“But the Customer Said They Would Be Back” and Other Things You’ll Hear at an Art Show
It’s that time of year for most of our readers. Art show season. Hang in there! While I’m not participating in a show this holiday season, I have decades of experience selling my work at a variety of shows. I’ve recently attended some shows as a customer and it was eye opening to see the mistakes artists are making, I wanted to shout, “You’ve worked since April on your stock…get some lights, don’t look so grumpy!” but instead, I’m writing out some tips and hopefully some encouragement for artists out there in their booths and to those thinking of attending shows.
The first thing newbie’s should realize—shows are expensive. This is something I wish customers realized too. It’s not just the booth fee, it’s the cost of the booth, the cost to ship the booth and all of the handmade items, to find a place to stay and food on the road, insurance for the work, the booth, marketing materials and…. It’s like setting up a mini store.
Don’t be the invisible artist. I can’t believe how many booths I’ve seen that are abandoned. Either the artist is actually not there, or they are chatting with a vendor down the row, or they are hidden behind their products, or booth walls, or low chairs. This boggles my mind. After working so hard to make things, and to pay to show and to haul it all and set up…artists are hiding. Continue reading…
Sourcing beads and jewelry making supplies can be highly addictive. You start with a small collection of seed beads, and then before you know it, you have hundreds of thousands of beads cluttering your design space and getting in the way of your creative process.
Decluttering your space is the first step to a more creative and productive jewelry making operation, whether you design as a hobby or for a living. While you could simply throw all your beads in a jar, you need storage solutions and organization strategies that complement the way you design, allowing you to easily view, select and access your materials. So here are some handy tips on how to keep your creative space tidy. Continue reading…
Last month we ran a survey for our readers and there were some really great comments and questions. One theme that repeated itself was about “making a living” at selling your work.
Here are a few of the reader questions: “How can I make a living at my art?” “How do you balance a personal life, regular work and creative time?” “Does anyone make a living selling metal clay jewelry?” “Can you make a living as an artist when you work with metal clay? This question could be asked to any “regular” person, like you and me ;)!”
I could have asked any of these questions! So I’m not the expert with the answers. But I have done a bit of research and I have some resources to share. The first thing I’d like to address comes from a conversation about these very topics with my father. He told me to “never pay too much for an income” and to “make a life, not a living”. Sage advice from a person I admire. I think his words address the question someone had about balancing work life and creative life. You can become a slave to your work even if it is your calling and by consequence miss out on family and friends. Many artists throughout history have sacrificed for their art. I have struggled with “work-life-balance” myself. I’ve had to choose what is the most important–not just to me but to my family and so creative time often gets missed even though working in my studio is like breathing for me. I decided that I’d never regret giving the time to my children. They won’t always be around but my many unfinished pieces of “art” will be there.
Question: “Does anyone make a living selling metal clay jewellery?”
Yes, I think there are artists who do! However, given that the job of “artist” lacks a regular pay check, artists have to rely on many revenue streams. Artists living off their craft work hard at marketing their work, they sell on many platforms such as shops, online and shows, they teach, and most have varied jewellery lines and some sell products. I would encourage you to find artists pages online, their sites and so forth and see how hard they work at “making a living”.
Question: “I would love to ask many of the high profile artists for more detailed information on how they achieved such name recognition/built their business in this community. And, if it supplies their full income, possibly even in the absence of a lot of travel teaching.”
This short talk by Paul Klein about finding your niche, removing obstacles and finding a mentor provides a great answer to the above question.
“Artist and career advisor Paul Klein emphasized the importance of being different. He insinuated that distinctiveness generates sales–even more so than quality. “Can’t all of us name artists who are doing really well monetarily, whose work we think sucks?” The branded artist doesn’t necessarily produce better work, but more bankable work.” Quote from this article in Forbes.
In “Part 2” I’ll find answers to the questions about the nuts and bolts of business such as inventory, tracking, descriptions of work.
My closing comment is to be yourself. I know that sounds so cliche. But it’s so true. I’ve been looking at metal clay jewellery for over a decade. (gasp) and I can almost without fail look at a photo of a piece of metal clay jewellery and tell you the name of the artist (and if I’m wrong–usually that person was the “inspiration” for the work). We need more work that stands out. In another article I found on Forbes by Jessica Hagy she shows why weird can be bankable. Yes…be weird, but let your own distinct artistic voice show in your work!
Image credit for opening image: Location Pillar in the stairwell of the UT Austin Art Building was up for two weeks
Jeannette Froese LeBlanc is working on becoming a distinct and profitable jewellery designer. From her studio in rural Ontario, Jeannette tries to balance life as a mom of two (very) active children and earn a living from her jewellery. You can find her work online and in several boutiques. www.SassyandStella.com
PMC3 is a fine silver clay (.999 silver). True, fine silver PMC3 is more expensive than base metal clays. But the ease of working with and firing fine silver clay makes it a much better choice for beginners. From start to finish, PMC3 is the least complicated of all of the metal clays, which means that students can focus on the basics of construction, firing, and finishing without having to worry about complications created by the clay itself. Once you have those basic skills under your belt, there is an entire universe of textures and colors available to the metal clay artist.
With all metal clays, getting the basic texture and forming in place before the clay starts drying is key. Make sure your clay is sealed in an air-tight container when not being worked, and don’t hold the clay in your hands when you are not shaping it as your skin will pull moisture out of the clay.
Most important is to stay relaxed, have fun and experiment.
Still wondering about the other varieties of PMC clay? Here is a quick summary: PMC3 – great for beginners; can be fired with a torch; low firing temperature allows for inclusion of findings, glass, and fire-able stones. PMC3 paste – good for joining pieces; can be used for adding texture and painted designs; can be used with PMC3, PMC+, PMC Flex, and PMC Sterling. PMC3 syringe – good for making repairs and filling grooves; can be used for drawing, building up forms and setting stones; can be used with PMC3, PMC+, PMC Flex, and PMC Sterling. PMC Flex – designed to stay flexible when dry; good for bending, twisting and braiding; low firing schedule and can be fired with a torch. PMC+ Sheet – flexible and does not stick to itself; great for origami, folding and weaving; can be laminated and used with paper punches. PMC Sterling – great for added strength and shine, must be kiln-fired in carbon PMC Gold – great for accents; low firing temperature; can be fired alongside silver PMC and can be torch fired.
Dona Miller: “Art, especially jewelry, is very personal. Through the constant inspiration of nature, animals and my dogs, I interpret the spirit around me into jewelry, using my love of stones and shaping metal. My designs and metal work incorporate the use of cut and natural stones to reflect the peace, love and joy of nature.”
Jewelry in article by Dona Miller.
“Metal Clay 101” is an ongoing series brought to you by PMC Connection and their instructors.
Safety Tips: Always dry your clay completely before firing. If your clay is damp the moisture will try to escape quickly during firing and the piece will break or it could explode while torch firing.
Most metal clay pieces under 15 grams will take a day to dry. You can speed up the drying by using a mug warmer—remember to turn the piece every once in a while. Or you can use a food dehydrator that has been dedicated to non-food use. With these methods it will still take a few hours to dry out.
Do not torch fire metal clay that has been formed over a core, such as a ceramic bead, wood or cork clay.
Always follow the clay manufacturer’s directions for firing. The insert that comes with the clay will explain firing temperatures and timings.
Always fire metal clay, with a torch or with a kiln, in a well-ventilated area and have a fire extinguisher handy.
Technique Tips: Keep that clay moist and you’ll be a happy artist! Clay can be stored in a small airtight container and if you are leaving the clay in-between projects, put a small piece of damp sponge in the container. It is also handy to have a small spray bottle handy to re-moisten clay if it starts to dry out.
Keep all the bits and shavings clean. All dried bits of clay can be re-hydrated into a paste, but keep the bits free of sandpaper grit and other work-space debris.
Before you open your package of clay, have your work-space ready. If you are rolling out the clay, have a non-stick work surface ready. (This can be a sheet of glass or plastic.) Lightly coat your hands and tools with olive oil. And lastly—know what you are going to do! Don’t wait for inspiration while your clay is drying out.
I recall so clearly when I first heard about metal clay, back in the late 1990s, in the Rio Grande catalog. I thought I might like to work with it, and took my first class in 2000 (a two-week stint at Arrowmont in Tennessee, with Linda Kaye-Moses). I also recall, equally clearly, hearing about and then using Metal Adventures’ (Original) BRONZclay, when it came on the market in 2008. Such an interesting and different take on metal clay!
And look at us now: we have several versions of silver clay, plus a multitude of base metal clays, with more coming. What Bill Struve started experimenting with in 2006 has grown into an international community of inventors and users, with clays coming from many parts of the world. While I am personally far from a scientist, I do have an inquisitive nature that wants to know many things about the materials we use.
Most of us are aware of some differences in the base metal clays, like color and shrinkage rate. I’ve taught many classes that help others get the feel of different clays, but never went beyond the basics where firing is concerned. This is the subject of my latest set of experiments, and this article deals specifically with open-shelf firing of base-metal clays; torch firing is the subject for my next major experiment and another article. Continue reading…
One of the key reasons for choosing metal clay as a jewelry making material is that it allows you to create or reproduce virtually any texture in metal quickly and easily.
What Can You Use to Add Texture to Metal Clay?
Although it sounds clichéd, you really are limited only by your imagination. There is a dizzying selection of commercial plastic, polymer or silicone texture mats and sheets, rubber stamps, texture rollers, molds, etc. that you can purchase to impress patterns in fresh clay. There also are many different ways to make your own one-of-a-kind texturing materials and tools. You can use water etching, carving, drilling, filing and metal clay appliqué on dried clay. After firing you can use traditional metal working techniques such as hammering to alter the topography of the metal’s surface. Continue reading…
Whenever I teach a metal clay class I always see students carefully re-wrapping their metal clay and putting it back into the packaging. I hate to see fresh metal clay dry out so I show my students several ways to store metal clay. Here are a few of my favourites for keeping metal clay either lump or syringe types ready to use and in their optimal condition.
Long Term Storage Clay: There are several ideas for long term storage. Some people like to use pressed powder containers with a wet sponge on top. Others have purchased different storage containers from metal clay sellers. I find the lotion sample containers from the make up counter to be cheap and plentiful. I like to have containers dedicated for one type of clay. Simply write the type of clay on the lid. A small piece of wet sponge can be added for really long term storage. Syringes: I have a few containers that hold water and seal off the syringe. I like this one by Linda Stiles Smith which is sold by Rio Grande. Continue reading…