Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Selling Your Art to a Retailer Continued

Chain designed by artist Laura Waldusky

This article is a continuation of my previous post about selling your artwork to a retail store. I interviewed Jennifer King, who is the Divisional Merchandise Manager for The Houston Museum of Natural Science. I tell all my artist clients that if they have not set foot in this store, they need to make a date to go. It reminds me of what the old Gump's looked like in the Houston Galleria (if anyone remembers this). They have an amazing collection of not only handmade artisan jewelry, but also some cutting edge designers like Alexis Bittar and Charles Albert. And they
carry the cool stuff from these artists - showpieces. The museum's clientele is stone savvy and many of them like to take risks, and their selections offer these undeniably original pieces.

I posted the picture above, because it represents a piece of work that Laura Waldusky made, an artist that I represent, and whose work is shown at the HMNS. This is a picture I shoot in my office, sent to Jennifer King and then got feedback from her. This part of the job is really the best. Collaborating with artists, taking the information from the buyer, and then interpreting it for the artist. It is not every retail store who will let an artist have free reign to just "work their magic." And I wish more would take this approach, because look what it yields? And the bezel Laura created on this is CRAZY-good. And all done by hand.

So you have a little more information about what the museum carries and how they work with artists. Now let's get to it! Last post I wrote about what Jennifer thought were the 10 really important things to do before you try to sell to a retailer. Always wanting to start with the positive, today I wanted to help you focus on what NOT to do.

1) Do not be a pest. Buyers are bombarded with product submissions - it takes time to go through everything. Constant phone calls and emails will not speed up the process and will just irritate the person you're trying to make your customer.
2) Do not pop in to the store and expect the buyer to drop what they're doing and meet with you. It shows a disrespect for the buyer's time. Also, do not harass the sales staff about your product, about the buyer's whereabouts, etc. Basically, don't be a stalker.
3) Do not take rejection personally. Understand that buyers must make many decisions when looking at a line such as, does it fit into my store's image? Does it compete with my existing product? Are the prices too high (or too low) for my customers? Do I have Open-to-Buy dollars for this classification (Buyers work on a flowed budget - they may like your product but not have free funds for the line)? Am I expanding or narrowing this classification? These are business decisions that may have absolutely nothing to do with the quality and worth of your product.
4) Do not over saturate your market. Consider carefully where you want to sell your line and what products you want the store to carry. While I may carry some of the same lines as MFAH, I do not want the exact same product assortment. That lessens the line's impact. Be strategic and thoughtful about your product placement.

Speaking as a rep here. . . I have to really educate the artist about the above things. Sometimes they put undo stress onto me to call or keep bugging me. I know when to call for follow up, and when to leave people alone. Trust whoever you enlist to know the basic ebb and flow of business.

Touching on her point about over saturating the market, I cannot tell you how often someone tells me to call on the person right across the street from the store we have already sold to. You must remember to keep your first customers first, and to broaden your market further down the road. If someone can go across the street to buy your design, it does not hold much worth to the store that it is currently in.

Look for one more post about the RULES of retail. Following these will make or break you, I can promise you.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Want to Sell Art to a Store? Top 10 Things To Do

An Example of Vandi Hodges' Collection currently at The HMNS

Since I am always interested in helping artists out, I thought I would interview a buyer who I know and respect and ask her expertise on how to get your handmade items into a store. Please pass this on to anyone who needs some guidance in this area, because it's HARD to know what to do.

My interview is with...drum roll please...Jennifer King, the Divisional Merchandise Manager for the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Jennifer has been with the HMNS for over fourteen years. She is in charge of several classifications including fashion jewelry, fine jewelry, giftware and home accessories. The HMNS is a multi-million dollar retailer with a main store of 6,000 square feet, and a special gem and mineral store that is 1,000 square feet, in addition to 3 satellite stores. It is one of the highest attended museums in the United States and welcomes over 2 million visitors a year.

All this being said, I have placed 4 artists at the HMNS. Two of them, Laura Waldusky and Vandi Hodges, have extensive collections presented at this venue. Buying handmade for the stores is obviously one of Jennifer's favorite parts of her job. She says she is constantly amazed at all of the talent and creativity out in the world.

An Example of Laura Waldusky's Collection at The HMNS

Here are her Top Ten Things An Artist Should Do in order to obtain a Wholesale Account at a Store like the HMNS:

1) Create your brand and decide what image you want your business to project. Retailers like lines that create a merchandising story. Your products should be immediately identifiable as your work and each product in the line should come together as a cohesive whole. Alexis Bittar is one artist who is absolutely brilliant at this. He has three separate lines that are released twice a year. While each of the separate lines has it's own unique look, the individual pieces work with any other piece in it's own line or in one of the other two lines.

2) Be your own cheerleader. Don't be afraid to talk up your press, awards, what stores you are currently in, and your accomplishments.

3) Identify your customer and who you want to sell to. What kind of store do you envision your products in? This step is part of your brand creation.

4) Invest in some professional (or professional looking) photography. Photos of your product create the first impression - make it a good one. Photos should be clear, uncluttered and show details. Everything should be on a simple white or neutral background. If you can't include something that shows the scale of the piece, you need to include measurements. If you can afford it, get multiple shots of your signature pieces.

5) Have a catalog or a line sheet with clear pictures, pricing, contact information (email address please), bio, and detailed product information. For me, a print line sheet along with a digital photo follow-up works best. My mailbox (real and virtual) is overflowing, but I eventually look at everything.

6) Be professional in your presentation. That means writing a clear and coherent letter or email that tells me about your product and why it would work for my store. Consider it like a job interview - you're selling yourself and your work.

7) Really analyze your pricing. Remember, you are pricing at wholesale, not retail. You need to pay for your time and materials and then factor in a 2.5 to 3 times mark-up on the retail end. Does that retail price match the perceived value of your product?

8) Research your target store. What do they sell? Can you envision your product there? Does the store already have something similar?

9) Respect the buyer's submission and contact guidelines. Some buyers work on the phone. Some, like myself, are email only for prospective vendors. Some may have a specific submission process. Don't expect an immediate invitation to come show the line in person. Send a reminder email (with photos!) in six months. Expect that you might never get a response. Buyers are overwhelmed and usually understaffed. We're not deliberately being rude, we simply can't give an individualized response to every product submission.

10) Expect that the process will take time. If you mailed me something last week, don't expect follow-up the following week. Likely the buyer is still wading through last month's submissions. If you send an unsolicited sample, don't expect to get it back. If you absolutely must have your unsolicited sample returned, include a postage paid box or envelope. Even then, you might not get it back.

I will be posting two more articles about the process of a selling to a store. Stay tuned for what not to do, along with things every artist should know about the RULES of retail before they sell merchandise to stores.

Hope you find this information helpful. Jennifer really wrote this...didn't she do an outstanding job?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm On A Roll with The Second BLOG Giveaway heard it here first. I am doing another BLOG giveaway. What to do? What to do? And here is the item....a handmade altered art journal/book for yours truly made by moi!

Now....I did not make the book. I found a retired art store (so I repurposed it) by taking it all apart, restitching it together and then altering the cover to something completely different. This is called mixed media art, and more specifically altered art. These terms were completely unknown to me 3 years ago.

Here is a close up of the stitching...

Here is a close-up of the stamps and clock....stamps are actually on a piece of a bubble mailer, so they pop up, so to speak.

Here is a close-up of the layers of paper used. I took some from s French travel journal and some from Anna Griffin. The jewels are from an old box that I bought at Events 120 years ago, or so it seems.

The book measures 4 1/2 inches wide and about 4 inches tall. The pages are blank and ecru colored with a sort of rice paper like pattern . A perfect format for:

  • A Gratitude Journal

  • An Intentions Book

  • A Goal or Wish Book

All you have to do to win it is become a Follower of My Blog. How do you do that? Look at the top right corner where it says "Followers" and click on "become one." You have to register with Goggle. No, this will not come in your Inbox each day. Will you get spammed? Hasn't happened to me yet from signing onto others, so I think you are safe. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 29th. Lucy will draw the name again at 6:00 PST. Spread the word and Good LUCK!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I Have Two Very Silent Business Partners

There are some blog posts I write with the reader solely in mind, i.e. something during my week occurred that I wanted to share with you. There are other posts that I write because I want to inform.

And then there are some that are really just written for me. Something I want to record about a feeling that I have and is so heartfelt, pure and raw that it is almost hard to put into words, much less share with another person. Normally in my journal, I would write something like this. This time. . .I want to experiment with trying to let you see what I often times do not share with others.

People ask me why I named my business Little Lucy and Scooter. After all, the name does not tell anyone what it is that I do for a living or what is the nature of my business. That is just fine by me, because I had that intention when I named it. Let me explain a little further.

As you may or may not know, Lucy is my daughter and Scooter is my dog. Some may think that this is a typical mom thing to do. . . to name her business after her kid. But there is so much more to the choice of this name.

I started this business as I sat in Starbucks writing morning after morning and trying to figure out what to do with the next chapter in my life. I started making lists of what I liked about my former life in retail and what I did not like - something my mom would always encourage me to do. "Make a list," she would say. With no better starting point, this is what I did. I would get up at six o'clock, roll out of the house (with my daughter and husband still asleep at home) and sit for one hour in the same spot and write.

It was not always easy. There were days the writing just poured out of me. There were days that it was hard to write 5 sentences. But I committed to the practice of 3 morning pages with Julia Cameron as my writing guide and mentor. And EVERY day I wrote those 3 pages. I still do.

I wrote down what I liked and missed about retail. There were a lot of dislikes written down too. I don't need to spell them out. What I did differently for the first time in my life was IMAGINE a life, a job, a lifestyle even, that fit with what I really wanted for my life. And one thing I wanted for sure was.....
To Wear Jeans Every Day That I Worked In My Job!

Now this may seem kinda silly to you. But for 28 years, I was not allowed to wear jeans to "the office," and if I was going to start my own thing, I was going to be able to wear jeans every day, because for once in my life, I wanted to be able to make the rules.

And I as I thought and dreamed and wished and prayed, a funny thing happened. I took one step. That one step brought me to the next step. Then a friend of a friend of a friend brought me to the next one. Low and behold, I had a business. It even had all the components that I sat and wrote about in Starbucks every day. This was not me that made this. This was me putting out to the universe what I wanted and it directly listening to me and giving it right back. I truly believe in answered prayer.

I have the privilege of a very loving husband who once wrote something to me that I carry inside my journal as my bookmark and rad every morning before I write. It says,

"Know with quiet certainty, I believe in you."

If this wasn't blessing enough, I then got aligned with the two best partners I could ever be with...Lucy and Scooter. Because it doesn't matter to me that my business say what I do, what matters is the feeling I receive every time I tell people the name of my business. I feel good starting something with my daughter's name on it. Proud. And Scooter? Well, if you had a dog like Scooter, you would name your business after him too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Creative Family and My Sister The Florist

Whenever I see a car that looks like this, it reminds me of my sister Tara. Around 1975, my mom and dad bought a VW bug that looked a lot like this (except the color was the same as a fluorescent tennis ball - I kid you not). This car was driven by all six of us kids. I learned to drive a stick shift from my sister Tara on this very car. This is one reason I still think about her when I see a VW bug convertible.

The other reason I think of her is she bought this car from my parents and used it as her delivery vehicle for many years when she decided to go into business for herself as a florist. My parents were shocked she could even begin to fit so much in her car. It looked pretty funny driving to the places she went with no A/C and all those gorgeous flowers in the car. She did what she had to do. And she did not worry about what people thought.

A lot of businesses could learn a thing or two by how lean she kept things when she started. I often times think of this business example before I make investments into my own business. Normally, I can get by with just what I have already.

Twenty years later, she is still in business. She has a very unique business model. Her shop is not open to the public...meaning it is not a retail flower store. It is by appointment or you can call and order something. They do not accept credit, seriously...they still send an invoice. Here is her website and her telephone number is 713.520.8010.

I think you can tell she is very talented...and the word, creative, applies to her in other areas in her life. I am going to see if she will let me take some pictures of her house...because I think you would die. She can buy things at Marshalls or TJ Maxx and mix them into her house and they look like a million bucks. My other sisters and I have been encouraging her to maybe think about staging or decorating as her next career.

A lot of these pictures are taken at River Oaks Country Club because she does their flowers. One of the cakes she decorated was in People, and she has been featured in Southern Living. She would never tell you this. I promise. She does not even have these things framed in her shop.

I have posted previously about other members of my family and their creativity. I am incredibly fortunate to have had this type of influence in my life growing up and to be able to continue to be around it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

First BIG Blog Giveaway Ruby Earrings

It's hard to believe....these very unusual, handmade earrings could be yours. First let me tell you about them and romance you just a bit. They are made with rubies and brass (but with gold-fill hooks, so they won't create a lot of the allergy issues other metals cause). They would retail for $85.00, so I am really pulling out the stops here.

Here are the simple rules....first leave a comment in the comment section with your email information so I can contact you ( and maybe a little something else like a word of encouragement, prayer, act of kindness), and, second, go to my friend Amy Huff's blog and leave her a comment too. I will randomly draw a number with my daughter, Lucy, on Sunday night, June 20th at 6:00 p.m. CDT. Please feel free to pass this along to friends. Even if these are not your "taste," they would make an excellent gift for someone else.

Is this everything you need? I took a few more pictures to highlight a little more about them.

Close-up of the color of the rubies, which are pretty spectacular.

Picture of the size of them....modeled by my sister, Tara. I think she has pretty ears. And I think I am going to have to start paying her, because she models for me a lot. Thank you Tara.

SoulCollage with Miss Lucy Hughes

In my previous post, I talked about a new process I tried called SoulCollage. The best way I can describe it is part art and part therapy. I thought it might be interesting to see if I could apply the process to one rambunctious 3 year old. Here is how our journey went. Do not think for ONE MINUTE that this process is not POWERFUL and REAL.

Headed to one favorite place and sort of neighborhood touchstone, Rudyard's, so we could spread out on a table and work. We were both feeling like this picture....

This was our pile of stuff a la Mary Ann Mossthat we collect and throw in this box to add to our books. I warn you if you got to Mary Ann's may not EVER get off.

This is the book that I made for Lucy. It looks like her, right?

And this is my tattered and happy book. I use this for experimenting, journaling, collecting keepsakes....whatever.

This is Lucy's page....she picked out all the images and told me where to put them, and I DID NOT critique her or try to tell her how to do it. I let her just do it.

And so what is her page made of? A sticker from the Beryl Grady band. We saw them at West Alabama Ice House not too long ago, and she loved them. A picture of Joby in bed....Joby is out of town right now. A paper cocktail umbrella - he is in Florida and he packed one of these for me before I went to Florida a couple of weeks ago and asked me to put it in my glass on the plane to signify that I was NOW on vacation. I did it - BTW. The last thing is a ripped off side of a RUNTS candy box; something we bought over Spring Break when we went to Candylicious.

So, there you have it. SoulCollage works for the toddler set.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Soul Collage Could Be My Newest Addiction

I completed a class this past weekend in a course I kept seeing over and over again in the catalogue for The Jung Center. Even though I was intrigued by it each time I read the description, there was always a completely valid reason for not being able to sign up for it.

Serendipity happens in our lives every day. I want to share this example of it with you. I called the Jung Center on Thursday to check on the availability of the upcoming Soul Collage class. And low and behold I was still on the fence about signing up for it due to those ever pending, already existing commitments. The next day, my friend Celia, emailed me with a class description for a class in Soul Collage at this place I never heard of way out on the west side. I signed up. Because it was then and there, I knew this was not coincidence.

I drove into this place and the directions said it was behind an Auto Check. So, I am thinking strip center building. And I drove into this place with the metal palm trees and stone driveway. It was like seeing an OASIS. It is part botanical sanctuary, and it's name is The Earth Sanctuary. You could not have asked for a more beautiful, peaceful setting.

I think once my feet hit this type of rock driveway, I was transported into a different place, and a better state of mind.

So, what is Soul Collage? It is an intuitive process that enables the person to create from a completely different part of the brain. You pick images from magazines and just intuitively pull them and put them together in a collage. I promise you...I do a lot of this stuff...and this is one of THE best tools I think I have ever tried. I have been journaling with these cards since I took the class and the amount of knowledge it has opened up for me has been A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Well, there is a book about the process that you can purchase here . I think the facilitator, Glenda Rice, would be the best person to ask about it. You can reach her here. Glenda will also be facilitating a group to do this every first Saturday for the next six months. I will definitely be at some of these.

A picture of my favorite Collage. I finally just let go and added images with absolutely no idea why they were together. And thanks to my friend, Celia, I ripped the images which was the MOST liberating thing I think I have done in awhile.

Other examples of collages....

Monday, June 7, 2010

Learning to Marble Paper

On this past Friday, with the commitment of strengthening my crafting skills, I ventured to learn how to marblize paper. Gathering with 2 trusted crafters, Monica and Brenda, I invited them to come to my house and I would host our craft day, be responsible for buying the kit, and have everything ready.

My two greatest weaknesses as an artist are reading directions and doing things exact. I have no patience. I like to get the tools and just rip into it. I want to just play and figure things out as I go. This was hard for me.

I bought a $15.00 kit from Texas Arts Supply (Marbling kit by Jacquard). I had to read and reread the instructions 10 times plus, then print out other instructions (from the maven of them all....Martha Stewart), and compare those instructions to these crappy kit instructions that were obviously written by someone who wanted to marblize fabric and not paper (who knew you could do this with fabric?). I went to buy eye droppers and clothespins - the only additional supplies not in the kit. Eye droppers were easy, but luck as I spent 2 minutes describing them to a salesclerk who not only did not know what clothespins were, but still had no idea after my lengthy description. If you see clothespins anywhere, please let me know....I still need some. I mixed all the ingredients, I prepped the paper with one mixture, and mixed a separate concoction for the paint. And I did it. Not only that, but when we got together and tried putting it all together, it worked.

I achieved two things: freedom and capability. Freedom from the fact that this art form is very loosey-goosey. You cannot EVER repeat the same technique as the last the one you previously used, because this is a SKILL. At its finest, you can appreciate that people who do this professionally have come from families that are masters of this art form. They have been teaching and mastering this technique their whole lives. Since I am not an exact person, this type of art was wonderful for me. I could play and just see what happens, because I sure was not going to be able to repeat any of it. I also achieved capability because I faced my weakness of reading directions and going slowly step-by-step. And I enjoyed it. When we had all the pieces laid out and you could see how beautiful they were, I don't think there was one of us who was not just a bit proud.