Well, you think your artwork is at any rate, so how do you do this – a daunting prospect if you haven’t done it before.
Maybe you are part of an art group, society or similar and you have been lucky enough to sell at exhibitions arranged by these groups. Friends and family tell you they would buy your work and hopefully you’ve sold some work already.
That’s great and you should keep on doing it if you enjoy it; but are you really ready to go in a gallery? A big question – is your work really ready to be out there? And I don’t just mean is the artwork ready – are you ready too?
I have been invited to write this piece as I am not only an artist that has exhibited at arts & craft events, in galleries, at Open Studio events in all manner of places – but my partner and I are also owners of an art gallery and working studio. Hopefully we have experience that we can pass on to other like-minded people.
Over the 18 months since opening our doors to the public we have received a whole host of people though the door asking if we would take their work to display and sell for them.
Just turning up like this is NOT, and I do emphasise the word NOT, the way to do it!!
It’s not professional and the gallery owner will more than likely be busy running their business, they are in it to make a living, just as you want to sell your work to make a living – it’s a business and has to be treated as such. Just because their door is open doesn’t mean they have time to talk with you about the possibility of taking your work at that moment in time.
Before you even consider approaching a gallery there are a few things you need to do first.
Do you have a website and or Facebook page?
If not why not – you need one, it’s as simple as that, you need to be able to direct a gallery owner to this when you first approach them (more on that later)
Whatever your art form you need good photos, for your website and for advertising whether it be printed or online – Good photos are a must.
Tip - If you are taking pictures of 2D art about to be framed, take the photos before the glass goes on – reflections in glass are a no-no!
Do you have business cards and or flyer with information about yourself and your work?
Have you decided what you will be offering the gallery?
A one off piece of work
A body of work
Continuous supply of work – if this is your option then can you keep up with demand, can you supply the work as and when it’s called for?
Is your work properly prepared for a gallery?
Is it framed well?
Does it have hanging fixings applied – And yes, I have had work delivered where they have come with the fixings in a bag expecting me to fix them onto the back of the frame before hanging, not my job sorry, this is down to the artist and should be done before delivery
If the work is in a frame – is the back sealed properly?
Is the work labelled in the way the gallery would like – please never, never deliver work to one gallery that has come from another and still has their labels and pricing on it, and please DON’T whatever you do leave the previous exhibitions pricing on a piece of work.
Go to the trouble of printing new labels for each time you change it from one gallery to another, it really is worth the trouble
Ok, so you have done all of that and now you’re ready to go and find those galleries….Hold your horses just a moment!
Please don’t tell me you’re now heading out of the door work in hand (or boot of car) before you have done your research on the galleries out there?!!
First, think about how you will handle this, think about your location and how far you are prepared to travel, if it’s just a one off you might be willing to travel some distance – great, but what if you are planning to keep the galleries stocked with your work for some time to come?
Do you really want to be travelling 80/100 miles every time they ask for more work?
Do your research and consider the above – come up with a list of galleries you like the look of and pay them a visit, please don’t approach them on this occasion. This is the opportunity for you to see if you think your work might fit in their space.
Once you have done this you will now have a short list of possibles – this is now the time to contact them. Send them an email, addressing the owner/manager in person, introducing yourself and the reason you are contacting them – this is where having a (point 1a above) website, FB page, good photos all come in to play. Send them all of the information you have and if you don’t hear back within a few days, maybe a week, follow up with a phone call – ask to speak to the owner and explain why you are calling, “I sent you an email on such and such not sure if you have received it…..”.
If they are interested then ask for an appointment. If they aren’t, thank them for their time and ask if it’s possible that you might contact them at a later date, most will probably say that’s ok, but if not don’t waste any more of their time, or yours, and leave it at that.
Be polite - you never know when you might bump into them in the future – operating in the world of arts & crafts is a small place!
If you’re lucky enough to get an appointment – fantastic, this is where it all starts.
A couple of key questions you need to ask on the call once an appointment has been agreed, if not already mentioned are:
How do they operate?
Most galleries will be on a sale or return basis, if this is the case you need an idea of how long they would like to retain your work
Sale or return will come with a commission fee charged by the gallery
This is standard practice (and a whole other blog) but you need to know how much that is and include it in your pricing structure – again another blog!!
Make sure you turn up on time, a few moments early is good, present your work and yourself well. After all your art is your ‘passion’ and how you present it will show through – be confidant, but not overly so.
I get quite frustrated that artists tell me they love what they do and they really don’t want to do anything else and then turn up for a meeting with their work shoved in a Tesco’s carrier bag!! How much do they really love their work? A carrier bag? Really?!
You need to show your work off to its best possible advantage – presentation, presentation and yes more presentation.
Think about the framing if 2D work – no marks on the frames, no scuffs from where it’s been moved about, no finger prints on the glass (it takes moments to run a duster over something). If 3D make sure there is no dust in the nooks and crannies!! Present it like a brand new piece of work at every gallery, whether it be the first time it’s been shown of the 100th!
And present yourself well too – don’t go in your working paint covered clothes; or dust-covered jeans from your wood-working bench. Show you are proud of what you do and hopefully you will be taken seriously and considered for the gallery you have approached.
If the gallery likes what they see you may be lucky enough to be asked to leave what you have taken, so be prepared to leave work behind, but not before signing a ‘consignment agreement’, or something showing that you have left your work with them, and agreeing to payment terms etc should they sell any of your work for you.
This is a new professional relationship and should be handled as such.
Good luck and keep up with the Arts & the Crafts – we need more of it.