Turning Archive 2007

Subject:
Marketing our turned wood

Russ Fairfield
>There have been several recent questions on marketing. We had a Chat Room discussion on "Marketing Our Turned Wood", back in March, 2004. All of the information is still good, and it should answer some of the questions. It is repeated without editing as follows:

1. QUALITY SELLS
Make sure you are ready. Get your work critiqued in a private session. Use an expert woodturner whose opinion you respect, or an artist in another medium. Pay for it if you have to. Enter your work in every exhibition that has comments and critique available.

Listen to what is said, even though it may be by someone other than another woodturner. Comments from someone who does not understand woodturning can be the most valuable because they represent the people who are BUYING our work. Their opinion may be more valuable to us than that of even the most "expert" of woodturners.

2. IF YOU DON'T TOOT YOUR OWN HORN, NOBODY ELSE WILL
We have to market woodturning and what we make. Get out there and sell yourself.

A simple way to do this is to enter every exhibition that is available, whether it be AAW chapter, art group, or whatever. Many galleries will host a contest as a way of discovering new artists. There is usually no or minimal cost.

Investigate, individually or as a group, the possibilities for a display at library, City Hall and other public buildings, airport, post office, commercial building, University.

3. WEBSITE
Set up a website. The buying public expects you to have one. Having a URL is a useful way to show your work to a lot of people. It is the best $10 -20 a month you will ever spend.

The website is your resume. Art fairs and galleries are starting to use the artist's website as a verification of their work. It is the only way you will get many galleries to look at your work. Many art fairs are starting to use the website instead of slides for jurying their shows and exhibitions.

4. FOLLOW THE MONEY
You have to go to where there are customers with money who are willing to spend it. We often hear that selling art is like selling real estate,and the three (3) facvtors are location, location, and location. This is the same as saying, "Follow the money."

5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE "HOME MARKET" FIRST
There IS a market close to home, but you may have to look for it. It may not be large, and it may not be high-dollar, but it is a good one for the woodturner to develop their turning skills, their display, and their selling personality. These are the Church bazzars, school functions, smaller galleries, furniture stores, home decorator stores and consultants, real estate sales people who buy gifts for their home buyers, gourmet cooking shoppes, etc. I could also include architects and custom home builders. The list goes on. The real estate people are a good market for weed pots (weeds have to be included) and bird houses

Expand to a larger market when your skills and art start outgrowing this local one. You will know when that happens. Never abandon this market because there will be times that it is all you have.

6. JOIN YOUR LOCAL ARTS COUNCIL (or whatever the group is called)
These are the art patrons of the community, and you are an artist. These are the people who are selling and buying art in your community. There is no better way to get the attention of a local gallery or entry into the local art fair. There is a lot to learn about the market for art from them, and they will always promote one of their own.

7. DONATIONS TO CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS
This one of the most neglected ways to promote our work. It is tax deductable at full retail price, we don't even have to be there, and it is FREE.

These organizations have fund raising sales and auctions. The big charitable event of the year here is Hospice. People with money pay for the opportunity to buy things there, and usually at inflated prices. This places your work in front of people who will be buying. If it is a popular item at an auction, those who were out-bid will come calling.

8. DON'T FORGET THE SECONDARY MARKET
There are more places to sell turned wood than galleries, art fairs, and craft fairs. Many of them will demand a lower commission or fee. Home and commercial decorators, and specialty stores for home and office furniture, housewares, kitchen and gourmet, gifts, and jewelry. There is good money in selling humidors through tobacco shops, and salad bowls through any store selling specialty oils and spices. Be innovative.

9. DON'T FORGET THE LITTLE ITEMS
Sometimes smaller is better. You might find that the same wood can be better used for making 10 weed-pots than one (1) large bowl. Many galleries that are filled with high priced items will welcome things of lesser value. The same goes for your booth at the art fair.

10. HIGH ENTRY FEE ART SHOWS
These are listed last, because they should be considered only after all of the above has been realized. It can be true that, the higher the entry fee, the higher the potential for greater sales; but not always.

Tread lightly into this market. Scout these shows for one or more years before entering. Look at the other woodturners, see what they have, and see what they are selling. If they are doing well, they are your competition because they will be back next year.

11. WHOLESALE SHOWS
These can be a profitable venue for the woodturner, but one that should be considered only if you are ready to fill orders in quantities of 100's, have items that can be sold profitably at 60% below retail price, and you are ready to have an employee.

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