Webster: Relative valueWritten by Jules Webster | | firstname.lastname@example.org
So you’ve got talent, a passion for making art, and you’d like to start selling your work. Maybe you’ve had successful sales or gallery exhibitions in the past, but want to increase your income perception of value for your work. The first reaction most artists have is to spend a greater amount of time in their studio and produce more art. Certainly you have to make more to sell more, but remember that sales are also driven by market forces and consumer demand. Achieving greater sales numbers is also dependent upon understanding who and what your “market” is for your art; and making sure that the product, pricepoint, and your brand image is compatible with consumers within that segment of the market.
Step one is determining the scale of market in which you’d like to sell your goods. You can approach this from several perspectives: locally, regionally, nationally or internationally. I focus on selling work locally and regionally within a three-hour drive from Toledo. Being aware of the size of the market you’re looking to sell to helps determine what types of products to make, a range of price points acceptable for your territory and the proper approach to take for advertising and selling your goods.
For example, if you are a conceptually based installation artist, Toledo wouldn’t necessarily be the optimal market for selling your work. Our artist community doesn’t have a tradition of exhibiting conceptual installations, and consumers within this area are unfamiliar with the style and format of installation. Simply put, most of the population wouldn’t know “what it is,” or “what to do with” installation art.
Consumers also tend to gravitate toward the more traditional mediums of painting, drawing, printmaking, small-scale jewelry or sculptural metals, glass and ceramics. Digital drawings, digital video, jewelry or sculpture made from synthetic materials (not metal, clay, wood or plaster) are often overlooked by the general buying public.
Because the vast tradition of art-making as recorded in Western civilization is commodity-based, two-dimensional works or functional and decorative arts, most consumers still buy works in these formats. There is also a “perception of relative value” for artwork, subconsciously ingrained within the mind of all buyers, which tells us that works of “this or that” size must cost about “this much.” The amount of labor and materials artists invest into their work necessitates that a certain piece will cost a certain amount, and we assign value to our art by pricing our work accordingly.
As artists, we understand the input cost of our goods. The typical consumer does not, unless he or she has dabbled in making art within your medium. Our work is compared to other paintings, jewelry, glass, photography or sculpture available for sale. Most of these comparative goods, although seemingly handmade, are often cheap copies of original art, produced in mass quantities by factories in developing nations by underpaid and exploited workers. By contrast, handmade, original art produced by a local artist often seems over-priced because the price point is significantly higher than average retail.
So what does an artist working in an “untraditional” media or with “higher than average” price points do to gain recognition and cultivate sales of work in an unreceptive market? Educate the local and regional population about the processes and materials that differentiate you from other artists within
your area. Create print materials (brochures, postcards, etc.) as well as a website or blog that reflects your style, tells prospective buyers how you create your pieces, the intention and thought behind the work and emphasizes the uniqueness of what you have to offer.
It’s also important to make sure that your art products don’t resemble commercially made art commodities available for retail sale. If given the choice between two similar goods, in the absence of promotional information that tells the story of the artist and the work, the consumer will choose the product with the lower price point.
Tips for creating advertising materials appropriate for your market that will increase the value perception of your work will be included in the next issue of Toledo Free Press Star.
Jules Webster is owner of Shine Ceramics and Shine 419, a division of the business created to promote the Toledo area’s vibrant creative scene. Visit www.shineceramics.com or e-mail email@example.com.