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How does one begin to sell carvings? Seeking help from TCP member's experiences.


Janel

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Recently, I was asked by someone who has been carving for the love of it for a long time, and is becoming satisfied with the pieces being produced. This person is at a point where the concept of selling some of the carvings could be a possibility, but has no idea where to begin.

 

The Carving Path membership has carvers from all ranges of experience, and I trust that we all have a story and can make suggestions which might help the carvers who seek to grow beyond self-collecting their work. Please begin a dialog in this topic that will be encouraging and helpful.

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Greetings Janel,

 

I'm new here. I haven't done anything nearly as skilled as yourself. Recently though, thoughts of selling have crossed my mind. I was wondering about your experiences and suggestions. Would you post them? I'm sorry, I don't have anything to offer as advice for selling. My carving has been hobby of the last couple years and I haven't tried selling.

 

tpw

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:lol: I was hoping to evoke responses from others before I relate my experiences. I started to make and sell so long ago just out of college, that what I did to begin may not be as helpful as may be other's experiences: for example, those who began to sell work as an adult, who's carving has been a pleasure to do outside of the employment hours of one's days.

 

Upon college graduation, my determination to survive by only making pottery was an ‘all or nothing’ commitment. Employment outside of pottery making would have compromised my desire to be a potter. With the willingness of other potters to rent studio space to me for a year and a half, and a "partnership" with a potter for running a production pottery studio for another year and a quarter, I reached a point of readiness to be self reliant. I purchased a house in the country, an hour away from a large metropolitan area, (I was 24 years old at the time).

 

As a potter, one can hold sales at the home studio, apply to art/craft fairs galore, and work with galleries on a wholesale or consignment basis. With galleries, one must be able to know that the wholesale price is adequate for payment of the work involved in the pieces, as well as be able to cover all of the overhead, living expenses, health, auto, home insurances, plus a bit of profit. That is not an easy thing to figure out. The gallery then doubles that price, may add another percentage to it as well. Be sure that you add a percentage above the price you need as well, because some galleries give discounts to preferred customers, and that percentage hurts when taken from the wholesale price that does have that added to it. From this wholesale price your own retail price must be in line with the galleries you work with, and on the other hand, must fit into the pottery scene in which one participate in. (OK, there seems to be an inability to be brief here, sorry. I'll try harder)

 

From the early years of making useful stoneware pots, I began to carve on the pots, and then moved to porcelain pieces to carve on exclusively. Then when the material was a problem for my desires and growth, I moved to wood and other non-clay materials. During those decades, the level of shows and exhibitions rose to the top three shows with competitive applications in the United States. These shows have an appeal to collectors of various media, and that is where I met most of the people who collect my work now. I was fortunate to be well situated and the change from clay to wood entries in these shows worked for me.

 

Magazine advertisement has not yet produced a sale, but the occasional advert raises awareness of the work I do. Writing an article for magazines also will bring attention to the work. I do not do that as a habit, but when the opportunity presents itself, it has been a very good experience.

 

I am now at a point where I want to carve pieces and contact clients myself, to bring to them the new work for their pleasure of viewing, and one hopes, for purchasing. I am very thankful for these people, whose interest in my work enables me to continue to grow and challenge myself with what it is I love to do. The question I have with this particular concept is, what else do I need to do to meet new clients when I need to?

 

When considering advice to an adult who has not sold work before, it is more difficult for me to make suggestions. I do know that when the work is worthy of a national level show, the jurors may recognize and vote to include a “new” exhibitor into the show. Entry level to mid-career artists who wish to show through organized art/craft fairs or shows, will find that there are local and regional shows hosted every where, outdoors and indoors, hosted by art centers, local business associations, as fundraisers for organizations, special interest groups (i.e., woodcarver’s organizations, wildlife art groups...), and the list can go on. There are competitions offered through media specific magazines worldwide, check the listings (most often in the back of the publication).

 

There may be collectors organizations, for instance in the US, Collectors of Wood Art http://www.collectorsofwoodart.org . “The Collectors of Wood Art is committed to the development and appreciation of studio wood art, including turned objects, sculpture and furniture, among collectors, artists, educators, art critics, galleries, museums and the general public.”

 

Continue to read about this organization on their web site. Those of us who work in wood stand to gain visibility with the collectors when you go to the forum and show your work in one way or another. We artists are very welcome there! The collectors’ interests are not limited to USA artists.

 

I strongly encourage the members of TCP to add to this topic. Mine is one voice with one history. You all have much experience that differs and has followed other paths to where you are today. Please share!

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Our local wood carvers club host a sale in early december at the local mall,good time for exposure and people looking for christmas presents. there is also talk of joining the twins cities group for their shows at a major shopping mall twice a year. this type of sales setting is great for beginners to medium experience.

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When I first started selling it was at local shows where you got table space. This is a great way to develop your public interaction ability and to get a sense of what may be next. Even at the smallest show, you never know who might show up. I have never found media exposure terribly effective. I can't think of one response from a new buyer I've had from many articles. People do mention that they saw something, but it's usually someone I already knew at a show. As Janel mentioned it's good to have that exposure, but I would say not to expect much feedback.

 

When I look back I realize that selling and getting recognition is like any accomplishment: it takes time, effort and some monetary outlay. It's not my favorite way to spend time, but is necessary if you wish to sell your work. It's very difficult to make specific recommendations as everyone's work and bacgrounds are so different. For me, specific questions would work better.

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I've been carving for around six years now, as a hobby that also brings me some spending money to supplement my full-time employment. In Janel's initial message, the word that caught my eye, was that the carver is now "satisfied" with the work being produced and would like to begin pursuing sales.

Of course as artists we can never be completely satisfied, but I do think there is a point where we feel confident that our work is of a quality that we want to share it with others and have a monetary value associated with it.

I began selling, as Janel and Jim mention, at local art shows that aren't juried and just require a nominal fee to reserve a table. It's my experience that there are more lookers than takers at this type of show and the range of quality from other sellers can be wide. These shows allow one to build confidence in his work, learn what appeals to others, win a few ribbons, and get a sense of pricing.

For me, the next step has been to sell things at a local galleries with a quality and aesthetic eye that I respect. My pieces are selected by the gallery owner. This benefits me in two ways; 1) I get feedback from someone whom I trust and who has seen many works in her time 2) the audience generally has more interest in art/money/selectivity and is being brought to me. The downside of work with a gallery is as Janel has stated.

Now, I am just beginning to attract very specific clientelle across a global area who like the type of art I create... it's a long process and I could certainly be putting much more effort into it (in terms of staying in touch with past clients, updating my website, promoting myself, etc. etc.) but it is still a hobby at this point. Pricing is still very difficult for me but I do like the social aspects of meeting people who appreciate art and who appreciate what I do.

 

I hope this helps. :lol:

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Hello! :) My story is almost like yours! :huh:

I began to carve because it was the necessity of my soul, 1999!

Before I drew a lot of drafts, copied many pictures of favorite

artists. It was like a satisfaction for me. I understood that I was

very bad painter, I didn't feel color. That's why I always preferred

the pencil draft! When I was a child about 7, I lived on the

Chukotka Peninsula, where I saw the mammoth tusk. When my family

came back to Moldova, we brought some pieces of mammoth tusk. These

pieces where useless for long time. In 1999 I took the first piece

of mammoth and began to carve, an old broken needle and a fine file, some

sand-paper were the tools, used by me. The first thing, which was carved, was

Hetaera from ivory mammoth, high-relief. I carved it on my knee, sitting in front

of TV. In some time I presented it to my collector.

The second thing was Stoic, carved from brown mammoth, I was carving

about 6 months!! Then I felt that I couldn't be without carving! I

carved, carved and carved, no day without carving! In 2001 I took

some of my carvings and brought them in the local gallery, that

night I was with tears, the next, too. :( I went to the gallery and got

my carvings. I brought them home and felt better! I was not ready

for selling my work. In some months I repeated that step. I did my

first web-site then, there were not many sculptures and medallions.

I remember that day when I began to sell, it was 12 July 2001. Two

collectors bought the same day. Eva was sold in the gallery, the

Stoic was sold through Internet. These collectors were from USA! Who

bought Stoic, with Internet, collected many of my work, ordered

several sculptures, he is still with me! The second, who bought Eva

here in the gallery, every year comes to Moldova, he also has

several of mine! In some years many collectors bought my work. I so

love every of them, they helped me during bad time, they are with me

now, with their wonderful ideas, beautiful words! It is so amazing

to know that some people look at this world by my eyes, through my

work! I have a lot of warmest feelings for every of my collectors!

Sending my work to a collector I'm always so nervous! I'm so afraid,

how it flies, what my collector will see, will he like it? Uuuuu! :)

Many thanks for everyone, who helped me to find my way, which ideas were carved by me, who is looking at my work!!!!!! With petal of my soul!

post-215-1152518305.jpg

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I started selling furniture that I built for the customer. I did wood carving for the pleasure of carving.

In the 1990 I did my first art and craft show, Peter Anderson Festivial. A local potter.

At that time I felt that I was a good craftsman. I did wood turnings and some box building. Selling turnings and boxes did not think anyone would buy my carvings. 1993 I added some carvings. This art and craft show is held every year. And I have sold at each one since then.

In my small town we have the Peter Anderson festival, and what we call art walk.

Art Walk where local shops sponsor an artist to do their craft in their store or in front. This has grown so much that the sidewalks are full of shoppers each year and people come from all over. This is where I stated selling my carvings and custom made boxes. I get a lot of repeat customers each year at both shows.

This way of selling seemed to happen naturally and worked out well for me. I met a lot of good artist and craftsman at the shows, learned a lot from them and shared what I could with them. Selling at local Shows is easy, and can bring a lot of enjoyment to you, and your customer, or collector.

Thanks for listening Ed. :huh:

 

 

Natasha I love the Petal of my soul. Ed

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Natasha, :huh:

 

Thanks for sharing your soul with the world - this is the reason I feel that art "holds the world together"-

without the artists, how could we humans survive? Yet on the day to day level of making a living, the same artists most often must struggle.

I am only just learning after many years as a professional craftsman to let go and believe in my art. I am more and more following my heart and not my head and for me, I'm finding the result to be more sucessful in all ways. At shows and in the gallery and in the studio.

I want to thank all of the fine artists on this site for their work and inspiration. I'd also like to encourage all the aspiring and new artists to keep at it - it is a life long path and the more you learn, the more you see and thus the more there is to learn . . . Yes.

August Rodin said "patience is a form of action."

 

In Love and Light,

Magnus

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Hi Guys, been a while since contributing so here is two bits worth.

 

I have to agree with many of the comments here. The most pertinent from 30 plus years experience is exactly the same as the wonderful, personal revealing Natasha so admirably expressed and Magnus tells us he is now realising. To follow the energy of the heart will ultimately reward with untold richness being attracted into ones life. Far more so than allowing the mind and intellect to dictate.

Evolving whatever it is that excites us most is a gift to all who are drawn to that which we pursue with our innermost being and the returns become 10 fold.

Even so there is little growth without first taking the action to expose our heartfelt endevours to the world.

Technology today affords a hitherto unparralled environment to display our individual skills through sites such as here in The Carving Path, personal or group websites and more recently blog sites which can be set up for no more cost than the time involved.

Visitors are able to view and post comments and queries on line, often instigating a one on one raport not possible until recent years. As an interesting exercise last month I did just this with a blog site which at present features exceptional works from NZ compatriots Owen Mapp, Doug Marsden and of course some of my own favorites. Although in the early stages this site has drawn incredibly positive responses with unexpected queries about commissions.

Something of a mind opener and very encouraging.

 

For those who may be curious ... www.uniquesculptures.blogspot.com

 

Trust this may help as a potential low cost aspect to marketing.

 

Donn

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Thanks for the comments guys........

 

The above mentioned is only one way to develope sales which has only been available for a relatively short time compared to physical offline venues. These 'real world' galleries are also an essential part of establishing a level by which we can evaluate our own work from an unbiased perspective. Galleries are in business to make money and are usually open to new works. An open and honest operator will be one of the best critics one could listen to regardless of how much the ego may squirm. If they deal in your genre of endeavours it is in their best interest to advise. Listen to crits and comments....... they amount to free tuition...... the more there are from varying sources the better the balance to guide. As discussed elsewhere in the forum, exhibitions are a main source of feedback by which we can determine the public acceptance of works...... and attract collectors......

Always in all ways a learning process.... the most rewarding is to stay in tune with 'heart'. That which excites you most!

 

Cheers, Donn

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  • 1 month later...

Shows and competitions are of course venues for selling. They can get you started. But no matter the venue, you must be professional about selling.

 

You have to work at it. You must knock on every possible door and keep right on doing so until you get a foot in. You must learn to deal with rejection.

 

If you cannot do this-- get an agent.

 

I mean it. Find someone to do the selling for you, even if you have to pay that person a percentage of sales. Chances are the percentage will be much lower than what a gallery will want. He or she need not be a pro, just someone you know and trust who is enthusiastic about your work and has some previous experience in sales.

 

I began carving birds in 1996 and sold my first piece in 1998.

 

Or, to put it more precisely, my SO did. She's an integral part of "the operation" as we call it. I'm fortunate in this respect, since it frees me up to just work. But the same rules of thumb apply to anyone who is selling. Making and selling art are two different activities. She handles the selling of pieces on spec and in situ. I handle commissions, and all inquiries.

 

She carries a small portfolio of photographs of my work wherever she goes and is fearless about showing it off to one and all in any situation where there are potential clients. She always has business cards and brochures at hand.

 

Opportunities for selling are not just where you find them. They're where you create them.

 

In 1999, she went to a very toney antique shop in NYC to sell a pair of old ivory candle sconces we'd decided to unload (she got 'em years ago for a song at the Chelsea Flea Market). After doing so, she showed the owner my portfolio. He asked if she had any actual pieces on hand to show him. She had brought two to the city. At his request she trotted back to the place she was staying and hustled back to the store (immediately and as fast as possible). He promptly bought one piece for himself, then sold another to one of his clients, and refused to take any commission on either sale.

 

Presentation, which has been discussed elsewhere on this page, is extremely important. Both pieces were in nice boxes. Just cardboard with fitted lids, but I'd sprayed them with gold paint, made a fitted foam cradle for each piece and covered the cradles and lined the boxes themselves with silk. Everything associated with a piece must be high class. If you include any documentation, print it on Crane's Crest, not plain printer paper. Take the time to get these details right-- it helps.

 

Many artists focus too much on what they perceive as deficiencies in their work. Most people will never see all those little things you think could be better. Another artist might, but as we say in the guitarmaking world-- guitarmakers don't buy other people's guitars (as a general rule anyway).

 

You absolutely must know what your price is! Hemming and hawing about it when people ask is a major turnoff. Many artists undervalue their work. Keep in mind that potential clients are often more suspicious of work that seems too cheap than work that seems too expensive. Never underprice your work. You can always come down. You can never go up.

 

Connections are all. Follow up is important, even if you never hear back from the client (and you probably won't). Always send a letter of appreciation when you make a sale. A happy client may pass the word along to somebody else. It's happened for me.

 

Go where the money is. We live in rural New Hampshire. Only two of my pieces have sold here. The rest have sold in NYC.

 

We have never sold a piece through a gallery. Galleries, in my opinion, usually want far too much for what they do. They are essentially just fancy consignment shops. Very few are willing to buy work outright unless you've established a good sales record on consignment, and even if they do buy outright they will only do so at wholesale.

 

I worked for many years in high end guitar stores specializing in what are now called "vintage guitars." Many of these places are also, in essence, consigment shops... and not a few call themselves "Guitar Gallery." They are not all created equal. Investigate any gallery thoroughly before accepting their terms, which are usually pretty damn steep.

 

Will the staff actively work to sell your stuff? Or just put it on a shelf and expect it to sell itself?

 

Finally, remember the old saw-- what you are really selling, more than the actual work, is yourself. I don't like it, but that's just the way it is. Most people who buy my work have never met me, but that hasn't stopped me from cultivating a particular image. I'm the mysterious, reclusive artist none of them have ever met. :lol:

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Thanks musket,, I am just getting ready for a local show ART WALK here in Ocean Springs, I read your reply and I have some items that I feel I can do better, and you reminded me most pepol do not see the peice the way we do. thanks again Ed

 

Ed, I really think this is one of the most important "attitude adjustments" you can make when starting to sell. First time I put a piece out there for sale, all I could do was think about all the things that were wrong with it. There were indeed many things about it that could have been better... from my point of view.

 

I asked for a good (though not outrageous) price. I was convinced it would never sell. But the client was just delighted with it. In the end, that's what really counts. It's a different thing than the self-satisfaction you get from doing the best you can and getting better at it with each new piece of work.

 

Best of luck at the show!

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