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June 2014

Poor Quality Comments Are Your Content


Google-HangoutsRecently I was watching a Google Hangout about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) when . . .  

A participant asked this question:
"There are occasions when I see comments on my blog that contribute nothing of real substance such as "I am so glad I found your blog." And if you check out the person, they leave the "exact same comment on other websites." These kinds of comments are more like spam. Although even worse are comments that leave links to the commenter's website. I've always wondered if poor quality comments affect my website ranking."

The answer from Google was very clear. 
Google considers "comments" from other people on your blog the same as your content.
This is because you have control whether or not the comments appear on your blog. Therefore all comments are considered  your published content.

Comments with poor spelling, bad grammar, lacking authority, or disreputable quality will be associated with your site.  The bottom line is "it is on your website." Google recommends that you "take action" to maintain the quality of all content on your website, even if there are no spammy links.  

With this insight, as the publisher of your blog, you should edit comments for grammar at a minimum, correct punctuation or spelling, remove all links that are unrelated to the post content, and actually delete comments that do not add content to your post.

Opportunity vs. Vanity Scams

"Congratulations.  You have been nominated as a participant!"

Today another "opportunity" arrived in my mail box.  Really!

Magazine-Front-Cover-ScamThis opportunity was for a "FRONT COVER 4-page feature" of my work.  And if I act quickly, the standard $3,500 participation fee for the FALL issue will be discounted to only $2,500! The email continued: "This unique opportunity can assist you in creating the necessary exposure for your process and practice by getting your work where the targeted demographic can see it."

BEWARE!!  Such opportunities ARE NOT unique. But, unfortunately, far too many questionable "opportunities" are offered to artists and makers who are all too eager for a chance to gain visibility for their work.

I recently saw another "opportunity" circulating within the arts and crafts community with a polished, refined website. The website shows beautiful work.  However, not all the images on the website are actual participants.

The email was very clever suggesting that the recipient was "nominated" for participation. [Wouldn't you feel complimented?]  Participation on the website includes publication in an attractive book which you are not required to buy.  [Watch out for this trap because participants often purchase the book to see their work in print.] The book fee becomes an additional source of income for the sponsor in addition to the entry fees.

Envelope-with-nomination-3In my opinion such "opportunities" show all the hallmarks of a "pay to play" vanity ploy.  These internet versions of "Who's Who" books should realistically be called "who cares?".  This is no more than a web version of a vanity gallery. I get upset to learn that numerous artists and makers are being exploited because they so desperately want visibility for their work.

Here are some red flags for future reference:

  • Fees are paid to an international account. 
  • The "prize money" on this site is not specific.  
  • They offer a certificate which is completely worthless. Who cares about a certificate?
  • An bonus offer for postcards is baloney. You could print those yourself. 

Before you hand your precious money to any third party, pause for a little introspection.  With a little thought, I would bet that you could easily use that money much more effectively to create your own visibility. 

And that is the point .... create your own opportunity.

Join the organizations that you know support artists and makers like you.  

Volunteer to organize an exhibition with a marketing campaign and website.

Print your own postcards and mail them out.

Start a newsletter or blog with quality content.

Envision more. Get professional quality images of your work. Get the standard shots and try a dramatic experiment. 

Submit your quality images to magazines that are appropriate for your work and your audience.

Optimize the images so they look great on the web. 

Work on some search engine optimization for your own website with simple methods that really work. To this end, I will be sharing simple SEO tools for artists and makers.

Put your money where it is an investment in your commuity instead of some random organization's pockets. 

Tat Roach Flower Pin Brooch from recycled tin cans and plastic by Harriete Estel Berman

Tat Roach Trap Flower Brooch is one of my favorites. Made from recycled tin cans and post-consumer plastic waste by Harriete Estel Berman  is says everything about making from old to look new again. 

"Beyond the Shores We Know" - Insights from Casey Sharpe

Casey Sharpe has worked closely with me for more than two months to combine the original audio recordings and lectures from the SNAG Professional Development Seminar for posting on YouTube. Below is a feature interview with Casey.  

Why did you volunteer to do this job for SNAG?
Casey Sharpe: I think it is important to preserve and share information.  The Professional Development Seminars are a really valuable tool for all craftspeople.  I’ve been a member of SNAG for over seven years, and I’ve found it a valuable resource, and a great way to connect with the larger jewelry and metalsmithing community. 

I Lay in the Tidal Pool
wool, silk, glass beads, sterling silver

Where do you find your inspiration?
Casey Sharpe:  As for my subject matter, my childhood was spent traveling between the east and west coasts of the United States.  I’ve spent most of my life living within an hour of the ocean, and have always been fascinated by quiet beaches.  There is something about the smell of the salt air, the cry of gulls, and the sand underfoot that soothes me, and I try to capture that in my work.

Sand and Barnacle Cufflinks
Sand, resin, sterling silver

Where did you learn metalworkS?
Casey Sharpe: I learned metalsmithing under Sharon Church and Rod McCormick at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA.


Beyond the Shores We Know
silk, sea cell, glass beads, sterling silver


What has been the most helpful information or skill you learned in school?
Casey Sharpe: I think the most helpful thing I learned in school was to chase my interests, to pick up techniques and ideas, and to push everything as far as I could.  On the more technical side, I learned chasing and repousse in school, and absolutely fell in love with it.


Sand and Barnacle Pendants
sand, resin, sterling silver


What has been the most helpful skill or information you learned on the job?
Casey Sharpe: My day job taught me how many things I can do for myself, as well as when to hand off things to other people.  You have to know when to look for a professional, and when to ask for advice and do it yourself.  


Years After I Washed Ashore
wool, cotton, sterling silver

Where is your studio?
Casey Sharpe: I make all of my work out of my home studio in Los Angeles, CA

Where do you sell your work?
Casey Sharpe: Several galleries carry my work, including Freehand Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), the Craft and Folk Art Museum (Los Angeles, CA), and the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (Houston, TX).  I also have an Etsy shop.


Sand and Barnacle Earrings
sand, resin, sterling silver

Again, I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to Casey Sharpe. It was a true delight to work with her and she demonstrates one of the key values of volunteering -- getting to know new people and gaining experience.  Like her title, Casey was willing to go "beyond the shores we know" to venture into new territory. She did not even know how to combine the audio and Powerpoints for video,  but she jumped in and figured out a workable solution. This  trait that will take Casey far in the voyage of life.

Best Regards,

Countless Hours of Advocacy

Photography-In-Flux-Niche-Marketing-VerticalHave you ever thought about the countless hours speakers spend preparing the content of their presentations. That is the finale of a year or years of preparation. Every year, the Professional Development Seminar Committee worked for 12 months prior to the Conference to develop an informative program and group of speakers.

Initially, I wondered  how a wider audience could benefit from this amazing resource beyond the immediate three-hour program at the Conference.  It became obvious that if the presentations were posted online (with the permission of the speakers), they could serve as a recurring resource for years to come.  

Purple-Cow-5-presentations-verticalFor the past five years I have posted presentations from the Professional Development Seminar.  These presentations, given during the annual SNAG Conferences, provide valuable information useful for the entire arts and craft community. 

That was the early premise and hope.  But would it really work?

I am happy to report that after five years of postings, the online presentations recently achieved over 200,000 views! That is a testament in itself.  

This spring the original presentations along with audio moved to YouTube as videos.

ShippingVerticalIt was a lot of work and I desperately needed help to get this job done. 

Casey Sharpe stepped up and volunteered. She was instrumental in converting the original PowerPoints and audio recordings into video which were uploaded to YouTube. This tremendous resource would not have been available if it weren't for Casey's volunteer hours to make this happen.  

I'd like to express my deep appreciation for Casey's efforts. "Thank you, Casey."

After working with Casey Sharpe for the past three months, I thought that it was time to learn more about her work with a few questions. Tomorrow  is a special feature interview with Casey and comments about her work. The titles for her work are very interesting. See what you think? Stay tuned until tomorrow.

P.S. The Professional Development Seminar is looking for a person who is interested in editing the audio recordings of one more seminar; "Collectors, Collections and YOU" from the Minneapolis SNAG Conference. 2014. Would you be interested in helping?

Learn the fundamentals of audio editing, and work with me closely for a month or two to bring seven lectures to the arts and crafts community from the recent Professional Development Seminar. Leard how to edit audio (if you don't know how.) Listen to the valuable information from our speakers. Become informed. Be an advocate for the arts and crafts community.
Collector's CollectionsYou-Blue

Flower Weirder Than I Can Imagine


This is a real flower that looks like it might be x-rated. No photoshop magic here. It was growing in my parents greenhouse and just simply taken with my phone. Imagine that! Which is harder to imagine. The flower, or that I took the picture with my phone, and emailed it at the speed of light directly to my blog? 

A full view image of the whole plant.

Fundraising Auctions & Conflicting Interest


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.

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