it has to be. I’ve never had a bad experience “cold
calling” on a gallery as an artist looking to establish contact.
I also try to work with the gallery to get feedback on what’s
attracting attention, and what’s not. Try and observe what the
target market is for the gallery, and see if your target market
is the same. If necessary, adjust the product mix to match the
customer base. 20
I got into one of the most prestigious galleries in uptown
Charlotte, and placed my latest and greatest one-of-a-kind
artsy/wild jewelry, as well as some more commercial stuff. The
commercial stuff sold, and the really creative stuff sat there!
Then I realized that uptown Charlotte is all lawyers and
bankers… and I was hoping to sell rock-star style jewelry to
them. Not gonna happen!
Finding the “right” gallery can be a learning experience. I
still have a great relationship with the galleries I’ve been in,
but some just weren’t right for my work. The first gallery I
was in, the only jewelry that was selling was this stuff made
from clay (not polymer), fired and painted… average retail:
about $6. Other jeweler’s work I admired in their cases wasn’t
selling either. I got a clue after about six months…
I’m actually starting to question the gallery concept for
jewelry (at least in this area). I’m thinking that upscale
boutiques might be the way to go. But in reality… here’s what
I’m really thinking:
If I could sell the product to the customer myself, at retail,
and cut out the gallery, I make a lot more money!! Of course, I
don’t want to get into show/festival circuit (takes me away from
the studio), or the risk/expense of opening up a store front.
That’s why I think the WWW is going to be the way to go! If a
site is done well, and marketed effectively, I think it might be
the way for the small artist to get the exposure and presence
with a minimal investment of labor and capital.
Food for thought,