August 21, 2010

Slippery Slope

This may sound like just a lot of whining, but I'm sort of thinking out loud for a moment. Someone once said that a wise person doesn't say much. But of the risk of my own detriment, may I just weigh in on something that is really concerning me?

Back in the day, I did a lot of wholesale. Probably 75% of my income! I did it to get my work out there to be seen. I mostly sold to shops and some galleries. I discounted my work to these shops off of the retail price because they were displaying it in public, promoted it as "my" work (read Michael Kline, not anonymous potter) and they paid me for the work, upon receipt or net 30.

The Fall was my busiest time to fill orders for holiday sale in shops/galleries.

You know what I'm sayin', right?

Well, for the last several years I've noticed more and more shops having holiday "shows" and inviting a slew of potters to participate. In these shows a guy (or gal) can get lost and the promotional effect on their career is lost as well. Granted there are cards sent out and many people probably come to your shop during these months.

What I am getting here is that I feel that the shops are taking advantage of the multitudes of artists who want to have representation in shops/galleries. These "shows" are are a great way of filling the shelves during this busy time of the year withOUT having to pay the artist up front (as in a wholesale contract) and withOUT really promoting the artist. Because how can one individual really get any promotion by having just a few pieces in a show, whether it's online or in brick and mortar?

If you're still reading this you are probably shaking your head (or scratching it) wondering what the hell is his point, right?

Well, not only does the artist have to make the work and pack it and ship it on their own expense, but nowadays they also print out contracts on their computer, grab an envelope, put a stamp on it , etc. I'm not even going to go into the current wave of self promotion a lot of us do for shows to our FB friends and fans, on our blogs, email newsletters etc. at no additional expense to the gallery!

[still with me?]

Anyway, I've decided that if I'm invited to do a show, and there are more than, say, 5 or 10 people in the group show then I can't give the gallery 50% of the sale. Some possible exceptions would be the use of my pottery image on the show card, or the use of my pottery image in print publications advertising the show, etc.

I often hear from gallery folks that I should raise my prices to make up for shipping costs, etc. But why should the shop profit from my shipping cost, which would then become part of their standard 50%?

I'm not sure how this will be received by the shops/galleries and it's a hard economic time for us all, but there has to be fairness in the market. (and I'm sure I'll hear soon enough from the shop/gallery owners) But please tell me that my thinking is wrong and that I need to put up or shut up and I will gladly listen to any wise suggestions. Let me know what you think!