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"?
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.
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 to find 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.
Cover photo for 500 Knives
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 will 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.
This post was updated on December 23, 2021.