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May 2012

Crafting a Niche Market with Unique Cowboy Boots

Lisa Sorrell
"You're Running Wild" by Lisa Sorrell

Last year's SNAG Professional Development Seminar 2011 was about Niche Marketing. Ever since then I've been looking around for examples of successful niche marketing.

In this case, successful niche marketing can be defined as finding a specialized market for exactly what you love to make and being able to make money fulfilling that market.

Recently, I discovered the amazing cowboy boots made by Lisa Sorrell on Crafthaus.  In an online conversation, she revealed that she has a waiting list of up to a year! How about them cowboy boots!



Lisa Sorrell
  Waltz of the Angels by Lisa Sorrell

Below is an interview with Lisa Sorrell about her niche market and how it came about.  I suggest watching the PDS 2011 presentation about Niche Marketing with Hilary Pfeiffer, Emiko Oye, and Deb Stoner to learn more about niche marketing. 

LisaSorrellI heard the bluebirdsing3
"I Heard the Bluebird Sing"

Lisa Sorrell interview:

How did you begin making cowboy boots?
I discovered boot making through a want ad placed in the local newspaper seeking someone “to stitch boot tops.” I never heard of boot-making or worn a pair of cowboy boots. The ad was placed by the legendary bookmaker Jay Griffith, who was a cantankerous old alcoholic. A veteran of both WWII and the Korean War, his favorite phrase, “GODDAMNIT!” was usually delivered at full volume.

It was only supposed to be a temporary job, but boot making appealed to me because I could create beautiful and colorful designs with sewing, knives, and hammers.


Lisa Sorrell The Way I am
  ”The Way I Am" by Lisa Sorrell

How do you find your customers?
I opened my own business, Sorrell Custom Boots, in 1996. Initially, I didn’t think any further than opening the doors and hoping customers would hear about me and order the intricate and colorful boots that I made for my husband and myself.

I caught the eye of Tyler Beard, a noted boot historian, and collector who was working on his second book about cowboy boots entitled Art of the Boot. Tyler featured four boots from our personal collection and suddenly those were the type of boots I was being asked to build.

LisaSorrell Drifting and dreaming
"Drifting and Dreaming" by Lisa Sorrell

That was my first introduction to the power of marketing. I’m not a cowboy and can’t pretend to be one, and I have very few customers who are cowboys. While I build a traditional cowboy boot, my own personal philosophy is that cowboy boots are a way for men to wear high heels and bright colors.
Who are your customers?

My typical client is a businessman, often one who enjoys western art and owns a second home somewhere in the West.


Lisa Sorrell Come early morning
   "Come Early Morning" by Lisa Sorrell


How did you develop your niche market?
I choose the venues I attend very carefully. I put a lot of time into thinking about who my typical client is, and who I want him/her to be. I don’t select events at random, I choose events where that client is likely to be.

 I particularly enjoy introducing cowboy boots to new markets.
In the past few years I’ve done the Baltimore Craft Show, the American Craft Exposition in Evanston, Illinois, and the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, D.C. These aren’t areas where one would typically imagine cowboy boot wearers to be, but in my way of thinking that simply means a whole show full of people who don’t know they want cowboy boots yet.

When I go to shows these are the types of boots my husband and I wear.  They’re types of boots I have on display in my booth, and they’re well represented in my portfolio. I position myself to attract the client I want and to encourage him or her to order the type of boots I love to build. I prefer making intricate and colorful boots and I like to use exotic leathers.


Lisa Sorrell Cherokee Fiddle
Cherokee Fiddle by Lisa Sorrell


How do customers influence the commissions?
Since each pair of boots is a commission, the client has a large part in each design decision. Some clients choose from a portfolio of work, some request small changes in colors or patterns that result in new designs, and others bring drawings or ideas to be translated into a personal and wearable piece of art. This element of collaboration is the beginning. After the client takes the boot and wears them they begin to also take on the shape and personality of the owner, completing the partnership.


How do you structure your commissions?
I build two to three pairs of boots per month. The waiting time is usually around one year. Boot prices start at $3500, with additional charges for designs or exotic leathers.

A deposit of half reserves a spot on the calendar and the second half is due during the month the boots are being built before they’re shipped. An order form filled out by hand, detailing all leather, color, and design choices avoids problems. This form filled out in triplicate (one for the client, two for my files) is a record of each decision and it’s proven to be an invaluable part of the ordering process.

Do you make exhibition/competition designs?

I prefer to make competition pieces for either my husband or myself following my own taste.  My boots have won awards for best artist in both Art to Wear and Leather categories at the Western Design Conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Other awards include the Founder’s Award at the American Craft Exposition in Evanston, Illinois, Bronze Award winner at the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, D.C., and a Gold Medal in shoe-making competitions in both Wiesbaden, Germany, and Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


More information about Lisa Sorrell boots:

Lisa enjoys speaking, teaching, and promoting the craft of boot-making. She regularly updates her Facebook page with photos and explanations of ongoing work in the shop; clients who are having boots built can watch as their boots are made. She also has a YouTube channel where she posts videos of boot-making. 

This post was updated on March 19, 2022, to provide current links.

<div style="width:425px" id="__ss_8462501"> <strong style="display:block;margin:12px 0 4px"><a href="" title="Niche Marketing from SNAG PDS 2011" target="_blank">Niche Marketing from SNAG PDS 2011</a></strong> <iframe src="" width="360" height="270" frameborder="0" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no"></iframe> <div style="padding:5px 0 12px"> View another <a href="" target="_blank">webinar</a> from <a href="" target="_blank">Harriete Estel Berman</a> </div> </div>

Rings Photos, Eye Do, and I Don't - Part Two of Two

The previous post on ASK Harriete had examples of "Eye Don't" ring photos, the most common mistakes when taking photos of rings. I am not trying to make light of the situation. Taking a photo of a ring is perhaps one of the most challenging situations there is for getting a quality photographic image.

To get a quality photo of a ring you need (at a minimum):

  • Plenty of light to increase the depth of field so the entire ring will be in focus.
  • Close-up lens or camera with a Macro setting suitable for getting in close and in focus.
  • Museum Wax or Earthquake Hold
  • Flawless background suitable for a closeup image.

These commercial ring photos show a couple of excellent ring positions.

Ringgood1standStanding the ring upright can show the side and top. Note how the inside of the ring is still in focus and the hallmark is visible. What a great way to get your "name" out there.



Ringgood2leanforwardPhotographing the ring from the top displays the top of the ring effectively. Note how the brand name or hallmark inside the ring is in focus and helps establish the "brand."



Ringgood3loriGottliegStanding up the ring creates a great composition. Use a little Museum Wax or Earthquake Hold to position the ring for the photo. The entire ring is in focus. Ring by Lori Gottlieg on The Artful Home.






Ringgood5This ring stands ups nicely. The stone is prominent and you can still see the hallmark inside the ring. Ring by April Higashi.

I hope this post and the previous post help you take better photos.  If you have a great photo of a ring, please send it. I will ADD it to this post.  


Related topics on ASK Harriete:

Earrings Up, Don't Take 'em Lying Down

Photo Comparisons and Descriptions - Now Optimize Your Submission

Behind the Camera: Inexpensive Secrets for A Great Model Shoot

Brush Out Glare in Photoshop to Improve Photographic Images - by Philip Cohen

Eliminate Glare in Photographic Images with Digital Magic - A Photographic Tutorial by Philip Cohen

“Lighting Shiny Surfaces for Quality Photographic Images” by Philip Cohen

This post was updated on March 19, 2022, to provide current links.

Rings Photos, Eye Do, and I Don't - Part One of Two

The previous post was about getting quality photographic images of earrings.

This post is about common mistakes with ring photos. Today is the "eye don't" bad ring positions in photos. The next post is "Eye Do" for quality photo images.

Ringbadphoto1"Eye Don't" uses a commercial ring display through the ring. This is a guaranteed bad photo option no matter how beautiful the ring.



"Eye Don't" uses a stick or mandrel through the ring.





Ring 4 

"Eye Don't" prop up the rings with sticks or any other fixture. It looks awkward and hides the ring.


Ringbad3"Eye Don't" holds the ring in the photo. No matter how interesting the ring is, most people have unattractive hands, thus the photos look awkward.


Badring8"Eye Don't" wears the ring in the photo. We can't see the entire ring and hands are usually unattractive and distracting.



Ring5"Eye Don't" lay down the ring. This creates a lifeless image obscuring part of the ring. The image of the ring is too small, not filling the frame.

Badringphoto 6While this ring photo isn't bad, it isn't as good as it could be. Laying down the ring is lifeless, and we should see more of the stone on top. In addition, the hallmark (inside the ring) is upside down. Standing up the ring (as shown in the diamond ring to the right) looking at the shoulder of red stones, and the hallmark inside the ring would be a vast improvement. Ringgood1stand

Stay tuned for better ring photos in the next post on ASK Harriete.


This post was updated on March 17, 2022.

Earrings Up, Don't Take 'em Lying Down

One of the questions that frequently comes up is:  "What makes a good photo?" There are many possibilities of good photos....too numerous to mention, so I would like to focus on earrings. Below are the most common mistakes in photographing earrings AND earrings solutions for good photos. 

Generally, earrings should NOT be photographed lying down at an angle
. Common problems include getting the entire earring in focus, awkward compositions, and poor or weak display of the earrings.  The photos below show these problems.

Earrings Lying Down 1 

Earrings LAYINGdown 





Don't hang earrings on teacups, or bowls.
These "props" actually distract the viewer's eye more than help to display your work.  This does not produce professional-quality photos as shown in the examples below.
Earrings teacup Earrings on teacups




Do not photograph earrings in groups. 
Group photos usually distract the viewer by appearing cluttered, disorganized, and individually unimportant.

Earring collection Earringsgrouphanging








BIBA Schutz earringsTo create good photos, make an interesting composition consistent with the style of the earrings. These angular earrings have angled ear wire and the rectangular format fills the photo. It works!  Earrings by Biba Schutz


Earrings standing up by Emiko OyeOr stand the earrings up while focusing on an interesting composition. This photo works well because it shows both the side and the face of the earrings.  Earrings by Emiko Oye




 Andy Cooperman earring hanging from a mannequinhanging.spiracles.holes.earUsing a mannequin to model the earring offers a flawless simple modern solution. It makes a great photo with no hair and makeup concerns, but the downside is that you can show only one earring at a time. Earrings by Andy Cooperman. Photo by Doug Yaple.




Strata Earrings" Gold & Silver Earrings Created by Sydney Lynch Poke the post or ear wire into a piece of paper. This is a very simple graceful solution but avoid distracting paper. Gold & Silver "Strata Earrings" by Sydney Lynch


AOLBlueLPoke the post through a photo of a model printed on photo paper. The great part of this solution is that you can find a fabulous-looking ear without fussy little hairs that are usually distracting. AOL Earrings by Harriete Estel Berman


Flower Game Blue PINk Earrings by Harriete Estel BermanCreate an interesting composition with two earrings and scan using your computer scanner. Earrings by Harriete Estel Berman. This option requires a scanner and PhotoShop skills.




Here is a photography solution from Emiko Oye. She hangs her earrings from a rod for the photoshoot. Then PhotoShops out the wire.

Left is the "raw" photo. Below is the photo after PhotoShop.
Thank you, Emiko for sharing your photo magic.





In the photo (left) for these Iced Window LEGO earrings by emiko oye the wire has been PhotoShop-ed out for a professional quality photo. 


Berman and OyeJEWELRY_Web
The most challenging photo option involves using a live model. Read previous posts on ASK Harriete for tips and tricks with photo sessions with a model. Earrings by Harriete Estel Berman. Necklace by emiko oye.

Do you have an innovative earring solution for taking great photos? Would you like to share this with the readers of ASK Harriete? Let me know. I will add your images to this post or write a new post.


This post was updated on March 17, 2022, to provide current links.

What information Does a Promotional Image Need?

NoCredit72AH800When you send a promotional image, do you always include a description, size, dimensions? How about a link to your website?

Did you include the price? When it's a Trunk Show or craft fair and the event is all about selling, yes, in this situation include the price.

PushFlowerah800If asked for a promotional image of your work, are you ready to send an image in the next five minutes? A successful artist or maker is always ready. The Press always wants their images yesterday.

TrunkshowmodifiedFor the SNAG Trunk Show, a couple of people sent me images. They were prepared!


"Spectacular achievement is always preceded by spectacular preparation."
--Robert Schuller


JenniferButterfieldpendentJennifer Butterfield sent this pendant image as a TIF at 6MB.

TIP #1
 Send a JPG and offer TIFs for print as an option. 


Purse by Joan WatersThis purse is by Joan Waters. It is a great idea for a Trunk Show image or standing outside the show.

TIP #2 Please include a complete description.
Joan included dimensions and materials with the image. Good for her! This sculpture is 5' high x 4' wide, made of welded steel.


Don FriedlichDon Friedlich sent this image of his brooch. His images have a strong graphic appeal.

 TIP #3  Photos should be dramatic and eye-catching.



Shelia SummerlinSheila Summerlin sent the image to the left.

TIP #4 Always include a link to your website along with a complete description.





Amaretti72.AH800I always look forward to the TRUNK SHOW at the SNAG Conference. Last year it was a huge success.

If you are in the SNAG Trunk Show write about it on your blog, website, Facebook, or Crafthaus page. Spread the word with images of your work and others. Send me your images if you are in the Trunk Show.

My Flower Pins were available for purchase at the SNAG Trunk Show and can be found on my website.  They vary in price and for one-of-a-kind work are in a very affordable price range.  


This post was updated on March 17, 2022, to provide current links.

What Should Trunk Show Promotion Look Like?

TrunkshowmodifiedThe 2nd Annual Trunk Show is coming up at the SNAG Conference in Phoenix.  Lots of potential...

Every situation can be an opportunity and I always want to maximize the potential outcomes.   PushFlower

But is a collective effort to "PUSH" an event appropriate?

I wonder what would happen if everyone in the Trunk Show promoted the event?

 What if the Trunk Show participants created their own whirlwind of visibility for the event and for each other?

NoCredit72AH800What if we, everyone attending, posted an image of the Trunk Show poster on our Facebook pages or websites? Click Here for the Trunk Show Banner.

What if we were all asked for an image of new work to create a new Trunk Show poster or online catalog?

What if the local television news came to cover the event? Headline; "World renown artists and makers coming to Phoenix" could be "big news," but only if the news station finds out.

Monopoly Electric Flower Pin © 2012
recycled tin cans, sterling silver,
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
These flowers will be available at the
SNAG Trunk Show or online.

I don't think that the metal arts community suffers from too much success, but it looks like we aren't really good at making ourselves into "big news".



This post was updated on March 17, 2022, to provide current links.

Professional Practices with Andy Cooperman and Harriete Estel Berman

Harriete  Estel Berman Andy CoopermanThe Academy of Art in San Francisco presented a program about professional development with Andy Cooperman and me (Harriete Estel Berman).  The program was co-sponsored by the S.F Metals Arts Guild.

Harriete Estel Berman talking with audience members after professional development programramWartThe program revolved around a discussion about survival as an artist and maker. The entire program was an hour and a half. It started with Andy Cooperman's 45-minute lecture about his work and recommendations for surviving as an artist and maker.


Then an 8-minute lecture about my work continued with additional resources for artists and makers.  Then Andy and I responded to Q & A with the audience. Here is the handout with links to the Resources and the articles mentioned.  Download HANDOUT 


This post was updated on March 17, 2022, to provide current links.


Graduation, Job, Studio, Is There a Recommended Direction?

Considering the time of year, this question from Eva, a student at the Academy of Art, San Francisco, CA, seems very timely. She asks:
"Do you suggest that we find a job after graduation or set up our own studio directly?"

Life Flower Pin by Harriete Estel BermanOf course, there are always unusual circumstances, but I think getting a job related to your field of study gives you a great experience that will ultimately channel into your art or craft. I use the term "related to your field of study" quite loosely. Life Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman

Anything that is remotely connected to your interests and skills seems better than an unrelated job.


Photo of Harriete Estel Berman from 1977
Here I am sitting at a "kitchen table"
as my workbench. This grainy black &
white photo was from a 1977 newspaper
article  from The Charleston Gazette
Photo Credit: Lou Raines 



After my graduation, I supported myself for years doing jewelry repair.  Then I had a job for about 8 years working for a plating firm repairing anything that came in the door from sugar bowls and creamers to elevator rails.

The experiences increased my skills and confidence. I learned problem-solving, metalsmithing skills, hands-on exposure to diverse metalworking assemblies and fabrications from the past 200 years . . .  AND access to a very wide range of professional tools, equipment, and plating processes.  With those well-honed skills, I still do silver repair part-time.

ANDY wARHOL SHOEYou'll be in good company.  Andy Warhol worked in advertising.  James Rosenquist painted billboards. Consider the profound influence that their work experiences had on their artwork.  ROSENQUIST billboard
James Rosenquist and his mother in 1954 standing below a billboard he painted. The Red Shoe illustration by Andy Warhol.

Harriete working in the studio 2007ng in the I'd also recommend setting up a studio space immediately, even if it is in the other half of your bedroom or in your living/dining room.  Get your studio up and running, no matter how modest. Avoid burdening yourself with debt and expenses. It is more important that you start working with fewer tools and more creativity to keep ideas fresh and your mind immersed in creative expression.  If you need larger or specialized equipment, take a class at a local community college or rent time at a studio space near you.

In summary, try to get a job related to your degree, even if it doesn't pay much in the beginning.  The experience will help you learn so much along the way. You might even be able to use their tools or equipment.

Also keep working in your home studio every day. Even if you don't have all the tools or equipment that you had in school. there are always alternate solutions.  Use your most creative tool, your mind.


This post was updated on March 17, 2022.

What are YOUR TOP 3 Tools and Books for Jewelry Making?

Alina, a student at the Academy of Art, San Francisco, CA asks, "What are your top 3 can't live without tools and books for jewelry making?"*There are so many possibilities, but as an advocate for business development, I think the practical information in the Professional Guidelines is a # 1 tool for survival in the real world outside of school.

Next, consider looking at the resources from the Professional Development Seminar available on the SNAG website. Many years of collective experience, wisdom learned, handouts, and lectures can be found online for free.

Professional Development Seminar



Making & Marketing Better ARtworkOne of my favorite books is Making and Marketing Better Artwork by Milon Townsend. " While Townsend is a glass artist, the information in the book is practical and relevant to all media. There are "11 chapters including information on working with galleries; pricing your artwork; wholesaling vs. retailing, wholesale vs. consignment; literature and advertising; photography;...and practical answers to many of the questions that both the novice and the seasoned professional will encounter during their working lives."

Drilland WireGaugeAlina also asked about tools for jewelry making. This is much more specific. It really depends on the kind of work you make. I would keep your first tool purchases fundamental but would also advise going for quality.  For me, as a metalsmith:

  • The best quality (e.g. German) flush cutters;
  • Drill and Wire gauge 1-60 (buy it from a hardware store to save money);
  • Complete set of drill bits 1-60 and 61-80.


Harriete Estel Berman image of the thinking and creativity from her Judaica Spice Books Besamin  b
And There Was Light  ©  2004
Recycled tin cans, 10k gold, ss rivets.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen



Keep in mind that your most creative tool is your brain, regardless of the specific media or craft.


*This question came from a Professional Development program co-sponsored by the Academy of Art and the Metal Arts Guild in San Francisco, CA with Andy Cooperman and myself, Harriete Estel Berman.


This post was updated on March 17, 2022, to provide current links.

Who is Responsible for Damage to Work On Consignment?

A question from Pei Sze, a student at Academy of Art, San Francisco: "If we put our works on consignment and it gets damaged, who is usually responsible for the damage?"

CONSIGNMENT Contract from the Professional Guidelinesact2010_Page_1The ANSWER is in your consignment contract. BEFORE SENDING WORK or delivering work to a gallery or store, ALWAYS discuss the consignment contract. The Professional Guidelines has a Consignment Contract that will help negotiate this and other issues before there is a problem.

CONSIGNMENT Contract from the Professional GuidelinesIn the Professional Guidelines Consignment Contract look in:

Section 8. Loss or Damage.
"The gallery shall be strictly liable for loss or damage to any consigned artwork from the date of delivery to the gallery until the artwork is returned to the artist or delivered to a purchaser. CONSIGNMENT Contract from the Professional Guidelines In the event of loss or damage that cannot be restored, the artist shall receive the same amount as if the artwork had been sold at the retail price. 
If restoration is suggested or pursued by the gallery, the artist shall have veto power over the choice of the restorer.  CONSIGNMENT Contract from the Professional GuidelinesThe artist shall be responsible for all repairs to artwork necessitated by artist’s faulty workmanship."

To explain  further:
If damaged work can be repaired or restored, the artist should be compensated for the time and materials for repair.

CONSIGNMENT Contract from the Professional GuidelinesIf the work is lost or damaged: The artist or maker should be paid the wholesale price. This is the "same amount" that the artist would have received "if the artwork had been sold at the retail price."

CONSIGNMENT Contract from the Professional Guidelines"Even in the best relationships based on trust and a good working relationship, there is no substitute for a contract.  To minimize and hopefully avoid possible conflicts, the rights and obligations of both the artist and the gallery should be clearly written in a contract. 

Do not rely on assumptions and the memories of verbal conversations.  CONSIGNMENT Contract from the Professional GuidelinesA good contract, such as the consignment contract developed by the Professional Guidelines, is fair to both parties.  It is in the interest of both parties to discuss all the issues presented here."

CONSIGNMENT Contract from the Professional Guidelines"Many galleries are accustomed to using their own contract.  If the gallery already has a contract that it wants to use, it can be signed “as is”, or it can be viewed as a starting point for further discussion.  The artist can use the Professional Guidelines example contract as a checklist or guide for negotiating modifications and revisions.  CONSIGNMENT Contract from the Professional GuidelinesYour business relationship with the gallery may include specific arrangements that require additions or deletions, which you should initial.  In addition, amendments that arise after the original contract has been signed should also be put in writing and signed by both parties (see clause #18)."

The above text in quotes was taken directly from the Consignment Contract in the Professional Guidelines.

Below are copies of the Consignment Contract in the Professional Guidelines as a Word and PDF.

Download CONSIGNMENTcontract2010 Word
Download CONSIGNMENTcontract2010 PDF

Please feel welcome to share this with your friends and fellow artists.


This post was updated on March 17, 2022, to provide current links.

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 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.

This post was updated on March 12, 2022.