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December 2009

Images on your website, Are they lost or found?

BarCodeN
The images on your website are handled differently than the images on social networking sites. Generally speaking, most artist's websites are all about images.

People come to an artist's site to see images. Most images will have a title and description, but in addition, it is very important to use your "ALT image" tag to describe the image.

Ada_logoWhat is an "ALT image" tag?
Originally, the purpose was to help visually impaired people to read about an image on the Internet. It was mandated by ADA (American Disability Act).  With a text reading software application, the text reader describes the image based on what is written in the "ALT image" tag.

Your website images will function perfectly well without "ALT image" tags, but in recent years, search engines have started using "ALT image" tags for another purpose - search. 

Search  engines review the entire site for information that better indicates or confirms that the website is credible. The duplication of the text that is visible on your web page (i.e. a title and/or description) and in the "ALT image" tag raises your ranking - and this is what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is all about.

The "ALT image" tags are also used in a Google IMAGE Search . In other words, since search engines can't really see an image, the "ALT image" tag provides search engines a text representation of your graphics.

Harriete Estel Berman jewelry page of bracelets made from recycled tin cans.2

The more images on your website, the more important your "ALT image" tags become.  Another good reason to write an "ALT image" tag for every photo.

Here is Google Webmasters video about ALT tags.

"Matt Cutts Discusses the Importance of alt Tags"

Where is my "ALT image"?
The "ALT image" tag is in the HTML code for your web page. It is not normally visible to the viewer but this is what search engines actually read. You can see the HTML or XHTML for any website by going to the toolbar at the top of the page. CLICK on VIEW > Page Source. There it is!

If you are using Dreamweaver to construct your website, when you insert an image into a page, there will be a prompt to write a description of your image. This is your "ALT image" tag.

What should you write? 
It should be a short accurate description.

How long should it be?
I wish I knew the exact answer. My reasonable answer is to put the most pertinent information, without exaggeration, and all the while thinking about what a person would be looking for when they want that particular image.

BarCodeN
  Bar Code Identity Necklace  © 2007
 Harriete Estel Berman
  plastic, vintage beads, recycled tin
  cans, brass, magnet
.

   Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

For example, I usually include my name in the "ALT tag" and a brief description. Here is the "ALTtag" for this image.

alt="Bar Code Identity Necklace Jewelry by Harriete Estel Berman."

NOTE how the title on the website repeats the "ALT tag." 

During the holidays when business is slow, go back and write titles, tags, descriptions and "ALT tags," for all your images.

Harriete


Mail without an address? Titles, tags and descriptions for Search Engine Optimization.

Tzedakah9_2
Tzedakah   © 1999              Collection of The Jewish Museum, New York
Would you mail an envelope without an address? Would you invite a customer over to your studio and not even tell them the city? How about "Come over for lunch," but not give them an address!

Artists and craftspeople are doing this over and over!  I see it all the time. They put their images on Facebook, Crafthaus or Flickr and don't have a title, description, or keywords with their images.  I have even found images for sale in online marketplace sites such as Etsy with grossly incomplete information. This is like mailing an envelope without a stamp.

TzedakahV1
Tzedakah   © 1999
Recycled Tin Cans
Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen
Collection of The Jewish Museum, New York

The titles (for your art or craft,) full descriptions and relevant tags for your images are how people find your work on the Internet. Inadequate information is like mailing an envelope without an address.  No one will receive the letter because no one can figure out where it should go. Your images are not working as hard as they could without this information.


Tzedakah9
 

Every image should have a title, copyright symbol and date, detailed description including materials,  dimensions, and perhaps a little insight into the inspiration.


Tags are important too.
Your tags should reiterate the information in your title and description. The redundancy between your title, description and tags are reinforcements for search engines to indicate credible information.  This information is like the address on an envelope.

Password Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Bermaneite
  Password Flower Pin © 2012
   Recycled tin cans
  Harriete Estel Berman

Here is an example Flower Pin that I posted on Flickr, Facebook and Etsy for different audiences. All sites allow a title for the image and a description.  You can reuse this information over and over. You don't have to reinvent the information every time.  Copy and paste, then make changes as necessary for each forum. 

INFORMATION YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TITLES, DESCRIPTIONS AND TAGS

TITLES are important to keep your inventory straight and for search engine optimization. Watch with 5 minute tip titled, "Image File Names for Better Search Engine Optimization."

DESCRIPTIONS vary from site to site.  Flickr will not allow overt selling statements.  Etsy and Facebook will.  I always include materials and dimensions (and frequently include a story about my inspiration) just for interest. Pinterest images will benefit tremendously from an interesting, and complete description about your work.  

TAGS or KEYWORDS repeat the information in the title and description usually in one word snippets separated by commas. Use as many tags as needed or allowed on the site. Use every tag you can think of for a particular situation.Think about any variation of words that a person might use to find your work in a search.  Try all different possibilities. 

CandyLand Flower Pin from recycled tin cans by Harriete Estel BErman
  Candyland Flower Brooch © 2012
  Recycled tin cans,
  Harriete Estel Berman

Here are a few tags on Etsy for this flower pin: jewelry, tin, tin cans, candy, candyland, peach, peppermint, candy canes, Harriete, Harriet, Berman, recycled, steel, eco, green.

PAY ATTENTION to how to add tags effectively.
Some sites need quote marks around multiple word tags to keep the words together as one tag (e.g. "Harriete Estel Berman".)

Tz_address_envelope72

Sometimes testing and experimenting are the only way to find out what works, but to habitually not include titles, descriptions, and tags are like making your work invisible on the Internet.  Like an envelope without an address, no one can find your images in search without titles, descriptions, & tags.

Go back to every one of your photos posted on social networking sites and edit your photos as time allows.

Photos of your art or craft should be part of your online profile on every site. Don't just segregate this information to a "Fan page" or online marketing site. Your friends might be your first customers. They love seeing what you do!

www.harriete-estel-berman.info

P.S. Tags and descriptions on your web site are handled a little bit differently than social networking and online marketing sites. Learn more about this in other posts.

In the meantime, send me your questions. I'd like to hear your perspectives and areas of interest.


Ingredients for success - your resume.

TraceyBELL7663
"Mother Tree"  © Tracey Bell
sterling silver
16" length, largest leaf is 1.75"

Dear Harriete,
Have you covered how to compose a CV for submitting to galleries in your professional development series?  I'm trying to figure out how to do that now and it seems most advice on the web isn't geared towards artists. Thanks, Tracey Bell

First of all, many people use the term CV when they mean resume. A CV should include everyone of your professional accomplishments. A Resume is the abridged information, in other words, a summary of your professional experience. I have several resumes, a one page, two page, five page and a Judaica resume. These are just examples, but the point is to modify your resume for each particular situation. 

In the beginning of your career, I would put your formal education at the top. Thirty years from graduation, it just seems that your education is a little less relevant and it might move further down on your resume.

Put the most important items at the top and work your way down to less important items.

Here is a list of suggested categories in an appropriate order.

Name and Contact information including address, phone numbers, fax, e-mail, web site.  Do not include your address when posting your resume online, displaying it in a public situation or sending this resume to a gallery for their clients.

Education degree, date, institution, major 

If you don't have a formal academic education in the arts, perhaps you can push your professional degree further down the page as it might be less relevant to your art career than recent exhibitions or professional experience.

Workshops (if they were formative to your current work) could be covered as a separate category, but they are not an education. Considering a two days to two week workshop equivalent to four or seven years of dedicated study seems to be stretching a resume. Be honest and proud of what you have accomplished, but don't overstate the facts.   

Exhibitions
    Solo Exhibitions
    Group Exhibitions 

In the beginning of your career, list shows by year.  As you add shows and you have a good number to list, maybe you will want to divide up into categories.  Eventually, you might have International, Invitational, Juried National, Juried Regional.  List shows by date, most recent first, in each category.

     Gallery exhibitions

Exhibitions at galleries or retail spaces should be a separate list from museum and non-profit exhibition spaces.

Grants/Awards
Commissions
Collections (Public, Private, Corporate) Never list the name of a private collector without their permission.
Bibliography This could be called Selected Reviews and/or published photos of my work
    Sub-categories might be: Books, Magazine, Selected Periodicals, Newspapers, etc.
Current employment (if this is relevant to your art career)
Current Gallery Representation

Another option for your resume may be listing your social networking sites, Facebook, Crafthaus, Flickr, Etsy, etc. I would only list these items if you keep them looking professional. If you are posting family photos, commentary about your spa experience, etc. do not include this link.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT RESUMES AND CV can be found on the CAA (College Art Association) web site.

Your CV and Resume should include only the truth. No exaggerations. Be honest.

TMI (Too Much Information) Don't include information about your family, martial status, children, religion, pets, hobbies, travel, jobs irrelevant to your professional art career.

You can look at my resume on my web site. Many artists include a resume on their site so look around for other examples. There are many right ways to make an art career resume, but you are correct in assuming that an art resume is different than the corporate style.

RELATED POSTS:
The Biggest Mistakes I See on Resumes, and How to Correct Them by Laszlo Block

Looking for a JOB - Step 5 CUSTOMIZE Your Resume

Resumes - How much is too much info?

Resume - Ready, Set, Go! 


What do you mean by “Success”? by Andy Cooperman

For this post, Andy Cooperman is the guest author for ASK Harriete. In response to recent posts, online discussion and conversations related to the Professional Development Seminar, Andy Cooperman asks all of us, "What do you mean by "Success"? You are welcome to post your comments in response. 

Note: The opinions expressed by the author,Andy Cooperman, in this post are his and his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.

Artist_in_brown
  Andy Cooperman
  Photo Credit: Don Farver

FROM THE PEN OF ANDY COOPERMAN
A friend and colleague once offered this bit of wisdom (I paraphrase): “It’s not always about making a living in Craft.  It’s really about making a life in Craft”.  This is certainly to a degree true-- and validating.  But recent posts have got me thinking about what we mean when we say “making a living”, “supporting ourselves” or simply “making it” as a craftsperson, maker or artist. I am curious about what we mean when we talk about being a successful artist.

Are we talking about financial independence?  Selling enough of our work or services to pay studio overhead, rent or mortgage payments on our home, apartment, loft or condo without a second income from another job?  Are we including in this definition health care and insurance payments, paying for transportation, food, and taxes?  Does making a living in craft extend to raising children (if we have made that decision) and paying for their education?  Do our studio incomes allow for travel, entertainment and luxuries such as cable, dinner out, and nice clothes?

Coopermanandytorch_crop
  Andy Cooperman with torch in his studio
  Photo Credit: Kim Cooperman

I have supported myself making one of a kind jewelry, working as a commission and custom metalsmith, doing some repairs and limited production and, increasingly, teaching workshops, seminars and classes (which have yielded the benefit of occasional sales).  I chose not to have children but I do have a nice home and don’t want for much.  The fact that I have a partner who does have a career and a stable--but not stellar-- income and who has been incredibly supportive about my choice of profession has no doubt and to no small degree allowed me to make a life in Craft.  But the studio pays its own bills, puts some money towards retirement and covers my half of our expenses as a family.  Still, as I get older, I wonder if it will be enough.

Coopermanslab.potter.sleeper
 3 Brooches ©  2009  Andy Cooperman
  Right to left:  “Slab”  (sterling, 14k, 24k),
“Potter” (burl wood, sterling, gold),
“Sleeper Cell”  (burl wood,stain, sterling,
 gold leaf)
Photo Credit: Doug Yaple

It’s important to remember, I think, that all things are not equal when we talk about the realities of rent and cost of living.  The Seattle area is an expensive place to live and if I were starting out right now, I’m not sure that we could afford to establish ourselves here.  Fortunately, we got in a little bit ahead of the curve housing-wise, but it is still a costly place to live.  There are less expensive places, to be sure.  I understand that we all live within limits.  This is simply reality.  But if we choose where we live based primarily on affordability (due to our choice of career) and it is not where we really want to be can we truly say that we are successful?

Cooopermanbauble_doug.72.1000
 ”Bauble”  neckpiece © 2008
 
Andy Cooperman
  Carved copal, bronze, sterling, gold
 Photo Credit: Doug Yaple

Are “success” and “making a living” two different things?  There are many artists and makers who have achieved fame, whose work is published and whose names are well known but who support themselves financially through other means.  This is certainly success on one level.  There are metalsmiths and craftspeople who don’t care at all about this type of notoriety but are driven by a love of making and sell enough work to allow them to keep making more work and maintain a lifestyle that they are comfortable with.  They may or may not have a car, a television, their own home or great shoes. They may no doubt define themselves as successful while others might question their definition based on their own needs and lifestyle choices.  And there are those jewelers who like what they do but see it more as a business: a job or a profession that allows them to support their families or themselves and do the things that they are really passionate about.

Coopermanmasonic.ring.72.2
  ”Masonic Ring” © 2009
  
Andy Cooperman
  sterling, gold, copper, carved copal.
 
Photo Credit: Doug Yaple

So I’m wondering:  How do we characterize success?  How do we define “making a living” from what we do? What is your fantasy of a life in Craft or Art? Is it a money thing?  Have the things that you wanted from life when you began your career as a maker remained the same?  (Mine haven’t.)   If you are embarking on your career do you think that there is a possibility one day that you may not get the same charge from making as you once did?  Can/will you make enough money to compensate for that possibility?

What do people really think?  Let’s have a frank discussion.

Andy Cooperman


Why go to Conferences? Are they worth it?

MapQuest72grbk
A question from an artist and reader, 

"While reading the ACC Conference lecture reviews, I was wondering how the conference is affecting you as an artist?" 

Good question! I'll bet other people are wondering too! Similar questions arose from a few other readers wondering if it was worth the expense (conference fee, airfare, hotel) to go.  [I don't include food because most of the time I don't eat at restaurants but instead find a grocery store for fruit and yogurt. A latte is my conference treat!]

The answer is a considered "yes, yes, yes." These conferences are an investment in my professional development and definitely worth attending (as long as it isn't adding debt to the credit card).  Beyond the expenses, I don't give up time in my studio lightly.  I also miss my exercise classes and come home to a mountain of mail and "things to do" just like everyone else. This always delays my return to the studio for more days.

Ted_logo WHAT DO I GET OUT OF A CONFERENCE?
Three things mostly, meeting new people, listening to thought provoking lectures, and seeing work that surprises and inspires.  While none of these things are automatic or guaranteed to happen, it is dropping myself into the unexpected and being open to new ideas. To borrow the words from the TED Conference web site: "Every so often it makes sense to emerge from the trenches we dig for a living, and ascend to a 30,000-foot view, where we see, to our astonishment, an intricately interconnected whole." (If you aren't familiar with the TED Conference lectures, I recommend them highly.)

HARRIETErobWALKER72 Meeting new people is the most refreshing and positive aspect of every conference.  Even though I am a little fearful of or somewhat dislike having people pierce my personal space bubble, I force myself to make an effort to sit next to a stranger.... or ask someone to sit next to me at lunch that I barely know, or talk to a new person on the bus or at the show.  I have to repeat this gutsy effort over and over. However, even one such meeting may make the entire conference worthwhile.  You never know if this person is looking for just your kind of work, planning a show, or following a similar path.

365205530_6a5dcf2d2a
Pattern Pillow #2 © 2004
copper, oil paint
18" x 18" x 5"
Artist: Megan Auman

For example, a couple years ago, Megan Auman approached me requesting that she speak about Web 2.0 for the Professional Development Seminar (Savannah FLYER 2008) at a SNAG Conference. I was mystified about why I or any other artist should even consider participating in 2.0 sites like Facebook or Etsy (or a blog for that matter), when I already had a web site.  Well, we (Don Friedlich, Andy Cooperman and I) listened to her ideas and decided to include her program about 2.0 for the PDS.  After the SNAG Conference (March 2008), I came right home to join Etsy, Flickr, Facebook and to start my blog all in about two weeks! She and others opened my eyes about all that was happening, will be happening, and could be happening on the Internet.

IMG_4176
Natalie "Alabama" Chanin
Speaking during the ACC Conference

Exposure to new information is my second reason to go to conferences. Lectures are always a gamble.  Much of a lecture may be the "same old, same old", but if you listen, you will likely realize after six months or a year that a kernel or nugget might inspire a new way of thinking.  At a SNAG Conference organized by Gary Griffin many years ago, he included a lecture on "tin men." This lecture opened up a whole new world of ideas for me that has inspired 21 years of work. All from that one lecture.

The recent 2009 American Craft Council Conference was intense and provided a broad spectrum of information. I learned from speakers I'd never known before, about books they have written, references to movies, blog sites, and tons of other resources. It might take me months or a year to follow through, buy the books or get them from my local library. Since Heath Ceramics is not all that far away from where I live, it is definitely on my "to do" list. Rob Walker and I met in person for the first time after over a year of correspondence. It only intensified my interest in his writing both in the New York Times Magazine and his blog.

Harriete_working_tins2.100
Harriete working in the studio
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

How this will all blend into my work is another story. My work is very labor intensive.  It will take at least a year or more to finish my current projects, and another year or more to work on upcoming planned projects.  So, two years from now, maybe something from the Conference will inspire new work. Who knows, maybe a person that I met might want to show my work. All of these things are like a slow cooking stew, you need to add the right spices and let it simmer. 

The third reason that I go to Conferences, seeing new work, doesn't happen the same way every time. At the SNAG Conferences, there are multiple exhibitions specifically for the conference.  Many times going to a Conference is the first time I visit a city, and realize that I want to go back as a family vacation to explore. 

So as you can see, going to conferences (no more than once or twice a year to stay within my budget), whether local or far away, is one very effective way to expand my thinking, move out of my treasured daily routine, and discover surprises.   The uncertainties always seem a bit intimidating, but my reflection after every conference has been rewarding and sometimes life changing.     

The 2010 SNAG Conference is coming!

Conf2010_logo_4CThe upcoming SNAG Conference is already accepting registration. During the Conference I will be organizing a way to make the Conference a smaller place with more ways to meet people.  Start saving your money and plan to go to a Conference in 2010.

Volunteer to help me with the "meet and greet" conversations. Get to know some new people.  Volunteer, I could really use your help. Listen to the unexpected and have an experience that enriches you for an entire year. I will be doing the Portfolio Reviews. Sign up early for a free Portfolio Review with gallery representatives, curators and successful artists in the metals field.

I am also organizing the Professional Development Seminar with Andy Cooperman and Don Friedlich.Pds_logoletterhead The Professional Development Seminar in Houston, Texas, is planning  three hours of concrete information from 9:00am-12:00pm on Friday, March 12, that will change the way you approach your work and the way you do business. At 9:00am, Bruce Baker will present ‘The Art of Selling’ and at 11:00am he will shift to ‘Not Just Another Pricing Lecture: A Dialogue about Pricing Your Work.’  We will continue the conversation during lunch from 12:00-1:30. Bring your lunch so you don't miss a moment. Learn strategies for success.

Harriete Estel Berman
www.harriete-estel-berman.info



Effective Pricing for Multiple Marketplaces

Hello Harriete,
I just read your post "Should I link to my Etsy shop on my web site?" and I have a follow up question about one specific point you made. You stressed the importance of keeping the online prices consistent with prices in the galleries. I am always concerned about consistency in pricing from one retail venue to the next, but am having trouble because different places that sell my work have different mark ups. The highest mark up of my work is 250% (which seems excessively high). The buyer who marks up that much claims that this is a "standard jewelry mark up." This buyer recently saw on my Etsy shop that an item she carries is priced less on my shop because my mark up was a simple 200% mark up. I don't want to ruin the relationship with the buyer by undercutting her prices, but I am concerned that the average shopper through my online shop will be turned off my such an increase in price. Do you have any suggestions? I would very much appreciate hearing your advice.

Your website is a wealth of information. I have enjoyed looking through it and will consult it often.

Thank you in advance for your time and thoughts. Signed, Mark-up Challenged

Commission_structuresGreat Question! I think prices should be the same everywhere if possible… but I realize this is a really thorny issue.

Many stores and galleries do mark up more than 200%.  Some want a 60 /40 ratio (or 60% for the store and 40% for the maker).  Others usually work on a 50/50 ratio.  It all presents a problem.  How to keep your prices consistent?

Dollar-bills-imageWhat is true is that galleries/stores are run as businesses to make profits. They expect to make money! They have planned on their commission ratio and will also try to maintain consistency in their commissions to their artists and makers; but, everything is negotiable. 

Business Relationship  You have a business relationship and it is perfectly acceptable to tell your retail locations your "suggested retail price."  This is the price that you should try to maintain consistently from venue to venue.  The plan is that you are trying to keep your prices the same all over the U.S. to avoid pricing competition or pricing inconsistencies. Explain this to the galleries or stores that sell your work.  However, it is up to the store/gallery to mark it up as they see fit.  If they charge more, it is their responsibility. 

Price_tagWith the Internet it is very easy for the consumer to compare prices.  In addition, people travel quite a bit. The client/collector is likely to notice when one store or gallery charges more than other locations for the same items. 

Other options  As a compromise, you might consider raising your retail prices a speck on Etsy to about 225%.  Another option, is to make a somewhat different version or line of work for the brick and mortar locations so that they feel they have a unique body of work to sell.

Pricered-tags Personally, I looked at your work on Etsy and I think is it very well priced.  What you and the galleries are experiencing is the power and impact of the Internet. Galleries and stores used to be only way to market art and craft.  Now that artists and makers have alternatives for showing work to consumers, i.e. the web, price shopping is as easy as a push of a mouse button. 

One more point.  You should not feel guilty or feel like it is your fault if a store rejects your "suggested retail price."  This could be the gallery's problem, not yours…but too often artists are asked to make the concessions.  This is why I started the Professional Guidelines to established professional standards, so that everyone knows what is reasonable and professional.

Establish what you think is a fair retail price. You can even discuss this with your galleries and stores that carry your work. They know their consumers, but ultimately this is your decision!  If the readers of ASK Harriete have another solution, please let me know or leave your suggestion as a comment.

Pds_logoletterhead The Professional Development Seminar in Houston, Texas, is planning  three hours of concrete information from 9:00am-12:00pm on Friday, March 12, 2010, that will change the way you approach your work and the way you do business. At 9:00am. Bruce Baker will present ‘The Art of Selling.’  Then at 11:00 am the lecture will shift to ‘Not Just Another Pricing Lecture: A Dialogue about Pricing Your Work.’  We will continue the conversation during lunch 12:00-1:30. Bring your lunch so you don't miss a moment. Learn strategies for success. I will be there, I hope to meet you then.

Harriete Estel Berman
www.harriete-estel-berman.info