Working with Galleries Feed

Fundraising Auctions & Conflicting Interest

Fundraising-Auctions


Hi Harriete,

Could you shed some light on a situation or point me to an appropriate resource? I have a bracelet that I would like to donate for a cause. I make each silver bead myself and each one is unique. However the bracelet  is similar to another one of my bracelets selling at a local retail gallery. I am concerned about underselling the gallery.  This might happen when the non-profit group that rececives my donation then sells the bracelet for their fundraiser. What is the ethical thing to do in this situation? Thank you,
A reader of ASK Harriete


Dear Reader,

Your concerns are well founded.  Fundraising Auctions compete with your gallery and undermine your retail prices. This is especially true when you live in a community where fundraising auctions sell to the same audience as the gallery.

Artists often discuss fundraising auctions and their impact on the artists, but rarely do we examine the impact on galleries. Fundraising Auctions usually sell work far below the expected retail price which definitely has an impact on galleries trying to sell at the retail price.  It may signal to other potential buyers to avoid the gallery and just wait for the next "non-profit" auction.  

The Professional Guidelines offers a document titled, Fundraising Auctions: Issues and Impact for Galleries that discusses this issue at length. 

One of the main problems with fundraising auctions is the undermining of normal retail prices for artists and galleries.  The unintended consequence of auctions is the continual erosion of sales at retail prices. We all want to support art organizations, but a different fundraising model needs to be considered. 

Recently, in a Facebook conversation, Heide Lowe of Heidi Lowe Gallery had a suggestion. Each year she chooses an organization, makes a piece, and decides to allocate a percentage of her profit from that piece to the organization.  She doesn't just give the piece away to an auction.  "I keep track of the profit and send a check to the organization at the end of the year. This works much better for both the organization and me."

This approach has several advantages.

  • The items can be marketed as a donation to an organization which can be a great selling strategy.
  • Heidi Lowe is still in control of the retail price.
  • This special item has a limited impact on the rest of her inventory.
  • Her cash donation impacts her profit, but she does cover her expenses. 
  • It limits the number of requests and auctions in which she participates, but she still has a visible form of charitble giving to her community. 

Note that in this example Heidi Lowe allocates a portion of the profit, not the revenue. It is important to recognize that if artists or galleries can't recover their expenses, you can't stay in business.

Artists and makers could apply a similar strategy or make work specifically for an auction that is unlike items going to their gallery to avoid competition. We also see this strategy applied by companies like Newman's Own where they donate all after tax profits from the sale of our food products to charity. In other words, they pay themselves and cover their expenses first. They understand that the very survival of their company depends on it. 

If you decide to participate in an auction, I suggest that you at least request a minimum winning bid (close to retail) -- and otherwise the work does not sell.

PG72LTgreen
Find all four documents about Fundraising Auctions in the Professional Guidelines.

Fundraising Auctions: Issues and Checklist for Artists

Fundraising Auctions:Issues and Recommendations for Collectors

Fundraising Auctions: Issues and Impact on Galleries

Fundraising Auctions: Issues and Alternative for Art Organizations


Reality bite, you are the best spokesperson for your work.

Exhibition in the Gallery at the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, MABostonSOCIETY
Three Bracelets by Harriete E Berman
Post consumer recycled tin cans
Society of Arts and Crafts    2007

In the previous post on ASK Harriete a student asked, "What is the first step to get my artworks shown in a gallery?"

My guess is that the real sentiment was "How can I get my work in a gallery so that the gallery will sell my work, and I can just focus on making and not selling?"

Harriete flattening tin cans working in the studioTINS.100Many makers hold on to the fantasy that a gallery will sell all their work so they can dedicate their time to making work.  The reality is that those days are gone forever (except for a few rare individuals).  There are various reasons, including the Internet and this tough economy.  But it is incredibly important to realize early in your career that you are the best seller of your work. 

Just as movie studios came to realize that actors should participate in the marketing of their movies, and publishers understand that authors should appear on television and radio to sell their books, artists need to participate in the marketing of their work. The visible and articulate artist/craftsperson is the most effective tool there is for marketing.

Alyson Stanfield and Harriete Estel Berman at the Loveland Museum
Harriete E Berman & Alyson Stanfield
at the Loveland Museum exhibition 2010

People (i.e. buyers, collectors, and viewers ) want to see, hear and meet the artists. Whether it is meeting at an opening, participating in social networks, offering to do interviews, writing about your own work on blogs, or standing in your booth at a show, the creative spirit is what people want to see and hear.  They want to learn your story.

Showing your work, telling a story, or explaining the meaning behind your work are steps you need to take to achieve success. No gallery can perform this job better than you can.

A gallery that sells your work is a partnership. They may be providing a retail location with a customer base, but the better you are at your job, the better they can sell your work.
Harriete


Sharing Costs or Getting Taken? Possible Benefits versus Risks Sharing Fees for Space and Financial Cooperation Among Artists

Matrlid_backcu72

This post contains a real email - n
ot fake or pretend.  The exact email is copied from my inbox.  I only deleted the name of the gallery.

The email is asking an artist to cover costs to participate in a show.
What do you think? Would you participate?

Read the whole thing. My comments follow below.

Subject: SOFA NY
Email: ***gallery.com
Your comments: Dear Harriete:

I am the owner of an Art Gallery located in [*****(a country in South America)].
Since year 2000, my gallery participates as an exhibitor at SOFA (The International Exhibition of Sculptur, Objects and Functional Art - www.sofaexpo.com ) in New York, Chicago and since year 2009 in the new SOFA West at Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This year SOFA decided to change the focus of the show, toward the furniture and design.
I am submitting a proposal of showing 10 chairs and 10 mirrors by artists and believe your pieces have affinity with the rest of my inventory, and absolutely fit for SOFA.
 
Would you be interested in exhibit at SOFA represented by my gallery in case the project will be approved?
 
This call to represent you at SOFA , implies in my gallery the idea of sharing costs, since expenses are so high that I am not able to solve them completely by myself, and involves important financial cooperation from the artists, which are considered as partners since they pay some fees for space and I take lower commissions than other galleries in case of selling. 
 
If you are interested in this kind of proposal, let me know and I´ll send Terms and Conditions to participate .

Sincerely, ****
(****name of gallery owner)

(****name of gallery.com)

STOP AND THINK HERE.  How would you respond?

If you want to exhibit at SOFA, it presents a way to reduce expenses and possibly make some extra sales.  And it sounds so sincere. 

 Would you agree to this offer (assuming that your work is a perfect fit with the theme of the gallery exhibition)?

WHAT ARE THE ISSUES?

Consuming Identity Chair Material  constructed by Harriete Estel Berman from recycled tin canitid
 Consuming Identity © 2001
  Post Consumer Recycled tin cans,
  fabric, ribbon, aluminum, steel screws,
  Chair sculpture is not functional.
  Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
  Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Material Identity Chair constructed by Harriete Estel Berman from recycled tin cans.n r
Material Identity © 2001
Post Consumer Recycled tin cans,
aluminum, steel screws,
Chair sculpture is not functional.

Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Here are my concerns.

The offer may indeed be sincere, . . . maybe, . . . but the chance of benefit is far outweighed by the numerous risks and red flags. 

The gallery is out of the country, so, for all practical purposes, there is no legal recourse if something goes wrong.

Giving money to any unknown person or entity with no prior working relationship or familiarity is a definite "red flag."

I would have no control over display, marketing, or selection of other artists  even though I contributed money.

This is an investment of my time and money into a relationship that would be very difficult to continue, thus a one time opportunity, and not likely worth the hassle.

Overall, too many risks.  Or, this could be a scam.  Or if real, too many loose ends. 

Instead, if you want to pursue such offers, I would suggest that you meet the gallery at SOFA in advance by a year and get to know the gallery owner and related people. Look at the selection of artists, style of work and presentation. If you are still favorably inclined, you can then arrange for sharing in future years.  At least you would know who you're working with.

What do you think?

Did I miss something?  Should I reconsider? 

Harriete

Material Identity Front CORNER all made from recycled tin cans Material Identity starts with a chair inspired by the styling principle of Charles Lock Eastlake. His book Hints on Household Taste was a best selling book in England and American in the years after its first publishing in 1868.

Material  Identity Chair images focuses on the seat from recycled tin cans

Ironically, Eastlake's treatise expounds on commentary equally relevant today. He said that publick taste is corrupt - fashion rules, and few are shocked by sham and pretension. Cheap and easy method of workmanship in an endeavor to produce a show of finish with the least possible labor, as well as an unhealthy spirit of competition in regard to price, has continue to cause the value of our ordinary mechanic's work to deteriorate.
The parallels today 100 years later are resounding.

Material Identity chair from reycled tin cans by Harriete Estel Berman
Bermaid is a play on words. First, my name - Berman - is not a very good name for an avowed feminist. Using "maid" instead of "man"indicates the artist is a woman and suggests a pun on "made" as in made by hand.
Dimensions of Chair: 38.25" height x 17.25" width x 14" depth

Photo Credit for all images: Philip Cohen

Follow Me on Pinterest


Is it ethical for a gallery to put consignment items in storage?

A reader of ASK Harriete asks:
Is it ethical for a gallery to put consignment items in storage? And if yes, is it ethical to do so without notifying the artist?

Pam Yellow Butter Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman72
PAM All Natural Butter Flower © 2011
Post Consumer recycled plastic and tin
cans
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

Galleries and stores that call themselves "galleries" rarely can exhibit everything they have in inventory. This is especially true for a venue that wants to present a more refined, organized and uncluttered appearance. Most likely it is  necessary to put some work in drawers, boxes or in racks behind the scenes.


Password Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman72Galleries often have a storage room off limits to customers where they keep extra work. This allows the gallery to dedicate most of the exhibition space to the artists in the current show.

Password Flower Pin (back view)  by Harriete Estel Berman
  Password Revealing Glasses Flower Pin
  Harriete Estel Berman © 2011
  Post consumer recycled tin cans

A well informed staff will bring out work from storage for clients interested in a specific artist or style of work.

So the answers to the questions:
YES,YES
......However, I would like to add some provisos to the "YES".

Amaretti Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman72 The staff should always offer to bring out more work that may be in drawers, shelves or storage.

Work behind the scenes should be organized and accessible so the staff can find it easily.

Amaretti Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman (back view)
Amaretti Flower Pin      © 2011
Post consumer recycled tins
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

I don't think that work on consignment (and presumably for sale) should be dirty, covered with fingerprints or tarnished. Framed items should be handled carefully in the racks. The frame and glass should not be dirty. 

 

If you are concerned that your work is not on display, I would speak with the gallery or store before leaving more work. This can be really difficult to do, but present your concerns in a polite manner. Ask questions rather than make accusations.
 
Flower Pin Cadbury Woman Picking Behind the Curtain and Top Hat Man by Harriete Estel Berman72 Perhaps, the gallery/store routinely circulates work on consignment into the display area.  If you live nearby, you could update items at the gallery, leaving recent photographs, painting, etc. representing new work, and take home the "older" artwork. Maybe the gallery will give your work more visibility if they have "new" work to show their customers.

Red Hots Flower Pin Back view by Harriete Estel Berman72
 Red Hot Flower Pin © 2011
 Post recycled tin cans
 Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

If you live far from the gallery, frequent interaction may be difficult. Shipping work can be expensive for the artist and the gallery. Call in advance and ask if they would like fresh work before shipping new work . . . and make sure that they plan to return the older work in their consignment inventory.

Keep accurate records.  Update  inventory records of work on consignment.

Red Hots Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman The best galleries and stores send an updated Inventory Record on a regular basis.  If your gallery/store hasn't done this in a while, send them two copies of your Inventory Record with a request to verify inventory and mail/email back a signed, dated copy so that everyone is on the same page. If the gallery/store does not honor your request for an updated inventory record (every 3 - 6 months) for art or craft on consignment, I recommend that you request they return all artwork to you within a  reasonable length of time (e.g. two weeks).

This may sound like a harsh recommendation, but if artists keep leaving work on consignment without the minimum inventory accounting, you are just asking for Trouble (with a capital T).  Too many sad stories start with poor inventory management.

Does this answer help you?

Harriete

 


SOFA Chicago - Expensive mall or the best in Sculpture, Objects, & Functional Art

SofaCHICAGOlogo SOFA Chicago was last week (Nov. 5-7).  SOFA stands for Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art.  From the preview opening on Thursday night through closing on Saturday, I tortured myself walking (on concrete) through the enormous hall looking at a vast quantity of items.

SOFA on Steroids If you've never experienced SOFA, the premise is that galleries bring their best (or most sellable) work for review by a huge audience including students, artists, collectors, and the general public.

The reality of SOFA is that the major agenda is to sell, sell, sell. This is a art/craft show on "steroids."

Dollar sign with green background In a typical museum or exhibition,  the value of the work is how each piece contributes to the concept of the show.  At SOFA, the value of the object is strictly in the price.  Most items have a price listed with the title. A few objects have no price, as in "if you have to ask, you can't afford it." Oh well, ...it is a real experience.

Hot button The best part of SOFA this year was the lectures on Friday.  A spectrum of topics that were not to be missed! Too much to handle in one post.  So, in the next few posts, I'm going to digest a few of the pressing issues and "hot button topics" in the art/craft world. 

 


She Sells Wholesale. She Sells Retail. Is She Selling Wholesale at Retail?

Recent correspondence with Suzanne Sippel, Retail Manager Asher Gallery at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, raised an important issue.  Many artists and craftspeople too often make a huge mistake. I have witnessed this phenomenon myself for years especially when I go to the smaller shows, exhibitions and online.

Suzanne Sippel said, “It’s the craft shows and fairs where I find more artists who don’t understand the business aspect of what they do. They are so excited to be selling their work that they ignore or forget the “sales” portion of the transaction. They miss the distinction between wholesale and retail, and absolutely forget overhead. I was very excited to read your column on including overhead, as I had not found a way to explain this to my “younger” artists.

As the Asher has grown we are representing more mature artists, and these issues arise less and less as a consequence. But it’s still a problem. I will find fantastic work by a new artist, but they would want to double their prices for me (wholesale/retail mix-up again).  Naturally this keeps them out of my gallery, but they are still out there. It devalues all of our businesses and their own professional growth.”

 

64 Crayola Crayons Flower pin by Harriete Estel Berman is jewelry constructed from recycled materials.
 64 Crayola Crayons Flower pin  © 2010
 Post Consumer Recycled tin cans
 Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

So what is the impact of selling your work at wholesale prices at a street fair, open studio, online, or exhibition?  If you sell work in retail venues (such as the above) and charge only wholesale prices, then you aren't covering your retail expenses.  But even more important, no gallery or store will take your work. They don't want to compete with YOU selling at your wholesale price.

64 Crayola Crayons Flower pin by Harriete Estel Berman
 64 Crayola Crayons Flower pin  © 2010
 (Back View)
 Post Consumer Recycled tin cans
 Artist: Harriete Estel Berman


A gallery or store can't sell your work when they know that their customers might buy something similar from you at at half the price.  It makes their retail price look like they are ripping off their customers. Of course, that isn't true, but the customer might not understand that the artist is the one making a big mistake.

 

Conversation M from the series Consuming Conversation by Harriete Estel Berman
   Consuming Conversation
   Conversation M © 2004
   Post Consumer recycled tin cans.
   Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
   Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

You heard the gallery perspective in the quote from Suzanne Sippel, but the message concerns your survival as an artist or maker. Your wholesale prices should cover your investment in fabricating the work including  hours, materials, and overhead (including overhead labor and overhead materials.)

Your retail prices should cover your retailing expenses. In the example of a street fair, you have the booth fee, travel, hotel, food, time for sitting at the booth, expenses involved in creating your booth (such as tent, cases, tables, fabric for your drape, and display expenses such as lights, fixtures, and more.) These expenses are not covered in your wholesale price. Retailing has its own set of expenses which is why there is a retail price. 

Harriete

 

RedOLDtime

Old Time Quality Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman is constructed from post consumer recycled tin cans. Retail Price for this pin is $380. One of a kind and hallmarked with my iron hallmark to establish the provenance. This flower will never fade.

 


Plan Ahead If Hand Delivering Your Work to an Exhibition.

Remember Me by Harriete Estel BermanImagine you are hand delivering your work to an exhibition.  Most likely you'll walk in to deliver your artwork and won't know any one there.  Then you hand your art and craft to a total stranger, and everyone is busy and excited. The staff may be inexperienced volunteers, but all are thrilled that you are participating.  Ultimately, you turn around and walk away.

Whoa Nelly!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Did you get any documentation that you dropped off your work? Could you possibly remember who you spoke to during that frenzied morning?

Reality Studded with Thorns Hides the Front Door from the Street by Harriete Estel Berman
Reality Studded with Thorns Hides the
Front Door from the Street 
©
1997-98
Multiple frames fabricated from recycled
tin cans and vintage steel dollhouses.                   
18" height x 20" width x 5" depth
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Before you go, be prepared.  Make two copies of your documentation BEFORE leaving your house (or studio) with your art work. This could be an Inventory Record, Condition Report, Exhibition Contract, or one page Invoice. Upon arrival at the drop off location for the exhibition, hand both copies of your paperwork to  a representative of the Exhibition Sponsor and have them sign one copy and hand it back to you before you leave. The other copy stays with the work.

Print the representative's name on your copy of the paperwork.  Ask to see their driver's license if you have any uncertainty. (Discretely make a note of the person's appearance, so you can remember in case there is a problem.)

This is your only proof that the work was delivered to the exhibition sponsor and to a responsible person. Don't just leave your work without this level of documentation that your work was delivered and received. 

Reality Studded with Thorns Hides the Front Door from the Street close up view by Harriete Estel Berman
Reality Studded with Thorns Hides the
Front Door from the Street
(close-up)
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen


Frankly, a well run exhibition should have all this paperwork ready, anticipating your arrival. If so, fabulous! You can feel very comfortable that this exhibition is going to be well organized. You'll sign each others' papers and everyone will be satisfied.

Unfortunately, all too often the exhibition sponsors are not this well prepared.  And if you didn't bring your own copies of this paper work, it is too late. By bringing in your own paperwork, you have a "back up plan."  I believe in preparing back up plans before a crisis.

Your level of preparation will make you look like an experienced professional. You are the artist that is going to have a good night's sleep instead of nightmares about lost work.

Harriete

P.S. Don't forget to read the previous posts about preparing the boxes for your artwork. These principles apply even if you are hand delivering your work.

Shipping Boxes for Art or Craft Should Include Instructions
Tips on Packing Your Art or Craft for Shipping to an Exhibition.

Shipping Boxes for Art or Craft Should Include Instructions

When shipping work to an exhibition I include instructions for UNPACKING, DISPLAY, ASSEMBLY (if necessary), and RE-PACKING MY WORK for return shipping.

IMG_2860In every box, a copy of the instructions are glued on the inside flap of the interior shipping box and a separate set is in the box. I glue the instructions to the box so that even if the loose copy is lost or misplaced, there are always instructions with the box and artwork. I also include disposable gloves in my interior shipping box. (See image below.)

Instruction Labels should include the following:
  • Labels on the boxes should be neat and easy to understand.
  • Use Elmer’s Glue or rubber cement – not glue sticks – to adhere the labels to the box.
  • Glue an ADDRESS label or ‘rubber stamp’ inside all boxes with your complete name and address. 
  • Glue a TITLE label, including title, date created, materials, and dimensions on the outside of your interior shipping box.
  • Include assembly instructions, if necessary, along with a diagram or photograph of how the artwork should look or be displayed. (READ the previous post.)
Sample image for your packing box.

Artwork should be well-constructed and designed to survive shipping conditions.  During the creative process, it is a good idea to design the work to survive the sometimes unpredictable vibration or "rough and tumble life" of shipping conditions. Consider what will happen if your box is turned sideways or upside down. Work that is not appropriately designed for shipping is much more likely to become damaged during shipping and consequently unable to be shown in the intended exhibition. For this reason, sometimes it is best to design work to be disassembled and reassembled at the exhibition location. This is especially important if there are heavy components and lightweight or fragile components in the same artwork.

Remember Me by Harriete Estel Berman
Remember Me     © 1998-99
Recycled tin cans and vintage steel doll
houses, Brass wire embroidery,
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen



Consider how the work will be displayed.  Include a custom display, if needed, along with clear instructions for the set up. If you have a pre-conceived idea of how the work should be displayed, this information should also be sent to the Exhibition Sponsor two months prior to the show.

Just in case the exterior of your shipping box is damaged, the interior shipping boxes should be labeled with:
Artwork
Title       
Artist name

Address
City, State, Zip
Phone (area code) and number
Email:
Web site: 

Here are Packing Tips to Download PackingTIPS PDF


IMG_2866
Remember Me in it's custom made interior shipping box. The interior of the box is upholstery foam cut to fit the artwork. The foam is covered with flannel and felt. In this photo the felt flap is open. This interior shipping box is appropriately sized for storage. For shipping it should be surrounded by 1"-2" of peanuts in a larger exterior shipping box.

SHIPPING PRESENTATIONS WITH AUDIO

Documentation for SHIPPING Art and Craft

Custom Shipping Box /Design Your Work for Shipping

PACKING one-of-a-kind artwork for SHIPPING


Commission Structures with Galleries - Are they negotiable?

In response to the recent posts about Delinquent Payment Issues there were numerous comments about consignment agreements, several implying that the consignment percentage between the artist and the gallery is negotiable.

Balance-scale-unbalanced It has been my experience that most retail galleries will NOT negotiate their consignment commission structure below 50 percent (unless you are super famous or your work is in the high end range of $40,000 or higher).  Most galleries expect a 50/50 split with the artist, while some galleries are moving toward 60 /40 or that range (with the 40 going to the artist).

While I don’t approve of 60 /40 (with 40 going to the artist) and won’t agree to it….sometimes this stance puts me in a difficult situation.

Most of all, it is important to keep your prices as close to the same across the U.S. as best as possible. If the prices are higher at one gallery compared to another retail location for the same or similar items, the entire inventory comes into question.  Collectors/buyers DO notice the difference.  I have actually had a collector ask me why the prices were higher at "so & so's" gallery. (Clear evidence that they do compare prices.)

Cash-flowgr Some galleries suggest to the artist, "just tell me your wholesale price....then we will add our percentage." The gallery may sincerely intend that the artist receives the requested wholesale price.  However, the artist is still responsible for retail price consistency in various venues. 

Some galleries try to justify a higher commission (more than 50%) because their "expenses have increased."  While I am sympathetic that costs continue to rise, I just don't buy the suggestion that artists' expenses have not increased as well. 

As operating businesses, galleries tend to be much more aware of their expenses such as rent, insurance, staff salaries, employment taxes, utilities and advertising.  They KNOW how much it costs per month to stay open.  

Artists also have overhead expenses but tend to price their work in proportion to their direct labor and materials only.  Most artists are not pricing their work high enough to actually cover their overhead expenses such as rent, utilities, photography, bookkeeping labor, office supplies, tool purchases, equipment, etc.   Artists frequently don't realize they didn't make money until the end of the year when they fill out their tax return.   

It seems to me that the difference between galleries and artists is that galleries are fully conscious of ALL their expenses (direct and overhead) and their monthly bottom line.

Dollargr

The 50/50 split reflects a partnership between the artist and the gallery.  Each supports the other.

Harriete


TURN ON YOUR SCAM RADAR - Protect Your Work and Your Livelihood

After the recent series of posts about Good Galleries Gone Bad, a couple of artist/makers sent comments about how they had been contacted by galleries mentioned in the posts, but had turned down the overtures to be represented and sell their work. I wondered how these artists knew how to TURN ON their scam radar.

I asked Kerin Rose to elaborate on why her scam radar was on alert. She said,

"I think that Victoria Lansford spelled it out exactly....for starters, the gallery was unproven...brand new shop, no track record whatsoever.  Also, very pushy sort of sales pitch...I hope this doesn’t sound weird , but when retailers approach me with consignment offers like they are offering me the opportunity of a lifetime, I become wary....(I don’t like consignment at all, on principle), but antennae always go up when people act like they are doing me this great favor.

More specifically the guy’s terms....if I recall, was a 70/30 split (who does that these days?) and he said he would have your name/ website/ labels and all collateral laid out in the gallery. So to me, offering to direct customers away from the shop seemed odd. Victoria said it seemed 'too good to be true' and I agree...so all of that rolled together and my own sort of negative feelings around consignment.  I blew him off.

I also checked his site again after he got up and running, and he had this weird mix of manufactured (John Hardy, David Yurman) and beaded stuff too. The pieces just did not fit together at all...so it was a gut reaction and a logic thing. And to top it off, again, no track record. At the very least, dealing with someone who is established is important. I have never ever done start ups. I wait till someone has been in business a year, and then you can approach them if it's something you want to do!"

Radar1 Thank you Kerin.  Now let's examine how to raise YOUR scam radar when approached by a gallery and steps to take before sending your work. 

1. Look at the web site. Does it look real? That sounds odd perhaps, but one time, I was contacted by a gallery that had a very substantial, multiple page web site.  It looked very convincing, but my Scam Rader was turned on! Who knows where they found the images of the artwork and the gallery installation shots, but within an hour of research it was very apparent that this gallery was not what they professed to be.  Doing a Google search for the artists listed on the web site revealed that they were made up names - this was a scam.   Radar-dish_Antenna

2. Is the offer too good to be true? Legitimate inquiries about representing your work at a gallery or invitation to a show start out slowly. Multiple levels of discussion by both parties, including a review of the contract, gives everyone time to get to know one another. Scam Radar should tell you that something isn't right when a gallery approaches you about representing your work and presses for an immediate commitment. 

If a new gallery contacts you, ask for references. This could be from other artists, curators, or businesses where they have an account. Take a few days or weeks to let the relationship develop before sending your work.

Radar2 3. The same level of scrutiny goes when people want to buy your work unusually quickly without the usual careful inquiry or review. Bells and whistles should be going off in your head when this happens. On occasion, I have received emails from someone wanting to buy my work off my web site. Usually, the only difference on the surface between the scam offer and the real offer is a tingling on my Scam Radar.

At this point, I answer sincerely and directly, but add that all payments must be paid in full before shipping if they want to buy my work, PayPal is preferred, checks need to be deposited and cleared before shipping (if I don't know the person) and "Please, no scams." That is usually the end of all scam purchase inquiries.

Radar3 4. Work with your local bank. One time, a person even sent a check to purchase work, but my scam radar was on. Something wasn't right even though it looked just like a normal check. I took the check to my bank and asked them to look up the buyer's bank and the account. My bank performed this service quite willingly. My bank was just as interested in avoiding a bad check. Within a day, my bank informed me that it was a bogus check. [Unfortunately, the police won't follow up on fake checks unless you lost money.]

Radar4 copy 5. TURN ON YOUR SCAM RADAR in new situations.  One time I won an award from a competition. Unfortunately, the award was coming from a London bank and they wanted to deposit the money directly into my account. Very scary indeed, Scam Radar is ON. This time I went to the bank, told them that the competition seemed legitimate, but I wanted to be very cautious.  To solve the problem, the bank opened a new account. It took almost a week for this to be arranged but for peace of mind, it was truly worth the effort. I left only $20 in the account in case this was a scam.... only then, did I email them the account number for the transfer. Every thing worked out fine, thank goodness.

The point is that there is always a careful solution. If life and business are offering you a real opportunity, the gallery or store will be there for months and years to come. There is no need to jump into a new opportunity without checking your scam radar as your first line of defense.  

Harriete
Green Blue Starbucks Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman is jewelry constructed from recycled materials.
One of a kind Green, Blue, White June Flower with  Orange Flower Center
Constructed from layers of recycled tin cans by Harriete Estel Berman.
This Flower pin has a great dramatic appearance but is the size of a real
flower at  3  11/16” Diameter  Retail Price $375 Purchase on line.

Green Blue Starbucks Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman is jewelry constructed from recycled materials.


Good Galleries Gone Bad - Artists Need to Be A Voice for Change.

For the past two weeks, ASK Harriete featured a series of posts about galleries that did not pay the artists for work that was sold. These posts were only possible because Victoria Lansford was brave enough to speak about her experiences and be a voice for change.

Collect72gr
Collect Your Money © 2010
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver, pin
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

In the past, many people have told me about their problems with either late payment or no payment, but only a few have been brave enough to publicly discuss the problem. While late payment or delinquent payment is not a new problem, I wonder why so few people are willing to address these issues publicly. I asked Victoria if she thinks people are afraid of repercussions or think that galleries won't want to work with them if they go public about delinquent payment issues.

Victoria Lansford said, "...from my experience, peoples' fears are probably unwarranted.  I've had lots of feedback from people emailing me about other matters and praising the posts.  Artwork sales have suddenly picked back up again since the crash of 2008, so no problem there.  Galleries with which I have regular contact have either said something positive, "so sorry you've been through that," or nothing at all. 

Today I received a call from a supplier who wants to carry my publications and tools.  The owner said he Google-ed me to check out my reputation, and very quickly found the blog ASK Harriete.  We had a nice discussion about the challenges of operating an art business.  I certainly haven't been black-balled as some kind of trouble maker, and if there are businesses out there that think that, they're probably ones that I never want to deal with any way!

Thanks again for the opportunity to speak out in the best venue to be heard and make a difference!

 

ChasingTelephonegr
Chasing Payment Over the Phone
© 2010 Harriete Estel Berman
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver rivets,
sterling silver chasing hammer.

As I said, problems with delinquent payment is not a new issue, but the weak economy is making the problem worse. Many comments to this series (on Delinquent Payment Issues and the previous series with Boris Bally) wonder why there isn't a Better Business Bureau/service/review website for evaluating galleries.

Yes, that would be great, if you have ideas how to make this happen, let's hear it, but for the most part, it is a huge project requiring validation of the facts and liability issues. While my dream would be for something like this to come too fruition, change will not come from enforcement or an official website.

Megaphonegr The first level of responsibility is for artists to speak up about the problem.  Change will come with visibility and discussion. It doesn't have to be on ASK Harriete. It can be on your own blog, your own website, or a social networking site like Facebook or Crafthaus.

Why are artists so unwilling to speak up?  It is simply the natural discomfort that keeps this issue hidden out of view.  I am fairly certain that a collector/purchaser who bought your work would be appalled if they learned that the artist had not been paid.  It is certainly not your fault and nothing to be ashamed of. 

Generating public awareness about this issue is the only way the current state of affairs will change.  It really doesn’t matter if the gallery did this on purpose or simply “forgot” to pay you. If you have spoken to them about late payment, and the check is not in your bank account, it is a problem. What about the galleries that don’t keep accurate inventory?  This is their business. This is why they are paid the other 50% on each purchase.

If a gallery or store can justify their position about this issue, I want to hear it. So do the artists they represent.

Dollargr If a gallery is having problems with their cash flow, then they need a loan from their bank. Artists are not banks. Sold work means the artist must be paid in a timely manner.

What can artists do?
Tell your friends and fellow artists if you are having a problem. Contact the other artists represented by the gallery. See if they are having similar problems.
 
What are you afraid of?
Are you afraid that if you complain they will never sell your work at that gallery/store again? Why do you want to leave your work at a business that does not treat your business relationship responsibly? Why do you leave your work at a gallery/store that is having obvious financial difficulties? Time to remove your work, politely and professionally and move on. A change in our behavior also means that the “bad galleries” will either go out of business or change.

Pricered-tags Are you afraid that if you go public with delinquent payment issues that new galleries will not take your work?
Good galleries have nothing to fear, they have no concern.
Good galleries pay on time and keep accurate inventory records, they are not party to any delinquent payment issue. Good galleries should be applauded for this standard of professionalism. This should be the norm.

I think that this issue surrounding delinquent payments in the arts community is similar to every other political issue that ever needed changing… whether it was segregation,  spousal abuse, gay rights and others. The point isn’t to compare whether those issues are more serious or less important. The issue is that until artists are willing to speak openly about the topic, nothing will change.

If the “bad galleries” go out of business, it just means more business for the good galleries that respect artists, pay promptly and keep accurate inventory records.  

LifeSavers Earrings are one of a kind earrings available for purchase.
   LifeSaveer Earrings © 2008
   Recycled Tin Cans, sterling silver posts
   Artist: Harriete Estel Berman 

It is time for change…not only is it time for a change, the internet can make this discussion public. The voice of the artists needs to be a voice for change.

Harriete


Help! My work’s been sold and I’m not being paid! What do I do? - a lawyer's answer

This post on ASK Harriete is by Chris Balch, a lawyer and arts advocate in Georgia. Familiar with the non-payment issues mentioned in the previous five posts on ASK Harriete. Mr. Balch offers his lawyer perspective on what to do if a gallery is not paying you for your work.

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

Portrait of Chris Balch lawyer FROM THE LEGAL PEN OF Chris Balch: The short answer--sue them.  Your consignment contract provides a remedy for when it is breached or broken.  In general, most states allow the wronged party (that’s you) to recover damages associated with what the contract allows.  Things such as your wholesale price for the work, or your lost profits (which may be the same thing), or other provable losses may be recoverable.  In addition, if the contract provides (or in some cases the law of the state may allow) you may be able to recover any attorney’s fees associated with the breach of your agreement.

Chris Balch_chris_logo Usually you will not be able to recover damages for any mental pain and suffering associated with the loss of the work, the dispute with the gallery, or worry about how you will be able to pay your mortgage this month.  Those types of damages are generally recoverable only in non-contract actions.

But where (not as in what court but where geographically) do you sue the gallery and perhaps the gallery owner?  That’s the hard part.  Usually, there are at least two choices, i.e., the state and county where you (the artist) live or the state and county where the gallery is located.  However, other factors may limit that choice to only one--where the gallery owner is located.

The due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution (which applies to the states) requires a defendant in a lawsuit to have at least minimal contacts with the state where they are being sued.  That is easy to satisfy when you sue someone where they live and do business.  They have voluntarily elected to take advantage of the benefits of living and working in the state and thus it is no burden at all that the courts of that state may call them into court. 

It gets a bit trickier when you try to sue someone in another state.  This is best explained by way of example.  Suppose for a moment you are an artist in South Carolina and a gallery in Tennessee contacts you to represent your work.  After getting a contract and sending them work you discover they have sold your work but not paid you.  Can you sue them in South Carolina where you live and where it is more convenient and easier on you?  You can but it may not mean much in the long run.

State line Map After you get your judgment you have to collect the money.  This can be a very challenging step.  If your judgment is in the same state where the gallery and the owner(s) lives and works, then what is required is getting the right documents from the Court. The Sheriff of the county will go out and seize property owned by the defendants equal to the amount owed to you in the judgment of the Court.  You may also be able to garnish bank accounts to collect your judgment.

When your judgment is from another state than the one where the gallery is located you have an additional step.  You have to get a court in the state where the gallery is located to recognize your judgment from another state as a judgment of the state where you are trying to collect your money.  It sounds more confusing than it is but there is a hitch: the gallery and its owner now get to contest the judgment you obtained in your state (even if they did not bother to defend the case when filed) and argue that state’s assertion of authority over them violated the due process clause of the Constitution. 

Rb-inyo-court-house-5 It is your burden to prove that the people who owe you money had sufficient purposeful contacts with your home state that there is no Constitutional violation in collecting the judgment you obtained against them where you live.  The question is answered by looking to the law of the state where you obtained your judgment.  Thus, the Tennessee Court would have to look to and interpret South Carolina law to establish whether the judgment was valid or not.  If you have a lot of emails, telephone calls and other electronic communications with the gallery or its employees, (don't forget to keep accurate and detailed records of your communication) there are some states which will conclude those are sufficient minimum contacts to satisfy the traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice required by the Due Process Clause. 

This is not an easy area of the law to navigate.  Even seasoned and experienced trial attorneys will likely need to revisit the rules to provide accurate advice about where the best place to sue may be.

Disclaimer: The content of this post is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Mr. Balch.  It may be considered lawyer advertising in some jurisdictions.  Hiring a lawyer is an important decision which should not be made solely based on advertising.  Mr. Balch is not certified in any specialty by any state.

Blog ASK Harriete offers professional advice to the arts and crafts community. FROM THE PEN OF ASK Harriete: Please keep in mind that suing is your last resort AFTER you have tried to contact the gallery, picked up all your work at the gallery and tried to arrange payment without legal action. There are several "lawyers for the arts" organization in the United States that may offer you help or guidance at no cost or a reduced fee.

Stay tuned for Victoria's update on her lawsuit next week.

Harriete

P.S. Did you miss the previous five posts?

Previous posts in this series include:

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

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

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You! Prevent Delinquent Payments

Good Galleries Gone Bad - 6 Steps to Take if Your Gallery is Not Paying You on Time by Victoria Lansford


Good Galleries Gone Bad - 6 Steps to Take if Your Gallery is Not Paying You on Time by Victoria Lansford

In today's post Victoria Lansford offers us six steps to take if your gallery in not paying on time. With this tough economy early intervention may prevent work from disappearing and the additional loss of potential revenue. We need to work together artists, galleries and the entire arts community. Let's not let a few bad apples influence the entire marketplace. 

Previous posts in this series include:

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

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

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You! Prevent Delinquent Payments

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.

Portrait of Victoria Lansford FROM THE PEN OF VICTORIA Lansford:
If this "Good Gallery Gone Bad" happens to you:

1.  Get your work out of there!  If they won't send it back, find someone in the area (a friend, a friend of a friend, etc.) who can pick it up for you.  Provide him/her with a letter signed by you, stating that she/he is acting as your agent and has the authority to remove your work and an inventory list of your work.  Let the person know the gallery's store hours then let the visit be a complete surprise.  Consignment means that the artist owns the work until it is sold.  You or your agent are merely removing what is yours.  If you can't find someone to pick up the work and can't go yourself, keep calling and emailing.  If they don't return it, it's probably a red flag that they have sold part or all of it and aren't paying you for it.

Dollars in hand 2.  Remember, It's your money!!!  Do not give up too easily.  Yes, pursuing money you are owed can be time consuming and costly, so were the labor and materials that you put into the work for which you have not been paid.  Less ethical people tend to do what they know they can get away with, so if an owner owes you money and believes that you won't pursue getting paid, you could easily end up at the bottom of a long list of creditors and never see a dime.  

3.  Not just any type of lawyer will do.  You need one with experience in contract law.  Many lawyers will give a free initial phone consultation, so you can find out if they can help.  Get your paperwork together and give a concise account of what happened.  If legal help is too expensive, most states have "Lawyers for the Arts" type organizations, who will work pro-bono or on a sliding scale.
Telephone
4.  Keep up the phone calls, letters, and emails! 
This is one time when being a nuisance isn't just OK; it's necessary. 

5.  Breathe!  You may be victimized, but you don't have to be a victim.  By not giving up, you are doing your part to help keep the system safe and honest for yourself and your community.  You may or may not eventually get paid, but you will know that you didn't go down without a fight and may find that your future dealings with consigning with galleries is a more business like and professional experience.

6.  Consider creating a piece or series inspired by your experience.  I don't mean to make light of the situation by suggesting that you turn lemons into the proverbial lemonade.  Artists, who have work stolen sometimes have trouble with "artist's block" afterward.  Consciously working through your frustrations by doing what you love may have a cathartic effect.  Who knows?  If you sell the work, you could at least get paid for some of your frustration.

Eyebeholdergreen
Eye of the Beholder Pin © 2009
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver rivets,
pin stem
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Purchase Online

FROM THE PEN OF ASK HARRIETE:
I particularly like Step 1. and Step 2.  Go ahead, take your work out of the gallery if they are not paying on time. Every story that I have ever heard about poor payment or no payment started with late payment. This is your warning sign, like a sore throat, you know trouble may be coming.

Chasing Payment Over the Telephone Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman has a sterling silver chasing hammer over telephone as a pun.
  Chasing Payment Over the Telephone
  Pin © 2010 Harriete Estel Berman
  Recycled tin cans, sterling rivets and
  chasing hammer, plastic ring.

Are you in business to loan money? Do you  really think the situation will change if you continue to leave your work at the gallery? What motivation do these Good Galleries Gone Bad have to change? Absolutely none if artists continue to avoid looking into   a bad situation and take no action.

Stand up, and be counted as an artist who no longer is willing to act like a doormat and be stepped on.

Your professional behavior goes in all directions. Act like a professional in every aspect of your business. The Professional Guidelines offers 19 documents to assist and standardize professional practices in the arts and crafts community. Use this information to improve your artistic success. Let me know what topics would be helpful to you.

Harriete   


Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You! Preventing Delinquent Payments

Victoria Lansford is the guest author for ASK Harriete as she tells us a couple of ways to prevent delinquent payments from galleries. She creates one-of-a-kind wearable art in precious metals and unique stones and is the author/producer of the Metal Techniques of Bronze Age Masters: All Chained Up book and DVD series.

Previous posts in this series include:
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

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

Photo of Victoria Lansford 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.

Preventing delinquent payment situation:

1.  Always obtain a signed contract before sending any work to a gallery.  It's becoming more common for galleries to send contracts via email, which the artists print, sign, and return with their artwork.  Because these documents are created in Word or Pages rather than scanned in, they are often unsigned by the gallery owner or manager.  DO NOT send your work until you have obtained a signed copy of the contract.  If you have to file a legal claim, an unsigned contract won't help your case and can certainly make you appear less than professional and an easy target.

2.  Get references about a prospective gallery.  Discover other artists that they represent and contact them directly to ask of their experiences concerning timely payment, the condition of returned work, and the accessibility of the owner or manager.

Past Due Notice 3.  If checks are few and far between from a gallery, contact other artists that they represent and determine if it's because sales are slow or because the gallery is not paying.

4.  Keep in contact with the galleries that carry your work on a consistent basis.  It's easy to check in every month or so via email without seeming like a pest.  You can let them know of new work you are creating and find out what interest there has been in your work, both of which can be helpful under any circumstances. 

FROM ASK HARRIETE:
The Professional Guidelines offers an excellent Consignment Contract with a complete overview explaining every clause. This can be found on my web site under the PROFESSIONAL GUIDELINES link or CLICK HERE.  The Professional Guidelines can also be found on the SNAG web site.

PGlogohorizontal

Here are the three Contracts currently available in the Professional Guidelines.

CONSIGNMENT CONTRACT

EXHIBITION CONTRACT

MODEL RELEASE CONTRACT

In the next post, tomorrow, Victoria will give us six steps to take if your Gallery has not paid you on time. Each step is simple, straight forward and relatively easy to do. With this poor economy, artists need to learn to be better advocates for themselves and each other in the arts and crafts community. If you have suggestions about how you have worked to prevent a poor payment problem, please share it as a comment. CLICK on the word COMMENT below this post.

Harriete



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 Your Work - The Ultimate Variable in SELLING YOUR WORK has no numbers! What the Market Will Bear

This is the last post (at least for now) about variables in pricing your work.  In previous posts we discussed how to calculate your expenses and a profitable price based on concrete facts. Find this information in the left hand column on ASK Harriete. Look for the category titled: Pricing Your Work.

The last two posts discussed Reputation, and  Perceived Value/ Media Bias. This final post about pricing will discuss "What the Market Will Bear."

Multi-colored April Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman
Multi-colored April Flower Brooch ©2010
recycled tin cans, sterling silver,
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: emiko oye

What the Market Will Bear is an old refrain but is interconnected to Perceived Value, Media Bias, and Reputation. If you are selling your work in a high end, exclusive store where the clients are expecting to pay higher prices for prestige, exclusivity, superior service, etc, then this clientele will support a higher price. Yet the same items in a lower end store would be perceived as over priced or inflated due to customer expectations.

Many times I've heard artists and makers complain that their local small town gallery or store will not support the higher prices they need to charge for their work.  That may be true, so perhaps you shouldn't be selling at that location. The other option is to work with local clients so they understand why your work costs so much. (A topic for another time so ASK Harriete.)

Tiffany is a familiar example of an established market. Tiffany the famous jewelry store, sells very expensive  jewelry. They have developed a reputation that is so exclusive that the hallmark, the identity of the manufactured (not even hand made) jewelry, is marked on the exterior (instead of inside) as on the bracelets (below). People buy the exclusive brand identified with Tiffany's little blue box.
Tiffany bracelets with the Tiffany hallmark on the exterior.Every artist and maker regardless of their medium has something to learn here - the value of the maker's signature or hallmark in selling your work. This means signing all your work, every time, and placing your work in the appropriate marketplace. Establishing a reputation takes years.This is a marathon not a sprint.

Keep in mind that all work should be sold at the same price all over the United States. Artists and makers need to find a location, gallery, store, or online marketplace that sells work in the price range they need to charge and keep that same price all over the United States.  This is one of the strongest factors in supporting your prices.

The Q & A podcast during the Professional Development Seminar Houston SNAG Conference touched on these issues.

What do you think? Your comments are most appreciated...I will try to respond to all the pricing comments in one post soon.

Harriete
I hallmark all my work. You can see this on the back of this pin very clearly. Your hallmark or signature assures the collector that they bought your work, not an impostor, look alike or copy. Learn why I use a hallmark that looks like a domestic iron on my web site.April Flower by Harriete Estel Berman
April Flower by Harriete Estel Berman
ArynCELESTIALflower72


Net 30 Application for your accounts - with Interest Charges for Late Payment

The past three posts regarding late payments from galleries or stores hit a raw nerve.  This fourth post on the topic focuses on purchase orders on credit and an example of Net 30 terms. (This is not about consignment situations.)

CHECK in the MAIL BOX How bad can it be?  If a gallery or store delays payment for purchased work, it permanently strains the relationships with their artists and makers.  In purely financial terms, it is equivalent to forcing the artists (without their consent) to extend a loan to the retail location.  In broader terms, it undermines the long term business of the gallery or store due to the hard feelings generated.

I have empathy for the gallery and store owners who must maintain minimum cash flows during these tough economic times.  But artists and makers depend on cash flow also.  So when an agreement has been made and a transaction occurs, it is not only common decency but good business practice to pay the makers on time.    

Dollars in hand As an artist, your best approach is to be a better advocate for your art, craft and small business.  Your purchase order policies and Invoice should clearly state your terms for payment and consequences of late payment from the very beginning to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.

Devil Inside Pin FRONT close up by Harriete Estel Berman If a new account wants to order your work, I recommend that the first several transactions be handled as full payment in advance of shipping.  If these transactions proceed without incident and they request credit, Net 30, or extended payment, then you should be prepared with an Application for Net 30 or similar credit application form that spells out the terms.

Boris Bally has graciously allowed me to show his Application for Net 30 for his accounts. Download NET30_Application.  An image of his form is shown below my signature and a discussion of each term follows.  This form is specific to Boris, so you should create a form that applies to your particular circumstances.  

Creditcards Credit card alternative. To avoid the NET 30 Application Process and the uncertainty of prompt payment, you could have the store or gallery pay for orders on their credit card. They would get a "float" for about 30 days, and you receive payment immediately. The fee from the credit card company (usually 1% - 3%) may well be worth the certainty of being paid on time. You can call the store just before you ship the work and they pay with a credit card to complete the transaction.

It is also important to note that Boris states (in his Application for Net 30) that he will not send more work if the account is past due. 

Past Due Why do artists send more work to galleries if they are owed money? From what I hear, many artists think that selling some work and getting paid 3-4 months late is better than not selling work.  I don't agree with this line of thinking. It encourages bad behavior because there is no negative consequence.  Think about it, there are only two scenarios.  If the owners simply have a bad habit of paying late, then an interest charge would give them an incentive to pay on time or you would earn interest on your funds that are unavailable.  And if they are using your money to pay last month's rent, then you are risking loss of the entire amount when they go out of business.  Is that a risk work taking? 

Harriete

Example Application for Net 30 as an image. Download NET30_ApplicationNET30_Application

The Application for Net 30 for his accounts is probably a pretty standard form except for the clause near the bottom. Boris Bally means "Business" with a capital B when he sends his work to a retail location. If a payment is late he expects the store/gallery to pay a late fee. I have copied and pasted this important clause below:

Credit policy and disclosures for NET30 Account:
All bills are due and payable, in full, thirty days after date on invoice. A finance charge will be imposed on any amount thirty days or more past due at a periodic rate of 1.75% per month. (annual percentage rate 21%) This rate is based on your past due balance at the end of each billing period. Please note: Orders placed on past due accounts will be held until account is current or may be sent COD at your request. No returns on orders unless prior written approval by Atelier Boris Bally. If your account is turned over to a collection agency or attorney for collection, or in the event of default, all collection, legal expenses and reasonable attorney fees will be paid by the debtor and be processed in and according to the laws of the State of Rhode Island.

You could copy this clause and add it to your invoice. The merit is that Boris Bally clearly states his payment expectations for payment within a specific period of time, interest rate per month, annual percentage rate, how the rate is established, returns, and what happens if the account is past due.   

Of course, you would want to check your state laws for legal compliance and change the final sentence to  "....according to the laws of the State of __(your state name)__.)

Boris Bally CoastersThank you Boris Bally from ASK Harriete and all the readers for sharing your insight, invoice examples, and personal experience.

If the readers of ASK Harriete have terms that they would like to share with this audience, they may paste it below in the comments or send it to me directly. It might be useful to compare terms and create momentum for prompt payment and appropriate interest payments if payment is past due.



Payment Terms for artists and craft businesses.

Pain The recent post on late payments from galleries and stores seems to have touched on a very sensitive nerve, judging by the number of comments.   Apparently a lot of people have had some painful experience.   I will continue to collect your opinions, comments, tales, etc. and will follow up with more action items soon. 

Today, though, I'd like to focus on establishing the right payment incentives at the beginning of a galley, store, or customer relationship.  Specific payment terms and the consequences of late payment should be written into the consignment contract, purchase order, or invoice, whichever you use.  Interest should be charged on payments not received by the due date, no exceptions.  If the establishment is holding your cash, they should pay interest as mutually agreed in the contract. 

Like so many over situations, it is best to be prepared in advance with your Application for opening new accounts and your Ordering Policy.

-Bally Transi tSeries Chairs from 1994 Boris Bally has graciously agreed to show his Order Terms (download Order Terms) as an example.  An image of his Ordering Terms is shown below my signature, followed by a review of the terms (and some practical suggestions).  This is fairly specific to Boris' business.  You should adapt to your circumstances.

Harriete

Boris Bally purchase order policy (Download Order_Terms)

Order_Terms

Exclusive** representation of an artist's or crafts person's work should require a minimum purchase. In Boris Bally's example this only includes the area code.  Note that the Exclusive Representation is not extended to an entire city or state. Keep in mind that everything is negotiable, but why should artists offer Exclusivity for their line if the retail establishment is not adequately representing or selling your merchandise or art.

Everything is negotiable but establishing a  minimum amount for annual retail purchases is one guide for an Exclusive Representation. The big picture is that the retail establishment should clearly establish that they represent and sell within a specified geographic area to demand exclusivity to a state or several state boundary. 

Terms copy Consignment*** is for select exhibitions. Consignment is a very difficult way to make a living from your work. You don't have any control over inventory, display or promotion and have no guarantee that your work will sell. It can sit there for months, or even years.)

Payment is outlined clearly for first time orders, Proforma**** and accounts.  It is suggested that you try to get credit cards for orders (which means prepayment so you don't have to chase down checks)  Even though that entails a credit card fee (usually between 1-2%) it's worth not having to worry about getting paid in 30 days, or subsequent phone calls and emails when the payment doesn't arrive.  Stores are more used to this and they get 30 days from the credit card company so it doesn't make a difference to them.

Delivery should be clearly described. Sometimes this might be called Shipping.

Dimensionalweight Shipping indicates who is responsible for shipping to the gallery or store and whether it is a a fixed % of the total order for simplicity, or based on the weight of the box(es), or the dimensional weight of the box. (Shipping companies charge by dimensional weight of the box, if the box  is very large but light.) Keep in mind that Boris Bally's example is for purchase of retail goods (not on consignment.) 

It also might be good idea to clarify your preferred shipping method, for example, ground or air, USPS or Fed Ex, etc.

Purchase Orders usually expect the store/gallery to pay shipping. Consignment Contracts usually expect the artist to cover shipping to the Gallery or store. This increases the cost to the artist.

Order Policy  specifies that the order may not be canceled and they do not offer cash refunds.

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS:

Plan72 SPECIAL ORDERS:  If you will produce special orders or custom items establish your policy in advance including lead time needed to produce the item, pricing, and returns or exchange on special orders. 

REPAIRS AND ALTERATIONS: How do you want to handle repair and alterations to your work? Are you going to charge for repairs? Are you going to charge for shipping? Can your work be re-sized or changed to fit the person or installation? 

ProfessionalSize72 MINIMUM ORDERS: Do you have a minimum order? Do you have a miniumum for first time orders? A minimum for subsequent orders? Is this a dollar amount or a specific number of items?  

INTERNATIONAL Orders and shipping?  International shipping is incredibly expensive. I shipped  a pair of earrings to Australia and it cost the customer $28.00. Unless you have lots of experience with International Shipping, perhaps you will want to handle this on a case by case basis.  

If the readers of ASK Harriete have a TERM Sheet, Ordering TERMS or Purchase Order Terms that they would like to share, please consider leaving your ideas as comments below or write to me directly. It would be great to develop an example Purchase Order Terms in the Professional Guidelines, but I need your help.

Harriete

Definitions and image information below:

"Pain" image found at: http://research.unc.edu/endeavors/spr2005/pain.php

Plan Pin constructed by Harriete Estel Berman from recycled tin cans is available for purchase online..

Professional Size Pin constructed by Harriete Estel Berman from recycled tin cans is available for purchase online.

Exclusive** representation: The term “exclusive” implies that the gallery will be the only representative for the artist usually within a stated geographic boundary, for a specific body of work, or extent of sales. The geographic territory could be limited to a single city or town, a radius of a specified number of miles, the region, one state, several states, or nationwide. As for the scope of an artist’s work, an exclusive representation could be limited to a specific body of work, or a specific medium or type of work (e.g. jewelry vs. hollowware).

In contrast, the term “non-exclusive” means that the artist may sell the same work to a multiple number of businesses within the stated geographic territory.

This definition was taken directly from the Overview in the Consignment Contract as part of the Professional Guidelines.

Consignment***: Consignment is where the artist loans the work to the gallery or store and is only paid after the purchase of work. In effect, they borrow work from an artist for display in the gallery, and then pay the artist only when it sells.  This arrangement limits the gallery’s capital outlay, so they can devote more of their resources to paying for rent, staff, publicity, or other costs of doing business.

A consignment arrangement has advantages and disadvantages.  For example, one advantage is that consignment can allow a gallery to show risky or difficult work, since their money is not tied up in purchasing inventory.  However, a disadvantage is that even though the artist’s work is in the gallery’s possession, the artist isn’t paid until the work is sold.  This business arrangement is complicated enough that misunderstandings and difficulties can arise if the parties have not been clear about the terms of the arrangement from the beginning.   

This definition was taken directly from the Overview in the Consignment Contract as part of the Professional Guidelines.

Proforma****: Proforma is a business term for "Assumed, forecasted, or informal information presented in advance of the actual or formal information. The common objective of a pro forma document is to give a fair idea of the cash outlay for a shipment or an anticipated occurrence. Definition from businessdictionary.com



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


My gallery isn't paying me on time, help! What should I do?

Harriete,

My gallery isn't paying me on time. They are well known with an established reputation, so I thought their representation of me would work out great.  Indeed they sold some of my work more than a few months ago.  However, when I've called them about paying for the work, they say there are some bookkeeping errors or "the check is in the mail" but it is only partial payment.  This has been going on for months! What should I do?

Without income,

A desperate and embarrassed artist.

CHECK MAILBOX This letter paraphrases a common problem that I hear from artists, over and over. Artists are frequently not paid on time, or maybe not paid at all.  This is an old story, but it seems that with these hard economic times it happens more frequently.

Galleries usually pay their bills once a month. That means that consignment items sold may (by contract) be paid as much as 30 days after the purchase. Your payment schedule should be written into your contract or on your invoice.

Some stores purchase work outright as inventory.  After developing an ongoing relationship, the store may request a Net 30 invoice arrangement (i.e. payment will be made within 30 days after delivery).

What I am talking about here is overdue payments months after items are purchased. These delinquent galleries or stores are giving themselves an interest-free loan out of your money.  I am sure that if a collector/buyer heard that they had paid a gallery or store for work and the artist was not paid in a timely manner, they would be embarrassed and appalled.

The real issue is what can artists do about this problem.  Should you keep sending work to establishments that don't pay on time? Should we keep these secrets to ourselves?

Check references  Before you send work to any gallery or establishment, check with some other artists or makers previously represented there.  A few minutes of calling around can give you plenty of information to make a "yes" or "no" decision.  Or if an ongoing gallery starts paying slower, check with other represented artists to see if they are having similar problems. 

Contract Terms   Your contract with the gallery should include terms of payment.  The Professional Guidelines offers a sample Consignment Contract that can easily be modified to suit both parties and adapted to the situation. An accumulating penalty for late payment may also be specified. 

CheckHAND Initial purchases from a store should be paid in full before merchandise is shipped.  Develop a payment track record over several transactions and check credit references before agreeing to a NET 30 arrangement.  (More information with a sample NET 30 Application will be posted next week.)

Documentation   You may have to prove that the store received your work and that you are due payment (whether they sold it or lost it).  Keep shipping receipts and Inventory Lists.  Get signatures on receipts and save email acknowledgments .  Take photos.  If there is ever a dispute, documentation is better than "your word against theirs."

SHIPPINGboxIf the retail establishment becomes "slow" regarding payments, discuss this issue over the phone first.  Find out about their reasons for late payment.  Maybe you need to be more assertive (e.g. the squeaky wheel) and a better advocate for your business cash flow.  (Note....I said assertive, not rude. There is never any reason to lose your temper or act unprofessionally.)

However, at some point you may have to take action. You may decide that it is time to discontinue selling at this particular venue and request that all your work be returned. Potentially, if every artist and maker who had work at a gallery or store, politely asked for all the unsold work back, or refused to send additional merchandise, this retail location would have to change its practices or go out of business. 

I know that we are all desperate to sell our work and that retail purchases are slow in this bad economy.  But if payment is even slower, then you must take responsibility to make a decision and move on. 

Invoice past due Another idea   We can help each other by spreading the word about delinquent operators.  We could share information about our own experiences and help inform other artists and makers and not let them fall victim to irresponsible venues. 

While most galleries and stores are honest and pay promptly, maybe a few disorganized and delinquent accounts are the "bad apples". Until we openly discuss these problems, the bad apples will continue to plague our community.  We can help each other with discourse and transparency to weed out the rotten few.

Artists, Collectors, and Galleries, this is a call to action!

Have any of you suffered from a similar situation?  Would you be willing to share your story? Do you know a gallery that is paying artist's chronically late?  Are you holding a heavy secret to avoid embarrassment?

The time has come to create visibility and transparency for this issue.  Can we maintain a list of good and bad venues like the Better Business Bureau?  Let's be better advocates for ourselves. Tell your fellow artists out loud that you are having a problem with slow payment.

Write down your opinion and experience as a comment here below this post.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info



Is this (pick one) gallery, store, or craft show right for my work?

Recently, a couple of questions from readers have asked whether a certain gallery or craft show was a good fit for their work.  Here is a sample letter (below).  I took out the name of the gallery to avoid any potential embarrassment.

KathleenFaulkner_DownattheWetlands_Entry2
"Down at the Wetlands"  ©   2009
Artist: Kathleen Faulkner

Oil pastel,  23" x 24"

Have you heard of a gallery called (fill in the blank ____)? It is a downtown gallery that specializes in sculpture and paintings.  But who knows about places one has never seen or been to. I'd appreciate any information you could give me about it, and if you have even ever heard of it.  Thanks so much for your time.
Cheers, Kathleen

Kathleen,
I've never heard of this "gallery" but after looking them up online, with just a quick view, it is not what could be called a Gallery with a big "G". It is a tourist store at best. Admittedly, I am biased towards galleries with a big "G", so don't let this stop you if your work is the appropriate media, subject matter or price range for this venue.

If you still want to show your work at this venue, ask them for a few artists' names as recommendations or find some of the artist's listed on their web site and contact the artists for their opinions. (Facebook is really good for this sort of search.)

Ask the artists who show their work at this venue about their experience working with the store/gallery. Does this store/gallery really sell work? Do they pay on time? Do they offer discounts? (yuk)  Do they return work promptly when asked? Do they have a good contract? Make sure you ask the store or gallery for their contract BEFORE sending any work.

This same approach as described in the above two paragraphs will work for any store, gallery, Gallery or craft show. The time you invest in your advance research will be worth it.

As an additional resource on a related topic, there is also a series of articles written by Don Friedlich, Andy Cooperman and myself about Submitting Work to Galleries and Retail Establishments.

Click on any of the four articles below to find the download:

    Galleries: Are They Right for You? by Don Friedlich

    Introducing Your Work to a Galler by Harriete Estel Berman

    The Nuts & Bolts of the Gallery.Artist Relationship by Andy Cooperman

    Galleries: Issues to Consider After Your Work Has Been Accepted by Andy Cooperman

Hope that helps.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info

Stay tuned for an upcoming posts about insurance issues and galleries that don't pay on time.

Harriete

Online Marketing Tips: Gallery + Artist Collaboration and Affiliate Commissions

Matrlid_backcu72

When starting my website in 2003, I was concerned, "What will my galleries think?"  I was a bit afraid of stepping on their bailiwick.  But I was also thinking, "Why am I working so hard to develop my own website to market my work online?  Isn't that the gallery's job?  Isn't that a major part of why they earn their 50% commission?  Now I'm taking responsibility for a significant portion of the marketing and promotion of my work in addition to the concept development, creation, and fabrication."

PenguinScallop72
Black and White Identity Earrings
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver wires
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Available through ObjectFetish.com

The Internet enables any artist or maker to accomplish a key marketing task, i.e. publish and distribute a "virtual portfolio." And almost anyone, especially buyers, can find and peruse an artist's website with relatively little effort. Like it or not, the time is past when galleries were the only practical way for clients to find artists and makers. 

The Internet has dramatically changed the dynamics of the relationships between the artist, gallery, and buyer.   In previous posts, I have discussed how galleries will continue to provide unique capabilities and play a vital role in the art business community.  But it is time to recognize that the economic relationships between galleries and artists must adapt as well

ChinLetter72
Chinese Lettering Earrings
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver wires
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Available through ObjectFetish.com



Why change?  Because everyone benefits.   A web of links is definitely more effective in marketing, promoting, and ultimately attracting buyers.  If buyers find what they are looking for by clicking through from one website to another, then each contributing website should be rewarded.  The monetary incentives should encourage such links. 

PepsiColaWomen72
Pepsi Women Earrings
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver wires
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Available through ObjectFetish.com

Artists and galleries mutually benefit from a synergistic relationship. The gallery and the artist need to link together in every possible way.  The mutual benefit is that buyers are more likely to find the work that they will purchase. But realistically, if both parties are working to attract buyers through their respective Internet marketing and promotional efforts, how should the commissions be divided?  The incentives for greater collaboration need to adapt to this new reality.  

Next Tuesday this discussion will continue with Part 2. Online Marketing: Gallery and Artist Collaboration- Considering Affiliate Links with four possible scenarios for compensation when establishing affiliate links. 

NutritionFactsGreenChk72

Nutrition  Earrings (green edge w/check)

Recycled tin cans, sterling silver wires
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Available through ObjectFetish.com


What do you think? I'd like to hear your opinion about this discussion. Either leave a comment or email me directly by CLICKING HERE.

SPECIAL NOTE    Next week, October 17 - 19, 2009, I will be attending the ACC Conference in Minneapolis and blogging about the lectures and discussions.  Subscribe to my blog so that you can get the daily updates.  Hear what Rob Walker  has to say about 2.0 Marketing and the panel discussion with Namita Wiggers, Riding the Long Tail, Marketing Craft on the Internet. Panelists include Lisa Bayne from Guild.com; Amy Shaw of Greenjeans; and Maria Thomas, CEO of Etsy.  

What questions would you like to ask this 2.0 Panel?

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info
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The artist / gallery relationship - Does one size fit all?

Gallery

Traditionally the artist gallery / relationship has been clearly delineated.   The artist made the artwork or craft. The gallery took responsibility for all marketing and sales.  This model is simple and the two domains are served by different skills and expertise.  In effect. however, it is a one-size-fits-all scenario. 

The reality is that business models can be much more complex and apply a range of skills and expertise to varying degrees.   Some artists are in fact quite adept at marketing and sales.  Some galleries are better than others in taking advantage of new technologies and resources and addressing shifting consumer sentiments.  

This is not a new discussion.  Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, manufacturers have chosen whether to sell direct or to sell through distributors and retail channels.  Kelloggs

In many examples, manufacturers focused on making products; and let their retailers focus on marketing and sales.  Kellogg's sells cereal through grocery stores.  Tylenol sells pills through drug stores and convenience stores.  Neither sells directly from the factory.

Dell


At the opposite extreme, Dell and Apple decided to cut out the middle man because they thought they could do it better.  And both are extremely successful. The irony is that Apple created its own retail outlets through Apple stores and Dell has no retail outlets at all.

Apple

And there are many variations. 

Here is a hybrid model.  Cell phones are sold through service provider outlets like Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T.  In addition to their own stores, they also sell through other retail channels like Best Buy and Radio Shack, and many retail websites.

Some clothing manufactures are selling directly from their websites, some aren't.  Some, like Lands End, do both.

Kohler (a well known plumbing fixtures manufacturer) doesn't sell from their factory, but they sell one line of lower priced products through Home Depot and a premium line to their more exclusive retail outlets.  Most people don't realize the distinction in the two product lines until they study the products carefully or talk to a plumber.

There are many different business models that are quite effective in the marketplace.  Who is right?  The real point is that a variety of business models can be effective, i.e. the business model is not sacrosanct.  There is a spectrum of possible models and they all can succeed or fail for reasons beyond the business model.

One model does not fit all situations.  The 50% commission (or 50/50 artist/gallery) model has been around a long time.  I think it is time to reconsider and create some new business models.   I am not saying that the 50/50 model is bad, but it is not ideal for all scenarios.

How and when would some variation of other business models work?  In what situations would another business model be more effective?

What do you think?  Are you marketing your work online independently?  How do you or would you coordinate your marketing with a gallery?  Share your ideas about the changing artist/gallery relationship.  I'm going to continue this discussion in a series of upcoming posts.

SPECIAL NOTE:   Next week, October 17 - 19, 2009, I will be attending the ACC Conference in Minneapolis and blogging about the lectures and discussions.  Subscribe to my blog so that you can get the daily updates.  Hear what Rob Walker  has to say about 2.0 Marketing and the panel discussion with Namita Wiggers, Riding the Long Tail, Marketing Craft on the Internet.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Online Marketing Tips - Galleries and Virtual Galleries

Online marketing is here to stay and will only expand its impact in the future.  Increasingly, potential buyers will explore online "virtual galleries" before going to a show or visiting a town to decide how and what to see with their time and energy.  Gallery and artist web sites need to adapt to this trend and to the growing role of virtual galleries.

HarrieteBerman1
"Your Not Just for" Lifesaver Bracelet
Recycled tin cans, 10k gold rivets
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen
Mobilia Gallery

Virtual galleries and physical galleries each have distinct advantages and disadvantages.  They should be synergistic.  They are both under the control of the gallery owner.  However, it seems that most galleries currently limit the number of images on their "virtual gallery" websites.  The reasons may vary, but often are along the lines of trying to encourage online visitors to walk into the gallery to see and experience more work at the gallery in person.  I fully agree that most buyers indeed want to see the work personally before purchase.  This is only one reason why physical galleries will continue to fulfill a unique role in the art and craft community.  Galleries offer the thrill of shopping, viewing and maybe even touching the work, in person. 

Opportunities lost.  My personal opinion is that the Internet offers an amazingly effective outreach to the widest possible audience.   Any buyer who is mildly interested in a piece may be stimulated into visiting the gallery by finding and seeing an image online first.  But if they can't find it online, why visit at all?  An Internet-surfing shopper is LESS likely to visit a gallery if the website does not show an image that interests them.  Instead, the virtual gallery should give the surfing shopper every opportunity to find an image that will cause them to visit the physical gallery. 

BR3-3-07_cu
"Your Not Just" Lifesaver Bracelet (close-up)
Recycled tin cans, 10k gold rivets
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen
Mobilia Gallery

ALL work should be exhibited online.  This should become the new standard for every gallery, show, and exhibition.  With this approach the gallery's web site can also function as a catalog without the expense and environmental impact of printing.  This web page can remain indefinitely as an archive for future reference.

Within a gallery's website, each artist represented by the gallery should have a whole page (or preferably pages) dedicated to the artist's portfolio and profile. Every exhibition at the gallery should have internal links from the artist's name and work in that particular show to the artist's portfolio page. 

The gallery should also link to the artist's web site.  While linking to the artist's web site may seem counter-intuitive to the gallery, they can not prevent people from taking five more seconds on their own for a search on the artist and finding the artist's web site.  The link to the artist's web site is another way that the gallery provides a service to the client. 

BR3-3-07b_cu
"Your Not Just" Lifesaver Bracelet (close-up)
Recycled tin cans, 10k gold rivets
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen
Mobilia Gallery

It's a two way street.  Artists should link to galleries and any shows or exhibitions that include their work. The Internet is a web of information and the best way to attract buyers is to give them every opportunity and every possible path to find you. 

The artist/gallery relationship is evolving into a new paradigm.  Buyers are using the Internet to choose how they will spend their time and money.  Consequently, both the gallery and the artist need to adapt to take advantage of this new reality.   

What do you think? I'd like to hear your opinion about this new idea.  Either leave a comment or email me directly by CLICKING HERE.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Online Marketing - Gallery and Artist Collaboration


Galleries have traditionally been the primary conduit for buyers to find quality art and craft. The galleries were responsible for marketing and promotion as well as supporting a physical retail space to show art and craft. Artists and makers typically felt ill at ease in such marketing efforts (with the exception of wholesale/retail shows) and preferred to devote their time to the studio.

The Internet has changed the equation - permanently. 

MIRRORculadies72
Identity Complex Mirror          2002-2004
Recycled tin cans.
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

One of the new realities is that artists and makers CAN market and promote their work via the Internet without gallery representation.  Potential buyers CAN find artists and makers without gallery vetting. The days are past when clients can only find an artist exclusively through a gallery. 

However, in an age of information overload, galleries still offer authoritative credibility regarding the merit of represented work.  For the client, galleries also offer expert guidance, appraisals, and insight well beyond the mere display space for viewing.  For the artist and maker, galleries offer skilled promotion and reliable sales support.


MIRRORfull72
Identity Complex Mirror          2002-2004
Recycled tin cans.
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

But the Internet is a multi-lane highway connecting many destinations. So here is a radical idea . . .  Artists and galleries need to work together in their marketing efforts.

Huge opportunities are lost when galleries and artists don't act as a team to fully benefit from their respective resources.

Artists need to have their own web sites for credibility and visibility. Galleries need to use the Internet more effectively to showcase all the work for which they are responsible. An exhibition should no longer be presented to the public as one image on a postcard or one page on a web site. With minimal expense, the entire exhibition can be posted as an online catalog of the show.

Galleries and artists can both be more effective with online marketing.  Improved SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one goal, i.e. a bigger "web" of links (more links earns a higher rating).  SEO can drive more traffic to the web sites of both the gallery and the artist. 


Galleries can benefit by linking to all artists' inventory and exhibition pages.   Artists should email and post on the their websites any relevant gallery link such as upcoming events, openings, exhibitions, juried shows, etc.  

Likewise, artists can benefit by helping galleries link to any new resources such as newspa

Idmirrch  
Identity Complex Mirror          2002-2004
Recycled tin cans.
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

per reviews, magazine articles, open studios, or selection into books.


Both parties need to trust that purchases generated as a result of either w

eb site will be positive and boost credibility, visibility and revenue.

If a customer arrives at my site via the gallery's web site and purchases work from my site, hopefully we can work out the appropriate commission for the gallery. 

Commission strategies need to be reconsidered.  This is an area that needs a lot more discussion.  For example, the web sites for both the gallery and the artist could set up affiliate links that pay commissions in both directions.  There are many other mutually rewarding scenarios that encourage ongoing collaboration.  We need to adapt to a new future. 

Yes there are areas of overlap that will need negotiation. But realistically, was there ever a time without issues to discuss?  I expect to revisit this topic in the near future.

Like it or not, the multi-lane highway of the Internet is going to get bigger and better.  A collaborative effort can be mutually beneficial.

Do you have any ideas or comments? I wonder if the upcoming ACC Conference in Minneapolis will touch on this topic? Stay tuned to my blogs from the Conference in two weeks.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info

 


Online Marketing Tips: Gallery Websites and Internal Links

3Mmback-72
3M & m Candy Dispenser    (back view)
Recycled tin cans, candy
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

The Internet provides a powerful new way for galleries to engage potential buyers.  And most galleries nowadays do have beautiful graphics and images on their web sites.  However, some sites are not yet taking full advantage of the interactive capabilities to enhance the client's experience

3Mm.72jpg
3M & m Candy Dispenser    (front view)
Recycled tin cans, candy
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

A web site enables a gallery to be showing and promoting their entire inventory 24 hours a day around the world in beautiful full color.  The web site (like a full time digital assistant) should help the visitor enjoy themselves nearly as well as a walk-in visitor to the gallery itself.  The web site is not just a place to publish static text announcements and pictures.  It is a dynamic medium that can and should be able to help visitors easily cross reference the artists' profiles, statements, and artwork along with the variety of events and other content that is unique to each gallery. 

Here are a couple of easy recommendations from my personal experience.


Internal Links   On a number of different gallery web sites, I've noticed the same problem. For upcoming gallery shows, the web site announces the show and lists the exhibiting artists' names, but does not enable internal links to the participating artists' pages and images within the gallery's own web site.  Each artist's name on the web site could have been a hyperlink taking the visitor directly to images of the artist's work already at the gallery.  The lack of internal links forces the visitor to stop, look around, and attempt to figure out how to navigate around the web site for additional information.  If visitors get frustrated, they leave.  Consequently, both the gallery and the artist may have lost potential buyers.  Internal links also enhance SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which is very beneficial to any web site.

3MmBACKCUTedge100
3M & m Candy Dispenser (close-up view)
Recycled tin cans, candy
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen



Hyperlink Anchors   A long page of content on a single web page is a common occurrence on many web sites.   If a visitor must scroll down an extensive page to find multiple artists or exhibitions further down a web page, then I recommend that some hyperlink anchors should be inserted at important subsections . . . and a small navigation list of these subsections (similar to a table of contents) should be shown at the top of the page.  This helps a visitor who is unfamiliar with the website to see what is further down and "jump" directly to an item of content.  The purpose is to empower visitors to follow their interests as easily as possible. 

These are two very useful and easy features to implement that can make a gallery web site more enjoyable for visitors - and more profitable for both the gallery and the artist.  Artists can be advocates by providing amazing images and giving constructive feedback to galleries regarding ease of navigating around the gallery web site.

Galleries continue to offer real benefits for clients by selecting and displaying work of merit from represented artists and makers.  Additional guidance, appraisals, and insights can be achieved through direct contact.   The overall value still revolves around the client relationship, even if a part of that relationship is now an online reality. 

             





Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


What if a show has no insurance?

7extinctioncover.JudyHoffman
Extinction Book
Judy Hoffman

Dear Harriete,

Would you put your work in a show that has no insurance? Would you try to get your own, or do it as a group? Or send lower-priced work? Or just pass?  I'm wondering what to do about an invitational show at a local arts center.

Judith Hoffman
http://www.judithhoffman.net
http://www.judithhoffman.net/blog/

Judy,

I have frequently been asked this question.  For me, whether an exhibition includes insurance or not is always a deciding factor about whether I show my work or not.  The exhibition space must have insurance or I will not send my work to a show. 

PencilProjectMakerFaire_b
Harriete working on the Pencil Project
Metal Arts Guild display at Maker Faire

There have only been a few minor exceptions to this rule such as when I was at Maker Faire with the local Metal Arts Guild.  At Maker Faire, I was standing right next to the display, all the work was in a very heavy locked case, and I showed less important work.

Insurance during shipping is a related matter.  You can buy insurance for shipping from the shipping agent.  I try to use the U.S.P.S. (United States Postal Service) if possible for shipping my work.  At the post office, it is easy to either purchase insurance or send the work registered mail, insured for better handling.  Unfortunately, they have size limitations for the boxes they will handle.

Alternatively, the exhibition sponsor might have insurance that will cover the work while in transit.  Check with them in advance before shipping your work.

Make sure that arrangements for return shipping are handled in a similar manner.  Personally, I do not consider shipping work by UPS acceptable for one of a kind art or craft. Check in advance how the exhibition sponsor plans to return your work.

It is always your responsibility to pack your work carefully and professionally so that it will arrive safely.  Shipping companies DO NOT accept responsibility for damaged items - even if it is insured -- if it is not packed properly. Stay tuned, there will be a new Professional Guidelines topic about Packing and Shipping Art and Craft in the coming months.  In the meantime, if you ever need it, there is an excellent Professional Guidelines topic titled, "Artist Checklist: Claims for Damaged Work."

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Gallery Series: Finding Galleries, Submitting Images, Working Relationships

At the beginning of this year, Don Friedlich, Andy Cooperman and I wrote a series of articles originally published on Etsy that I think all artists and makers will find useful. These articles cover some of the most common questions asked by emerging artists.  It is rewarding to know that these articles are now available as a resource to anyone who wants to read this information.

You can find the entire series HERE on my web site. These articles are also on the Professional Development Seminar page on the SNAG web site.

The four articles are:

Galleries: Are They Right for You?
by Don Friedlich

Introducing Your Work to a Gallery
by Harriete Estel Berman

The Nuts & Bolts of the Gallery/Artist Relationship
by Andy Cooperman

Galleries: Issues to Consider After Your Work Has Been Accepted
by Andy Cooperman

If you want to find out more about any of the authors of these articles click on their names to go to their web site.

I hope that you find this information helpful.  If you have any further questions just ASK Harriete at: bermaid@harriete-estel-berman.info. It would be helpful to every one to hear your questions.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info

 


How can I find a gallery to show my work?

In the previous post, John Jensen wanted to find a gallery that would show his knives.  My first response is to work toward developing your target audience directly.  In his case, it is with the knife collector audience. For each reader, it will be some other select group.  However, if you really want to be on a gallery's radar, then there are several steps you can take.

Option 1. Participate in group shows hosted at a gallery or non-profit exhibition space.
Option 2. Do your research to find galleries that show work within your price range, media and style, then send them a "package" about your work.

To pursue Option 1, assuming you really want to have your work included in a gallery show, look for group shows that are occasionally sponsored by galleries or non-profit exhibition spaces nearby. These are usually based on a theme, specific media, or an exhibition of the local arts guild, etc.

You should join as many guilds and art organizations as you can find, both at a local and national level.  Join organizations both within and outside of your specific network such as local Arts Guild, SNAG, and ACC (American Craft Council).  Look in their newsletters and publications for possible exhibition opportunities and make work to fit these shows. 

Adapt to a theme.  If the theme of a show is "purple with red spots" then you need to make a knife that is "purple with red spots."  If the theme of the show is political, then make a political knife. If the theme of the show is boxes, then make a box for your knife.

Jensen_dagger_cover
Dagger of the cover of 500 Knives
John Jensen

There can be no holding back with the definition of whether your knife fits a show. Look at the exhibition themes as broadly as possible and think about how your work can fit.

Here is an example: A few years back there was a publication of Exhibition in Print sponsored by SNAG about the senses. Your knife might have fit right in if your photo included touch (in other words,  sharpness of your knives) as an example of the senses.  (I am not recommending cutting yourself with knives here. I am simply suggesting that a knife with a sharp edge could be about the senses especially if your photo and Artist Statement spoke to the theme.)

As I mentioned in the previous post, marketing art and craft work is not just taking a photograph and PhotoShop-ing the image.  You need to think about how you can find opportunities in unexpected places and develop a following for your work.

Galleries won't do this for you, they will only follow your lead if you have proven that you have an audience that wants to see your knives.

Wishing for new opportunities outside the knife world will not cut it. (pun intended). YOU need to find these opportunities in every way you can. By the way, you should definitely get your own Facebook name if you can and name your image files when you send them out following to previous blog recommendations.

Look at the recent Profesional Guidelines document Working with Digital Images Effectively so that you know how to title your image files properly.

While we are talking about images, I have also noticed that knife makers seem to Photo Shop their images into multiple views combined in one image (sometimes with vibrantly colored backgrounds) such as the images of John Jensen's knives in the previous post. My impression is that this style of image is not appropriate to the gallery context. I would keep your photos for galleries to backgrounds that are white (or graduated white to dark) with one view of your knife per image. Use the Professional Guidelines document Guide to Quality Photographic Images to help evaluate your images for the galleries.

Hope this information helps.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


How can I market my work when galleries resist?

Krystallos
Krystallos
John Jensen

Dear ASK Harriete,

I was wondering if you had any guidelines on how to find and approach galleries. I have a hard enough time with people being freaked out by my work (knives) that I want to make sure I'm doing everything else right to help offset the "Knives are not art", or "Knives are weapons" B.S. that I often encounter...

Any tips and techniques on getting galleries to say "Yes"?

Thanks,

John Jensen

Dear John,

You do have the ultimate difficult object to show in galleries . . . and frankly, I am wondering why you want to be in galleries at all.  Knives do have a market but it is usually not in a gallery setting.

Galleries are in the business to show work that they think their customers will buy, otherwise they will go out of business.  They base their decisions on their business experience, as well as their own interests and personal tastes.  If their business grows, they develop a following of like-minded clients that reinforces their earlier decisions on which artists to represent.

Syndrome
Syndrome
John Jensen

If galleries lack interest in showing knives, it is most likely because they think that your work will not appeal to their client base.  This is a business decision and is not a reflection on whether knives are art or craft, etc.

In my next post, I will suggest ways to become more involved in the gallery scene, how to find a gallery, and how to improve your chances that a gallery will choose to show your work. However, I think you have much more potential finding buyers and collectors by using the Internet, in addition to connecting with books and magazines about knives.

Make it easy for knife enthusiasts to find you.  The Internet is fantastic for connecting both makers and buyers of unusual or less common objects.  Since your work is in a distinct niche market, the Internet could serve you well.   Join and use as many online groups as you can find that will show images of your work. This includes Facebook, Flickr, and Crafthaus as examples.  These sites offer a number of specialized groups, especially Flickr. They also list online exhibitions and real world exhibition opportunities as a service to their members . . . or you could sponsor an exhibition yourself.

Look online for knife organizations, knife conferences, knife craft shows, even events that attract knife enthusiasts. I am not familiar with the knife world, but the Internet definitely makes research much easier for anyone interested in niche markets. The point is that you want to be found by people who are more likely to appreciate and buy your knives.  If your potential clients are not the typical gallery clientele, then you need to "show" your work where your audience will find you.   

Jensen_dagger_cover
Nuibiru, 2008,
Cover photo for 500 Knives

John Jensen

Keep going...look online for blogs about knives. If you can't find one, start your own.   With a little bit of effort toward building your online visibility, your audience with grow dramatically. 

I'd also like to bust the myth that a gallery will do all the work of marketing for you.  They will do some, but you can't be a market success unless YOU take charge of marketing your work. 

I noticed that you will have a knife on the cover of 500 Knives.  Great news! Your next step is to look up every one of the knife makers in the book. Look at their websites or find them online. Look where they show their work. Email them, network with them online. Ask them, "Where do you show your work?" Look for shops or stores that sell knives as well. This might be a much better direction than galleries since stores are accustomed to buying merchandise outright, rather than showing work on consignment.

Stay tuned for the next post about connecting with the gallery marketplace.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Expectations of Exclusivity

Dear Harriete,
What is a reasonable expectation of exclusivity for a gallery/store? I am negotiating a contract with a store in another state and they want me to agree to them being my exclusive rep in that state. This doesn't sound reasonable to me. Am I crazy or what? I feel I'm being taken for a ride.
Sincerely,
Afraid of Being Taken Advantage Of

Dear Afraid of Being Taken;
Exclusivity can be a very complex issue.  In simple terms, Exclusivity means that the gallery will be the only agent representing the artist’s work usually within a defined geographical area or for a defined group of work.   In practice, Exclusivity can have many nuances and variables.  Ultimately, an agreement (contract) between the artist and the gallery spells out the specifics of the relationship regarding Exclusivity and other items (see Professional Guidelines sample contract).

It is fairly common for galleries to request some degree of exclusivity when agreeing to represent an artist’s work.   From the gallery’s point of view, they may be planning to invest in marketing efforts to promote your work such as retail display space, an opening event, mailings, advertising, or direct communication with their collectors.  For such effort and expenditures, the gallery is justified in seeking to avoid being circumvented and losing commission income on sales that they have generated or supported.

FROM THE ARTIST'S POINT OF VIEW
From the artist’s point of view, a gallery that diligently promotes your work can be invaluable, especially if you could not or would not generate the same level of visibility to sell work.  However, the gallery should be expected to earn the privilege of this Exclusivity.  In a real sense, the gallery is working for you – and you need to evaluate what sales opportunities you gain or sacrifice by granting exclusivity to this gallery.  If you realistically do not lose any sales from another venue or opportunity, then the granting of exclusivity does not really cost you anything.  If the requested exclusivity creates a conflict or is inconsistent with arrangements with other retail venues or exhibition opportunities, then you should negotiate further to minimize such conflicts. 

LIMITATIONS OF EXCLUSIVITY
In an agreement with a gallery, exclusivity may be limited to a state, city, art show, or by a particular group of work (such as jewelry or sculpture) or by a particular series of work (e.g. bracelets from the “blue group” and not the “red group”).   In exchange for the grant of exclusivity, the agreement should also acknowledge or specify the gallery’s responsibility for promotion.   Exclusivity may be granted initially, but may be contingent on a time limit (such as 12 months) or on a minimum dollar volume sold during a specific period of time.

Going back to your specific situation, it is not unusual for a gallery to request exclusivity within a state. However, the real issue is whether the gallery will adequately represent your work and generate enough sales from the entire state to justify this exclusive relationship.

SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Does the gallery have visibility and a reputation sufficient to cover that entire state? 
How are they able to adequately promote your work and attract attention throughout the entire state?
Do they advertise statewide? 
Is there another gallery in the same state that would like to show your work? 
Are there wholesale/retail shows in that state in which you would like to sell your work?
Who is their competitor?
Would you be able to participate in special exhibition opportunities at other galleries, non-profits or museums within their exclusive territory?
Will the gallery allow you work to be shown at another gallery or special exhibition within their  exclusive territory ?
How would potential purchase of your work at a special exhibition opportunity be handled under your exclusive relationship with this gallery?

WILL AN EXCLUSIVITY ARRANGEMENT AFFECT PREVIOUSLY ESTABLISHED ACCOUNTS?
If you do not have any previously established accounts (gallery or shows) in this state, then perhaps you are thinking that you MIGHT lose sales from other sources.  If this is your primary concern, then a positive business relationship  with the gallery – including some degree of exclusivity – seems like a reasonable decision.

On the other hand, if you have pre-existing accounts with other stores, galleries or shows, then you should have some idea how much money is generated on average from these other venues.  If you would lose these existing sources of revenue by granting exclusivity to the gallery, then what is the net gain – or loss?  Tell the gallery that you have these existing sources of revenue (they may not be aware of them).  The gallery may be willing to exempt these specific sources or compromise.   Or they may decline to represent you at all if they realize that they can not compete with these other retail locations.   Be professional about the discussion.  The gallery is seeking to maximize their revenue and so are you.   You are offering to sell your artwork through this gallery and they are offering a market in which to sell your work.  It should be a mutually beneficial relationship.   

Another option would be to agree to the exclusive relationship for a specific group of work.  Grant exclusivity to the gallery for a particular line only, or a series, or make a special group of work. This way the gallery would have an “exclusive” of some of your work though not on everything. Some galleries may think this is just fine, others may not agree.  Remember everything is negotiable.

EXCLUSIVITY AND THE INTERNET AND COLLECTORS
Two challenging areas to define under an exclusivity clause in a contract -- the Internet and collectors.   

The INTERNET
The Internet has no state  boundaries.  If you invested time and money into your web site to expand your marketing sphere, how would customers attracted to your web site fall under the exclusivity definition of your contract?  One compromise could be that the gallery receives the full commission for any customers who live in the same state as the gallery; but no commission for residents of any other state.  There is no perfect tradeoff, but give a little and get a little.

COLLECTORS
Collectors often travel nationwide and buy from galleries in various states.  What if a collector from the same state as the gallery came to your studio to buy work or bought your work from a gallery in a different state?  Don’t assume this won’t happen or that the gallery won’t find out about it.  It is impossible to itemize every possible scenario, but if you already know about specific situations, then work with the gallery to find a reasonable compromise.  For everything else, try to have a simple guiding principle or two in the contract and be ready to talk through future situations with the gallery if and when they arise.   A good working relationship requires some ongoing effort.

SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS
A possible path to resolving some of these issues is to ask the collector interested in your work, “How did you find out about my work?”, in a casual conversational manner. If the collector replies that they first saw your work at the gallery that represents your work, you likely owe the gallery a commission.  This may be a full commission or a partial commission (say 10% to 25%) depending on how the collector found you.   Especially if your gallery has been using images of your work in their advertising for the gallery, getting you into shows at museums or non-profit spaces, arranging articles about your work in the magazines or  arranging for your work to be purchased by a museum, then it is more likely that you owe them a commission.

On the other hand, a collector may have seen your work at several different galleries, non-profits, museums magazine, or books over several years. This  purchase may be the result of your own extensive efforts to promote your work well prior to any of the gallery’s promotion of your work. 
The merit of an “exclusive” with the gallery is that they want the work to be unique for their area. They don’t want to have the same work as the place down the street.  If the gallery is perceived as showing the best or most interesting work, and your work is shown in this establishment, it can enhance your reputation also.

Ultimately, the decision is yours, but I would recommend signing an agreement with an exclusivity clause if it is balanced by sensible limits, reasonable promotional commitments or minimum dollar volume for the artist.