It may all be over for the Spirit of Enterprise programme, but not for the ‘test traders’.
The ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ gallery was set up, with Welsh and European funding, by Pembrokeshire Business Initiative, PBI, to help artists, regardless of preferred media, gain experience by ‘test trading’ their creations and getting work experience in a gallery. The gallery displayed a wonderful diversity of arts and craft, from oil and mixed media to photography, sculpture, graphics, jewellery, embroidery, knitting, ceramics, felting and creations from recycled materials.
So what did I learn and what can I pass on that might be of interest – be it with regard to showing and/or selling your work, either in a small fête or arts and craft exhibition, through the internet or in a full blown art gallery? I have no permissions to show photos of the gallery and individual’s work; however, I’m certain you will create your own picture:-
- ‘marketing is of prime importance’ (1) – though the gallery was selling paintings, photographs and sculptures amongst its exhibits, the window display was filled to capacity with the smaller, inexpensive craft items and cards – it therefore attracted a narrower market than was potentially achievable and the majority of sales were for under £10 – the marketing should attract the right people for the product, or range of products. It is important to target the right audience, from the very first step in choosing a name for a business to the locality and décor of a potential venue all the way to the choice of design for a website and its content (advice from PBI)
- marketing is of prime importance’ (2) – over the period of the five months I was at the gallery, I was amused to see the way in which the gallery layout was changed every time a different trader was on duty – their work was suddenly ‘front of shop’ regardless of overall clutter and presentation. The PBI marketing manager, on a day when no-one else was in attendance, helped me to rearrange the shop floor in a creative manner . He made space for customers to stand back and appreciate the goods on display, created interest and brought people further into the inner areas by blocking the view of small areas when seen from the window and entrance; he created harmony through colour and content. The effect was transforming and our sales achieved a much higher level than usual, both in number and in item value; a really valuable lesson
- ‘context is everything‘ – in this instance, if I wanted to sell my work, I needed to fit the above, hence a range of mounted, unframed images, books and cards based on my work were more viable than my large framed images. However, the framed images were the ‘hook’ that attracted customers to my less expensive images & books etc
- ‘read your client’ – I discovered that though it was exciting to talk to people about my work once I you saw they were interested, it was invaluable to wait for the right time to approach a customer – give them a chance to fully appreciate my work first
- ‘be enthusiastic with regard to your work‘ – I was initially embarrassed to show my pleasure at someone’s interest in my work; however, through my experiences, I learnt that once I had acknowledged a customer’s interest, if I showed my enthusiasm, it was catching and the customer became even more interested
I had a very interesting few months, and though my future business project involves very little focus on selling, it will be heavily dependant on appropriate marketing skills, from website to venue to personal contact. I have had a valuable insight into the ‘art’ of exhibiting and selling, thank you PBI.
On a lesser note, PBI had a ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ website which included all the test traders, past and present, and included biography’s and images of their works. It was a disappointment that PBI chose to redirect everyone away from this site, back to their own. http://www.spiritofenterprise.org.uk/test-traders/ If you are reading this PBI, please consider re-instating it.
Nevertheless, and of great personal value, I gained confidence through the experience and I became aware of my own interpretation of what being a ‘successful artist’ meant to me. What does it mean to you? I shall share my thoughts, along with some images, in my next post. Thanks for listening.