Professional Guidelines Feed

Updates on the Professional Guidelines


The Professional Guidelines were conceived in 2000 and I along with others pursued this idealistic effort until completion a few years later
.  Many people helped to bring these documents to fruition -- and to give them grateful recognition, their names are listed at the bottom of this post*  and at the bottom of every document.

Now in 2019, a few updates are due.  

The updates involve all three contracts: 

and updates in the professional practice documents:

Professional-guidelines-professional-quality-imagesSome of the updates are significant, such as references to outdated visual technologies like slides (which have been removed). 

The updated versions are now ready for more current use. 

Take a moment to download any of the 19 documents that interest you to boost your career goals -- or share with a fellow artist or maker. More updates are coming. If you notice anything that should be updated, please bring it to my attention. 

Artists and makers may sometimes underestimate the value of professionalism in their field, but a recent situation reminded me just how important it is to keep appropriate records. A well-known curator in the jewelry metal arts field contacted me regarding an important and historic book.

7729-A Lucretia-Mott-Way Harriete Estel Berman 1979
7729-A Lucretia-Mott-Way

Amazingly she asked me to go back 35 years looking for exhibition records.  When did I first show this work? What other artwork was in that show? We are talking about craft history of the 20th century and I hoped that my "20 something" self wrote it down or kept sufficient records. 



Fortunately, (or at a bare minimum), I found my original index cards with the necessary information -- but I had them.   Looking back, those index cards were the precursor foundation that led to the recommendations presented in the Professional Guidelines document "Inventory Records: Documentation and Provenance".

Photos of Harriete posing for Silver-Iron
Photos taken for Silver Iron, 1979


Silver Iron, 1980

Ahh, what a stroll through distance memories as I was looking through boxes of old images, even black and white photos, that seem so archaic in comparison to our technologies now, but I found them.




Silver Iron, 1980

Your work could be part of the history in your field. Yes, the media that you might be inventing today may become history in future decades, but only if you document the work in a permanent way.  Posting on Instagram is great, but it is not a permanent record. 

Are you prepared for your future history in the arts?








Professional Guidelines Committee:

Author: Harriete Estel Berman
Artist, Advocate
San Mateo, CA

Contributing Editor: Andy Cooperman
Jeweler, metalsmith
Seattle, WA

Suzanne Baizerman
Independent Curator
Previously curator, Oakland Museum of California
Oakland, CA

Boris Bally
Production metalsmith
Providence, RI

Sharon Campbell
Collector, Artist Representative
Seattle, Washington

Tami Dean
Portland, Oregon

Jeannine Falino
Independent Curator
Previously curator at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Wayland, MA

Cherry LeBrun
Owner, de Novo Gallery
Palo Alto, CA

Nancy Moyer
Jeweler, Professor (retired)
McAllen, TX  

Marc David Paisin
Attorney at Law
Oakland, CA

Sienna Patti
Owner of Sienna Gallery
Lenox, MA

Biba Schutz
Studio jewelry
New York, NY

Linda Threadgill
Educator, metalsmith
Santa Fe, NM

Bruce Metcalf
Board Liaison & Editor
Bala Cynwyd, PA

Kathleen Browne
Board Liaison
Ravenna, OH

Lloyd Herman
Independent curator
Bellingham, WA

Darle and Patrick Maveety
Collector, former curator and gallery owner
Gleneden Beach, OR
Palo Alto, CA

Marilyn da Silva
Metalsmith; Professor, California College of the Arts
Oakland, CA

Lynda Watson
Santa Cruz, CA

Don Wollwage
Distribution of paper copies
Alameda, CA



Misstress of the Home Trapped by Modern Convenience


Many years ago (actually in another century), I made a sculpture (shown above) titled: "Misstress of the Home Bound to Modern Convenience."  Memories of this piece have been echoing in my mind for months while preparing for New Year's Day 2017 -- a self-imposed deadline to launch new digital content and update my online presence.   

Are we trapped, bound or benefitted by "Modern Convenience?"  This has been seven months of virtual housekeeping efforts at the risk of getting swept away by Google as an obsolete version. Technology is convenient, yes, but the effort to re-organize, improve access, and reduce expenses comes at a price. 


After 7 months of effort, I have two new websites, an artist website and separate website for my silver repair business.

With the new website is a new email address.  I would be glad to share it with you to stay in touch. Here's how...

Email me directly
by clicking on the envelope (in the upper left column of this blog) or contact me through my website form  or copy from the image (below right).   I'm not printing the email here in order to avoid getting spammed. 

Misstress of the Home Bound to Modern Convenience (the upright vacuum featured in this post) is 27" in height. It is not a found object but fabricated in 1982 to look like a real appliance. This is a very real and personal metaphor. "Harriete" means "mistress of the home."  At the time I was commenting on many of the cultural expectations placed on women and the demands of modern living.

Misstress is purposely spelled "miss" as in the confinement of the idealized stereotype of "Miss America" beauty contests. 
Misstress_side-old-new-email 2
A new website also means eliminating my old website and the email
associated with it.
 Very scary indeed! A thirteen year old web identity has been swept away. My old email will be more.....   If this email was the only email you had for me..... it is disappearing.  

It has been a huge effort to update all my "log in" information and newsletters.  If... I have missed your me at my new address. When was the last time you look at every social network that includes your work?  

More legacy costs are being swept away ..... 

For 28 years I had a studio phone for my studio and silver repair business. I grew up with the yellow pages at my fingertips, but who uses the yellow pages any more? My realization is that a business phone listing  in the yellow pages is archaic. 

I was spending $720 a year to have a listing in the yellow pages for my silver repair business, however,  my new website for Berman Fine Silverwork was bringing in all the work.  An update on my website and online presence like  YELP and Facebook was just another example of "house cleaning" for the 21st century. Most of my customers contact me by email anyway. My cell phone will now fill every role, every day, studio and business.

Speaking of cell phones. The upside is that my both of my new websites are now mobile friendly, a mandated requirement by Google for being ranked in search results. Is your website "mobile-friendly?

The Professional Guidelines  are now completely available on line also. Every word in every document is completely searchable on the web in addition to a downloadable PDF document. The Consignment Contract, Exhibition Contract, and Model Release Form are available as Word documents so they can be edited to suit your needs.   

So my new year is a new me, new website, new email, new ways to get in touch. This Everready Working Woman is cleaning house.


Everready Working Woman from 1984 now meets the 21st century.


This post was updated on December 13th, 2021.

Can You Connect Me with a Good, Simple Exhibition Contract?

Yes!  The Professional Guidelines includes a sample Exhibition Contract.

Exhibition-Contract-page1-2This Exhibition Contract is specifically tailored for an exhibition where the gallery or exhibition space will be showing work for a limited period of time (with no expectation of an on-going representation). 

If an exhibition space doesn't have a contract, then suggest using this Exhibition Contract so that both the sponsor and your artwork are protected. I prefer to think of a contract as a checklist to facilitate a discussion of issues in advance that can help to avoid potential problems or friction.  As in any contract, it must be mutually agreeable. And of course, everything is negotiable.  The contract can be modified or edited so that everyone is comfortable with the arrangement. 

Established exhibition spaces are likely to have their own Exhibition Contract. It that case you can compare their contract to this Exhibition Contract from the Professional Guidelines to look for issues that may have been overlooked or that you might think are important in protecting your art or craft.

What if your local arts organization wants to organize an exhibition? Use this Exhibition Contract to establish a great working relationship between the artists and the exhibition sponsor.   



ExhibitionsArtistChecklist2010_Page_1Looking for more guidance about whether an exhibition is "right" for your professional goals?  

Check out the Professional Guidelines document  Exhibitions: Artist Checklist.








CONDITIONreportSending your work to an exhibition?  Use the Condition Report from the Professional Guidelines.  

Learn how to use a condition Report on ASK Harriete (in a future post.) 


Subscribe to ASK Harriete
in the upper left column so you don't miss a single post.  Your email will never be sold or used for anything but providing you with ASK Harriete information. 



P.S. The Professional Guidelines were written with the help and guidance of many professionals in the field from artists, makers, gallery owners, and collectors.

Do you see a need for a particular topic?
Let me know.  

Are you interested in helping write a document offering your words of experience? Write to me anytime.  

How about editing? I could definitely use a proof reader. 

This post was updated on December 11th, 2021.

TOP TEN TIPS for Getting Into a Juried Exhibitions, Juried Shows, Books or Magazines

TOP-TEN-TIPS-for Juried-Opportunities

There is a new improved PDF for the TOP TEN TIPS for Getting into a Juried Exhibition, Craft Show, Book or Magazine with a colored background and internal links for easy reading.

Special appreciation to Tittin Rinde in France for efforts to make this document easier on the eyes. 

Many professionals from the arts and crafts community offered their opinions writing this resource for artists and makers. Their names are listed at the end of the document.

 The Professional Guidelines for the arts and crafts community has 19 documents. 


ASK-Harriete-Green-noBKASK Harriete has a number of posts about Juried Exhibitions that you may find helpful in your professional development.

 Information about retail craft shows can be found under The White Tent or the White Wall.


Insurance Value, Wholesale Price, Retail Price For EXHIBITION CONTRACTS

Insurance Value, Wholesale Price, and Retail Price for exhibitions are sometimes confused usually because of inexperience and good intentions, but with negative consequences and hard feelings if an insurance claim becomes necessary.

This is why a recommendation will be made here.

ALWAYS CLEARLY WRITE DOWN on the exhibition contract:

CONDITIONreportI also write this on the Professional Guidelines Condition Report when I send my work to an exhibition.

Defining each term on the contract by a dollar value avoids confusion.

Here is an example:
RETAIL PRICE:            $ 3,000
$ 1,500

NEVER use the term "ARTIST PRICE" on a contract or in a discussion. The term "Artist Price" has too many definitions to be a reliable term. Interpretations of an "artist's price" range from a special discounted price off wholesale to a special retail price.

ALWAYS LIST THE RETAIL PRICE even if the exhibition sponsor does not have a space for it on the loan form. Write in the Retail Price yourself, if necessary, between the lines or in the margin.

If art or craft is borrowed from a collector that paid retail, then there is no wholesale price and the insurance value is the retail price.
RETAIL PRICE:            $ 3,000

Keep this as clear and straightforward as you can.

Recently I was in an exhibition at an established museum. An inexperienced intern was in charge of the exhibition paperwork (a cost-cutting measure that had huge consequences). The loan form from the museum only had a place to write the "insurance value". The artists wrote in the insurance value as the wholesale price. That is correct, but the museum then sold the artwork at those wholesale values instead of the retail prices. What a mess!  

This confusion didn't happen with my work because I wrote down both the retail price and wholesale price, but I do know that at least one artist had her work sold at wholesale! The artist lost the potential of establishing a new "higher retail price" for her work and the museum expected to pay the artist half the wholesale price. Bad news! The museum fixed the mistake at their loss. What a shame! A huge opportunity cost for everyone involved.

Avoid confusion. Always list the retail price, wholesale price, and insurance value on your contract and  Condition Report.


Previous posts about Insurance Value, Wholesale Price & Retail Price:

In$urance Value, Whole$ale Price, Retail Price - Under$tand the Money defines the terms.

In$urance Value, Whole$ale Price, Retail Price for $HIPPING clarifies which value to use during shipping.

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


Brigitte Martin tells tales of shipping woe. Work shipped to her gallery in Pittsburgh turned into a shipping disaster described in this presentation:

At first, this seemed like a sad story with all the blame placed on the shipper. Is that what you thought?

After listening to this audio presentation several times it occurs to me that most of the problems with this crate could have been avoided with better shipping preparation. How? Read the post Great Crate Tips on ASK Harriete.



Other ASK Harriete posts about shipping:

(tip sheet)

Shipping Comparisons: Shipping Cost & Insurance with Common Carriers by Loring Taoka

Compare USPS to Fed Ex; Outrageous Difference

CONDITION Report from the Professional Guidelines for shipping art or craftConditions Report from the Professional Guidelines

Claims for Damaged Work  from the Professional Guidelines

DAMN! Damaged boxes! Claims for Damaged Work.

Preservation, Conservation - Design for Repair

Many of these presentations were offered at the SNAG 2012 Professional Development Seminar about shipping. 

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

Shipping Comparisons: Shipping Cost & Insurance with Common Carriers

Have you ever wondered which shipping company is best for shipping your work to an exhibition?

SNAG Professional Development SeminarPds_logo300For the SNAG Professional Development Seminar, Loring Taoka prepared a short presentation and an essential handout for comparing shipping costs. Download PDSShippingCostComparisonsLoring


For a shipping price comparison:

There are three different boxes.

Three different insurance values.

All boxes were estimated for shipping from Seattle, WA to Pittsburgh, PA.


Download the Shipping Comparisons handout.

Watch the presentation below.

Note: Shipping cost is not the only issue. Careful handling and availability of shipping insurance are also important considerations.  

Not all carriers offer insurance to the full value of the item (which is really misleading and irritating).  

Careful handling during shipping is important.  It is my professional opinion that UPS should only be used for production work where the objects shipped are replaceable. I do NOT recommend using UPS for shipping one-of-a-kind exhibition work.

USPS "Registered Insured" offers the best handling and full insurance.  This is my recommendation for all shipping.  Registered Insured is the least expensive option if the insurance value is over $1,000. It has the added protection of being a federal offense to tamper with USPS mail.



Related topics about shipping art or craft: HORROR STORIES: Packing & Shipping Recommendations for ARTISTS


Shipping Planning vs. Sh*t Happening

Shipping Boxes for Art or Craft Should Include Instructions


Boxes for shipping Art and Craft




Claims for Damaged Art or Craft in the Professional Guidelines


Claims for Damaged Work

Condition Report from the Professional Guidelines

DAMN! Damaged boxes! Claims for Damaged Work.

Preservation, Conservation - Design for Repair

This post was updated on April 2, 2022, to provide current links.

HORROR STORIES: Packing & Shipping Recommendations for ARTISTS

Leila Hamdan As part of the SNAG 2012 Professional Development Seminar about shipping, Leila Hamdan, former Registrar for the National Ornamental Museum and artist, gave an informative lecture with lots of essential shipping information for artists and makers.

Her presentation has been posted as a YouTube presentation with audio.  You can watch the same presentation as SNAG Conference attendees.

Here are a few quotes from Leila Hamdan.

"It is surprising how many artists do not know how to pack their work for safety and security."

At the Museum, "it was always heartbreaking to open a package and see that their work had been damaged."

"The way that artists pack their work is a reflection of how they make it."

"Do not fill your box with random bits of materials so it seems as though you've emptied your recycling bin."

"Find a weighted balance [for your shipping box] to avoid having one side of the box heavier than the other."

"Always include your contact information inside the box, so you can be found should the outside label be torn off. And this does happen a lot."

Shipping connects your studio to the world.
Stay tuned for more shipping information from the SNAG Professional Development Seminar and ASK Harriete.


ShippingOneofAKind_p4.aiRelated topics about shipping:


Shipping Planning vs. Sh*t Happening

Shipping Boxes for Art or Craft Should Include Instructions


CONDITION Report from the Professional Guidelines for shipping art or craftConditions Report from the Professional Guidelines

Claims for Damaged Work  from the Professional Guidelines

DAMN! Damaged boxes! Claims for Damaged Work.

Preservation, Conservation - Design for Repair

This post was updated on April 2, 2022, to provide current links.


When shipping your one-of-a-kind work, the packing must protect your art or craft!

There are five essential criteria:

  1. Packing needs to protect your work against normal hazards. If the packing is found to be inadequate, insurance may not pay for a claim...even if you paid for insurance. A minimum standard is double boxing.

  2. All packing materials should be reusable for return shipping. Never use clear plastic tape to secure bubble wrap. Removing the tape ruins the bubble wrap and makes it unsuitable for return shipping.  Cutting through the tape risks damage to your work.

  3.  Movement in the box raises risk. Movement risks abrasion and breaking. Art or craft needs to be firmly held in place with no sound or movement.
  4. Packing materials & instructions should provide a foolproof "recipe" for repacking. Assume that the staff repacking your work is merely overwhelmed and exhausted, at best... or inexperienced, at worst.

  5. Packing sends a message about your work. The packing for your art or craft indicates how you want your work handled. A custom-made professional quality shipping box clearly signals quality and an expectation for care and attention.  In contrast, work wrapped in crumpled newspaper, paper scrap, diapers, rags, etc. looks too much like trash (which may be thrown away) or looks like rough handling is acceptable.


 ShippingOneofAKind_p1There is a matching four-page PDF handout with pictures from the Professional Guidelines. (This handout is 26MB so give it time to download. Print it in advance so you are ready to make your own shipping box.)


ShippingOneofAKind_p2Shipping connects your studio to the world.
Stay tuned for more shipping information from the SNAG Professional Development Seminar and ASK

ShippingOneofAKind_p3Are you shipping jewelry, precious materials, loose stones, or larger sculpture?  PowerPoint presentations from the SNAG Conference and handouts are coming soon.


ShippingOneofAKind_p4.aiRelated topics about shipping:

Shipping Planning vs. Sh*t Happening

Shipping Boxes for Art or Craft Should Include Instructions


Conditions Report from the Professional Guidelines

Claims for Damaged Work from the Professional Guidelines

DAMN! Damaged boxes! Claims for Damaged Work.

Preservation, Conservation - Design for Repair

This post was updated on April 2, 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.

Preservation, Conservation - Design for Repair

In this ongoing series about Preservation, Conservation, and Experimentation, I'd like to make a recommendation for all artists and makers  design for repair.

Windows of Memory by Harriete Estel  BermanI am sure everyone would like to think that damage doesn't happen with good care, but 40 years of experience has taught me that accidents do happen, even to the most valuable of items.



Damaged artwork constructed from recycled tin cans Windows of Memory
  Damaged corner of one window. I had to
  completely disassemble the window,
  remake a few parts, repair the pieces
  I couldn't remake, and then put it back

Through the "school of hard knocks," I've also found it far better to anticipate the possibility of damage and not just ignore the possibility.

From the beginning and during your construction, consider how your artwork or craft can be repaired. 
I design my work to be disassembled and keep the instructions and assembly methods in my sketchbooks. Not that I want to repair my work, but when damages do happen, it won't be a total loss. I would rather repair my work myself, instead of letting someone else try to figure it out. I am an expert on my own work. No one can repair it as well as I can.

Damaged artwork documented in the process of making an insurance claim.Keep your records for the materials used or possibly spare parts. Your Inventory Records might include the brand of paint, significant colors, patina, or glazes. Anything that you might need to know about a particular piece or group of work.

I charge for the repair.
Since I do silver repair and restoration, I charge the same hourly rate.  Insurance companies are glad that someone will repair the work, as compared to compensating the owner for the entire artwork.

The document Claims for Damaged Work in the Professional Guidelines will help you with a successful claim if your work is ever damaged.

To help assure the long-term future of your work, design your art or craft for repair and restoration.


This post was updated on February 27, 2023 to provide current links.


Is There A New Standard in Photographic Documentation of Art and Craft?

This is the critical question Andy Cooperman, Brigitte Martin and I were trying to figure out when we organized the program Photography in Flux for the Professional Development Seminar.

Is there a new photographic standard emerging in the photographic documentation of art and craft?


After an entire morning of excellent PowerPoint presentations, Andy Cooperman asked the first question at the Professional Development Seminar lunch discussion,

"Is there a new photographic standard emerging?

BananaRepublicCASUAL "What I have been calling verity," sometimes called authentic,  "grunge meets Etsy, meets D.I.Y.. Companies like Banana Republic are spending a lot of money to look spontaneous."

MVearringsMarthe Le Van, Editor of Lark Books had an articulate response that captured the morning, "I think rather than a [new] standard, it is an expansion of the boundaries." "Rather than changing standards, they are just expanding." It has to be looked at on a "case by case situation, when it works, I think it works really well, but some- times it doesn't work." 

Photographer Christopher Conrad added, "also more people are doing their own shots. So one out of 99 might really work."

RogerSchrieberJimMongrain Roger Schrieber, a professional photographer, continued the conversation with a reference to his theater background. "There is the old theater adage, if it works leave it in. I approach photo shoots with the artists not focusing on the latest trends, but I want to shoot the best picture I can of that art."

Hanna Hedman Photo Credit Sana Lindberg Marthelevanmodelwithfish
Jewelry by Hanna Hedman
Photo Credit: Sanna Lindberg
Photo shown during Marthe Le Van PPT

"And the art usually tells me what it wants to look like. I was really impressed with the photographs that Marthe was showing us from Sweden. Very, very interesting stuff, but there are a lot of juries that wouldn't want to see that, but you've got to know what the juries want to see. You have to read your mail. You have to know what the juries are looking for. If that works, do it."


The above comments were taken from the recorded audio of the Professional Development Seminar. I have listened to all the lectures and discussions very carefully.  For hours I edited the audio recordings minute by minute. I learned so much from the speakers.


While it is pretty scary to dictate absolute standards,
I think some suggestions might help artists and makers veer away from mistakes toward better photographs of their art and craft.

So here are photo recommendations:



AVOID WRINKLED OR DRAPED FABRIC. It looks over-stylized and like a manufactured jewelry ad.

AVOID TEXTURED OR EMBOSSED PAPER. The background becomes distracting.

BACKGROUNDS SHOULD NOT HAVE A THEME . . . such as water, water-washed rocks, sand, moss, or leaves. These backgrounds distract attention away from the work and tend to look commercial at best.  Thematic backgrounds rarely translate well in a juried situation.

COLORED BACKGROUNDS SHOULD BE USED WITH CAUTION. It can be eye-catching or inappropriate. Think about three issues before adding color backgrounds: the work, the audience, and the color. It needs to be the perfect combination. While colored backgrounds may be fine for something fun such as a postcard special graphic, or online marketing they can look out of place in other contexts. Another problem with colored backgrounds is that they can look dated. The trend-setting color for the decade, screams passé in a few years. Avoid colored backgrounds if this is your only professional-quality shot. Your photos need to be an investment with a timeless quality.

BLACK BACKGROUNDS ARE VERY CHALLENGING. Many people think that black backgrounds are automatically a good choice for light, white or silver work. The reality is that most black backgrounds look like a black hole with no shadows except in the hands of the most skilled photographer. If you want black, lay down a sheet of glass on top of the black background to soften the appearance and create a subtle reflection.  Another option is dark gray instead of black as a safer choice.

A FINAL WORD OF ADVICE. The competition for people’s attention is enormous. The general public has become far more sophisticated in judging quality photography by seeing professional-quality photos every day in advertising, books, magazines, and online. The quality of the photo is the perceived quality and status of the art or craft.  Your image sends a very powerful message. Make it the best messenger possible for your work.

Two documents in the Professional Guidelines may help you with your images.



Facebook Crafthaus Are you wondering if your images are good enough? Would you like me to look at your images? Contact me through Facebook or Crafthaus. It is an easy way to share your images with me. Maybe we can work together to improve your images? ASK Harriete

This post was updated on February 8, 2022.

A Plethora of Information at Your Finger Tips.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of information at the SNAG Conference.

ASKHarrietePINS72Today's post will share information already available online. Stay tuned for more information and blog posts about issues raised at the SNAG Conference, along with podcasts and PowerPoints from the actual conference content from the SNAG Professional Development Seminar.

Here are the links for today.

There was LIVE BLOGGING by Tara Brannigan of:
A Smaller Conference Experience lunch discussion with Glenn Adamson and Lola Brooks


The Professional Development Seminar. This includes three hours of programming and the lunch discussion.

Tarabrannigantype Tara asked me to tell you that she did her best to ensure the content was accurate, but her fingers were flying fast and furious. She was typing the entire time!!!!!!!  She says, "Some sections are paraphrased or perhaps lacking a bit of context, just due to the limitations on how fast I can actually type."

IF you have any questions about what was said, leave a comment on ASK Harriete. I will do my best to contact the speakers directly.

The Professional Guidelines on my website offers two documents that are also very helpful and related to this information:

Blogtalkradio A Blog Talk Radio interview with Niche Marketing speaker Emiko Oye and me, Harriete Estel Berman, can be found on Jay Whaley Blog Talk radio. (The very beginning is a little garbled for about a minute....keep listening.)

This post was updated on February 3, 2022.

Copy of DigitalImageGR

RGB or CMYK, web or print? Get ready for the Professional Development Seminar!

Get ready for the Professional Development Seminar this Saturday.

NBC-1956-logo One of the topics is Photography in Flux: Technical Issues, Media and Style. The issues are complicated.


The world of photography for art and craft is changing rapidly. Is your photography up to date? Does it represent your work effectively?

Alphabet_soup-2350Just to be sure that there is no confusion (before we hear the opinions of three photographers and two editors), I am giving a short tutorial on digital images. Did you read the last post on Digital Image (extensions) - Or alphabet soup? A quick tutorial.

Do you know the difference between RGB and CMYK?

Both RGB and CMYK define the specific color space of a document. By assigning, or tagging, a document with a color profile, the application provides a definition of actual color appearances in the document.

Rgb LCD-MonitorHB RGB is for web/screen viewing.

RGB is a digital camera’s original format.

RGB stands for the colors of light: red, green, and blue.

RGB is for web/screen viewing
but some digital printers use RGB, so it is always best to ask which format they prefer.



                                                        Photo Credit: Emiko Oye

PrintercartridegeCMYK is for print. 

CMYK stands for the ink colors cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black).

Don’t convert your images to CMYK unless instructed to do so by the printer.

Converting to CMYK results in lost data unless your Photoshop Layers are flattened first.

Stay tuned for live blogging from the PDS on Twitter:

You can print your own copy of the Handout early.  ASK Harriete will post an announcement. (The handouts are amazing, by the way, with lots of good information from our speakers.)

Learn more about the Professional Development Seminar this Saturday with our photographers Douglas Yaple, Roger Schreiber, and Christopher Conrad along with editors Marthe Le Van of Lark Book and Suzanne Ramljak, Metalsmith Magazine.

Topics include:
• Are you being judged by the style of your images?
• How much post-production is acceptable and who should do the work?
• Current trends in background and composition.
• The model or the pedestal?
• And much more...

More information about WORKING WITH DIGITAL IMAGES EFFECTIVELY and GUIDE TO PROFESSIONAL QUALITY IMAGES is available online from the Professional Guidelines.



LIFE Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman 

This post was updated on February 3, 2022.


Monitor Madness - Going Nuts in a Nutshell

Recently I spent hours and hours trying to figure out if my computer monitor was giving me an accurate color image.  I am going nuts!!!.

Nutshell copy

This is the problem in a nutshell.  Every single computer and computer monitor shows images differently.  I am not kidding!!!!!!!! and it is driving me NUTS! 

Pencil installation about the impact of standardized testing on education by Harriete Estel BermanaI want the images of my art and craft to be presented accurately with the right colors, brightness, contrast, and saturation. Doesn't everybody?


Reality -- Your audience will be looking at your artwork through a different filter than yours.  Their particular combination of computer and monitor will likely show your images somewhat differently.

I've also found that most calibration websites focus on matching your monitor to the printed image coming from your printer. The tutorials assume you want to print your images.  I rarely print my images. Most of my audience will be viewing my images on their desktop monitors, laptops, tablets, or phone.

More problems .....
If it is so easy for anyone's computer and monitor to be set slightly "off" when color correcting images of art and craft, then the images posted to websites may be off as well.

Books and magazine covers
Books and Magazines
Photo Credit: Emiko Oye

What about when you submit images to a book, exhibition, show, or magazine? How do you know that you created the best quality images on your computer? How will your images look on the jurors' monitor? No wonder book publishers insist that artists DO NOT Photoshop their images!!!!!

MonitorsetupAt this point, the only absolute answer is to buy high-priced equipment beyond most of our budgets.  In the meantime, you should check to see if your monitor is giving you a full range of whites, blacks, and appropriately saturated colors.

I found a few websites that help to evaluate monitors.  You may be able to fine-tune some adjustments.  At a minimum, these evaluations will alert you that your monitor may not be showing all there is to see.  In addition, it seems that the computer graphics card and the type of monitor have a lot to do with how your images look.

Test your computer by looking at this sample PDF from It has a very easy-to-evaluate grayscale from black to white.  Try to adjust your monitor to give you the best appearance.  [Don't use the picture here on ASK Harriete, go to the site.]

MonitorWhiteCalCheckReady for a slightly finer evaluation? Try going to They have two charts, one in a white scale image and one in black (below.)

Here is another site with detailed instructions for adjusting your computer and monitor.

This whole issue started because I thought my monitor was getting dim....monitors do age you know. How could I create great images if my monitor isn't correct? If I create images that look great only on my monitor and don't look the same on other people's computers, what then?!!!!

MonitorBlackCalCheck Well, guess what!!!!!?  BAD NEWS, there is no normal. I have discovered that every monitor is different. I mean really different!!!!!!!


Here is the rest of the story.  To replace my old monitor, my husband bought a new LED wide monitor....we were so excited. He purchased the monitor with the most adjustment buttons so I could fine-tune the image. The LED's are brighter and save a lot of energy.  The wide monitor would allow me to have lots of windows open, and we could even download a movie to view on the larger screen.

BAD NEWS! The factory settings on the monitor are all artificially intense. The "scenic" mode and "theater" mode both supersaturate the colors. The other options were only slightly better. With hours invested in fine-tuning the adjustments, it got better but remained unsatisfactory. Something was very wrong with the colors. The white and black scales shown above were not showing the appropriate gradations.

 After hours of adjusting and experimenting we hook up my old monitor to his laptop. Well, his laptop and the old monitor together work quite well, even better than on my computer, but each presented a slightly different image. It became obvious that each combination of computer and monitor produced a different image. 

To end this story, we put the monitor back in the box and I returned it. For my next computer, I bought the best quality graphics card available.

This should not be the end of the story for you.   Using the evaluation websites above, adjust your monitor as well as you can and create the best images you can.  Then check your images or website on other computers, mobile phones, and tablet devices.  At least you will be aware of any undesirable shifts and perhaps go back and adjust accordingly.


This post was updated on January 28, 2022.

Photo Magic or "POOF" Photo Disaster - The Hand as a Prop in the Photographic Image

Hands are particularly challenging in a photo. This is because our brains are engineered to stare at our hands. Thus we can't help looking at the hands in the photo before anything else. Another problem is that most people's hands tend to look a little awkward. Bad combination! For these reasons, hands are particularly challenging in a photo.

HANDS of Harriete Estel Berman with Jeweler'sTattoos.
My very calloused and scarred hands with
"Jeweler's tattoos" (those little trophies
from drilling into your fingers).

The hands of artists and makers can be very unattractive. Calloused, cut, worn, scarred, muscular, and downright unsightly makers' hands ruin the whole photo. "Poof" photo disaster.  My first suggestion for "photo magic" is that artists should avoid using their own hands in a photoshoot.

Recycled Glass Bead Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman When photographing jewelry or clothing to be worn on the hand or arm,  decide whether the benefits of a model's hand outweigh the distractions.  In this case, the hand is a prop.  Its purpose is to highlight key elements of the work.

To achieve "photo magic" make sure the hands look attractive. This requires long graceful fingers and clean, perfectly manicured fingernails.

 Recycled straight  Bracelet by Harriete Estel BermanDuring the photoshoot, pay close attention to the model's hand positions. If the model's hands aren't working naturally, either position the hands exactly as you want them or try a position such that the hands don't show.

Professional Guidelines Brochure Model Release Contract.If you can avoid including hands in the photo it is much easier to get successful photo magic. For example, two photos in the new Professional Guidelines brochure (left) have taken this approach.

In the far left image of Jesse Mathes' necklace, the hands are hidden behind the model's back. This gives the body a sculptural form with no distraction.

Marj-schick-collar In the photo of Marjorie Schick's body sculpture (left) the model's hands are also hidden. Just imagine what this photo would look like with the model's hands showing.  Hopefully, you realize how distracting hands can be.



Photo shoot by Harriete EStel Berman  and Emiko Oye Even with beautiful hands, it might be one out of 50 shots with varying light and positions to get just the right photographic image.

Ask for some honest critique to see if the hand is drawing attention away from the work or contributing to the focus of the photo and comprehension of the artist's intent.

The next post will describe a few MISTAKES and SOLUTIONS with photographs of hands. Either you will have Photo Magic or "POOF" photo disaster! It's all in the hands.


Recycle plastic jewelry work by Harriete Estel Beman. Photo Credit: emiko oye.

Photo of my hands: Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

This post was updated on January 27, 2022, to provide current links.

The model or the pedestal? Which is the more effective image?

Photographing jewelry, sculpture, or clothing intended to be worn on the body presents specific challenges. The biggest question is what is the most effective photographic image-- a model or a more "neutral" background without the figure? This is one of the topics to be discussed at the Professional Development Seminar.

Spring Green Necklace
Painted paper mache
© 1993 Marjorie Schick
Photo Credit: Gary Pollmiller

Using a mannequin can be a striking solution, midway between a live model and an isolated object. This photo (left) of work by Marjorie Schick uses a mannequin that is stylistically consistent with the work. It works perfectly!

Don't confuse this dramatic solution with a headless muslin sewing mannequin that was "found" at a flea market. It is NOT the same thing.

On the other hand, a live model is sometimes the only solution to bring out the best for your work, but a model in the photo adds multiple levels of complexity.


If using a live model, begin with the Model Release Contract from the Professional Guidelines. At least this contract lets you be comfortable knowing that your model is allowing you to use their image in your photos.


Boris Bally necklace on model
  Scrap Leaves: B Wear Necklace
© 2005 Boris Bally
  Constructed from street signs.
  Artist: Boris Bally
  Photo Credit: Aaron UsherIII


Next decision, use a model consistent with the type of work. The appearance of your model has a HUGE IMPACT on the artwork being photographed.  Boris Bally's work on the right made from street signs finds context with a model right out of the urban environment.  If a professional model is outside your budget, use a dancer, athlete, or yoga participant. Their body positions are often more graceful.

  emiko oye photographer

Lighting is KEY to great photos. Bounce cards with natural lighting are the easiest way for amateur photographers to get better "fill light" with or without a model.



Bounce cards can be plain white foam core, a mirror, or aluminum foil over cardboard. You can also buy professional-level photography umbrellas, etc. but the "homemade suggestions" work just fine.

At the shoot with a live model, be prepared. You need at least one or two extra people to hold bounce cards when you try to capture the right moment of sunshine.

Recycledstraight72 For example, the photos in this post were from a recent "homegrown" photoshoot.

I must confess that I've learned a lot about shooting models from watching America's Top Model. Laugh at me all you want, but if you need to use models to photograph your work, then watch this show for helpful insights. Listen to the experts critique the photos, learn from their voices of experience. While fashion photography is not the same as photographing art and craft, there are many tips you can carry back to your own photography.

Recycled2or When using models, be prepared for a long photoshoot. Working with models always seems to take at least twice as long as you plan. Hair, make-up, clothing, lighting are all significant factors. Adding the problems involved in the way the jewelry, clothing, or art actually fits (or doesn't fit) on the model, is a very complex puzzle.


What do you think? The model or the pedestal?

The next post will be about the problem with hands in a photoshoot. Don't shoot yourself in the foot, or should I say hand. Do you know how to get great hand model photos?


Recycle Plastic Bracelets shown above by Harriete Estel Berman are constructed from post-consumer recycled plastic. Photos by emiko oye

51yuPuUf-bL._SL160_ Looking for a beautiful book with amazing images of the mannequin and the model. Marjorie Schick's book about her art to wear offers 100's of images that might inspire your next photoshoot.

This post was updated on January 27, 2022.

Professional Guidelines improve your images!

Sunday I posted opportunities to submit your images for three different books. Check it out if you missed the post. I didn't want to wait until Tuesday because of the pending deadline for submitting images.

BentClocks06 "Oh No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!," you say.
"My images aren't ready!!!!!!!!!"
"My new work isn't finished!!!!!!!!!!!"

That is just the point! Success is always just around the corner, but only if you are prepared with photographs. You can't wait until the opportunity is upon you to make something you've been thinking about for years. Don't wait for an invitation to complete that important project. Then get your photos done.  Chance favors the prepared!

Alysso Endo PHOTO shoot of aqua bracelet behind the camera
Photoshoot in progress. Photo Credit: Alyssa Endo

The Professional Guidelines has several documents that will help you on your path to success with  four topics to improve your application:

TOP TEN TIPS for Getting Into a Juried Exhibition, Show, Book, or Magazine. 

Working with Digital Images Effectively

GUIDE TO Professional Quality Images

Model Release Contract

All information is FREE.

Click on this link Download PGHANDOUT2010 for a one-page PDF including all 19 topics in the Professional Guidelines.

Stay tuned for the next post about using a model to photograph your jewelry, clothing, or art to wear.

This post was updated on January 27, 2022.

New Opportunities to Submit Your Photos - Follow This to Improve Your Chances of Success

There are opportunities to submit your work to upcoming books -- right now, but first below are some tips and links to help improve your chances. 

Consider reading the previous posts on ASK Harriete about photographic backgrounds.  The series isn't finished but I didn't want to wait any longer to let you know about these opportunities to use your fabulous photos!
NEXT, MORE TIPS can be found in the Professional Guidelines which include three specific topics to improve your application:

TOP TEN TIPS for Getting Into a Juried Exhibition, Show, Book, or Magazine. 

Working with Digital Images Effectively

GUIDE TO Professional Quality Images

And finally, when submitting for a publication, this is NOT the time to experiment with unusual colored or textured backgrounds.  To avoid getting a "NOT ACCEPTED" notice, stick with the conventional white, black, or graduated backgrounds. These "tried and true" standards reliably produce more "acceptable" images for a wide range of situations.

(Click on the links provided for more information.)

1) Humor in Craft,Schiffer Publishing, curated by Brigitte Martin

2) Showcase 500 Rings, Lark Books, curated by Bruce Metcalf

3) The Bead and Wire Jewellery Designer’s Bible, Download Information Pack (BDEA) UK by Renata Graham Note: The deadline is very tight, January 31st, so send samples of your work ASAP if you are interested! Preferably only new work. The information is not clear about what size photos so I recommend 4" x 6" x 300 dpi.

Humor in Craft was published and has won multiple book publishing awards. If you are interested in craft objects from sculpture to jewelry I highly recommend this book for hours, days, and weeks of entertainment and interesting observations.


Showcase 500 Rings can be purchased on Amazon.


This post was updated on January 27, 2022.

The Bead and Wire Jewellery Designer’s Bible, by Renata Graham

In summer 2011 quarto Publishing will be delivering this forthcoming title world wide, and we are currently looking for a wide selection of bead jewellery and beadwork to feature throughout the book.

Each featured artist will be credited in full and receive a complimentary copy.

Please see attached for further details.

Note the deadline is very tight, 31st Jan, so send me samples of your work asap if you are interested! Preferably only new work.

Need That Photo YESTERDAY! Be prepared.

After 30 years of exhibition trials and tribulations as an artist and maker, I continue to be reminded of a few recurring actions to be ready for special opportunities!

Three bead bracelets by Harriete Estel Berman Take photos as soon as you finish the work. I mean IMMEDIATELY! The two main reasons are that your work will never look more "fresh" than immediately after you finish it, and you can start promoting your new work with the images.

Your images should be shot in RAW format to create the largest file possible, then clean up the image or modify as necessary in Photoshop. Save the final image as your  "master"  TIF.

CraftsReportcover72As soon as I get my  TIF images from the photographer, I create images for my website and social networking links like Facebook, Flickr, and Crafthaus.

You will also be prepared for an opportunity at a moment's notice.   You never know, but it happens often enough.  Magazines, shows, exhibition sponsors, writers, and fellow artists often want images YESTERDAY.  When such an opportunity occurs, the artist who delivers an image always wins out over those who are not ready.

It happened to me twice last week. One person needed images for their lecture in two days. The other person wanted images for publicity yesterday. The magazine cover image for The Crafts Report (from a couple of years ago) was just another example of being prepared when a last-minute opportunity presents itself. They needed an image, and I was ready.

Was it worth being ready? Are you kidding?  In minutes I can email images with a complete description and Photo Credit.

Black and gold Identity Bead Necklace by Harriete Estel Berman
       Black and Gold Identity Necklace
       Recycled tin cans, Plexiglas, electrical
       cord, brass, 10k gold.
   © 2006 Harriete Estel Berman
       Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

While it would be ideal if every opportunity presented itself with six months of advance planning, this is not always the case.  Be prepared by taking your photos immediately without procrastination.  You need to do the photos anyway, so consider it the final step in finishing your work.

Next Tuesday, Ask Harriete will include recommendations for the size of your photographic images.  Be ready for your images to travel at the speed of light.


Click on my name to view the entire collection of Bead Bracelets and Bead Necklaces

If you need extra guidance with your images, use the Professional Guidelines topics:

GUIDE TO Professional Quality Images

Working with Digital Images Effectively

This post was updated on January 22, 2022.

Single AOL Bead functions as a magnetic catch by Harriete Estel Berman.

INVENTORY RECORDS - An Essential Ingredient for Your Business Success

EdwardsD_9aNew (1) EDWARDSgr(Rose
Two Felt Hats by Dawn Edwards. View more of her work on her website

Dear Harriete,
Is there an easy computer program
(for those of us who are not much of a "techie"), that you've found works well, and is designed for keeping accurate inventory?
Thanks so much,

Dawn Edwards

Dear Dawn,
I don’t use special computer software for inventory management. I am much more inclined to save my money and use my own system. No computer program is going to do the work for you and the most tedious and demanding aspect of inventory management is making sure you DO IT! 

Your inventory management needs to start with a complete description in a word document for each and every item (or series of items).  Include the title, date, brief description, dimensions, and photo credit. This can be used over and over for your online postings (on your website, retail marketing sites, exhibition labels, and on social networking sites).

For major one-of-a-kind work, I use the Inventory Record Form in the Professional Guidelines. Download the Inventory Record FORM


When the Inventory Record Form is printed, I handwrite the pertinent information and organize it in a binder. For more information about the Inventory Record Form in the Professional Guidelines CLICK HERE.

If you want to keep this information on your computer, then just make a similar outline on your computer (e.g. in an Excel or Word document). Create your own system based on this template form. Make sure that you are noting all your Cost of Good (COG) hours and materials on this form.


HardCandy72  AOLfree2web
For smaller items like earrings and bracelets, I just keep a list of Earring Inventory with the name of each item, short description and price. If I send the earrings to a gallery, I move it from studio inventory to a different list, in the same document under the Gallery Inventory.

INVENTORY FOR PIN with a description.
Same idea goes for bracelets or pins. Here are two pins currently in inventory.

Copycatscratch72 Collect72
Here is the description for these two pins in Pin Inventory:
Copycat Won’t Scratch
Ht 3 5/8"  W 3 3/8" pin.  $295
Collect Payment   Ht  2 3/4" height  W 2 15/16"   $195

Sometimes I have subcategories in the same Inventory file. For example in my Pin Inventory, I have lists of my Flower pins. Each pin has a title, date, description, and price.  

Here is the description copied directly from my inventory records.

April Flower  Pin 48. 3L. 6.11.10 Children toys with doll face center in soft green. Back: Soft Yellow Almanac Tin with seasonal gardening information. 3 6/16” Diameter $345


Red Campbell's Flower Brooch-
Recycled Tin Cans
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
© 2010

If an item sells, I move the record to my SOLD INVENTORY at the bottom of the same inventory document.

If you make multiples, you still need a document with your handy description. Then you could use an Excel program to keep track of total inventory, the number of items, materials, hours, etc.

THE MOST DIFFICULT ISSUE is taking time to keep careful records. You just can't send work to a gallery or store on consignment and think you will remember where it is. That does not work! If you are sending work to a gallery on consignment, you need to move the record from STUDIO INVENTORY to your list of GALLERY INVENTORY. If it comes back from a gallery, move the items back into STUDIO INVENTORY.

If you sell an item, record it to SOLD INVENTORY.  How else will you know if an item is available or how many you have in stock?

Oh yes! Back up your files on occasion. That is why for important work, I print the Inventory Record Form and keep it in a binder.

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

Links for Professional Guidelines

In 2010, SNAG published two brochures about the PROFESSIONAL GUIDELINES brochures for widespread distribution.

The Professional Guidelines are documents that have been developed as a reference to help everyone in the arts and crafts community learn how to handle common but important situations that may arise.


These brochures are no longer in print, but the Professional Guidelines are available online. The Professional Guidelines assist artists in their professional development and the arts community.

INVENTORY RECORD: Documentation and Provenance

TOP TEN TIPS for Getting Into a Juried Exhibition, Show, Book or Magazine


EXHIBITIONS: Artist Checklist





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 Alternatives for Art Organizations

CONSIGNMENT Contract      

DISCOUNTS - Impact of discounts on the arts and crafts community    

OPEN STUDIOS: Artist Checklist      
OPEN STUDIOS: Guide for Art Organizations       

CLAIMS for DAMAGED WORK: Artist Checklist



The Guidelines were written by Harriete Estel Berman with the guidance of Andy Cooperman and a blue-ribbon panel of experts. 
The brochures were designed by emiko oye with content from Harriete Estel Berman.

*Brochures were printed and distributed through a grant from a private foundation.  

This post was updated on February 5, 2022.

Burned by burnt paintings! Oh no! What shall I do?

Dear Harriete,

A good friend of mine opened a café and I had my paintings/giclees* exhibited there. Last week she had a fire. Most of my work was either destroyed or damaged. My husband also had photography work there and it was smoke damaged. She was under the impression that her business partner had upgraded their insurance to include the artwork (mine was not the only one) and other new equipment that they had acquired. Guess he didn’t. Am I without recourse? Thank You.

By the way, I did have one small piece which was a watercolor framed under glass. The glass protected the painting so that was good.
JK Sanders

 JK Sanders mural before the fire
"Marcies Ghost" © 2008
Mural, Acrylic on wall 2.5' by 4'
Artist: JK Sanders

Wow, very sorry to hear about your work and your friend's business setback. This illustrates the importance of a contract. The primary reason for a contract is not enforcement but to give both parties a checklist of things to do and verify.
If both you and the cafe owner had taken a few moments initially to look over and discuss the issues typically itemized in a contract (including insurance), perhaps this situation would have a better outcome.  

If the venue owner had signed a contract that included an Inventory List specifying the total number of items and value of the exhibited work, then their level of responsibility would have been clear. As it is now, they can easily claim that they never promised insurance coverage or that you knowingly displayed your work at your own risk.  You have only a verbal conversation which is not much to stand on legally.  In this case, I don't think you have any recourse without documentation of the conversation.


JK Sanders mural damaged by fire
"Marcies Ghost" (with damage by fire)

Given the circumstances, it looks like you cannot prove an expectation for insurance.  Both you and the restaurant owner are responsible for this situation. I don't mean to be unkind and I am not a legal expert, so this is just my opinion. Your legal case is weak and hiring a lawyer will cost more money. You could consider taking them to small claims court and making an enemy of a friend. All of these are hard choices. Maybe the cafe owner will voluntarily give you an amount of money out of the goodness of their heart. That is a lot to ask or expect considering their significant loss.


JK Sanders watercolor
"Maxwells Garden View"  and
"Tibby's Trophy" © 2001 (before fire)
Artist: JK Sanders

JK Sanders watercolor
"Maxwells Garden View" 
© 2001 (with fire damage)
watercolor,  24"X30"
Artist: JK Sanders

This is a very hard way to learn a difficult lesson. We can hope that other artists will learn from your well-intentioned but harsh experience.

There are two sample contracts in the Professional Guidelines that can be downloaded for free. Either contract can easily be modified to suit both parties and adapted to the circumstances.  It shouldn't be an adversarial discussion but contracts do oblige both parties to consider "what if" problems.

The Consignment Contract focuses more on retail sales and representation.

The Exhibition Contract is designed for a situation where retail sales are not the primary focus.

Here is a link to the one page handout in the Professional Guidelines which is useful for preliminary discussions when showing your work at any venue. Print it out and keep this on your desk so that you know which topics are already available for your reference.


JKSanders watercolor with fire damage
Coffee Cat Series damaged in the fire.
Artist: JK Sanders

One more issue.   In any scenario where artwork may be exhibited, (especially in an unsupervised environment such as a restaurant where it may be touched), I would fill out a Condition Report before the work is installed. This way if it is returned damaged in any way, you have documentation of its prior condition. 

Despite all this documentation, the primary focus is always to establish a good working relationship. On occasion we all take calculated risks for an exhibition opportunity, so clarifying responsibilities ahead of time tends to be helpful for all parties as events unfold.  It is unfortunate that this one turned out so badly.

If anyone has another suggestion, please leave a comment. I'd like to hear what you have to say. Maybe there is another solution that I didn't consider.

*giclée - the use of ink-jet printing to manufacture artistic prints


Stay tuned for the next posts about galleries and stores that don't pay on time, sample order terms, and net 30 Applications.

This post was updated on January 11, 2022. 

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.

"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.





Also, CERF will soon be consolidating its preparedness and recovery information at:   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. 


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

What if a show has no insurance?

Extinction Book
Judy Hoffman

Dear Harriete,

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

Judith Hoffman


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


This post was updated on December 27, 2021.

Speaking about the Professional Guidelines


Harriete Estel Berman Name Tag
Recycled tin cans, brass rivets.

Did you ever want to learn more about the Professional Guidelines in person?

I will be speaking at the Enameling Conference titled, SURFACING, on August 9 from 11:10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. 



The Enamelist Society Conference, Oakland, CA   
August 7 - 9, 2009
The topic is a brief and entertaining review of the Professional Guidelines including multiple tips on how and when to use this valuable information. Meet me there!

Discussion (after lunch) answering professional questions starts at 1:30 p.m.


This post was updated on December 23, 2021, 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


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?


This post was updated on December 22, 2021.

Images, Marketing, and Superheroes

The photographic images of your work can be like superheroes promoting your work.  They can zoom across the Internet at the speed of light, shrink to the size of a first-class postal envelope, expand to super viewing size, keep working 24 hours a day, and show up in galleries, shows, homes, and offices around the world. 


Berman RECYCLE Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman in Fushia & Blacka
RECYCLE Fushia & Black Bracelet
© 2011 Harriete Estel Berman
Recycled plastic
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

This is a really important concept for artists and craftspeople to embrace.  All of us hope that many people will see our work in person, however, it is a near certainty that many more people can or will see the photographs of your work in print or on the Internet.

Your images can be in every library and every home in books, magazines, or the web constantly introducing your work to new audiences.

Champagne 5-30-07 Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman
 Champagne Bracelet
 Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

The photographic images of your work are the most powerful networking tool that you have in your possession. Yet all too often artists and craftspeople are not properly using or adequately developing this "super ability" available to everyone.


Paddleboat Teapot Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman
  Paddleboat Bracelet with Teapot © 2007
  Recycled tin cans
  Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
  Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

It is a false economy to think that you are saving money by taking your own photos with modest consumer-level cameras lacking professional quality backgrounds, lighting, and other advanced equipment.  Is there any wonder that such pedestrian images are not performing as well as hoped for?  Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to promote your work.


If you're trying to take your own photos learn from the experts.
The 2011 SNAG Professional Development Seminar offered a series of lectures with tons of information that will help you take better quality images. Find them all on the Professional Development Seminar page on my web site.


Oreo Bracelet by Harriete EStel Berman photographed by Stevie B Photography
Oreo Bracelet  © 2001
Recycled tin cans, brass,
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Steven Brian Photography

It is time to create your own personal superheroes!
Take a look at your images with a critical eye. This is not in the negative sense, but with the perspective of careful comparison to truly high-quality images. Are the photographic images of your work achieving the high standard and visibility that you aspire for your work?





Use the two new documents in the Professional Guidelines to guide you in this evaluation.

The Guide to Professional Quality Images offers concrete issues to evaluate your images. Here are a few highlights covered in this document in more detail.


Start with the focus, exposure, and composition of the images. Every single element needs to be exactly 100% correct and interesting. Avoid overexposure, underexposure and harsh highlights.  Don't settle for "good enough."  Just like your work, everything should be perfect.

BadIMG_BraceletW Your photographic background should be white, grey, or graduated light to dark.  Avoid distracting backgrounds such as leaves, branches, logs, stones,  or grass (as in this photo).

Colored, wrinkly, and textured fabric or paper (as in the next photo) is not a good choice either.  These stylized attempts fail almost every time because they detract from the primary purpose of the image: to have the viewer focus on your work.

BadIMG_ear_fabric272 Fill the entire photographic image with your work. A common problem that I see is that the object or artwork is too small within the picture plane (as in this image) or shot at an odd angle. Be bold and confident; fill the picture frame with your work.


Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

The close-up image should be memorable also.  The close-up image needs to convey a ton of detailed information about materials, texture, and techniques within your work.  It should be like an intimate revelation of key elements that make your work special. 

Take time to evaluate your photos objectively and constructively.  Get in-depth, analytical opinions from friends, colleagues, or your Critique Group.  Don't let them give you a polite passing comment.  Really dig deep and evaluate the elements of the image.  Use the criteria established in the Professional Guidelines Guide to Quality Photographic Images as a foundation or checklist. 

Money Game  Flower  Brooch by Harriete EsTel Berman ASK Harriete offers many posts on "superhero images."    Learn how your photographic images can work for you more effectively.  Check them out!

If you have examples of good and bad photo comparisons that you are willing to share, please send them to me for a new Professional Guidelines document with photographic examples.


This post was updated on December 22, 2021

Do not add text to your photos!

Your photos are your best marketing tool.
  Unfortunately, some artists have stepped over the line and added their name or their business name into the photo. This distracts from the primary purpose of your photo which is to show your artwork or craft at its best.  Anything else is a distraction and lends a commercial appearance that is inappropriate for fine art or fine craft.  All other information can be added elsewhere, just not in the photo. (Information for your photos will be covered in the next post.)

HB61-9252Do not add data to your photos.  Do not add your signature, date, object's title, artist's name, company name, business name, watermark, or online shop name to your photos.  Keep your photos absolutely clean so that they can be submitted for all sorts of opportunities like books, magazines, local newspapers, gallery promotions, juried shows, exhibitions, and online social networking sites.

When you take photos of your work, create a set of photos that will be suitable for as many opportunities and applications as possible.  And make your work so memorable and unique that everyone recognizes your work even without looking for the artist's name. This is your signature!

Stay tuned for additional posts on photographic images and refer to the Professional Guidelines documents:






This post was updated on January 2022




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

Bunny in Wax
       Bunny in Wax
       Saundra Lane Galloway


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!


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.  


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

Are Your Images Good Enough?

Are Your Images Good Enough? 

This is an important question for all artists and makers in all media.  Images are perhaps the most important issue for success. 

Fabulous photographic images have always been important but with the circulation of images on the Internet, and with opportunities to have your work published in books, magazines, or exhibition publicity and catalogs,  great photographic images have become even more important.

That is why I decided to write the Professional Guidelines document about Quality Photographic Images.  There is also the topic Working with Digital Images Effectively

To be successful, all creative individuals need to strive for improvement and "deliberate practice" as described in the book TALENT IS OVERRATED by Geoff Colvin. Are you striving for improvement? Do you show your images to your Critique Group and ask for critique? Have you ever projected your images to see if they still look good to a lecture audience? Do they grab the attention of a jury? Are your images memorable?  Have you ever asked your most critical artist friend their opinion of your images? A digital camera or the camera in your phone does not make you a photographer. Evaluate your images carefully as a key to success.

Here is an updated example of what it means to have great images. 
Ornament Magazine editor Patrick R. Benesh-Liu 
had asked Glen R. Brown to write an article about my work. At the beginning of 2020, Patrick contacted me for images of my jewelry.  I sent images, and images and images.  I mean a lot of images. It took the better part of my free time for a week to look for all the images he wanted, and then he wanted more!  Does a magazine editor ever think there are too many images?  Evidently not!  Not only did he include many images in the article, but he added another two pages of images in what he titled "Artist Showcase."  

Black-Plastic-Gyre-Ornament-magazine600The article in Ornament Magazine published in the spring of 2020 led directly to the next opportunity....the inclusion of my work in JEWELRY produced by Craft In America for PBS.


Are your images good enough to create new opportunities for your work?
Share your images with me on Instagram.


P.S. Images of my artwork were taken by Philip Cohen. 

This post was updated on January 6, 2021. 

Expectations of Exclusivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two challenging areas to define under an exclusivity clause in a contract -- the Internet and collectors.   

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

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

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

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

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


This post was updated on December 17, 2021