ASK Harriete questions and answers Feed

Fabrication Photos Beginning to End

The objective of this post is to provide some insight into the entire fabrication process of my latest work.  In this post, a series of photos track my fabrication of the menorah that is featured on PBS as additional content for the JEWELRY program of Craft In America. I was very fortunate to finish this menorah two weeks before the six-person video crew arrived at my studio.

This is a brief post with only a few of the images. All of the questions are from Nona, my new studio assistant. If you want to look at some more detailed information with step-by-step fabrication shots, click here, to go to my website.

The photo below shows the preliminary layout of the frame. This shows the general dimensions and allows me to visualize the structure before I start working with the materials.  I usually don't draw out my ideas in advance. Instead, I usually let them percolate in my head and adapt as I choose materials for a new piece.  Taking photos helps me double-check if it looks "right."  Studio shots are also useful for social media, or occasionally, books or exhibition catalogs that publish studio shots. I've had this happen on many occasions.

They Whisper drawing

Nona asks a few questions for this post:

Nona asks: "What are you thinking about when you sketch out the frame?"
  "Is it all about the measurements and physical support?"

Tin can frame layout

Harriete's answer: At first I am only thinking about the overall proportions, checking the actual dimensions so that I cut and bend enough tins to fabricate the entire frame plus some extras for a back-up plan if needed.  At this stage, it is too early to worry about the physical support, but I knew that the materials selected for the back were going to be cut and folded from an old steel folding table, which would be really strong. 

Nona asks: "What is your process for picking tins?"

Harriete's answer:  For the front of the window frame, the metallic gold tins were picked from my extensive collection of recycled post-consumer tin cans. You may recognize some of the tins but I tried to use a variety of common tins in a similar color range and with recognizable images related to the kitchen. A tin for Grape-Nuts and some nutrition labels were perfect for this objective. I love using humble materials to make something beautiful. Trying different arrangements with the tin cans often helps to generate new ideas and allows me to experience how the tin can colors work together.  I wanted the tins to have a golden glow and be similar in color. 

Tin can frame construction 2

Nona asks: How do you shape the tins for the frame?  

Harriete's answer:  When I receive tin cans, they are all opened and pounded flat for storage. After picking tins from my raw material inventory, I bend or roll the tins for the frame shapes,  I use a bending brake and other forming tools in my studio. I've been working with tins for 33 years....and have developed a lot of techniques and skills from years of experimenting.   

Tin can blue sky layout 1

Nona asks: How do you problem solve if you don't have the colors or textures that you want?

Harriete answers: 
Using a range of blues for this piece, I started to compose the turbulent San Francisco night sky.  Layers and layers of carefully cut tins allowed me to get the painterly effect I was looking for.

If I don't have the colors or textures that I want, I keep looking through my thousands of stored tins.  I may spend hours and hours and hours looking for the right color or pattern.  I am convinced that something is there in my studio ...I just need to find it. 

Nona asks: What do you use for cutting the tin?

Harriete answers:  I buy every pair of metal cutting shears that I can find, but most of my tins are cut with a jewelers' saw. (Watch the JEWELRY video to see me cut tins with a jeweler's saw.)

Tin can blue sky layout on workbench

Nona asks: How do you attach the tins together?

Harriete answers: 
The pieces in the sky are riveted together with small rivets made from sterling silver or 10k gold wire. If you look super closely at the next photo you may see the rivets in this close-up.  The metallic sparkle from the rivets is mirrored in the starry sky and gives the cityscape a night feel.

Rivets

Nona asks: Did you use a reference image for the tower and the hill or for the sky?

Harriete answers:  For Sutro Tower and the hill (Twin Peaks), I found a small photo.  But also, every night in early 2021, my husband and I would go for a walk and we could see Sutro Tower and San Francisco. During Covid, the sky was amazingly clear without pollution. The sky in tins was totally from my imagination, other than looking at the sky, night after night....mostly, I tried to make it up from what I was seeing on our walks looking at San Francisco in the distance.  

They Whisper finished frame from distance cropped

Nona asks: At what point did you attach the menorah and what was the process of constructing the menorah like?

Harriete answers:  I started working on the brass Menorah components very early so I knew how deep I could make the frame and window sill. (There was a requirement from the exhibition sponsor that the artwork could not extend more than 3 inches from the wall.)  

Though I constructed the Menorah early in the whole fabrication process, it was not polished until the very end so that I didn't have to worry about it getting scratched. The construction of the window sill and the structure that holds the Menorah consumed the final two or three weeks.  There is a hidden structure that holds the Menorah in place, but the Menorah is not attached to the window sill.    

The whole piece took four intensive months to fabricate.

Just like Nona, you can ask your questions, and  I will add them to this blog post or a new post.

Harriete 

More details? Look at my website if you want more information and details.

Previous Posts in the "Craft In America" in my studio series.

A Gigantic Wish Come True...."Craft In America" Visits My Studio

Perspiration in Preparation & Planning for "Craft In America"

An Optivisor for a Crown - Two Vans Arrive with the "Craft In America" video team

"Craft In America" Day 1 - Fabrication in Video Time vs Real Craft

Soft Lighting, Sharp Focus, Reflective Questions

Craft In America - JEWELRY Episode - Streaming Now!

"They Whispered Names to Me - I am a channel"


Handout for lecture given for the MBMAG

Lecture-Professional-Development-MBMAG-metalsmithsHere is the link to the  HANDOUT Download Handout-for-Monterey-Lecture with resources mentioned during the lecture for MBMAG.  

Listen to a recent
interview on Jay Whaley Blog Talk Radio about the upcoming SNAG Professional Development Seminar "Collector's Collections and You."  


Pot Luck and Hot Topics with MBMAG

Just in case you'll be in the Monterey, California area on Feb. 16, I will be speaking at the Monterey Bay Metal Arts Guild lunch meeting and social.  This public event is free. 

DATE: February 16, 2014 Sunday
LOCATION: Moss Landing at the Haute Enchilada's back room.
TIME:  12:30 Pot luck Lunch and social. Bring food for the pot luck and get to know the Monterey Bay Metal Arts Guild members. 
           1:00 Short meeting for MBMAG membership
           1:30 p.m - 3:00 p.m. Lecture with Q & A

HauteEnchilada

BermanConv2Zazzle
The early afternoon lecture begins with a brief description of my work, with some examples on hand for closer inspection. Then we jump into some professional development topics and resources that can help makers with their own work.
 

Are you suffering from self-rejection? Wonder how to promote your work effectively online? Want tips for the best (low cost to no cost ) strategies for your images, website or blog?

Do you have questions or topics that you would like to discuss? Bring up the controversial issues, burning topics or discuss the every day professional practices that will boost your career.

 

RedHotNo topic is too small or too hot to touch. Even spicy, well-seasoned  artists struggle every day to be the best they can be. Join the conversation.  Spark the Q & A.

You can also submit your topic request in advance (without raising your hand)? Write directly to me at bermaid@harriete-estel-berman.info or leave a question in the comments. 

Or I can answer your questions anonymously.

ASKHarrieteREDletteringNObk


Stay tuned to the MBMAG event page on Facebook or their website for more details.

MBMAG


Juried Submissions: What information do jurors really take into consideration?

LoraHartCAMEO
  Sainted Memory
  Sterling silver, fine silver, brass, found
  object. Roller printed fabrication.
  Artist: Lora Hart
  Photo Credit: Marsha Thomas

Dear Harriete,

The post on your CaFE jury experience was particularly enlightening. I'm wondering if you could write a post regarding what types of information jurors take into consideration other than good imagery/photographs and the actual piece itself?

If everything else was there, would the lack of backup information lessen the chances of acceptance? If the required guidelines were somewhat less than stellar, would a great resume, bio, or artist statement raise the possibility of inclusion?
Thanks.

Lora Hart

In most juried situations the artwork is definitely the primary consideration. More specifically, the jurors are not looking at the artwork in person so the photographic images are THE primary method for evaluation. This is why the quality of the photographic images is so important.

Lora Hart sent two pairs of photos for the same work. How does the quality of the photo influence your decision about the work?

Lora Hart Communion PhotoLHart Lora Hart Communion MarshaThomas

Communion
.999 Metal Clay, Mica, Photograph, Pearl. Kiln fired, riveted.
Left Photo by Lora Hart
Right
Photo by Marsha Thomas

IF the juror can’t “read” the photographic images well enough, or the photo isn't good enough for any reason, the juror may look to the supporting information including the description, dimensions, or statement for further insight. Therefore, the quality of the information and the writing can be important, but usually secondary.

 

LoraHartEidyl PleasureMarshaThomas

Lora Hart Eidyl PleasurePhotoLH
Eidyl Pleasure. Copper, .999 Fine Silver, Pearls. Hydraulically Pressed, Kiln Fired, Sewn.
Left
Photo by Marsha Thomas.
Right
Photo by Lora Hart.

Also, be sure to follow the instructions for the information requested. If required information is missing (for example, dimensions are required, and there were no dimensions, or a statement is required and there is no statement), this would definitely be sufficient grounds for "decline."

If a juror is on the edge about a decision, an artist's statement may influence the juror's decision toward "yes" or "no."  So, your statement should avoid fluff, artspeak, and meaningless emotional verbiage. Express concrete ideas and clear descriptions that may not be apparent in the photographic images. (Read a previous post on ASK Harriete about Artist Statements.)

For a themed based situation:
On the other hand, for a themed juried situation, the statement may be much more important as the art or craft will be evaluated on how well it specifically addresses the theme.  An artist statement that addresses a theme or expresses ideas in the work may have more impact.

LoraHartConquistadorMarshaThomas
Conquistador
sterling silver, .999 Metal Clay, pearls,
silk. Fabricated, kiln-fired, sewn.
Artist: Lora Hart
Photo Credit: Marsha Thomas

The statement that accompanies your work should specifically address the theme of the exhibition. Too many artists use a general statement about a body of work that does not directly relate to the specific images submitted. In addition, avoid discussion of technique unless it relates directly to the theme.

I would say that a bio or resume is rarely a factor in a juried decision. Typically, the resume is not part of a juried application. If for some very unusual reason a juror decided to look at a resume, what they would want to see is past influences and how a person has applied themselves with dedication and effort. (Read a previous post on ASK Harriete about resumes.)  Do not inflate your resume, do not double list shows, do not include workshops as education -- just the facts without exaggeration is all that is needed.

In conclusion, there are a couple of issues that are total turn-offs. One is excuses (such as, "you don't have much time," who does?)  Another turn-off is a one-word or one-sentence statement or a statement such as "My work speaks for itself."  If the juror is looking at your statement, the work obviously did not speak loud and clear, and you just shot yourself in the foot.   

Next post: a discussion of these photos and the photo description information.

Compare and contrast these photos. How does the quality of the photo affect your opinion of the work?

What do you think about the inclusion of technique in the description with the photo?

Harriete

This post was updated on February 11, 2022.


Is it fruitless to even think of creating something fast to get into a show?

A reader of ASK Harriete asks:

Is it fruitless to even think of creating something fast to get into a show?  My fine art pieces also take me a long time (months and months). 

3M & m Candy Dispenser by Harriete Estel Berman.72jpg The short answer is that it depends on the show and your situation. While I generally recommend to make great work and then find a show... there are occasions for which a smaller piece may fit both your long-term goals and the near-term exhibition theme.  For example, I created the 3M & m Candy Dispenser (right images) for such a situation.

A few weeks or a couple of months' notice to make a piece for an exhibition isn't much time,
but yes, sometimes the opportunity presented is worth a grueling crush to complete.

3 M & m Candy Dispenser back viewck-72
   3M & m Candy Dispenser © 2005
   Constructed for an exhibition based on
   using 3M products.
   Recycled tin cans, candy dispenser,
   candy, brass
   Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
   Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Here are my main criteria for deciding whether to participate in a show on short notice:

  • Does the exhibition include insurance?
  • Is this a quality exhibition space with an established reputation either locally or nationally?
  • Will the work be handled by professional art handlers?

  • Will the exhibition sponsor generate good visibility for the show with an audience that would appreciate my type of work?
    • Do I have a good/interesting idea for the exhibition theme?

    • Is the exhibition sponsor (or curator) a place (or person) that I would like to develop a working relationship with for the future?

    • Do I want to support the theme or organization sponsoring the exhibition?

 

  • MOST IMPORTANT: Do I have enough time to make an excellent example of my work including skillful execution and a thoughtful concept?

Below are more examples of work made for a special exhibition and why I made it.
Butterfly by Harriete Estel Berman

Butterfly close up view by Harriete Estel Bermantl
“Butterfly” by Harriete Estel Berman

This is my butterfly for the exhibition “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” at the Holocaust Museum in Houston. If you look closely, you can see the children playing. The Holocaust Museum Houston was collecting 1.5 million handmade butterflies in an effort to remember the loss of children during the Holocaust. The butterflies will eventually comprise a breath-taking exhibition, currently scheduled for Spring 2012, for all to remember.

I decided to participate in this exhibition for three reasons:

  • The theme expressed a poignant resonance.
  • I had the perfect tin to execute my butterfly idea.
  • The project was small. I could make an exquisite butterfly in a week.

CERF Converse Shoe by Harriete Estel Berman

CERF  Converse style shoe by Harriete Estel BermanshoeLEFT

CERF Converse Shoe by Harriete Estel Berman TOP
CERF Shoe by Harriete Estel Berman
St. silver rivets and eyelets, electrical wire shoelaces, tool dip.
1.15 “height  x  3.5 “ width x 3.5 “ depth (including shoe laces)

My shoe is constructed from recycled tin cans from KIWI Shoe Polish and other tin cans. This shoe was made for CERF (Craft Emergency Relief Fund) as part of their raffle that was shown at SOFA Chicago 2009. CERF helps artists with financial emergencies.

I decided to participate in this exhibition for three reasons:

  • CERF is an organization that helps artists.
  • The raffle for the collection of shoes gets great visibility at SOFA, Chicago, and mail distribution of their postcard.
  • Their raffle method does not devalue my work (like most fund-raising auctions.)

 
Children Are Not Bulletproof by Harriete Estel Berman
Children are not Bulletproof  
© 2000    Harriete Estel Berman
Two pins and three wall mount elements constructed primarily from recycled tin cans; brass, 14k. gold-filled wire, vintage plastic, red satin ribbon.                          
64.25” height installed (Ribbon length rests on the floor)   x   4” width   x   2.25” depth

Two pins and three wall mounts were exhibited and sold as one unit.
Children are not Bulletproof is available for purchase or exhibition.
Close-up view below.


Children Are Not Bulletproof by Harriete Estel Berman_closeUP.nobackground72
Children are not Bulletproof  © 2000 Harriete Estel Berman

This was originally constructed for a political badges show at Helen Drutt Gallery.
I decided to participate in this exhibition for three reasons:

  • Helen Drutt asked me to participate. (It is hard to say "no" to people you respect or admire.)
  • Helen Drutt Gallery usually managed to get great visibility for many of her shows.
  • I thought that I could make a good piece within the three-month advance notice.

These were just a few examples. When there is an invitation or a juried opportunity, you have to weigh the pros and cons for each show, and then decide for yourself.

I have one more post in this series coming up... How Do You Find Exhibition Opportunities for Finished Work?

Do you have any more questions about this topic? Let me know.

Harriete

This post was updated on February 9, 2022.

Children are not Bulletproof                                                             © 2000    Harriete Estel Berman

Two pins and three wall mount elements constructed primarily from recycled tin cans (pre-existing scratches and marks may be present); brass, 14k. gold-filled wire, vintage plastic, red satin ribbon.

                                           

64.25” height installed (Ribbon length rests on the floor)   x   4” width   x   2.25” depth

Two pins and three wall mounts sold as one unit.  Pieces may not be sold separately.     


Make Work YOU WANT TO MAKE and then... THE WORK Will Find a SHOW

Harriete,
I have spent the afternoon reading Ask Harriete.  Oftentimes, I see a show I feel my work would fit into...due to the subject matter, title, etc., however, there is NOT enough time to create a piece and get it submitted in time.  After reading what you say in the Etsy Recycler's Guild interview of Harriete Estel Berman interview (from Etsy Recycler's Guild, I am surprised to see, that you most likely enter shows after the work is done. 

Or as you once told me, you shop the work around in order to find an exhibition space.  So, what can you offer to those of us who have the problem?  

Mary Anne Enriquez

Harriete Estel Berman standing near Measuring Compliance at the exhibition ManufracturedbstandingThis issue often causes artists and makers to feel overwhelmed.  Your schedule is already full and then an opportunity arises that would demand even more time. Who can just drop everything and start
                                                    something new?

Although I do make work for some shows (and will show some examples in the next post on ASK Harriete),  I prefer to make work that I want to make based on my long-term goals.

I recommend that all artists and makers make the work they want to make.

 

Measuring Compliance Poster
Measuring Compliance Poster
portrays sculpture by the same title.
Measuring Compliance © 2006
Recycled materials, 3rd-grade desk,
3rd-grade chair, banners, custom made
straight jacket, yardstick, rulers.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

It is the artist's or maker's responsibility to bring important or significant ideas to fruition without the dictates of a theme, exhibition, or invitation. Maybe these ideas are big, expensive, demanding, or even scary. So what if it takes a year or more to finish because you have to put it down, work on your day job, or do other artwork that makes money. Just keep working with the big goals in mind.

If you wait for a show invitation to start making something big or important, you may never get around to creating significant artwork. Too often, I have heard artists expressing disappointment that they didn't get invited to be part of a particular exhibition even though they had been thinking about making something that would have been "perfect" for the show.  Don't wait for a show to prompt the making . . .  start making.  By waiting to make something "for a show" ... they lost an opportunity.

The emphasis is on making work that is challenging, significant, and stands on its own . . .  not making work that fits into a show in a few weeks.   Make work that you will be proud of for a lifetime.  Sooner or later a show or some other opportunity will turn up that is right for your work -- not the other way around.

Alyssa Endo working on Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin HERE IS AN EXAMPLE:
I just finished the project Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin.
It took the better part of five years. I often had to put it away until  I had time or help available to work on it.

Penci lBrotheres Pencils in Pick Up Your Pencils Begin by Harriete Estel Bermans582bellcurve

Most often, the bigger or high-risk projects aren't necessarily the ones that will sell, but they may become the "show stopper" that establishes your reputation years later.


Close up of Pencils fabrication Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin by Harriete Estel Berman Here is my real-life example.    The day before I finished Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin, a major magazine emailed me about writing an article on a topic highly relevant to this work! Wow!!!!! They need photos of the installation, so now I need to find an exhibition space.

This wasn't magic. I have also been working on documenting the construction of this artwork, writing about it on my website, Facebook, blog, Crafthaus, and other social networking sites.

Website for Harriete Estel Berman The editor had become aware of this project from my website. I've had a link on my home page ever since I started the project.

Apparently, editors and writers spend some of their time "trolling"  the internet for ideas and new work. Marthe Le Van, editor for Lark Books talked about this during her presentation for the Professional Development Seminar. A lesson to all of us to keep making our work, documenting our progress, never give up...steady progress wins the race!

MAKE WORK YOU WANT TO MAKE and then... find an exhibition space.

Does anyone know of an exhibition space for Pick UP Your Pencils, Begin?

I'd love to hear your ideas! There are 3-4 weeks before the article goes to press.

Harriete

You can see the documentation of Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin on my website.

NEXT POSTS on ASK Harriete:

  • Is it fruitless to even think of creating something fast to get into a show?
  • How Do You Find Exhibition Opportunities For Finished Work?

This post was updated on February 9,  2022.


To Co-Op or NOT to Co-Op: A really big question.

Casabard.eschercuff Dear Harriete,

I've been invited to become a part of an artist co-op and before I jump on the bandwagon I need to educate myself. 

Casabard.mixedmetalboatThe group is small right now ~ 5 artists.  For some reason, the city is requiring that a metal sculptor be a part of this group.  I do not know who this person will be but the space has room to grow, so I'm sure the group will grow from the original 5 artists.

Casabard.mothernecklace We will be able to use the space for creating as well as selling.  Our time is our own, so if we are not there we just use an "out to lunch" sign, and we are not obligated to watch for other artists.

Casabard.poppy The location is owned by the city.  We would pay rent to them.  And the city would be responsible for advertising/marketing.  The rent is not yet set, but they are saying it will range somewhere between $100 - $300 a month ~ quite a steal.

Casabard.sunflowercuff
Above images:  Diana Casabar
1. The Escher Cuff
2. The Mixed Metal Boat Necklace
3. The Mother Necklace
4. Poppy Brooch
5. The Sunflower Cuff

I have asked the following questions:
1.  What are the security arrangements?
2.  Will our equipment and products be insured or do we need to insure them?
3.  Can I use my torch and chemicals in the building?  Is the building fire-coded for that?
4.  Is there electricity?
5.  Will I have running water?
6.  Will we be responsible for building out our space, or will the city do that?

Can you think of any other questions I need to ask them before I make up my mind to be a part of this group?

Diana Casabar

Diana,

This is definitely a question with potential consequences.  I will try to be brief.  The questions you have asked so far are a good beginning but, there are two overriding issues on my mind: 1) insurance and 2) getting everything in writing.

Everyone should have insurance to protect their work, tools, and equipment regardless of whether the city has insurance to cover the building.

Get everything in writing. This includes arrangements with the city and with the other artists. Getting everything in writing may seem like a pain and take some time, but it will clarify the issues and avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication.  Believe me, this effort at the beginning will save time and friendships in the long run.

Write up a list of co-op guidelines for Studio Policy, Adding and Subtracting Members, and Display Policy.  See some suggestions below.  See also my Critique Group Guidelines.  Download Critique Group Guidelines Final2011 which you can modify for your particular purposes.

The next part is very sensitive ….. in my experience, there is always a range of unequal effort and participation.  Frequently it seems that one person may work harder and longer than everyone else and that person may or may not be expecting others to work as hard…..which can cause problems.  At the other extreme, there is often a person who does not pull their weight.

A portion of the group may resent the super hard working person or the polar opposite person .... and that creates stress and tension.  And trust me, it happens even if they are your friends (currently).

ACTION PLAN:
Establish a
clear set of guidelines NOW while everyone is still friends. As I sit and write this post, more and more issues keep coming to mind....there is so much to consider.

Below are some suggestions to discuss and get in writing.

STUDIO POLICY for:

  • Sharing equipment
  • Shop hours
  • Shop safety
  • Lock up
  • Cleaning up after yourself and in common areas
  • Weekly/Monthly contributions to shop maintenance
  • Keeping track of the hours for shop maintenance
  • Policy for lost and broken equipment.
  • Creating a fund that everyone contributes to for future improvements.
  • Voting on future improvements.

ADDING AND SUBTRACTING CO-OP MEMBERS

  • Nomination and acceptance of new people
  • Set up a policy for how a person leaves.
  • What if they owe money? What if they do not pay up?

DISPLAY POLICY

  • Common aesthetic for display
  • Review of items on display
  • Establish retail (not wholesale) pricing
  • Commission for the co-op
  • Commission for the seller
  • Work hours contributed to gallery maintenance.
  • Hours for “sitting” at the space to keep GALLERY HOURS
  • Policy for Open Studios

PAPERWORK, TAXES, AND ACCOUNTING

  • Who is responsible for accounting?
  • Who is responsible for paying rent, etc.
  • Who is the primary contact with the city?
  • Will each of you handle your own taxes?
  • Will you need a business license with the city?
  • How are you handling purchases? Checks, credit cards, Square

 Despite the expectations of the city for not keeping regular hours or no stated obligation to watch work for other artists, in reality, if you want people to visit your display space there needs to be regular hours that are posted…such as Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Everyone needs to take a shift on a rotating basis for gallery hours and to prevent theft.

Hope this helps. If readers of ASK Harriete have some other issues that they consider important in a co-op situation, please write them in the comments.

Harriete

This post was updated on February 5, 2022.

 


How do you find venues for your work? Asking ASK Harriete, the artist, a few questions

"Hi Harriete!
I've recently been listening to all the past Whaley studios blog radio programs and have gotten up to your interview a few weeks ago. What a great interview! It gave me a chance to know a little more about you and your work...from your own mouth!

After listening I had a few questions about your installation/museum work: How does it work? Do you come up with an idea, make the work, then try and shop it around to different venues? Or do you try and fill an already perceived need a venue may have? Or something else?

What sort of monetary arrangements are there (if any) for just showing the work (instead of the piece being acquired by a museum)?

Stevie B.

Blades
Grass/gras' sculpture close-up © 2001
Recycled tin cans, steel base
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

That's a lot of questions. I will do my best to give you some quick answers.

Grass/gras sculpture about our consumer society by Harriete Estel Berman
Grass/gras' sculpture close-up © 2001
Recycled tin cans, steel base
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Mostly, I come up with an idea, make the work, and then "shop it around", as you call it.  This takes a  considerable amount of time from start to finish. For example, the Grass/gras' installation took a year to make plus another year to finish the Grass/gras' video. The series of 200 cups titled, Consuming Conversation (see images below), took four years plus another year for the two videos. In both cases, I photographed earlier examples and started promoting the work before it was finished. Considering the entire effort, both projects took several years from inception to the finished work because I need to keep up on other work that makes money during the same period.

It often takes years until a piece becomes known, shown in exhibitions, or published in books or magazines with images widely distributed. The Internet really helps with that aspect of promoting your work, but it is important to maintain your focus and keep on working no matter what.
 

SLIMfast
Hourglass Figure: The Scale of Torture
Recycled tin cans, battery motor, alum.
rivets, dial, screws.
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
© 1994
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Sixteen years after completion, Hourglass Figure: the Scale of Torture is included in the book Makers: A History of Studio Craft.  I haven't seen the book yet, but this is really big news! You have to plant your seeds and nurture them. You can not wait for opportunities and invitations to show up, you need to create momentum by working all the time.

Pencils Sharpening System in the studio of Harriete Estel BermanI have been writing about a current artwork in progress involving a bell curve made from #2 pencils on my website and Facebook. This is the fourth year of working on this project, but I am really trying to finish it this year. When I have some preliminary photos, I will start looking for exhibition spaces.

There is no money that I know of for these big projects. Once in a great while, I get a little money to make a video or to speak about a piece. Big projects like this are time-consuming, drain my financial resources, drive me insane, fill me with self-doubt and torture -- it is not a picnic.  Yet this is what I see and must do.  It is my expression of art.

The next post answers the question: "How do you transport the larger work?"  Another real-world question from several readers of ASK Harriete.

Harriete

This post was updated on January 19, 2022.


Consuming Conversation a series of 200 teacups construced from recycled tin cans.

Consuming Conversation © 2004
Teacup sculpture from recycled tin cans.
Handles are sterling silver or bronze.
This was the first photo I had for the
series and started promoting the series
through this image with note cards
and images. 
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen


Insurance for a trunk show at my house?

Hello Harriete,
A friend has hosted a sale in her apartment for myself and another friend so that the three of us could invite family and acquaintances to share new work and possibly sell some as well.  Our last sale was put together before the holiday season and was surprisingly well attended.  We judged it a success.  We decided to plan for a Valentine's Day sale when we ran into a potential problem.


Jillian_Moore_Par_Lobbe
"Par Lobbe" (brooches) © 2009
composite and epoxy resin, fabricated
copper, paint, dyed cotton cord,
Artist: Jullian Moore
8" x 4" x 2.75" (largest brooch)

Her insurance company wants her to buy an expanded policy, but she believes they are eager to get more money from her. Her rental insurance has all the basic liability coverage--if a stranger or guest were injured in her home or slipped on ice outside, that would be covered.  Also, the landlord has a policy on the home.

We thought of this in the same vein as floating markets, private restaurant clubs, and home galleries that are a current trend because of the poor economy.  Are all of these establishments buying separate policies for private, low-key events?  I had really thought we'd stumbled into something great, and I'd hate for this to be ruined by bureaucratic b.s. but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised if that's the case.

Thank you for all of the hard work you do for all of us!
Jillian Moore

CERF stickerThis is a financially loaded question so I went directly to the expert on insurance, Craig Nutt, the Director of Programs at CERF (Craft Emergency Relief Fund).  He was also a past speaker for SNAG's  Professional Development Seminar with his Insurance Show. (I was the applause lady for his program as you can see in the photo below.) I knew Craig would have the answer to Jullian's questions.

Here is Craig's reply:ApplauseLADY                "CERF is about to release a report on the business survey we conducted with 6 national craft organizations including SNAG.  One of the things that came through like a freight train was the fact that a great many artists mistakenly believe that their homeowner's insurance provides some coverage for their business activity.  We estimate that about 57% of all respondents to the survey are in this category.

CERF A very small number of those surveyed had actually obtained coverage for their home-based businesses through a special endorsement ("rider") on their homeowner's insurance policy. (Many homeowner policies have an allowance for a home office of about $2500, intended to cover a computer, desk, file cabinets … stuff associated with a home office.) 

Dollars in hand Some artists think that they can fly under the radar and avoid insurance issues.  But insurance companies do not care if you have a business license, pay your sales tax, or comply with any of the laws businesses are supposed to obey.  They have a simple test: do you receive money for goods or services, or are you offering goods or services for sale.  If so, you are not covered.  That means no insurance on your tools, supplies, inventory, and in fact, on the building in which your business is conducted.  Also, very important to the person holding the trunk show or hosting a studio tour, no liability insuranceThis means if someone slips on the steps coming to your trunk show, the liability insurance that would cover a casual visitor under normal circumstances is no good.  That is because you are offering goods for sale.

To get a quote on business insurance, artists need to go to companies that specialize in that type of insurance.  Forget about the Allstates, Geikos, etc.  Sure, some agents may not find time for you, because the commissions are not big, but most agents I have met take their calling seriously and are willing to talk to people, regardless of how much money they stand to make.  Ask other artists who have well-run businesses who their agents are.

CERF has information on business insurance at this location on the CERF website. This includes names of companies and organizations that have business insurance plans for artists. Fractured Atlas, an artist service organization, offers a number of targeted plans and is working on a plan for craft artists.

CERF also offers a guidebook on business insurance for artists by clicking here.

CERFstudioPROTECTOR

 

 

 

Also, CERF will soon be consolidating its preparedness and recovery information at:  http://studioprotector.org.   To the left,  you can see the Studio Protector wall guide which every artist should have on the studio wall (and begin putting it into practice). The site has more in-depth information on topics covered in the wall guide.  They are both useful alone but are meant to function together.

Thanks for your support of CERF, and for all you do to promote good business practices to artists!  All my best,

Craig Nutt, Director of Programs
Craft Emergency Relief Fund


Craig's key point is that none of the typical homeowner or renter's insurance policies cover any liabilities during entrepreneurial events such as trunk shows or home sales. Of course, you can choose to not have insurance and take the risk yourself.  That's up to you, but it would be better to investigate the alternatives for business insurance that are available.   

An alternative might be to have a purely social gathering and display your work with no sales.  Then if anyone wants to purchase an item, tell them that any sale would have to be arranged at a later time and different location.    

I hope this answers your question about insurance. Check out the CERF website for more information. 

Harriete

This post was updated on January 8, 2022, to provide current links.


HELP WANTED with my artist statement!

Dear Harriete,

Fillius_0043 When I decided to become a painter, 14 years ago, I hired an artist consultant to write my artist statement. It was well written and served its purpose over the time I was painting. Now I am working in tin and don't have the cash flow I once had to hire someone for this task (I save any extra $ for the photographer). Could you tell me please, what is your best recommendation for writing one's own artist statement? Any guidelines to follow that you know of? I am at a loss here. Thank you for any suggestions you may have on this topic.

Sincerely, one of your fans,

 Jenny Fillius

Dear Lost for Words,

This is a great question because, other than your work itself, the Artist Statement is your best opportunity to connect with the viewing audience. People rely on the artist's statement to gain context and insights about the work.  I love reading a superb statement.  It is also one of my pet peeves when an artist allows a poor statement to be associated with an otherwise good work of art. 

If words are going to represent your work, those words better be good, as good as your artwork.  A personal guideline is that composing the artist statement should take about 5% of the overall time spent to make the piece.   It may sound like a lot of time but remember that your audience may actually spend as much time reading your statement as looking at the work. 

Each series or important piece should have its own specific artist statement.  A good statement focuses on the artwork (not your life history or philosophy).  While working on your piece, start writing down thoughts and bits that you’d like to include in the statement.  Then organize these thoughts into a coherent statement as you finish the piece or immediately after.   It will be more difficult (almost impossible) to remember your inspiration months later when you’re thinking about different work.

The investment of time could really pay off since the artist statement can be used in multiple scenarios including:

  • Grant proposals;
  • Submission to exhibitions;
  • Exhibition proposals;
  • Catalogs produced for an exhibition that includes your work;
  • Submissions to publications such as books, or magazines;
  • Information for lecturers, writers, reviewers, or bloggers talking about your work;
  • Statements on your website;
  • Information to post with your images on social networking sites.

Below are a few suggestions for a better artist statement.  Since writing styles vary considerably, keep in mind that these are only suggestions.   

One final thought, do not confuse your artist statement with your bio. The artist statement should be about your work only, and the inspiration behind it. Make your artist statement as inspiring and interesting as your work.

For more details and additional examples about artist statements check out my blog ASK Harriete at  http://askharriete.typepad.com

TIPS for A GREAT ARTIST STATEMENT

1. The first line needs to convey the most important insight about the piece.  Make the first line good enough to stand alone -- full of information, but not too long.

2.  Use descriptive language.   Explain the source or inspiration of some key details.  Minimize the use of the words “I”, “my”, or “me“.

3. Connect with your audience by modifying your statement and writing style.  The artist statement for a coffee table book should be engaging and entertaining. A statement for a grant application should be constructive and insightful. Think about what the audience would like to know. Ultimately you may need more than one version of your statement for each piece.

4. Keep your statement short, specific, and sincere preferably one paragraph or two very short paragraphs. Stay concise!  Avoid repeating the same concept with different words – a common problem in artist statements.

5. Include STRONG CONTENT such as unique features, special techniques, themes, content issues, or historical origin of a technique.  Do not mention old work, past exhibitions, or awards in your artist statement.

 

6. Never say anything negative or complain. Negative statements devalue you and your work. Everyone struggles with finding time to do their work.

7. Never puff up your statement with positive self appraisement. Such comments sound like bragging with no substance. Do not include statements about how you are attempting something. Be confident, either you are “there” or don’t say it.

8. NEVER write “No Statement” in a proposal requesting a statement. You will be immediately disqualified for failure to fulfill the requirements

9. Technicalities - have two or more people proofread your statement.  Ask for constructive criticism and feedback. 

10. Update your Statement. Each time you use the statement, reread it thoroughly as if it were your first time. Is there anything that might make it more relevant to the new audience?

Harriete

This post was updated on December 22, 2021.


Documents to sell a work of art.

Vanes1casey
Casey by John van Es

Hi Harriete,

I've painted all my life and I'm now 45 years old.  I recently created my own website and linked it to other portfolio sites to display my work.  I only show a handful of what I've created.  A buyer is interested in two paintings and is asking for papers and documents. What should be given to the buyer?  I never tried to sell before so don't know what to do.    Thanks in advance for your advice.
Signed,

Unsure,

John van Es

       
Dear John,

Thanks for your question and for labeling your images correctly!

 

The following information should be sent for artwork that you want to sell.

  • A polite and business-like letter thanking the collector for his interest in your work and itemizing the materials enclosed with the letter (below).
  • USB drive of digital images. These images should be professional quality images at least 8"x 10" at 300 dpi. Read the new Professional Guidelines documents about digital images for more information.  Include a full view and some close-up images for each piece.
  • Contact sheet with thumbnail images of the digital images on the USB drive. This Contact Sheet is for quick reference. Read Working with Digital Images Effectively for guidance in making your contact sheet. 
  • Resume (1-5 pages with your mailing address since it doesn't appear you are working through a gallery).
  • Artist Statement (about the particular artwork on the USB drive)
  • Description for the artwork on the USB drive including title, copyright symbol, date of work, media (be specific), dimensions (height x width x depth)
  • Photo Credit for the image.
  • Retail Price (label the price as "Retail Price" to avoid confusion with wholesale or artist's price.)

VanEs3geronimo
Geronimo by John van Es

If you have exhibited this particular artwork or if it is included in books, then you might want to list the exhibitions or publications that show or have shown the work. Also if you have any postcards or articles from newspapers or magazines that included images of the artworks, that would be very nice, but it is not necessary.

I have heard about a “Certificate of Authentication” from some people, but this seems more like a fluffy promotional sound bite when buying a souvenir plate.  There is no such organization or ''Certificate of Authentication" that is recognized universally. 

Your letter could document that you created and own the copyright for the artwork. The information listed above should be all that is necessary to give the collector confidence in the fact that he is buying an original painting directly from the artist.

IF you think that "price discounts" may be raised by the collector, I recommend that you read the Professional Guidelines document Discounts.

After the purchase is complete, you should send a receipt for the purchase along with a "thank you" note.

Good luck with the purchase.

Harriete

This post was updated on December 22, 2021, to provide current links.


Can I use another artist's work in my collage without copyright infringement?

Bunny in Wax
       Bunny in Wax
       Saundra Lane Galloway

Harriete,

I've been enjoying your blog. The information you provide is wonderful! I actually DO have a question about copyright. I have two pieces I did with bunny images that I think came from paintings in a magazine. They are wax collages I did in a workshop I was teaching as examples during class. It has been a while, but if I remember correctly they were from paintings that were in magazines. Since the images are so recognizable, would I be treading on trouble if I were to try to sell them? I usually work exclusively from my own photos as I paint and collage, but these are unusual for me. I won't try to sell them if it is a copyright infringement, just curious...Thank you!

Sincerely,

Saundra Galloway

 

 

 

Bunny in Wax 2
Bunny in Wax 2      Saundra Lane Galloway

Dear Saundra,

Using the original bunny image for personal use or as a demonstration for educational purposes one time and for a limited audience is O.K.  -  but now you want to sell this "sample" collage as YOUR ARTWORK, hmmmmmm…… this gets into BAD or UGLY area.  


 

TO SUMMARIZE YOUR QUESTION:
How can you tell if the use of another artist's work is copyright infringement - or is it Fair Use?

I'll refer to my Fair Use Guidelines to give you my opinion.  #1) Is your artwork transformative? To keep within the boundaries of Fair Use the image or its content must be significantly altered.  If you used the bunny image so that it was for bunny texture as background (with other items collage-ed on top) or you wanted only the line or shape so that the original bunny artwork was no longer recognizable, that would be much better.  I don’t think the medium (in this case wax collage) is a significant factor in the transformation.  It also appears that you simply placed the original bunny image intact on a new background - yes, a different context but not much transformed. 

The second test (#2 No confusion) would be if the consumer might be confused. If people who are familiar with the original artist's bunny style might think that your artwork is by the original artist, bad news. Another conflict with the Fair Use Guidelines.

COLLAGE-COPYRIGHT-FAIR-USEThe third test (#3 Commentary and Parody) is very important.  To be Fair Use, your bunny image must make a commentary ABOUT the original artwork.  It is not Fair Use to copy another artist's image simply for convenience.  It appears that you liked the image, copied it, (or ripped it out of a magazine), and placed it in your artwork without any intent to parody the original image.  The significant issue here is the lack of COMMENTARY about the original image.

On the last two tests (#4 Non-commercial intent and #5 No sponsorship) you are probably safer.  Even though you want to sell your artwork now, you do not intend to compete with the commercial purpose of the original image.  And you have not implied any sponsorship or endorsement from the original copyright owner. 

Taking all the Fair Use Guidelines into account, it sounds like you did not significantly alter the found image, the bunny image is obviously THE ORIGINAL ARTIST'S work, and there is no commentary about the original bunny image.  Consequently, I would not sell the collage, but you could continue to use it as an educational example.

Next time you need an image, it would be better to draw the image yourself or find an image that is copyright-free. Copyright is for the lifetime of the artist plus 75 years so a bunny drawn by Leonardo da Vinci would be copyright-free. There are also books, CDs, and websites with copyright-free images specifically for this purpose.

Perhaps you can use the bunny in wax collage as a prime example of copyright problems using found materials for your students.  Each of the guidelines COULD be argued differently, but as a leader in the art community, I'd suggest that you take the high ground and demonstrate by your actions how future artists should treat the work of their fellow artists.

Thanks for your question,
Harriete Estel Berman

This post was updated on December 22, 2021


How do you stay motivated when trying to find a market for your work?

ASK-Harriete-Pencils-Name-Pin.800

Dear Harriete,

There's so much to consider when making and marketing work that I sometimes feel like the crazy plate spinner in the circus.  For the past year, sales have been almost non-existent which also has me feeling a bit disgruntled.  I have a ton of work that I've made during the eight years since my BFA and I'm kinda tired of looking at it.

How do you stay motivated when trying to find a market for your work?

Signed,

Disgruntled and lost

 

Dear Disgruntled,

For aspiring artists and craftspeople, the path for success is NOT about making work to sell. The path to success is to make the best most interesting, deep, esoteric, off the beaten path, unique,  "_________(fill in the blank here)" in the whole world. It has to reflect your inner core, not what you think will sell.  You need to dig deep.

PlanExpecting to sell what you make as a measure of success is a poor measure of the merit for your work (and bound to make you feel bad in this poor economy). [Covid 2022 update: This is not a good time to measure success from what you are selling. Covid quarantine is the time to stay home and work in the studio.} This is the  oIf you want to make work to sell, then make work for Target or Wal-Mart. That is what sells. In reality, nearly all artists and craftspeople must find supplemental income.

As for staying motivated, the book titled, Talent is Overrated, by Geoff Colvin. analyzes how people become successful. I recommend that you read it. A very important concept of the book is regular, "deliberate practice."  Most successful people accumulate over 10,000 hours of deliberate practice before they become a success.  If you started in elementary school, or when you were 3 years old like Tiger Woods, then you will have your 10,000 by the age of 21, or 24. But if you started your deliberate practice as a student in college, then you've just begun your 10,000 hours of practice. 

My favorite part of the book is in the last chapter, "Where Does the Passion Come From?"   Colvin points out that focusing on extrinsic motivation such as awards (or money) reduces the creativity of the outcome. This principle is backed up by academic research.  So where does passion come from? It certainly has to come from within.  Think about what you really love to do.

Push-Flower-pin-graduated-background-betterWhile doing your "deliberate practice" every day in the studio, develop visibility for your work outside of or beyond the gallery/consignment world.  Look for other opportunities to gain insights and experience like submitting your work to calendars or magazines, or volunteering with your local or national arts organization, or at a local small museum or non-profit.

Share your work online. Comment on other people's images.

Save your money from your day job for professional photography when you are ready. (Taking your own pictures is a backup plan.)

Start or join a Critique group.  I have been in several critique groups for over 28 years. It is an absolute necessity to hear solid critical feedback from your professional peers. Eventually, the group may even create or lead to group show opportunities.  Avoid talking about children, dogs, cats, and personal problems. Talk only about the work of the members.

If you don't have a Critique Group, invite another artist friend, one on one to critique your work. Give permission for honest feedback. Be specific. 

Ask your mother! My mother has a great eye and she doesn't hold back her sharp criticism. This can be a great opportunity to get the feedback you need.  

One final thought. Have you considered giving away a few of your experiments or finished pieces to friends or family that appreciate your work? This may expose your work to a wider and diverse audience.

Above all, .......Keep working. Get your  10,000 of practice.

Harriete

 

This post was updated on January 6,  2022.


Are you wondering if your website is working for you?

Are you wondering if your website is working for you? Can a website provide more benefits?  Good questions!  Well, in 2009 Marla Johnson Norris from Aristotle Design spoke at the SNAG Professional Development Seminar.  The program was fantastic. For some people in the audience, they learned a lot about the role of a website in developing professional visibility and driving business. It has become even more important since then.   

The first hour was: Improving Website Performance & Design

In this highly informative and entertaining hour, Marla Johnson Norris shared tips on building new websites, modifying existing ones to better engage web visitors, and developing visibility in search engines.

The second hour was titled: Using Social Networking and Virtual Communities to Drive Business

Social networking and online communities were quickly becoming some of the most useful tools in the virtual marketplace. Marla Johnson Norris showed us how to cut through the clutter using these free venues to create buzz about your work. During this session, she covered a wide variety of networking opportunities that are readily and inexpensively available – from articles and blogs to consumer sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.

The Program was called "Revolutionary" Maximizing the Online Revolution: Websites and Beyond. 
Take time within your year to look at how other successful artists and makers use social media and their websites to create visibility and document their work for a larger audience. No longer are artists and makers limited by gatekeepers such as editors, curators, or galleries.  Create opportunities for yourself. Invest time and energy into your work and share it with the world wide web - www. 

 

This post was updated on December 20, 2021


Auctions

 Dear Harriete,

How would you handle the following situation? You have donated your artwork to an auction benefiting a charitable organization (actually a picture of it that invites the winner to visit your studio and pick a similar item) and the director of the auction lowers your stipulated minimum bid without your consent and someone wins your work at that unauthorized price.
Signed,
Auction alienated

Dear Auctions alienated, 

First, let’s clarify a few terms used in your question and related to Fundraising Auctions

  • A “minimum bid” is the starting point in the bidding of a “live” or “silent” auction.
  • The “reserve price” is the lowest price at which the artwork will be sold.
  • The “bid to own” is written at the bottom of the bidding sheet. It is usually full retail. If the bidder decides to place a “bid to own” early in the auction, no further bids are accepted. This is the winning bid.

Second, written documentation should accompany any work donated by an artist to a fundraising auction. The document should include information about the work including the artist name, contact information, your website, the title of the work, date, and complete description. In addition, state the “minimum bid”, “reserve price” and the full retail price (which is usually used as the “bid to own”). If the fundraising auction doesn’t have formal paperwork, then submit your own paperwork.

In your case, it appears that you did state a “minimum bid” which was changed or ignored. At this point, after the auction, you have a few options depending on your relationship with the fundraising auction and your concern about your reputation. These options are listed below in order from easiest to most difficult.

Option 1.
The simplest option would be to make a note to yourself (in writing) that you will not donate work to this fundraising auction sponsor in the future. Take it as a lesson learned, so next time that you are asked to donate work, ask in advance if they will honor “minimum bids” and your “reserve price”. Make sure that it is clear that you will not donate work to any auction that does not have minimum bids and a reserve price below which the work can not be purchased. Put this in writing to be absolutely clear.

Option 2.
When the auction winner comes to your studio, you honor the donation and hope that the customer will actually buy additional work to offset your loss.

Option 3
You could write a letter to the fundraising sponsor to express your concerns in the most polite manner possible. I would suggest that at least two people proofread your letter to make sure that your concerns are communicated in a professional manner without creating hostility or misunderstanding. State that you participated in the auction with the expectation that the sponsor would honor your minimum bid (attach a copy of your documentation for the minimum bid). Explain that the minimum bid stipulated on the paperwork was changed without your consent and that the winning bid was below the authorized price. Perhaps you might try to work out a compromise.

Option 4
Similar to Option 3, a letter to the sponsor could state that you will honor the unauthorized price this time but you will not participate in their fundraising auction in the future.

Option 5
The most difficult or hard-line option would be to send a letter stating that you can not honor the unauthorized bid price. You may offer an explanation that the unauthorized bid price is so low that it creates an unexpected financial hardship (to make your case more sympathetic).

If you do decide to adopt this option, know that it may create bad feelings with the fundraising sponsor – and other people may hear only one side of the story. People do talk and bad news seems to travel further than you think. Your potential customer who thought they had a “winning bid” will be very disappointed and you probably will lose this person as a customer.

RECOMMENDATION
While your donation was intended to be supportive of the fundraising auction sponsor, they allowed your work to be “won” at a bid that you did not authorize, whether consciously or inadvertently. Therefore, I would be inclined to at least tell the sponsor of the mistake as in Options 3 and 4.

If possible, I would honor the winning bid.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS
Read FUNDRAISING AUCTIONS: Issues and Checklist for Artists found in the Professional Guidelines.

This Professional Guidelines topic is intended to more fully inform artists about the impact of fundraising auctions on their work and careers, what questions need to be asked prior to and after donating work, and to recommend how artists can maximize the benefits when participating in auctions. Ultimately, we believe, the behavior of the artists can and should change the way fundraising auctions are conceived and conducted.

This is one of four Professional Guideline documents about Fundraising Auctions, each addressing a different perspective.

Artists need to learn how to be better advocates for themselves and other artists.

Recommendations of the Professional Guidelines Committee

Reserve Price Policy
The Professional Guidelines Committee recommends that the reserve price for work in an auction be 80% of the retail price. The artists (and/or gallery) should be offered 40% of the retail price for the donation. The art organization will receive at least 40% of the retail price for fundraising and the collector has the possibility of receiving a 20% discount. If bidding for work does not reach the reserve price, the work should be returned to the donor.

ADDITIONAL ISSUES TO CONSIDER
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Professional Guidelines recommend that the artist receives 40% of the retail price when work is donated to a fundraising auction.

What we did not discuss in response to your question, was how much this particular auction sponsor was offering the artists that donated work.

Often, there is considerable pressure on an artist to donate work outright – receiving no percentage of the winning bid. Only the most generous auction organizers offer a percentage of the selling price to the artists. Since the work offered at auction typically sells well below the retail price, even with a percentage, the artist only receives an amount far below the wholesale value.

Even if the artist is offered the full wholesale value for work donated to a fundraising auction, artwork sold at discounted prices in auctions may affect your retail values elsewhere. Every artist should maintain control over the selling prices of his or her work. Since auctioned artwork often sells far below the retail price, maintaining control of pricing is impossible. The result of this discounted selling price is that the value of an artist’s work and the ability of a local gallery to command full retail prices for the entire body of an artist’s work is adversely affected. (For more information about Discounts read the Discounts document in the Professional Guidelines.)

Signed,

Harriete Estel Berman

This post was updated on December 17, 2021


Studio Mate Problems - What shall I do?


Colorcopycombination Dear Harriete,
I have a studio mate whose work has been looking a lot like mine recently. I know that mimicry is the highest form of flattery, but a couple of my studio mate’s pieces are almost identical to mine and she is pricing them much lower than mine! She and I are scheduled to do a number of craft shows together this summer and I am concerned about how this is going to affect my sales. How do I broach this issue with her and what do you suggest I say?

Signed,

Not So Flattered

 

 

 

 

Colorcopycombination2Dear Not So Flattered,

 This sounds like a very difficult situation with no easy answers. Let’s start by breaking this into two issues.

The first and most complex issue is that your studio mate (“SM”) is making work very similar to yours.  To resolve this issue, you will have to have a heart-to-heart discussion with SM – but first, take some time to write down how SM’s work looks like yours; add photographs or sketches to support your examples. After you have itemized all or most of the examples, talk to someone you trust who knows both you and SM. Your confidante may provide additional perspective. Although your concerns are very likely well-founded, it is possible that SM is unaware of the ethical sensitivities regarding design infringement and oblivious to your concern that her design “similarities” are too close for comfort. Ask your confidante how best to discuss this issue with SM.


ColorcopycombinationnBeGoodNow ask SM for an appointment at a time and place where both of you can have an important conversation.
Ask your confidante or a neutral third party to participate and serve as a mediator. This mediator should be a totally cool, calm, and rational person capable of managing difficult situations. A neutral, public location such as a coffee house or restaurant might help avoid tears and screaming. Leave your emotions at the door and bring only your notes and drawings.

Begin the conversation carefully. Perhaps SM did not realize how closely she was influenced by the direction of your work. You’ll need to avoid overt accusations and sentences beginning with “You . . . .” Instead, use “I” language such as “I feel upset that . . . .” Start with the assumption that SM is not intentionally duplicating your work and see where the conversation leads. Hopefully, by raising her awareness of your concerns, she will stop that direction and both of you can move on and maintain an amicable relationship.

Despite the outcome of the meeting, it is likely that you will not feel comfortable showing your new work to SM in the future; and this is not conducive to a creative work environment. Therefore, be prepared to initiate a search for a new studio mate or move out yourself. The best possible outcome is that you will remain friends or friendly.

The next problem to consider is the pricing issue. The pricing of artwork is a much broader topic since it involves business and economic variables. Trying to be objective, I am intrigued with your observation that SM is charging less for very similar work. In this objective mode, I would like to ask if SM is #1) making the work more efficiently (i.e. taking less time per piece or spending less time in creative development); #2) making the work with less investment in materials: or #3) simply not charging enough.

Perhaps all three apply to SM. In #1, production efficiency justifies a lower price but copying someone else’s designs unfairly avoids the expense of creative development. In business, designs are accounted for as intangible assets protected by copyrights, trademarks, and design licenses. Infringing on an intangible asset is just as damaging as stealing any other valuable asset. In #2, less expensive materials would justify lower prices but probably lower-quality as well. Competition and market forces generally accept that higher-quality justifies higher prices and vice versa. It is up to the seller to point out the differences to justify higher prices.

Combination5I suspect that #3 is the most likely scenario. In my experience, most artists do not charge enough for their work. They do not factor in the full cost of their overhead (rent, utilities, shop supplies, raw materials, and retailing expenses like booths, cases, fliers, etc.). Nor do they charge enough for their hourly wage. They are so focused on competing with the many “hobbyists” in the street fair markets that they don’t realize that such low prices make it impossible to make a living on their work. Ultimately, however, the buyers determine what they want and how much they will pay. Therefore, it is up to you, the artist/seller, to inform prospective buyers about the quality of your designs, materials, craftsmanship, and reputation, etc. so that the buyer agrees that your work is by far the best quality for the price.

If you overcome the design similarity issue with SM, you could then discuss the pricing issue. Consider helping her price her work with all the overhead expenses and labor integrated into the price. Maybe SM will have an “ah-ha” moment and be enlightened about the actual cost of producing the work. Maybe you should both increase your prices!

Signed,

Harriete Estel Berman

Combination5AlibabaOrange

This post was updated on January 9, 2022