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Going Public: Speaking Out! Public Disclosure of a Copycat Complaint

Going Public-speaking-up
Sometimes when the copying is blatant and
direct communication between the two parties fails, the designers, artists or makers who have been wronged by a copycat consider reaching out to the public for support to draw negative attention to the misbehaving copier.

Public support can be a helpful move, if done thoughtfully, particularly for a small company copied by a large company. Before you take this drastic step though, be mindful of the potential consequences, and think carefully about how you’ll plan the public statements. Public shaming is particularly tempting when you’re angry. Before you go to the Internet to publicly vent frustration, consider what your long-term goals are and the impact your behavior will have on your business.

This is the third post by lawyer Rachel Fischbein about dealing with a copycat situation. The first post was "What Is A Copy? Copycat?"  The second post was "Initial Copycat Communication." ASK Harriete recommends that you read these posts before taking any actions. Fischbien recommends focusing on the issue, not the people involved.

Rachel-Fishbein-headshot
The opinions expressed in this post are by the author, Rachel Fischbein, Esg.,
founder of Law On The Runway, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASK Harriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied. Images are provided by Harriete.  As with the previous guest blog posts by Rachel Fischbein, please consider this blog general information, not legal advice. Should you have a concern about copyright infringement, please speak directly to an attorney to get advice on your unique situation.

      _____________________________________________

When preparing to make a public statement about the copycat incident, refer back to your notes of the timeline and educate yourself on copyright laws. Make sure what you are saying publicly is accurate, and you’re being fully truthful. You may want to consider publishing a longer document as a blog post, a downloadable document, or even a website to explain the copying and the interaction with copycat. Include all the important details, so it's clear you aren’t trying to spin the truth in short social media posts. Curious minds will be looking for the facts needed to come to their own conclusion. Walk the readers through the legal standards of copyright infringement and how the facts of the situation show infringement. You may want an attorney’s assistance for this.

While you may be dealing with difficult personalities of the copycat, always keep the statements and public conversations focused on the copyright infringement facts, and not about the people who represent the copycat business or designer. You may encounter a person on the copycat’s side who is deceitful and disrespectful, but your statements shouldn’t be about that person’s character traits directly. Limit your statements to the actions taken by the copycat and the copycat's  representatives.

You may post copies of emails or other documents sent to you by the copier, if the documents or emails were not sent after a promise of confidentiality from you. Be cautious though when using most intellectual property created/owned by the copycat. You may post only want it necessary to make your point, using the Fair Use doctrine of Copyright. Do not copy their logo to add their branding or unnecessarily take screenshots of their website for reposting. When in doubt, consider linking directly to the copier’s website. Be sensitive to their intellectual property and respect any information that they may have shared with you with an expectation of confidentiality.

 

Going-Public-reputation-showcased
Remember your reputation is also being publicly showcased.
This public statement is not only a reflection of the copycat’s business practices, but your reputation as well. Write your statements with professionalism and care. Try to showcase your logic and a desire for justice. Have a friend who doesn’t know about the issue read your statement first, before you publicly post anything. Ask for honest feedback about how your business looks in light of the posting. Does the statement foster the type of reputation you’re trying to build for your business? A public statement being passed around the Internet may be someone’s first introduction to your business. Remember, once you publicly post anything to the Internet, consider that it becomes a permanent posting. Someone may save a copy and bring it back to public attention in the future.

 

Going-Public-tell-communityTell the community exactly what they can do to be helpful.
Go back to your original goals as discussed in post #2 about Initial Copycat Communication. What do you want from the copycat? How can others in your community or the general public help you get what you want? If the copycat is a service provider to others in your community, such as a manufacturer with a private label, perhaps you can ask other designers to not use the manufacturer’s services in the future. If the copycat is a large brand, perhaps you are asking for social media sharing and public visibility.

Include your ideal resolution as well into the messaging. Let the copycat know it isn’t too late, and now there’s only shame to suffer through.  Possible resolutions include:

  • A licensing or royalty payment for the use of your designs.
  • A promise to stop creating that product in the future. 

If the copier does agree to a payment or to stop production, be prepared to make one final public statement, if requested by the copycat, letting the community know how the problem was resolved.

Rachel Fischbein

ASK Harriete asks: 

Are there any negative consequences to a public airing of the  copycat situation? (This is assuming that everything that the copy victim has written is professional in the public disclosure.)
 
Can the copy victim be sued for this public disclosure of the copycat situation?

Are there any other negative consequences that the copy victim should be prepared for?

I will try to find some answers.

Read the previous posts by Rachel Fischbein:

What-is-a-copy-copycat copyWhat Is A Copy? Copycat?

 

Initial-copycat-communicationInitial Copycat Communication

 

 


More information: 

Fashion-Law-primer-protecting-your-designsFashion Law Primer: Protecting Your Designs

 

 

Information about Fair Use:

Fair Use Guidelines

 

Fair Use - Is your work "transformative?"

 

Understanding Fair Use in Copyright Laws

 

Fair Use and Copyright Issues for Artists


 




Initial Copycat Communication

Initial Copycat Communication
This post is part two of a three article series by Rachel Fischbein, Esq.
on what to do if you find someone copying your work. Today’s focus is on the initial communication with the copier.

What-is-a-copy-copycat copyBefore taking steps to reach out to the copier, please review the first blog article "What Is A Copy? Copycat?" to determine the type of copying and to develop comprehensive documentation of the copycat's copy.  This should be an ongoing effort on your part until the situation is resolved.

Feeling harmed and disrespected by your copier makes it tempting to send an angry email, threatening a lawsuit and berating the copier for his or her actions.  Often this type of email is the least effective way to create a behavioral change or to come to an agreement with the copier.

Below are tips for the first communication, intended to create an opportunity for positive results to end the unwanted copying.

Rachel Fischbein profilePlease note that this is general information and not legal advice. Please contact an attorney for advisement on your unique situation. The opinions expressed in this post are by the author, Rachel Fischbein, Esg., founder of Law On The Runway, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied. Images are provided by Harriete. 

First Communication with a Copycat
Decide Who Will Send the Initial Communication
Despite being an attorney, I do believe that sometimes these matters can be more easily resolved by two parties communicating directly to each other. I particularly encourage the initial reach out to be personally between the designers when both parties are small business owners.  When the parties are two artists or small companies, the ability for the parties to relate to each other can be helpful in coming to an agreement.

When an artist or small company has a design copied by a larger company, having an attorney send the communication can be a good way to show the importance of the issue and the confidence of the designer knowing his or her rights.  Even when you’re doing the initial communication yourself, you don’t need to be alone in the drafting of your first communication with the copycat. An attorney can review the email draft, giving suggestions on how to explain your rights, and offer persuasive language tips, coaching you through the negotiation.

Decide How the Message is Sent
In addition to who will the send the initial communication, consider the communication channel. A physically mailed letter adds a tone of severity and formality that can be beneficial. However, the mailed letter isn’t likely to receive a quick response. An email encourages a fast exchange of information and a more personal connection.  In some situations, you may want to send both, to ensure that the copier received the message, knows of the severity, and has the encouragement to quickly respond. If you do send both an email and a physical letter, let the copier know a letter is on the way in the mail, so they aren’t surprised by the duplicate message.


Explain Your RightsExplain Your Rights and What the Copier Did Wrong
When asking someone to agree with us and to see our point of view, it is important to walk the other party through our thought process with clear details. We need to explain the situation to the other party, offering them first, an overview of what rights are protected by trademark, patent, or copyright laws, and then why their actions were a violation of those laws. Sometimes designers are confused when establishing the line between inspiration and copying. Ideally, we want the other party to come to the same conclusion as us, that their actions were taken against your rights to the designs, and it could harm both of your businesses. In addition, explain why your rights are protected. Designers are visual. Add photos or diagrams if it feels appropriate and helpful.


Share Alternative Resolutions to the copycat
Share Alternative Resolutions to a Lawsuit
When explaining what the next steps are for fixing the problem caused by the copying, it is reasonable at this point to suggest that a lawsuit could occur to establish your rights, but also that there may be business reasons why it is beneficial for the other designer to end the copying behavior. Every situation is different, so the best way to work through this is to place yourself in the shoes of the copier.

What would convince you to change your behavior?
Are there alternatives that you can suggest that would end their copying and strengthen their business, as well as yours?

Give the copier directions for how they can resolve the issue.
This is your chance to offer options for a resolution to meet your ideal ending. Be clear on what you want.

  • Do you want the copier to merely stop selling the product in the future?
  • Could you ask for a portion of the previous sales?
  • Are you willing to license out your design to them for a portion of the future sales or one-time licensing fee?
  • Think about how you can benefit from the copier’s actions and efforts.
  • Perhaps along with compensation you might want recognition as the designer for the benefit of having your name exposed to more people.



Encourage Communication with the copierEncourage Communication
Remember, the goal with your initial letter is to create change and movement towards a solution, it is not to vent out your anger and frustration.

  • Make yourself approachable and keep the communication channels open between you and the copier.
  • Let them know that you’re available by phone or email.
  • Suggest some times that would be ideal for a phone conversation.
  • Your copier is more likely to honor your rights when you’ve established a personal connection and listened to their side of the story.
  • Give them a chance to step up and act with integrity.


Silence or Disrespectful CopierSilence or Disrespectful Copier
Most of the time, copiers are willing to change behavior when a personal connection is made and you’ve logically explained the issue to them. However, sometimes we have difficult personalities to face and we have to consider alternative ways to encourage behavior change through reputation damage, threat of lawsuits and/or public shaming. These tools are meant for “worst case” scenarios, and not as starter tactics.


The next post by lawyer Rachel Fischbein will address this "worst case" scenario where  public disclosure, shaming, reputation damage, and threat of lawsuits may be necessary.
 Subscribe to ASK Harriete so that you won't miss the third blog post in this three article series on ASK Harriete!


The Series about copycats
Follow this series:

What Is A Copy? Copycat?

Fashion Law Primer: Protecting Your Designs

California Lawyers for the Arts Offers Legal Resources & Information

 

Links-goldShare this post with appropriate attribution and link to the original post to bring awareness to your community. 

Harriete

 

 

 


Jamie Spinello's Copycat Discovery! This wasn't supposed to happen!

After the posts last week about copycat problems, Jamie Spinello contacted me on Facebook. Jamie says that she has discovered that three of her necklace designs have been copied almost exactly by Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, and Nasty Girl.

It takes a lot of courage to speak out about these issues. There is no easy solution. Recognizing the problem and a willingness to speak publicly about the struggle to protect your work takes courage, a lot of courage.

Think about the issues presented here. What if this happened to you?

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Jamie Spinello in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASK Harriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied.

The red questions are my questions to Jamie Spinello.

If you have your own questions, why not ask Jamie in the comments?

PREAMBLE FROM JAMIE SPINELLO:

I am not an attorney, I am only stating what I have learned so far. My actions regarding the copycats have just begun. My story is not yet over. 

Profile of Jamie SpinelloBefore beginning this narration of my story, I'd like to reinforce that it is a good practice to get in the habit of registering copyright for all the designs an artist creates and wants maximum protection. That is a step all artists need to start taking if they are career artists/ designers.

Also, it is $35 per piece to register a copyright online. If your work qualifies (read the details and fine print) you can register a whole "series" for $35 which would save a ton of money. Make sure it qualifies by the definition of "series" as defined by the US Copyright Office, which is a bit different than an artist's definition. 
Profile_studiotime

Jamie Spinello story starts with this email:

Harriete,

Thanks for your interest in my story. I appreciate you sharing it. There is misleading and confusing information about whether or not an artist can defend their work. Many people seem to think "no", but if you go to the US copyright office's website, they have a number of free .pdf downloads on the subject available for anyone to read and educate themselves. There they can read about what is called "common law copyright".

"Common Law copyright" is an automatic copyright given to a work upon creation, "pen to paper" so to speak. Common law copyrights are backed by proof of first publication and first sale dates. If you publish something online with an e-commerce site, a record of its existence in time is created and preserved.

For example listing an item on Etsy and paying for that listing fee through PayPal, once it is available for public view, it is "published" on that day, both an Etsy and a PayPal record will exist for this.  The first time the item sells, another record in time is created that can serve as evidence, especially if it is through PayPal or another reputable payment service that keeps exact records.

Although it is not required to register your designs because of common law copyright, it is advisable to do so as extra protection, first and foremost because the infringer will suffer a much greater monetary loss once the copyrights are filed with the US Copyright Office site (there are many details about this, read more at the US Copyright Office site) , which makes it a bigger risk for them and it shows that you are poised to defend yourself should someone choose to try to take advantage of you.

I get really upset when I see people say, "Oh well, nothing you can do, can't copyright art" etc., not only because it is a really callous thing to say something like that to someone that has just been robbed, but even more so because it is simply FALSE. The false rumors about artists not having any rights need to stop.

I think the photos speak for themselves.

Jamie-Spinello-f21-trio

The way that I found out about all of this, is that I happened to be reading some forums and someone was upset that a big company had stolen one of their paintings and put it on a t-shirt (with the artist's signature still on it and everything).

 

Jamie-Spinello-NASTY-Girl-trio

Right then I thought, "Hmmm wouldn't it be horrible if...." and then I went to Google Image Search and reverse image searched one of my most graphic necklaces.

Google-Reverse-Image-Search-Box-CameraWithin seconds, there were gold plated copies of my design popping up in the Google image results. I was shocked! "This wasn't supposed to happen! This can't be real. This can't happen to me!" I thought.

So after one search, I did another reverse image search of another design, replicas popped up, and then a reverse image search of another, and more replicas popped up. At that point, I decided to educate myself as fast as possible about what my rights were regarding copyright infringement and to seek an attorney.

Jamie-Spinello-no-face-yet-trio

How long ago did you make this discovery for the necklaces?
I discovered the first knockoff of my work at the beginning of October 2013. I discovered many more of my necklaces and earrings being knocked off by well-known stores all on the same day.

After I posted about the first infringement that I had found, people messaged me about more infringements that I had not even seen yet. Some of my designs have been for sale online and through large retailers for many months in 2013 without me knowing.

I think all artists and designers need to do reverse image searches of their work at least once every couple of months and get in the habit of formally copyrighting their work that they want to protect seasonally. This is a serious problem and large mass producers are thinking they can get away with it.  
 
What has been your legal action so far?
I have gathered and cataloged a ton of evidence. I am letting my social media followers and customers know about this issue, so that they can keep an eye out and also know that these knockoffs are not authorized by me if they see them in stores.  I am currently working with attorneys.

The copycats are competing in the same market. Do you think the copycats of your jewelry could cause customer confusion?
That was my number one first concern. I don't want my customers thinking that my ideas and my designs are not my own if they see the knockoffs of my work in any of those stores. I also do not want my customers thinking that I willingly do business with those companies. I have a different set of values than a store that mass produces items.  I am a one woman handmade studio. I do not mass produce any of my creations. I take pride in designing all of my work myself and making my designs by hand one at a time.
 
I wonder why you're being reserved about this?
I just want to be as professional as possible by maintaining a level head through this all.

Jamie will you tell us more about your legal battles as your case evolves?
I don’t know what specifics I will be able to give along the way, as I mentioned before I am at the beginning of this. If there are specifics that I think could help others, I will ask my attorney first if it is OK to share details. If nothing else I would be happy to talk more specifics after a resolution is found.

Jamie Spinello
Austin, Texas


What's the Artist's Job for a Show?

Alison Antelman suggests artists ask themselves:
“What do you want the show to provide for you?" 
"What are your expectations?"
 "What can you do to bring expectations to reality?"
Art fair LATE at NIGHT by Alison Antelman
Photo Courtesy of Alison Antelman

Antelman continues....

AlisonSettingUpBooth in SantaMonica
Alison Antelman
setting up her booth at
Contemporary Crafts Market
Santa Monica, CA

Consider the amount of effort you will expend to prepare and exhibit at a craft show; the physical labor, time and money involved; investment in display, wear and tear on your display and tent, lodging and travel, food, booth fees.  Well before you go to the show, it’s worth some thought about self-promotion.

While the primary responsibility for show promotion rests with the event organizer, artists and makers can play a significant role in making a show successful for themselves. 

Alison Antelman recommends that every show participant do the following as part of checklist months before and at the show:  

  • Provide amazing, professional quality images for publicity of work that you will exhibit.
  • Include image descriptions and photo credit
  • Include contact information for the artist/maker
  • Provide links, emails, and contacts for newspapers and blogs where the show promoter or their P.R. agency might be able to promote the show.
  • Provide short videos (no more than 3 minutes) about you and your work for promotion  (NOTE: this is new but I’ve seen the request several times recently)
  • Reach out to your clients in the area.
  • Be professional.
  • Be a good booth neighbor   

Harriete recommends that the better you are at reaching out to local newspapers, bloggers, or media contacts, the more likely you are to get a feature article. Two months before the show, look for local newspapers and online media writers. Don't hesitate to write a personal note including one amazing image along with a short description, show information and booth number.


Metro Ring.
Metro Ring by Alison Antelman
18 k. & 22k.gold, tangerine garnet,
diamond.

Yes, technically, all of the above should be done by the show promoter, but there is nothing wrong with a personal note (not a press release.)

In addition, if a writer contacts you, make yourself available immediately as a top priority. Your interview should be full of positive energy and excitment for the upcoming event.

ALWAYS BE READY TO SEND: 

Good luck with your next show. Create your own success with research, planning, and a fantastic display.

RELATED POSTS by Alison Antelman
6 STEPS to Craft Show Research

Resources for Craft Show Evaluation 

Responsibilities of Craft Show Organizers

What's the Artist's Job for a Show?

FIND ALISON ANTELMAN at:
Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios

Meet Alison at her Berkeley studio in the historic Sawtooth Building. This is 22nd year of this self guided annual tour with over 100 artists participating. Download a map to the Sawtooth Building Open Studios or see a list of artists with links to their websites.

November 24 & 25
December 1 & 2, 8 & 9, 15 & 16, 2012
Saturday and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

*Alison Antelman's studio is open additional hours during this event:
Thursday through Sunday December 20, 21, 22 & 23 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday December 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Responsibilities of Craft Show Organizers

In this post, Alison Antelman  offers her opinion on the role and responsibility of craft show organizers. She has been participating in retail juried craft shows for 12 years. She participates in 6 to 8 national juried shows per year, in addition to two open studio events.

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Alison Antelman, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied.
Alison Antelman in BOOTH with CUSTOMERS
Alison Antelman at the Bellevue Museum of Art Arts Fair. This show is actually held inside the parking garage. The show has very long hours (till 9:00 p.m.) because the garage is open that late! Make sure you investigate these issues in advance.

Craftfair by Alison AntelmanThe art festival/craft show sponsor establishes the flow and organization of a huge multi-level event. Many shows are run by non-profits, some by a city’s chamber of commerce, other civic groups, or even artists who want to create the "perfect" show. These events operate in a kind of partnership with the artists. They provide the venue, publicity and crowds. The artists provide high quality work to attract and satisfy the visitors.


The two previous posts on ASK Harriete recommended that artists and makers do their research
before committing to a craft show/art festival. Below is a list of responsibilites for the craft show organizers.  

Most important a craft show or art festival should promote the event and individual artists including an image and link to each artist's website on their website. Advertising should promote the artists through print, television, web site, Facebook and other social media.

Additional Event responsibilities:
  • Clear written instructions for artists before arriving with booth location, logistics, details, schedule and useful tips
  • Organize and plan the move in and move out
  • Provide security before, during and after the show
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Bring in the audience of potential buyers  
  • Provide the space and atmosphere that enhances artwork sales
  • Deal with problems immediately
  • Provide an artist listing and map of layout for visitors to navigate
  • Make sure exhibitors are displaying the work represented in their jury images
  • In case of extreme weather, have a system in place for warnings. An example would be automatic phone calls with updates about storms.
  • Provide a survey at the end of the show for artist input

Some shows also provide:
  • Hospitality services for artists including daily lunch
  • Free beverage coupons
  • Booth delivery of water and snacks
  • Booth sitters (important if any artists are doing the show alone)
  • Hospitality location where artists can relax and have some snacks/food
  • Special events: This might include galas for patrons where artists are invited and expected to schmooze.
  • Awards, cash prices or acceptance into the next year's show.
  • Breakfasts, dinners or receptions.
  • Links to lodging and special artist pricing for hotels
  • Parking during the show
  • Fashion shows, music, kids events and other amusements
  • Incentives for patrons to become collectors and commit to purchase a certain dollar amount at the show.
  • Artist Demo’s and/or lectures
  • Brochures with artist listing, images, featured artists, sponsors, map of show layout, and information about the show promoter/organization

AlisonAntelmanNECKLACEHanging Garden Necklace
Hanging Garden Necklace by Alison Antelman
S. silver, 18 + 22k gold, tourmaline, rose cut diamonds.

Thank you Alison for your words of experience. If the readers of ASK Harriete have any suggestions for the responsibilities of craft show organizers, please consider adding them as a comment. It is always good to hear from a range of experience.

NEXT POST:
What is the Artist's Job Before a Art /Craft Event?


RELATED POSTS by Alison Antelman:

6 STEPS to Craft Show Research

Resources for Craft Show Evaluation

Harriete


Resources for Craft Show Evaluation

With over a dozen years of craft show experience, Alison Antelman shares her insights as she takes her own advice to prepare her 2013 schedule of shows with these Resources for Craft Show Evaluation.

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

Alison Antelman in her booth at a craft show.
From Alison Antelman:

Participating in a craft show is always a risk and there are no guarantees, but you can at least weed out potentially dismal situations that are a waste of your time with these resources:

THE DETAILS:

Greg Lawler's Art Fair Source Book  is a great resource when you are ready to invest in craft shows and travel away from home.

Art Fair Source Book is a guide that lists shows by region, location, dates, and how they rate, for over 600 shows. There are many variations to choose from including  region and ranking –depending upon if you are doing shows on the national circuit or just locally. The guide itself is a worthwhile investment that is better than wasting your time at a show with no sales.

Greg Lawler compiles information from artists who already participate in shows, he supplies a postcard questionnaire with free mailing that many show promoters encourage artists to fill out. The questions include medium, show income, style of work, and a place for specific notes that you liked or did not like about the show. The questionnaire can also be filled out online after the show. He depends upon artists filling these out in order to create the most comprehensive data for the rest of us to use for our own craft show research.

There are other guides and listings out there but in my opinion, this is the most comprehensive one that I have found. I have used the Top 300 national shows but now the information is provided as an online subscription.

Visit his site and ask him questions regarding what guide is best for you. Currently, if you “Like” the Art Fair Source Book Facebook page   you can see the top 25 list of fairs for 2012, for free.
 
The information that the The Art Fair Source Book provides helps you determine if a show is worth your time. This information includes:

  • Return on investment
  • Gross and net sales
  • Ranking from the #1 show on down
  • Notes of sales being up or down from the previous year
  • Ratings which tell you how worthwhile the show is regarding distance to travel, from across the country, to 1,000 miles, to not worth doing at all.
  • Dates for deadlines
  • Show dates
  • Jury odds of acceptance into the show
  • Fees
  • Reproduction restrictions, if any
  • Notes are based on artist input. For example, the notes may say that move out is chaotic, or western wear sells best, or the show is well organized but there’s no electricity available.

 Network during downtime at the show. This is an opportunity to talk with other artists.

  • Exchange information with other artists about shows, expectations and promoters, ask about which is the best lodging.
  • Take notes and look up prospective options later.
  • Make connections and ask if you can email a seasoned artist at another time.
  • Don't be vague, ask specific questions that will help you make your decision.
  • Keep in mind price points and quality of work. If you’re talking to someone who sells under $100 items and your work sells for over $1000, you may require a different audience.


The process of finding the right shows is always evolving. Some get better, others worse. Instead of continuing with a show that’s been sliding downhill, re-evaluate each time and don’t let habits be your guide. Let quality, not quantity be the primary determining factor.

Alison Antelman Grand Staircase  earringsOXIDIZED
Grand Staircase Earrings by Alison Antelman
oxidized silver, 18 + 22k gold, blue zircon, peridot, hand fabricated hollow forms.

FIND ALISON ANTELMAN at:
Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios

Meet Alison at her Berkeley studio in the historic Sawtooth Building. This is 22nd year of this self guided annual tour with over 100 artists participating. Download a map to the Sawtooth Building Open Studios or see a list of artists with links to their websites.

November 24 & 25
December 1 & 2, 8 & 9, 15 & 16, 2012
Saturday and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

*Alison Antelman's studio is open additional hours during this event:
Thursday through Sunday December 20, 21, 22 & 23 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday December 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

RELATED POSTS:
6 STEPS to Craft Show Research by Alison Antelman

READ THE ENTIRE SERIES on ASK Harriete about the craft show marketplace:
The White Tent or the White Wall

 

P.S.
Harriete comments:
The Art Fair Review Group on Facebook was recommended in a comment after the previous post. It has potentially useful discussions but their website is not that great. The problem is they don't have enough of a sampling. Most of the craft show listings have no information at all. Only a few have one to four comments.

P.S.S. I love comments. If you have additional resources not recommended here let me know about them in the comments. ALL comments are published except spam.

Spam is NOT PUBLISHED. Spam has increased recently so all comments need to be "approved" before publishing. I wish it wasn't necessary to approve comments, but a few people with bad internet manners have ruined it for everyone.


6 STEPS to Craft Show Research

This is the first of three posts by guest author Alison Antelman,* an experienced craft show vendor. Her first craft show was the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival 12 years ago.  Since then, she has learned to investigate prior to craft show participation and use her years of open studios experience to help her assess shows and select the most successful events.

Alison in booth at main st fort worth arts festival
Alison Antelman at Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival

FROM Alison Antelman:

There are many different ways to run your craft business, including selling online, through galleries, or via wholesale and retail shows. In this series of guest posts, I will be focusing on juried retail craft shows. Today’s post will discuss 6 steps to craft show research.

Experience has taught me that craft show research saves time & money. If you’ve never sold at craft show before, I recommend that your first experience should be at a local venue.

Where to start? A summary...
Every time you consider participating in a new craft show venue do the following (before you apply):

  1. View the show website.
  2. Visit the show.
  3. Walk the aisles.
  4. Discuss the show with other artists.
  5. Investigate show organization &     promotion.
  6. Get a brochure/guide to the show. 


Where to start? The details...

1. View the show website:

  • Look at the list of last year's artists particularly in your medium, then look at the individual artist’s websites and their list of events.
  • Do you like what you see?
  • What are the price points?
  • Is there anything that is of a similar type/range to what you make and sell?
  • Email past participants asking about the show.
  • Remember to tell them who you are and be gracious when asking a stranger for advice.
  • Show participants are usually willing to share information.


2. Visit the show
Some shows will give you a free pass if you tell them you are a prospective vendor.  This tells you something about the promoters.  American Craft Council usually obliges with this request for their shows. The Paradise City Art Festival was not so generous and I didn't end up going (although I was in the area visiting.)

3. Walk down the aisles

  • How does the overall setup of booths look?
  • Is the layout easy to navigate?
  • What does the work look like?
  • Review quality. Are there t-shirts and items made from purchased parts or is it primarily artist made?


4. Discuss the show with other artists

  • Talk to the artists and ask them about their work. The artist’s attitude at a show can be very telling. Do they seem happy? or angry?
  • Always remember when chatting with an artist to step out of the way when they're doing business.  They are there to sell their work.


5. Investigate show organization & promotion.

  • How many years has the show been in existence?
  • What is their potential attendance based on previous years (e.g. 300,000 is huge), if they promise 5,000 then the clientele must be very specially interested because that is extremely small.
  • In the end it's about quality of the audience.
  • What are the specs on set up? If it’s the day of the show then you must make sure to have the necessary time you need to set up along with a change of clothes to convert from roadie to sales person.
  • Where and how do they advertise and how far is the reach?
  • Do they offer any services to patrons or to artists?

6. Get a brochure/guide to the show.

  • I have one artist friend who brings me the guides to every show he does.
  • More resources for craft show guides in a future post on ASK Harriete.

Reassess Every Year:
I reassess the show's I’ve done and revisit others. It's a constant cycle that depends upon the economy, weather, audience and even some luck.

It's important to apply to more shows than you plan to do since juried shows change their jury's each year and you may not get in consistently. I’m starting the cycle again, with many show applications coming up for 2013, always keeping in motion.
Alison Antelman
Metropolis II Bracelet: Reflections on the Hudson. Oxidized sterling, 18 + 22k gold, vesuvianite, tourmaline, peridot, hand fabricated hollow forms, handmade box clasp. 8 x 2.5 x .25, $5600.
Metropolis II Bracelet: Reflections on the Hudson
by Alison Antelman. Oxidized sterling, 18 + 22k gold, vesuvianite, tourmaline, peridot, hand fabricated hollow forms, handmade box clasp.
8 x 2.5 x .25   Retail Price:  $5600.

Do you have information or experience related to today's post that you would like to add? Please consider leaving a comment. I'd like to use this post for a new document in the Professional Guidelines. A comprehensive spectrum of opinions is important.

RELATED POSTS:
Resources for Craft Show Evaluation

"Resources for Craft Show Evaluation" by Alison Antelman 

Responsibilities of Craft Show Organizer by Alison Antelman 

What's the Artist's Job for a Show?



READ THE ENTIRE SERIES about the craft show marketplace:

The White Tent or the White Wall

 



 

*Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Alison Antelman, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied.


Zapplication: Behind the scenes by Craig Nutt

When I wrote the posts on ASK Harriete about CaFE, Craig Nutt woodworker, exhibiting artist, and Director of Programs at CERF responded and offered observations about his experience with Zapplication. His comments were so thorough, I thought this Guest Post on ASK Harriete would be informative.

NUTTcraig2005 Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Craig Nutt, 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 implied.

From Craig Nutt:
I have not used CaFE, but have been a juror for several shows that used Zapplication, and was considering Zapplication for craft fairs sponsored by an organization I directed.  My first experience was the first year the American Craft Council used Zapp for their shows, and I have been on another ACC jury since.  Both times, the jury was live -- in fact, ACC convened 2 separate juries with 9 jurors each (I believe) separating home and office from more fashion-oriented work. 

A/V technicians were present to handle the process and troubleshoot loose network cables, etc.  I believe the images were served on a local server, rather than over the internet, giving them much more bandwidth than you have over an internet connection.  This (along with multiple projectors) allowed them to project all slides for each entry together, just as they were done when slide carousels were used. 

Zapp The submitted images on Zapplication are 1920px x 1920px, and most projectors are limited to 1024px x 768px, so it was possible to zoom into the images at two additional levels of magnification.  This was incredibly helpful to the jurors and really helped some artists (e.g. weavers, basket artists) by giving a better view of the detail structure, and hurt some (you could see bad welds!).

The score sheets are on a notebook with thumbnails of each of the images, so there is no mistaking an entry and scoring on the wrong line.  There is also the capability of going back and looking at images full screen or reviewing a score, but this is of limited value since there is very little time to do this with the number of slides that have to be scored over the days of jurying.  In the old days ACC put the slides on a timer, which was fair but there was no going back.

On another jury for a smaller show, the jurying was a little different.  The images were served over a high-speed internet connection and there were some compromises for the reduced bandwidth.  (A wired network connection can deliver 100 or even up to  1000 Mbps while a DSL connection typically delivers under 3Mbs –that is bits not bytes).  The limitations of bandwidth translated into a very acceptable experience, but not the deluxe experience of the ACC jury.  Images were projected one at a time, and zooming had to be done more sparingly.

There are a few fringe benefits of this new technology that might not occur to some artists.  One is ease of handling applications, by both the artist and the organization.  Gone are sorting slides into 5 carousels and all the paperwork to create jury forms and to get slides in the right order and pointing the right direction.  No more two checks, one for jury fee, and one for the booth fee (returned if you do not get in).  Also, no slides to return.  The submitted images are large enough to use for publicity, and don’t need to be scanned, improving the chances that more artists will be considered for press requests, postcards, ads and other publicity.

In one of the last carousel juries I was on, a slide jammed.  As the staff was fishing it out with a butter knife, one of the jurors remarked, “actually they never perfected THIS technology.”
Balance-scale-unbalanced

Pros for Zapplication:
•    Ease of handling
•    Score sheets with thumbnail images
•    Ability to go back to review scores and revise (if there is time)
•    Square format does not favor horizontal images-all images are the same dimensions (square images may be slightly favored in image area)
•    Possible for organizers to show selected images without manually resorting slides (extremely useful for tiered juries such as fellowships or exhibitions)
•    Ability to zoom in on images (depending on bandwidth available)
•    Slides do not jam
•    Makes it easy and cost-effective to jury remotely and not convene a live jury

Cons for Zapplication:
•    Makes it easy and cost-effective to jury remotely and not convene a live jury
      o    If jury is remote, images will probably be viewed on variously-sized computer monitors, rather than being projected
      o    If jury is remote, the process is not facilitated and managed by staff
•    Images shot with inexpensive digital cameras are often not as good as transparencies (I noticed this when reviewing images for a book with both film and digital submissions)
•    There can sometimes be delays due to technical glitches (similar to slides)

Copy of glasses From the point of view of a juror (and as an artist) I think these are the most important aspects of any jury system:


•    Fairness to all submissions
•    Images are projected in as close to ideal circumstances as possible (quality projector, high resolution,  good background, easy to read the images)
•    Simplicity of the review process for the juror.  Allow the juror to concentrate on the work submitted and not the jury process.  In my best jury experiences the process has been so well-organized as to be transparent.
•    (Fringe benefit) Opportunity to meet and get to know the sponsoring organization and staff as well as other jurors.

Thank you Craig for this behind the scene insight into Zapplication and the jury process.

Harriete NUTTradisht1

Craig Nutt is a wood worker, and Director of Program at CERF. He was the juror for the Lark Book 500 Chairs, has exhibited his work widely and included in 12 museum permanent collections.

 

Craig Nutt Burning bench titled Burning © 2002 Craig Nutt
Oil paint, lacquer on carved wood
46" x  57" x  31"
Upholstery- hand woven & dyed cotton  silk chenille by Janet Taylor.

 

Craig Nutt  Burning bench close up 4  


 


 


IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES of Jury Selection - A Peak Behind the Curtain

CurtainIRRIDESCENT
Alison Antelman, President of the San Francisco Metal Arts Guild and recent juror, has offered her insight as a juror at Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Sun Valley, Idaho. The previous post on ASK Harriete described her experience in a jury review process. In this second post by Alison, she suggests ways to improve your chances of being selected in a competitive juried environment "following obvious guidelines and structure will increase our chances of being selected."Alison Antelman working at her hydraulic press in the studio.

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

Here are a few observations from my experience that may improve your chances of being selected in a juried situation:

Booth shots really matter.  It surprised me how much booth shots matter. It turns out your booth gives a cohesive placement of your work. If you submit images of welded sculpture and your booth displays wood furniture, there will be questions about what you plan to show and this may cost you a spot in the show. Booth shots should match your current work--so no, you can’t reuse that old booth shot with artwork from an old collection. I recall one booth shot where the artist’s work was in question, but one look at the booth shot drew an ooooh!!!! The photographic image was gorgeous and that person got in.

misspelled word Spell check your text including artist statements, descriptions, brand names of machinery, locations and any other details that you submit. If it comes down to the wire with two award-winning artists who create similar work, the one with misspelled words gives the excuse the jury needs to make an otherwise difficult choice. Don’t simply trust your computer spell check, have a friend read your statement for errors.

100 words

On the subject of artist descriptions (in this case it was 100 characters read aloud), some descriptions were too technical. While technical descriptions to a certain degree are important, make sure the average person with only some knowledge can understand it. For example, wheel thrown or slab built pottery, or hand painted glaze with hand carved details can be understood a little more easily than cone 10 or glaze numbers. Don’t bother with platitudes like, “my work is beautiful” or other flattery to one's own work. Use your allotment of words to help clarify how the work was made. Descriptive sentences like, "Not manipulated in PhotoShop,”  or “hand sewn from original designs/patterns,” helps indicate to the jury that the work is original, not an ink jet print or that the work is 100% your craftsmanship and not made from store bought parts or kits.

Photo lights Most of you know this already and you’ve read it again and again; pay a professional for the photographic images of your work. Professional photographers have the photo lights and set up that you don’t have. They’ve spent the money on the infrastructure to professionally light and shoot your work, and have the experience, the lenses and the consistency. Pay them, don’t do it yourself…unless you are a professional photographer. Hire a photographer specializing in your kind of artwork and media. A sports photographer is not a art /craft photographer.

Bad Earrings photos Of all the images I looked at, jewelry had the worst images on average.
  I saw at least 20 pairs of earrings (in one image) photographed on a towel that was possibly sitting on the hood of a car. I saw earrings where the ear hooks were hooked into a cable knit sweater. Never use textured backgrounds or wrinkly fabric. Use the entire piece in the shot, fill the frame, no partial art shots or close-ups that look cool, because the jury has no idea what they are looking at. These are not art shots, they are jury shots…keep it simple, close up and in focus.

Applicants are always told that the image order is important. I did not feel that this played a big role in the jury process. I never heard from any juror a complaint about how image #1 should really be #3 and so forth. We viewed them all at one time with 3 on top and two on the bottom. I personally did not feel that image order affected an entry one way or another.

Antelman Tourmaline Crystal Ring
Tourmaline Crystal Ring
Alison Antelman
Photo Credit: Eric Smith

For me as the artist, craft shows and their application processes are one big shoulder shrug of clicking the submit button and hoping for the best. Being on the other side of this process was insightful, educational and also made me realize that with all things being equal—don't take it personally if you are rejected, but do everything possible to be accepted.
Alison B. Antelman

www.antelman.com

FROM THE PEN OF ASK Harriete.
Thank you Alison, BOTH of your posts have been very insightful.  In addition, I want to recommend reading the TOP TEN TIPS for Getting Into a Juried Exhibition, Show, Book or Magazine in the Professional Guidelines.  The documents Exhibitions: Artist Checklist , Juried Exhibitions, and the Exhibition Contract may also be helpful in deciding whether you apply to a show. Learn more about the impact of math in jury ranking with Comparison of Jury Ranking System.

PGlogohorizontal


How the Jury Chooses Work - Peak Behind the Curtain of a Juried Selection

Stage-red-curtain
In today's post, Alison Antelman, President of the San Francisco Metal Arts Guild offers some insight into her experience as a recent juror at Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Sun Valley, Idaho. This first post describes the jury review process, Wednesday's post describes the math behind jury ranking systems by Harriete. Thursday's post by Alison  itemizes how an artist can improve their chances of being selected in a competitive environment. She says, "I want the message to come across that, while we throw our applications out there and hope for the best, following obvious guidelines and structure will increase our chances of being in the pool that is selected---because it's very easy to rule applicants out."

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

ALISON.antelmenHAMMERING

FROM THE DESK OF ALISON ANTELMAN:
Over 700 applicants sent five images of their work and one booth shot through the Zapplication digital online jury process for a national juried show, Sun Valley Center Arts & Crafts Festival in it’s 42nd year. Digital projectors illuminated six images on a large screen in the front of the room. We also had our own Macbooks for viewing the same images and voting.

DAY ONE:
The first day we viewed all of the images by category; ceramics, paintings, mixed media, textiles, etc. Then in the second round of viewing, we looked at the projected images on the screen and voted on our computers (our computers also had smaller images of exactly what we saw on the screen).

We scored between 1 and 5, with 5 being the highest, and were told to try to have a strong opinion instead of giving every artist scores of 3. There were no names associated with the images, just categories. In addition, a 100 character artist statement was read aloud to us. We were allowed to ask questions or pause before going to the next image.

As a metalsmith, I ended up describing certain metalsmithing techniques to the other jurors such as forging and repousse'. Other jurors were able to describe the difference between several types of print making like mono prints and reductive wood block printing. We got through the entire line up on the first day and the scoring tally was left for the art center staff, who worked on it through the evening. BentClocks06

DAY TWO:
The second day was for eliminations and balancing out the show. The art center staff scored each entry with a break off point for each category. For example, in ceramics the break off score may have been 21, so all those entries scoring under this total did not get in. Entries above 21 were still in the "running" at that point.

We went though by category again to look at all of the accepted artists. Then with the next break off point of scores we went through the waiting list and could add an applicant to the accepted pile.

BalancedsJURY Once again by category, we discussed those in question in order to eliminate a few more entrants. With the idea of a well balanced show, we tried to eliminate work that was similar to already accepted work. For example, between four artists who paint landscapes with diffused light, we would go back and forth. Their statements were read aloud and we would look more closely at booth shots. We asked ourselves, " Are the jury slides representative of what is shown in the booth? Is the work truly hand-crafted or are they buying parts? At the end of this grueling period, we ended up with our accepted list of artists and those on the wait list. Glasses

I’ve always wondered…do the jurors really see all of those images? How can one person view 700, 1000, 2500 entries? I am confident that I saw all images many times. Some of the artwork really stuck with me. We were given breaks and healthy food.  We stopped if a juror had to use the restroom, so no one was left behind. Given the amount of applicants, the best you can do is take the time to honor the applications, with the care, critique and professionalism that you'd give in a job interview.

Alison B. Antelman

FROM THE PEN OF ASK Harriete.
Thank you Alison, this has been very insightful. The next post from Alison Antelman on Thursday  may improve the artist's chances in a juried situation. In addition, I want to recommend reading the TOP TEN TIPS for Getting Into a Juried Exhibition, Show, Book or Magazine in the Professional Guidelines.  The document Exhibitions: Artist Checklist and Juried Exhibitions,   Exhibition Contract may also be helpful in deciding whether you apply to a show.

UNDERSTANDING THE MATH BEHIND JURY RANKING SYSTEMS!
If you are interested in learning more about numerical ranking systems to review images, read the document Comparison of Jury Ranking Systems on my web site. There are many different ranking systems that jurors can use to select work.

When there is more than one juror and/or a large number of entries, a numerical ranking system can be an efficient way to select the best works.  The recommended system is to use numbers 1-7. Jurors should consider “1” as the lowest score and “7” as the highest score in the ranking system.  Jurors should be encouraged to use the full range of the 1-7 ranking system when evaluating the entries (or work) submitted for review.

Read the entire document to learn the impact of using 1-5 to review work. The answer may be shocking!!!! 

Occasionally someone suggests removing the middle number from a 1 – 5 system (e.g. eliminating the “3”) and to use only 1, 2, 4, 5 to “force” a selection outside of average (as suggested above).  However, using fewer score choices actually increases the possibility of ties (regardless of the number of jurors).   Mathematically, there is no difference between 1, 2, 3, 4 and 1, 2, 4, 5 since the number of possible sums (or outcomes) is identical. 

Most artist types (I include myself among this group) do not embrace math sufficiently to fully understand the impact of various numerical ranking systems such as 1-5; 1,2,4,5; or 1-7.  I had a lot of help to create the Comparison of Jury Ranking System in an effort to inform the arts community.  I will talk about this more tomorrow.


Good Galleries Gone Bad - The Saga Continues...Time to Sue - from Victoria Lansford

This is the third post in the series about Good Galleries Gone Bad by Victoria Lansford .
Let's get smart and business savvy and take these words of wisdom to heart, they're worth their weight in gold (even if you work in other materials).

In this post Victoria describes her experience when she wasn't paid for her work and her next steps to handle this difficult situation. In you missed the beginning of the story, the first two posts were:
Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Victoria Lansford,

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Jen Townsend

Parallel Universe Woven Wire Bracelet by Victoria Lansford
 Parallel Universe
 Side Weave Mesh bracelet with a
 granulation clasp, sterling, fine silver,
 22K gold, dolomite.
 7" long x 1-1/2" wide
 Victoria Lansford   © 2001

Victoria Lansford creates one-of-a-kind wearable art in precious metals and unique stones.  She is also the author of the book, Metal Techniques of Bronze Age Masters: All Chained Up, and producer of the related DVD series. Future posts include tips on preventing delinquent payments, steps to take if your gallery is not paying on time, and more (including the opinion of Lansford's lawyer Chris Balch). 



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

FROM THE PEN OF VICTORIA LANSFORD:
Ironically, soon after connecting with Jen and also with Zaruba & Zaruba’s former manager, Andrew called me with effusive apologies for not paying.  He claims to have an investor lined up and will pay me on May 21.  The date came and went without a check, and the phone message I left with his employee was not returned. It’s frustrating not being able to count on that money. To paraphrase Boris Bally’s earlier post on this issue, I’m an artist not a bank.  I don’t lend money to other businesses.

Entwine Necklace by Victoria Lansford
  Russian Filigree and Roman Chain
  © 2001 Victoria Lansford
  Necklace:22K gold, sterling-platinum,
  fine silver, chrysocolla drusy
  Pendant portion 3" long,   16" chain

Even more painful than the loss of income is how I feel about the pieces that I had sent to Twist of My Wrist.  I consider them stolen and am listing them as such on my website.  While Andrew has dragged things out and made his cash flow problems mine, I know that my artwork sold.
Some appreciative, yet unsuspecting customer is enjoying my one of a kind pieces for which the artist was never paid. Or my work could have been sold, stuck in some storage box somewhere, or melted down for the metal and the stones cut out.  The thought of all those hours of my life (that went into those pieces that are gone) haunts me and remains in the back of my head each time I work at my bench.  They were not merely cheap imports that I wholesale; my vision and my passion are bound up in them wherever they may have gone.

Victoria Lansford Star Dust Sleeve Cuff
  "Stardust on My Sleeve"
  Russian Filigree Hinged Cuff Bracelet
  22K Gold, Fine & Sterling Silver,
  Koroit Opals
  2-3/4” long x 2” wide x 1/2" high
  (Quotations around title indicate that
  it is taken from song lyrics)
  ©  Victoria Lansford  2001

Conclusion:
Both Jen and I relied on having contracts to protect us.  From a legal standpoint, they do, but that doesn't mean that they don't require enforcing.  Since Andre Zaruba's repeated promises of payments by specific dates have not been fulfilled, I have filed suit against him and Zaruba & Zaruba.  I'm in Georgia but will file in the gallery's state, Maryland, which may mean that I and/or my lawyer will have to go there if the suit goes to trial.  Suing Twist of My Wrist is trickier since the owners have disappeared, but I haven't entirely given up.  I keep the problem in perspective and will balance the amount of energy I put into it with doing what I love, creating more art,.  Still I have a responsibility to pursue these issues for myself, my family, who depend on me, and my community of artists. Stay tuned for more updates on ASK Harriete ....as this case develops.

FROM THE PEN OF HARRIETE:
I asked Victoria to tell us lessons she has learned and how to prevent this situation from happening to any other artists and crafts persons.

Next week she is going to offer us practical steps to implement if a good gallery has gone bad.

Harriete


Good Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You, Part Two by Jen Townsend

This post is a continuation of Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You. In the first post, Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You - by Victoria Lansford, we heard a serious story of non-payment.

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

FROM THE PEN OF JEN TOWNSEND (Courtesy of Victoria Lansford):
At first, we did very good business. 
I am very wary of consignment, but really connected with Amy, the [former] manager at Zaruba & Zaruba, and she inspired confidence in me to leave work with them.  We signed a pretty standard boilerplate contract with a “net 30 payment” clause in it.  I felt protected by the contract, received regular inventory statements and checks.  She was also very skilled at selling my work.   The store is in a terrific location, had high-quality work in it, a good sales team and a lovely clientele. 

Problems started when Amy left the store and Andrew Zaruba was in charge.  The communication went down hill fast. I had about $20,000 (wholesale) of work in the store, so I decided to drop in and pull out my big gold pieces and leave the silver and a few smaller gold items.  When I arrived (unannounced) Andrew looked surprised and a little taken aback.  I discovered that he owed me $900.  He wrote me a check.  It cleared.  I chose to leave the silver and lower priced work there.  Things did not improve.  In retrospect, I should have listened to my instincts and pulled out everything, but I really loved the store, and, frankly, the checks I used to receive from the gallery. 

Andrew placed custom orders with me in the early fall.  I called in October to talk about Christmas season.  No callback.  Called again every week in November.  No callback.  Finally, Andrew answered the phone in early December.  He told me a couple of things had sold, but gave me a sob story about a new bookkeeper and being out of sorts in the business.  No check.  I didn’t send more work. 

In early January, I finally got in touch and was told that some more things had sold, but not much and he wasn’t sure what and that he’d get back to me.  A week later, I did receive an inventory statement, although there were penciled in question marks all over it.  I called to inquire.  No callback.  At this point, I decided to “pop in” with my tall and protective brother in tow.  Andrew looked freaked out this time and started talking very fast, saying he was “just about to call” and was “just figuring out what he owed” and was “just about to cut a check” and he thought it was “somewhere around $2,200”.

It turned out that he owed me $4,970! 
As I was pulling the work and tallying the costs, several customers came in and I saw Andrew pull in $2,200 (retail) in that half an hour.  I agreed to take the payment in two checks – one dated that day, and one post-dated for a month down the road.  The first check cleared without issue.  I also offered to call Andrew to make sure that the second one would clear.  He requested another week, but it still bounced.  He did not return my calls or my emails.

I recently returned home from teaching for two months at Penland and called Andrew, and he actually answered the phone and said he could pay me at the end of the week.  I don’t believe him.  I am also in the process of filing a complaint against him with the Better Business Bureau.  I became more frustrated when I connected with Victoria Lansford and heard that her story was almost identical to mine.  As makers, we care about our work, we go to great lengths to make objects of integrity and to put them into the world and find loving homes for them.  I don’t know any artist or metalsmith that has entered this field for the money – it’s always because we love it.  I love what I do.   I work very hard to run a profitable business.  While it is just business, it’s also personal!  This breach of trust feels awful and violating.  I hope that other artists can learn from this blog.  Listen to your instincts!  If you feel like there are red flags, there probably are.  Talk to other artists who have worked with galleries you’re considering.  If something changes dramatically in your communication or payment schedule, proceed with caution.  

I would like to thank Harriet Estel Berman and Victoria Lansford for opening this dialog and strengthening our community through communication.
Jen Townsend

 

HBerman_brownsTootsiePastPresent_flowerW
Past Present Future April Flower Pin
Harriete Estel Berman © 2010
recycled tin cans, sterling silver,
Photo Credit: emiko oye

FROM ASK Harriete:
The next post will be from Victoria Lansford again who will tell us the rest of her account with Good Galleries Gone Bad.  Part Three will offer information we can apply to our own business relationships with galleries.

Stay tuned for the past, present, and future of this saga. Victoria is also going to share with us several warning signs, ways to "Prevent this type of Situation" and what to do "If this "Good Gallery Gone Bad" happens to you. 

We have a lot to learn from these unfortunate stories. The arts community needs to be more vocal and visible when it comes to poor payment. It is the only way to effect change.

Harriete


Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You - by Victoria Lansford

Victoria Lansford is the guest author for a series on ASK Harriete as she shares her experiences about galleries that don't pay their artists. These posts include words of wisdom for what to watch out for and how to navigate the situation if it happens to you.  Lansford creates one-of-a-kind wearable art in precious metals and unique stones.  She is also the author/producer of the Metal Techniques of Bronze Age Masters: All Chained Up book and a DVD series.

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

Bracelet by Victoria Lansford
 From the series, Vertebracelets
 Vertebrate pattern bracelet with Russian
  filigree clasp
 Artist: Victoria Lansford
 Bracelet shown at Twist of the Wrist

FROM THE PEN OF VICTORIA LANSFORD:
As the saying goes in the retail world, cash is king, but in the art world, consignment is the norm, especially for higher priced work.  Consignment gives both artists and galleries freedom to take risks and create meaningful work without the primary motivation being about what will sell.  I do all one-of-a-kind work and have consigned it with galleries for over 20 years with great success... at least until recently.  In 2009, I began new consignment relationships with four more galleries.  Two of them have been a great working relationship. 

The other two have never paid me for work sold nor returned my unsold work when I requested.  One of the galleries, Twist of My Wrist, in West Palm Beach, Florida is now out-of-business.  One of the owners, John Bandy, contacted me in early 2009 about carrying my bracelets.  In retrospect, the deal they were offering to get me on board was too good to be true, a higher than usual percentage to the artist and the tags and contact info left on the work.  I checked them out extensively online.  Part of what made me less suspicious was that one of the owners had a link on their site to a more personal site.  I knew of other galleries with similar links, so my gut feeling was that a scam business would not go to so much trouble.  I also had a contract, signed by the gallery owner and thought that was enough.

ParallelUniverse2
Parallel Universe
Side Weave Mesh bracelet with a
granulation clasp;
sterling, fine silver, 22K gold, dolomite
Bracelet shown at Twist of the Wrist
7" long x 1-1/2" wide

I received fairly regular email updates about the gallery.  No check meant no sales, or so I assumed.  When I discovered one day last summer that the website had suddenly disappeared, I immediately contacted John and was told that he had been going through a difficult time, was in the process of returning the artists’ unsold work, and that he would send mine within two weeks.  Despite many emails from me and letters from my lawyer, that was the last I ever heard from John.  I’ve received no money nor any unsold work, and John and his business partner have vanished off the planet.

The other gallery in question, Zaruba & Zaruba, sold numerous pieces of mine, but the owner, Andrew Zaruba, has yet to pay me for any of them.  When I traded out work in time for the 2009 Christmas season, he sent back a bracelet for repair.  I was puzzled, since those types of chains usually don't come back to me, and the break could only have been caused by extensive wear and tear.  When I called and inquired, Andrew acted surprised that I had not been paid for it, but couldn’t provide me with any information on when it had sold, nor could he explain the whereabouts of two missing pieces on the inventory list.  He said that he thought they were still at the gallery and just hadn’t gotten packed, but if he didn’t find them soon, he would include payment for them along with the money for the bracelet.  I was mildly concerned but assumed he would pay on the 15th of the month.

I might be described as a hard-core skeptic, and am not at all easily fooled, yet my take on Andrew was that he was a busy, slightly disorganized business owner, trying to make it through tough economic times.  I believed his story, sent the new work in time for Christmas, and waited for the check to show up.  It never has.  Calls from me and from my lawyer elicited a few more promises at first and then were ignored and avoided.

Skyler's letter010
  Victoria Lansford son Skler's letter after
  asking for an explanation of the situa
  tion, pen and ink.

In early April a friend, who lives near Frederick, Maryland, went to the gallery unannounced and picked up my unsold work, of which there were only three pieces left.  Despite rough times, slow holiday seasons and two blizzards, most of what I had sent had sold.  Andrew had the nerve to ask her if he could just hang onto the work a little longer for an upcoming neighborhood gallery walk.  When told no, he signed the copy of my inventory list that I had sent with my friend, stating that he would pay me by April 16th.  The date came and went with no check in my mailbox and my subsequent phone messages left un-returned.

After connecting with another artist, Jen Townsend, who has had a fairly long relationship with Zaruba & Zaruba and who Andrew has more recently treated in much the same way, I found that Andrew owes money to a long list of artists, most of them women.  His lack of payments seems to have little to do with the economy, since sales are apparently good.  So where is the money going?

Jen Townsend has been kind enough to include her experience with Zaruba & Zaruba as our next post tomorrow.
   Stay Tuned!!!!!!!!

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Pricing Work by Anne Havel - Applying Your Tax Return Information to Pricing Your Work

Anne Havel, a former accountant and Chief Financial Officer, is writing as a Guest Author for ASK Harriete. In this third post she continues to apply her financial experience to help artists and makers price their work. Read the previous two posts as prerequisites for this post. 

Pricing Your Work - The Three Most Common Mistakes Made by Artists When Pricing Their Work

Pricing Your Work - Use Last Year's Tax Return to Figure Out the Money You Need to Earn From Your Business

2009 jas pin the road more traveledgr
The Road Less Traveled
enamel, sterling silver
Artist: Anne Havel.

Note: The opinions expressed by the author,Anne Havel in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASK Harriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.  

After reviewing the previous post, use the same example numbers to make a couple of simple calculations. 

First, let's calculate two percentages and then apply these to pricing work. Take note that we are calculating percentages of target revenue:
 
Direct Materials ($10,000/$80,000) is 12.5% of the revenue target.

Indirect costs (indirect materials at $5,000 + overhead at $15,000) is $20,000.
And indirect costs ($20,000/$80,000) are 25% of the revenue target.
 
That's it.  Now, let's apply this information.

PRICING EXAMPLE
If we are making a piece and the direct materials cost $50, what should the selling price be?

Many people think it costs them $50 to make it, so anything slightly over $50 would make a profit -- but that is a huge fallacy.  As calculated above, direct materials are only 12.5% of the revenue target.  Over the course of a year, indirect costs accumulate and must be covered in the selling price.  And your personal expenses need to be factored in, as well.  So let's use a little of the algebra we learned in high school.    

Direct materials are 12.5% (calculated above) of the revenue target.  Use the equation: 12.5% of X = $50 and solve for the selling price "X."  So, the piece needs to sell for $400 wholesale. 

Wow! The math is simple, we just need the right numbers.  

Make the formula work for you.
Use your tax return to obtain your personal numbers and calculate your own percentages and use the formula. 

Anne Havel

HEB2.72gr FROM THE PEN OF Harriete:
Thank you Anne for your insights.  This certainly highlights how underpricing can be avoided with some simple math. It is very important to understand how to arrive at a realistic pricing structure so you know if you are making money.

While, the example is illustrative don't forget that Anne Havel arrived at the wholesale price which now needs to be doubled (or more) for a retail price.

It also assumes that everything made during the year is sold during the year to generate sufficient income. Unfortunately, most of us are not selling everything we make in the current economy. We might have to increase the amount of time in promotion and marketing (which increases our Overhead Labor), and making more work or making work faster is not going to give us revenue if it doesn't sell.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Pricing Work by Anne Havel - "Use Last Year's Tax Return to Determine What You Need to Earn From Your Business

Anne Havel, a former accountant and Chief Financial Officer, is writing as a Guest Author for ASK Harriete. In this second of three posts, Ms. Havel applies her accountant experience using last year's tax return to calculate how much money you need to earn for calculating the price of your work. The first post with Anne Havel is Pricing Your Work - The Three Most Common Mistakes Made by Artists When Pricing Their Work.

 

2010 rings prison cell series
Rings from the Prison Cell Series
Sterling Silver, enamel,
Artist: Anne Havel

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

FROM THE ACCOUNTANT PENCIL OF ANNE HAVEL:

Here's the nutshell education of how to look at pricing your work.  Use last year's tax return as a guide because it summarizes an entire year's expenses.  If prepared properly your Schedule C provides a wealth of information.

Artists and Makers are always thinking "time and materials" since it may seem that's all we've got.  The time we invest in producing everything in the studio may be the primary driver, but there are many more considerations.

STEP 1.  Track direct materials cost.  Take your total for the year and divide by the total number of pieces to get an average cost per piece.  [Note from Harriete: This method works if you make relatively similar items throughout the year.]

STEP 2.  Keep track of your hours of direct labor in each piece.

STEP 3.  Account for your Overhead. This has several components.
    a. Indirect Materials.  These are materials used by most projects-- drill bits, burrs, files, small tools, wax, blades, paints, canvas, paper, solvents, brushes, tape, wood, nails, screws, chemicals, etc.
    b. Overhead Labor.  How much time do you spend on your business but not producing any specific piece/artwork?  (Most people way underestimate this number. Be honest with yourself. Even if you can't pay yourself for every hour, at least, understand how much time you are investing in your Overhead Labor.)
    c. Overhead Expenses.   This includes other business expenses such as telephone, Internet service, studio rent, office supplies, photography, mailings, travel, etc. 

STEP 4.  Know your personal life expenses.  This is what you need to live on. It is the sum of all your personal expenses not related to your art business.  This is also the amount that you must cover after you pay all your business expenses. Please remember that taxes, if you owe any, must be in this number each year.

HavelEarringshalf full
Half Full Half Empty Earrings
Sterling Silver, Enamel
Artist: Anne Havel 

NOW THAT WE HAVE OUR NUMBERS...
Start with the number in STEP 4, your personal life expenses, as the beginning.  Let's say it is $50,000.
This is what you must make in addition to all your business expenses.

Then add total material costs in the pieces sold last year.
Let's say that's $10,000.

Now, the tax return (from last year) should also give us the total indirect materials and overhead expenses. And let's say that's $5,000 for indirect materials and $15,000 for overhead expenses.
That is another $20,000.


Add them all together and you have $80,000. This is the full amount of revenue that we need to generate to stay afloat.

Let's re-examine this more closely to make a critical point.  The sum of all our business expenses ($10,000 + $5,000 + $15,000) equals only $30,000.  But you need to generate $80,000 to stay afloat! 

It is now obvious that a pricing formula that only includes "time and materials" will fall short. So how do we factor that other $50,000 into our pricing?  That will be the subject of the next post.
Anne
 

BermaidLady72gr
Bermaid Pin © 2010
Recycled Pin stem, sterling silver
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

To the readers of ASK Harriete: I know Anne Havel thinks this is all quite straight forward, and an easy, simple description for how to price your work, but I am feeling overwhelmed already. No wonder accountants spend years learning accounting. The next post will start with our annual expenses for " pricing our work" by Anne Havel. 
Harriete  

 


Pricing Work - "The Three Most Common Mistakes Made by Artists" by Anne Havel

Anne Havel, an accountant and Chief Financial Officer in her past life, is writing as a Guest Author for ASK Harriete in this and the following two posts about pricing your work.  Ms. Havel gives her accountant perspective beginning with the three most common mistakes that artists make when pricing their work.

AnneHavelPerspective
It's All Perspective -Prison Cell Series
Sterling silver, enamel
Artist: Anne Havel

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Anne Havel in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASK Harriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.


THE THREE MOST COMMON MISTAKES made by artists when pricing their work by Anne Havel.

MISTAKE 1.
Artists rarely remember to consider all the time they cannot work on their art or craft because they are working at shows, applying to shows, traveling here and there, buying and/or scavenging materials, etc.  They only consider their direct labor in the piece/artwork.  If you work in gold and multiply your material costs, that can be a little forgiving, but many of us do not.

MISTAKE 2.
Artists are not keeping track of what they spend.  Artists tend to be very carefree type people so they don't pay much attention to these things. Perhaps yesteryear when art sold and one could make a good living, it didn't matter so much. Not true for many of us any longer.

MISTAKE 3.
Artists in all media are not talking to each other about pricing.  It seems taboo because people think it's all personal stuff when this is part of our business education. When we under price, we hurt each other and the arts community as a whole. We need to educate each other about the value of our work, despite imports.  We also need to get on the "buy local" bandwagon.
Anne

FROM THE PEN OF Harriete: In the next two posts, Anne Havel will offer a method for establishing a price for your work based on her financial experience. Ms. Havel recommends a pricing formula based on your last year's financial records. In the next 24 hours, dig out your accounting records for 2009 or your 2009 Tax Return, Schedule C, so that you are ready to follow along. Stay tuned!

It is important to know all your expenses when you decide on your pricing formula. On the other hand in the world of art and craft, there are several factors which a person can not calculate with a formula. These will be discussed next week after the pricing formula posts:

  • Perceived value
  • Factors such as reputation of the artist, media bias, the marketplace.  
  • What the market will bear.

Harriete


Updates from Boris Bally

Here is an UPDATE from Boris Bally.

BorisBally A previous series of posts about late or non-payment from galleries/stores included an account from Boris Bally  about his experiences. He would like to add this addendum from the "pen of Boris Bally":

Regarding IMEC

I was stunned today to discover a check (no note) in today's mail. I finally received payment from Luis at IMEC- in full! (there were no finance charges assessed, as i wasn't aware how long ago (since the 14 months-or so- that i sent the work) the pieces actually sold (due to poor communication.) This is why I continue to dislike consignment with disorganized galleries- ugh! If Luis had paid me, or even communicated with me when I wrote my first note, I never would have thought to come forward with my story. 

Regarding Robert Kaylor, R Grey Gallery in Boise, Idaho

Yes, they finally paid the amount due and later (actually) paid me yesterday (!!)... for the final interest balance.. that they questioned (!!) 

So we are all squared away after months (of no communication).  They didn't reply to tell me they were paying the balance off.. otherwise, I may not have used them as an example.  Again, a small communication would have helped them.  go figure!

It is a good lesson that a little communication goes a LONG way! Anyway, I want to thank you, Harriete, and Joan, for helping raise your voices in solidarity, and to give mine more range. In the end, who knows why I eventually got paid...? I am just really happy to end on a good finish and be DONE 'neatly.' THANKS a million!

xo

-Boris



Boris Bally's Bad Payment Experience! Does this sound familiar?

For this post, Boris Bally is the guest author for ASK Harriete. In response to recent discussions and the previous post on ASK Harriete, Boris Bally is sharing his own experiences with retail establishments that don't pay on time. We can all learn a lot by his approach to the problem. You are welcome to post your comments in response. 

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Boris Bally, 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.

Boris Bally portrait FROM THE PEN OF Boris Bally:
Two recent incidents have left me very frustrated, but in sharing the battle scenes it can serve as a 'warning' to others in our field...

Case #1 The first is a case of working with a metalsmith (!!) and colleague, Robert Kaylor, who owns a very nice 'upscale' R Grey Gallery in Boise, Idaho.  We had a mutually beneficial working relationship for a few years.  He does some nice promotion and seems to do very well.  This gallery had been granted NET 30 status, and I had them apply for these credit terms on my standard application.  The terms outline a standard fee for late payments (since I would then be becoming a 'bank' loaning the money to them.)  

Boris Bally Rectangle Transit Table_ca1906 After taking their most recent order over the phone from his wife and gallery manager, Barbara, my family went on a two-week vacation.  Upon our return, Barbara had to remind me of a few items that I missed shipping the first time around..and the order was sizable - they even added a few items while I was making the work. 

Thus the order shipped in three separate shipments, which staggered the payment and added a bit of understandable confusion on all fronts.  When I didn't receive payment for any of the invoices within the 30 days after the LAST invoice, I sent a nice note asking for prompt payment and/or communication. To expedite matters, I included a statement outlining the fees their non-payment/actions were incurring.

1994_Table by Boris Bally This went on for a few months and I kept changing the tone of the letters to be a little more firm, and I continued to charge them interest, compounding. Download Copy of R Grey_Statement_12_17_09.  This drain on my time added unnecessary frustration. 

I did the work and delivered as ordered, now I wanted to get PAID! (Download Delinquent Payment Notice) No communication or payment came from them.  I left a few voice mails - nada.  Frustrated, I sent a 'final notice', approximately 4 months after the last order had shipped.  This time I copied my attorney on the e-mail; I had full intent of pursuing my payment and this was obviously the first step. 

Boris Bally Coasters Not surprisingly, the next day I received a call from the owner, who said 'business had been slow' and that the 'check was in the mail.'  I told him that had he picked up the phone and called, or even sent me a brief e-mail, I would have been more sympathetic and much stress could have been eliminated. So again I waited: When the check finally arrived, it included the principle only, no interest, no note, no apology.

Again, I was not surprised.  I continue to find it interesting that a gallery (one run by an artist, no less) apparently would see an artist differently than they might see a bank.  For goodness sakes, galleries wouldn't have anything to SELL if it wasn't for us!!??

If they did give us this equal respect, we'd be seeing prompt payment, apologies, better communication, and interest payments if they are late.  I have such a relationship with most of my other accounts...

I feel like we are 'family' and that is what I continue to seek. 

Boris Bally 2 CHAIRS Needless to say, I do not like to make the same mistake twice: This will be the last time I extend terms to this difficult account, as they have proven themselves to be undeserving.  A bank would do the same, AND additionally they would be able to make a mark against the credit rating of that business. In the future, if there is an ongoing relationship with this account, they will need to use their credit card and/or borrow the money from their own bank.  I hope they continue to work with me, but honestly, I see no reason to maintain a working relationship with them if the basic respect isn't there.

Case #2 The other case turns out to be far more devious:  This is the case of International Metalsmith Exhibition Center (IMEC) in Albuquerque whose director, Luis Demetrio Nolasco, asked me to participate in a Holiday Show '2008: Black & Gold.'

I thought, given the name of the gallery, this was 'one for the field' and accepted after 'okaying' with my main gallery in that area, Patina, with whom I have representation in that region. 

I made a series of brooches for the show, Luis was kind enough to pop an image on the invitation, and that was that.  Since the opening, not a peep.  Recently, Patina gave me a solo show (in Santa Fe) this past December 2009, so I thought I'd better get some of that IMEC work back... Luis and I communicated nicely, and he agreed to send Patina my 'unsold' work, which he promptly did.

Now, I hadn't heard of any SOLD work, so once I found-out what Patina had received, I made-up an invoice and e-mailed it to Luis.  Suspiciously, from that point on, I stopped getting any e-mails, or communication from Luis or IMEC... 

As fate would have it, I received a call just a month after I sent the invoice, from a frustrated colleague asking me abut IMEC (!!)  Imagine my surprise as we shared our stories.  It appears that Luis owed this well-respected artist thousands of dollars for several years now - What to do? 

Perhaps this is a pyramid scheme that we are all a part of - maybe there are other jewelers that have been screwed the same way?  I recommended to this jeweler that we put-out the word so that we can stop others from being burned.  Our silence would cost other metalsmiths the same fate.  At the very least we can attempt to get some of the money that is owed us via the legal system or a collection agency (!)

Boris Bally I wish we, as metalsmiths/artists could create a way of rating galleries for our own reference and protection.  Kind of a fair credit rating system for galleries we frequently deal with.  The cream would rise, and the bad seeds could be avoided.  If we could form a union of sorts (wouldn't it be easy if we could add this as a benefit to SNAG members??), the few bad galleries wouldn't be able to jerk us around like this.  All would be working to gain our trust, and our good ratings.

Bear in mind that the cases outlined above are two rare cases of many wonderful relationships with galleries and stores all over the world.  Over the past decades of being in business, there have always been a few 'shady characters annually.  However, MOST of the folks I deal with are wonderful, caring and responsible people who appreciate the importance of the relationships in our field.

Boris Bally
CLICK HERE FOR THE ADDENDUM TO THIS STORY FROM BORIS BALLY

FROM THE PEN OF Harriete Estel Berman:

Thank you Boris, for being so honest and outspoken about this chronic problem.  I do agree with Boris that most galleries and stores are managed by wonderful, caring and responsible people, it only takes a few bad apples to hurt many artists. Rarely, do artists have the financial fortitude to sustain non-payment for work.

If you have had a bad experience with a gallery, are you willing to step up and tell us about it? Are you willing to admit publicly that a gallery has not paid you in a timely manner?

How can we hold these retail locations accountable if we hide this "dirty secret?"

Stay tuned for the next posts which will include a sample invoice from Boris Bally including his policy for interest charges on Late Payment.

How do we establish a rating for galleries or transparency about this issue?

Do you have ideas?

Do you have experiences to share?

Please leave your comments and develop a dialog.

Harriete


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