Do You Love Your Craft???

Published On: 11-18-2011 03:05pm

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I got into a new, for me,  retail shop a few weeks ago.  It is a nice little shop that calls itself an "art boutique" and I was very excited about having this space accept my work, especially after the owner told me that she would probably only take four or six pieces and she ended up taking more than thirty pieces.

I think what excited me more than the fact that I had picked up another shop is the fact that she loved my metal work and took almost all that I had.  My high end shops, "oh" and "ah" over the copper and silver  and then take traditional strung jewelry, so that's what I have been making mostly, but the metal work is definitely my first love.  It's just allot harder to move in the market that I am in, and here was someone that loved it and wanted all that I had. All I could think was "YIPPEE", and I have been furiously making more since then because I do have a museum that loves it and I am seeing them this week.

So the reason for this blog - one week after we had this great love fest and she took all my metal work she sends me an email and says that just as she had expected,(but never mentioned to me) my jewelry was too expensive for her shop and nothing was selling although her clients loved my work. Being in Phoenix, I didn't expect any sales until the fall, and she had indicated that her best clients wouldn't be back til then. She asked if I would consider dropping my prices by 20% since I had such a large inventory and maybe this would help to move some items.

I am an old fart - and I only like to do business face to face, so I sent her back a response that outlined my 30+ years in business and the fact that I could not do that and cover my expenses, but that I had some ideas and why didn't we meet and talk about it. This is a 50/50 consignment arrangement.  I didn't want to discuss my ideas unless we were together, but my first idea was to change to a 60/40 arrangement and then I could drop my prices 20%.  She probably won't like this, but I think it's a great idea.  I will continue to almost make my "nut" and she will have higher quality merchandise in her shop which will hopefully help her to up her overall income. She will also have my material at a price where she thinks that she can move it. My other thought was to make some less expensive pieces that she can sell now, and then when her "better" clients return in the fall, she will hopefully be able to sell my pricier items.

In my email, I explained to her that I figured a wholesale price first and that it was critical for the survival of my business that I cover that price, I couldn't just willy-nilly drop that 20%.  That would not be fair to my other shops nor my people who buy direct from me or off the web. I told her that even though I was a bottom line person, I would do everything that I could to accommodate her as I liked the location of her shop and she obviously liked my jewelry.  I also said that I felt that it was in both our best interests to work this out and that I felt that we maybe didn't have a pricing problem, but a demographics problem.

Now comes the amazing part - she responded that she would meet with me, but it would be awhile because she was very busy.   She told me that she had always felt that artisans did their thing because they loved it, not to make money. This is a woman who is trying to run a business working with artisans on consignment. She has been involved in the arts her whole adult life, as has her husband. I guess it is okay for her to pay her bills from her involvement in the arts, but it's not okay for me.  Needless to say I was dumbfounded - amazed - angry  - and dissappointed...but I did learn some things, and that's always important. By the way, I would love to be able to afford to give my jewelry away, but I can't

This is what I learned:

-If you are extremely prolific, as I am, be careful how much product that you take to shops.
She actually said at one point, that she felt that I had so much inventory that surely I'd want to decrease it any way that I could.

-Don't get too excited about a retail space until you have been there awhile.  I learned a long time ago not to make special orders for a shop that hadn't committed to me yet -but since I had no shops at that point and I wanted one badly...I made lots of stuff that she said that she wanted - and then she forgot to see me again.

-Get used to all kinds of rejections and do not take them personally.

- Maybe, first impressions are best.  I said to my husband when we left this shop, that I was glad that she was so excited my work, because I would never have considered this shop as an outlet for my work if she hadn't been so enthusiatic. I probably never would have entered it.

-most people assume that artisans are bad business people - don't be a self fulfulling prophecy

-make what you love - love what you make - get your wholesale price, no matter what. If you don't - you are the one that will be the big loser.  

Always remember that no matter how bad a situation is with your business, if you learn something from it, then you have come out ahead and make sure that you don't put your self in the same situation again.  Artisans are in the people business, and that is always a catch as catch can predicament.  You never know how some people are going to respond to you, your craft, your pricing and policies.  In an ideal world, we would be in the arts business, but if we are to survive financially from our artistic endeavors, we have to accept the fact that we are totally dependent on the reactions of other people. Will they carry our line in their store/gift shop - can they sell it at the price that we need - will people like what we make and most important - will they spend their hard earned money to purchase what we made????Love what you do and love what you make, but sell it with the idea of making a profit...if the person representing you expects to make a profit, then certainly, you should too!  !

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