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All, Recent posts have touched upon the marketing aspect of being an
artist. From shows to consignments to memo’s to door to door
salesmen I have found that none work satisfactorily. What is needed
for the one person artist or small group is a way to continuously
market your products that costs about 25% of the selling price of
your item. I have fought this problem since 1980 and have always
come back to the conclusion that I cannot do all the production and
all the marketing myself. A group is needed. A group of people
that produce their own products and use their combined power to
market them. One successful way is a cooperative gallery. There is
one such gallery in operation in Prescott, Arizona which is very
successful. Another way that should work is co-op shows. I would
like to bounce this idea around with other interested artists. My
feelings are simple. The artist that makes the product deserves the
most profit out of the product. The artist deserves to win. Feel
free to contact me at

Gerry Galarneau

One successful way is a cooperative gallery. There is one such
gallery in operation in Prescott, Arizona which is very successful.
Another way that should work is co-op shows. 

Hi Gerry!

I agree! I would love to start an artist’s co-op here in Charlotte,
but a “co-op of one” leaves me pretty much in the same spot! :slight_smile: I
haven’t had a lot of success locating kindred spirits here in this
city approaching a population of 1 million. I know they must be out
there, but in a city known for its banking and business prowess, the
visual arts community isn’t as vibrant as I would like.

There is an artist’s guild here, with studio spaces and a poor
excuse for a gallery. I can’t imagine anything ever sells from
there… and I don’t think the other artists would enjoy my banging
away, breaking the church-like serenity of the place I’ve found when
I’ve been there. Not to mention they would probably object when I
feel the need to crank up a Metallica CD! :wink: I suppose I would have
that problem in most group settings, though!

At a show last year a fellow artist told me that they were able to
start a co-op in his town by buying a vacant building, scheduled for
demolition, from the city for only $1! With the investment of a few
thousand dollars in renovation, they were in business.

How would one go about starting such a venture? Place an
advertisement in the newspaper with the idea and see if I can shake
enough artists out of the trees with interest in participating? I
don’t know that I personally have enough “bandwidth” to handle all
the real estate details, organization, paperwork and such. I think if
I could find three or four other motivated people like me, we might
be able to pull it off.

Ideas or suggestions, anyone?


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Co-op shows have worked for me. I have a studio/gallery/office space
Ii built out in an old warehouse about 6 years ago. I usually do two
shows a year, one in the fall and one in the spring. I have one
coming up in May for Mother’s day. I usually invite 3 to 5 jewelry
artists to show along with me. We share show expenses such as
refreshments and the cost of printing and mailing show cards. A show
usually costs about $700-$800 to produce. This of course does not
cover the rent on the gallery which I have to pay anyway.

We divide up the show cards and each of us does his or her own mail
out with the cost of stamps included in the show cost. We share
clients and sometimes commission work if it happens to be beyond any
one persons expertise. We also share the show book to add to our
client lists and ask people who come to the show to sign the show

I usually try to add a new artist every show or so just to keep it
fresh. There are three of us who always show together and have for
the last 5 years. I usually try and add an artist just starting out
if I can find someone with enough inventory and want to. It is a
great experience for a beginner and it keeps us old guys interested.
It has really worked out great for everyone concerned. It takes a
group of very generous and giving people who are open to helping
others as well as themselves. We also take the opportunity to share
techniques and gallery venues with each other. A true co-op. Frank

Dear Gerry,

I certainly appreciate the difficulties you have had over the years,
but I would hasten to warn you that your cooperative concept has
been tried ad infinitum and seldom works. One of the pioneers in
this concept was Earthcraft Galleries which began in Carlsbad ,
California back in the seventies. It consisted of a cooperative
based on shared operation of the gallery by the participants with a
commision for the operation of the gallery.Each participant
constructed his own display and was confined to a small portion of
the total space available . The idea took off like wildfire and
seemed to be on its way to solving the age old problem that you
describe. Malls throughout California poppped up with their
presence. In a very short while the whole thing collapsed because of
numerous unforessen difficulties. One of the biggest problems was
that access to your display rotated amongst a large number of
members who peridodically staffed the store. Responsibility for
losses reared its ugly head. Furthermore there was bickering as to
who would get the favored sites within the gallery. Then there was
the age old problem as to what constituted originality. Ineveitably
merchandise that was produced abroad crept into the offerings and
the resultant bickering began to erode the credibility of the
concept. Shortly thereafter the galleries closed.

We have a local jewelry store that regularly sells the work of local
artisans, but the operator does not return the bulk of the proceeds
to the artisan. He negotiates the price that is to be retuned to the
maker and then sets his own price on the merchandise and that price
is often much greater than the artisan’s gross profit.Why ? Because
the store is located in a heavily trafficked tourist venue and the
rents are astronomical. Furthermore, the store has to be open ten
hours a day , seven days a week.

It is apparent from the latter illustration that the selling
opportunity is based largely on exposure to a qualified buying
public and that exposure involves very high overhead. If you were
selling on Times Square in the “Big Apple” you can just imagine what
the overhead would be.

Your assumption that the producer cannot also be the marketer is not
valid…I know many highly successful artisans who market their
own product. What is truly relevant is whether your output is sought
after by the potential buyer and priced competitivly within a given
market. If it is not, you must examine your production costs AND
your product concepts and execution.

A friend of mine just won best of show in a prestigious national
competition for his gemstone cutting. He has placed in this show
every year that he has participated. He is a consumate craftsperson
and a workaholic. He travels all over the world to procure the
finest rough. He markets himself and sells at ethereal prices.

What it all boils down to is that you have got to be competitive and
there are no EASY answers. It is swim or sink !

Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

Hi Gerry, I agree it is extremely difficult to do everything
involved in running a business, let alone do all the tasks well.

Back in the roaring 80’s I had both a retail store and a nice little
wholesale business. Through the store I met Michael Good. At that
time he was working in his garage making these really neat hollow
silver earrings. His business was very small and he needed help
selling the product he was manufacturing. I was already going to the
ACC Shows and the wholesale jewelry shows so I figured what the heck,
I can market Michael’s designs along with mine and we would both come
out winners.

My responsibilities were to advertise, market and sell as many
pieces as Michael could make. For this I was first paid 20% and later
15%. Michael’s responsiblity was to design new pieces and make as
much as he could. The relationship worked rather well for 6 or 7
years. Working together we built the business from a small garage
operation to one that was doing over a million a year.

At this point Michael’s wife joined him in the day to day functions.
Her business style is very different from mine and I had to leave, I
was no longer welcome.

In later years I repeated this sinerio with several other designers.
To market a designers work there is a tremendous up front cost until
you get the designs into the right set of stores. After that is
established selling is considerably easier. Once I had gotten
designers of the ground they no longer wanted to pay the cost of my

What I learned from all of this is that “When they need you they
can’t afford to pay you, and when they can afford to pay you they no
longer need you”

So now I only market my own designs because as long as I am alive I
will have a source of work to sell. My own designs.

Another way that should work is co-op shows.

One of the paths you might consider with a group is getting a guild
booth at the Buyers Market of American Craft in Philadelpia. The
booth fee is waived for the group and it allows a handful of artists
to try wholesales at a premier market . I know the Colorado
Metalsmiths Assn. (COMA) has participated in this way for several
years. You don’t have to have goods to fill the whole booth, you
can share fixture expenses with your colleagues, and you get to
experience the adventures of traveling through airport security with

I’d also like to thank everyone for their generous and marvelously
helpful suggestions. My husband and I are long-time glass artists
just starting to incorporate metal with our fused works and though I
don’t feel there’s anything much I can contribute right now, I don’t
want to only lurk either. It makes me feel like a spy! And I would
add that you are as nice a group of folks as my friends at

Best regards,

Dani Greer
Greer Studios

Hi Gerry, This sounds like a very fair proposition to me. I am not
sure about the future of my jewelry business as of right now ( I am
looking for work designing for a larger company and may not have the
free time to continue it), but I would like to hear about any
advancements you make with this cause. I hope I will be able to
participate in some way. Thanks for sharing your idea.


Howdy Gerry,

I think this could work as a website of some sort as wellas perhaps
a traveling ‘show/gallery’. I do feel there is the issue of
’content control’. If you don’t have a jury selection you could end
up with who-knows-what. If you DO have a jury, how do you keep it
from being ‘clique-ish’ and anti-competitive? I guess a some of you
probably know of ways around this. I admit to being fairly ignorant
of how galleries handle this. Some of my wife’s experiences with
both traveling reps and consignment have been fraught with major
problems. At least with an on-line setup you could use Paypal or
some other ‘escrow’ arrangement to protect the good name of the
group from one artist’s bad business practices. Carl 1 Lucky Texan

I would start at the SNAG web site and see if there are any
metalsmithing or jewelry guilds in you area that are listed with
them. Contact them, go to meetings etc. start to network. Check out
the arts programs at your local collages and universities. Go to
visual arts galleries and get on their mailing lists and go to
openings. You would be surprised at the people you can meet at these
places… Frank Goss

Etienne, thanks for sharing your experience. Your creations are
beautiful, you are incredibly talented. I have returned to doing
silver work after a 20 year career in marketing.

In marketing often jobs are separated between marketing/advertising,
business development and sales. It is usually only sales reps that
are paid on commission alone.

If cooperative / joint venture take place the purpose has to be

Marketing is reaching the right market at the right price point and
making a profit. Marketing takes trial and error, money, time and
analysis. When you finally get the right mix of the 4 p’s.

Your product, price, place- distribution, and promotion it is off to
the bank.

50% of all money spent on marketing is wasted. It takes spending
the 100% of the dollars to figure out which 50% was worth it.

Orchid members: Please let me know if you are interested in me
posting business and marketing tips. Please let me know what
subjects you are interested in.

Direct marketing
Marketing Strategy
Media Strategy
Promotion: - Public Relations vs Advertising
A group is needed.  A group of people that produce their own
products and use their combined power to market them.  One
successful way is a cooperative gallery. There is one such gallery
in operation in Prescott, Arizona which is very successful. Another
way that should work is co-op shows.  I would like to bounce this
idea around with other interested artists. My feelings are simple. 
The artist that makes the product deserves the most profit out of
the product.  The artist deserves to win. -- 

I agree with you Gerry. By the way, In enjoyed meeting you in
Tucson and was impressed with your work. Anyway, I’ve had my own
frustrations with all the usual ways of selling my work and have on
several occasions joined up with other artists with varying mediums,
and held our own show. All of us are relatively established in the
local area and have good mailing lists to share. Sometimes it is as
simple as setting up and having a two day party/show in someone’s
backyard. Other times it’ll involve a local gallery that gets a
percentage of sales (20%). It’s hard to meet your 25% goal Gerry,
but this can come close. Each of these shows, while not a raging
success, was more profitable than paying 50% to galleries or $600 to
a show promoter. I’ve had experience with some galleries that
deserve every penny they earn from my sales. But I’ve also had
experience with galleries that make me wonder what they do and why
they hire the people they do. Sometimes I’ve been able to work it
with the other artists where I do all the organizational work in
exchange for no percentage on my sales. I’ve discussed many times
with other artists how an ideal situation would be a large building
broken up into 6-8 studios with a central office and gallery where
one person, such as myself, with some gallery/management experience,
is responsible for representing the other artists and then earns a
percentage. I could have my own studio there as well to stay busy
during slow times. This would require some sort of exclusivity
agreement, I imagine. These are the things I daydream about…


Hi Judy I know that although I have been selling my jewellery and
stones for over 10 years, I can always use tips from other people
out there. I make one of a kind silver and gemstone jewellery,
therefore my market is mostly retail. I also sell some consignment

Advice in consignment marketing , i.e… how to get stores to sell
your art, and how to get paid.

How to better educate my retail customers that my hand-made
silver/copper, hand cut stones, self collected crystals are a better
investment than the inexpensive jewelry from Mexico.

What are the correct terms to use to better market my products?

How to figure out which shows or stores are the best for my

Looking forward to more advice.

Karen Seidel-Bahr
the Rocklady
May your Gems always “Sparkle”

I too would be interested in participating in the formulation of
this concept since it is in favor of the artist. I work in dichroic
glass which includes pendants, pins, buttons, barrettes, trinket
dishes, money clips, sterling bracelets including linked ones,
unusual designer earrings etc. I’ve been in business for 6 years
now & am passionate about my work. Perhaps I’m not in your league
but I need to respond to you… Location may also be a problem,
don’t know. I do well @ the higher end shows but have had bad
experiences selling on consignment in Scottsdale, AZ & Estes Park,
CO. By the time Estes took 40% I was not getting paid for my piece.
It’s a high end glass studio & I was w/ them for 3
years…Fondly, Audie Beller of Audie’s Images…

When it comes to consignment the galley taking 40% is normal, when
it gets higher than that I think twice about using that galley. You
have to price your stuff accordingly so that you make money or it’s
not worth it. Good Luck Koranna’s Enamels

Marlene Richey, is teaching a one day "Creative Marketing Workshop"
geared to jewelers and metalsmiths here at Workshops at Wolf Designs,
Portland Maine on Thursday, May 16 and at New Approach School in Va.
Beach on Sept. 20.

In this 1day, hands on workshop we will discuss promotional and
advertising methods; work on mission statements and press releases,
develop a press kit and more. This class will help clarify your
market and teach you methods to reach your customer. We will also
explore ways to advertise on a limited budget. The clarity the
workshop brings can increase your businesss profitability.

Marlene Richey in co-owner and business/marketing manager of William
Richey Designs, LTD, a 25 year old wholesale jewelry design firm and
retail gallery. Marlene is on the advisory board for the Rosen Group-
Buyers Marke t of America and The Maine Jewelers Association. She has
served on many desig n juries for industry shows and has been a
participant on numerous panels about how to sell and promote designer
jewelry. Marlene teaches 8CArt as Business at Maine College of Art.

Marlene is a generous, dynamic instructor.
Best Regards,
Kate Wolf