cindy a. stephens: Blog http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog en-us (C) cindy a. stephens cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Sat, 18 Mar 2017 23:21:00 GMT Sat, 18 Mar 2017 23:21:00 GMT http://www.cindyastephens.com/img/s3/v39/u385440527-o955012619-50.jpg cindy a. stephens: Blog http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog 80 120 Skies Photography http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2017/3/skies-photography I'm delighted to have two fine art photographs in the "Skies" 2017 show with the Colors of Humanity Art Gallery.  The theme seemed to be a perfect fit for a collection of mine!

 

The show runs March 1 - March 31, 2017.  There were 94 accepted works that came from 17 states in the USA and 12 other countries.

Silver Sea

Silver Sea

Copyright 2016 by Cindy A Stephens

 

Twilight at the Beach

Twilight at the Beach

Copyright 2016 by Cindy A Stephens

 

More photographs from this collection are available in the Cindy A Stephens store on Zatista.

 

Artists -- you  might be interested in this post from my blog archive: How to build awareness for your work.  It features an interview with photographer David H. Wells on how to build awareness for your work.  Submitting to shows is one great way!

 

Don't forget to #Lookup

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens fine art prints for sale skies photography sky photography http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2017/3/skies-photography Sat, 18 Mar 2017 23:20:57 GMT
Zambia, Botswana and South Africa (Photos from Africa) http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2017/2/zambia-botswana-and-south-african-adventure-fine-art-photos A friend called Africa my "spiritual home".  According to the Cambridge Dictionary this refers to a place where I feel I belong because I have a lot in common with the people, culture and way of life (even though I was not born there).  

 

Regardless of its precise definition I can tell you that I have felt moments of absolute peace on my visits to this wondrous continent; a hunger to know its people, culture and way of life; respect for its inherent risks; and a passion to see its natural wonders.  I'm completely enthralled.

 

Leopard, Botswana

Copyright 2016, Cindy A Stephens

 

Last July I made my third visit to the African continent -- it won't be my last.  For me, visiting this magical place is not about checking a box to visit another continent or add another country(s) to my tally.  Africa is a continent of some 50+ countries, 2000 languages and more than one billion people.  Visiting "Africa" and only seeing one country would be like visiting America and not stepping foot outside New York City.  You'd have a feel for NYC but no clue about what the rest of the country was like.

 

On my most recent journey I decided to visit countries in the southern part of the African continent because it was a region that I hadn't explored.  Botswana, in particular, offered the chance to see the Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi (one of the world's largest salt pans).

 

Almost immediately this visit felt very different from my trip six years ago.  At the river crossing into Botswana (where Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe meet) there were long truck lines loaded with copper and other cargo waiting to cross.  This active commerce was a sign of a more prosperous economy.  Nevertheless, as with many experiences in Africa, this hopeful scene was punctuated with a bridge that lay unfinished and lazily tip-toed from the river bank as if testing its temperature.

 

Zambian sunset

Copyright 2016, Cindy A Stephens

 

I could say more about the economy of Botswana (regarded as one of the most stable and democratic African nations) but I am reminded of Alexander von Humboldt. My current Audible selection is The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World.  Alexander explored South America and the Pacific during the later 1700's.  His letters home spoke of how it felt to be where he was as well as what he observed. Let me try to do the same.  

 

I felt:

 

  • pure joy the afternoon we came across a leopard sunning itself on a dead tree
  • incredibly privileged to see African wild dogs and their pups in their natural environment.  There are only an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 remaining in Africa.  On this day we raced back to the den in time to watch adults feed their pups after a morning feast (these dogs regurgitate food for their young).
  • at peace walking in the desert with a Meerkat family as it foraged for food.  There were no cars.  No noise.  No buildings.  I was truly in the midst of the Meerkat world -- and these amazing animals live only in a few regions of southern Africa.
  • apprehensive to be out at sunset when the mosquitoes were more apparent as I was unable to tolerate the malaria medication.  I was understandably relentless about applying mosquito repellent and covering up, particularly at night.
  • lucky to be among the few who are able to sleep outside under the stars in the Makgadikgadi and watch the Milky Way and southern night sky, followed by a beautiful dawn and sunrise
  • happy to see absolutely amazing sunsets.  When the sun is setting the sky is dressed in its finest tapestry.  This is only a tease though for afterwards, when it seems to burn the most vibrant colors imaginable.

 

I often need time to reflect on my adventures before I am ready to share them.  Perhaps my photos will more adequately convey what this trip felt like even more than these words have.

 

See more African fine art photos in this gallery

 

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Fine art wildlife photography african photography for sale botswana fine art photos from botswana fine art pictures people and culture http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2017/2/zambia-botswana-and-south-african-adventure-fine-art-photos Sun, 12 Feb 2017 23:21:40 GMT
Selling your art online (Tips from the Working artist) http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2016/12/selling-your-art-online-tips-from-the-working-artist Originally published on the Working artist (Thanks Crista!)

 

In April of 2016, art insurance company Hiscox released its fourth annual report detailing the state of the online art trade. Their findings show the general cooling of the global art market has not affected online sales - in fact, the global online art market is exploding!

In the last year, online sales jumped 24% to a high of $3.27 billion, online marketplaces are overtaking online auctions as the preferred method of purchasing art, and existing online art buyers are buying more.

So you can see, online art buyers are out there.  But in a complicated online world, how do you find them?

There are ways to succeed!

As with almost anything, you need a strategy...and I have laid mine out below.

 

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Crista Cloutier art business sell art online the Working Artist http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2016/12/selling-your-art-online-tips-from-the-working-artist Tue, 27 Dec 2016 23:05:16 GMT
Original Art Online in my New Store on Zatista http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2016/10/new-original-art-online-in-my-store-on-zatista Dear readers, I am writing today with some exciting news: I now have a store at Zatista featuring a new collection of original photography!

 

If you've been following my blog you know that I've written many times about selling art online.

 

Blog Archive: Building an Art Business: Is selling online right for you?

 

It seems natural to me that I would choose to offer my photography for sale online.  After all, I've been a digital marketer for many years.  I enjoy reaching people outside New England with my photography and making it available to many more households than I would if it were offered solely in traditional galleries.

 

 

 

 

 

New Collection

When I look back it is clear to me now that the seeds of my new collection were sown a long time ago. It wasn't until I stood on Antarctica that they took root, though, and the inspiration for this collection was born.

 

Irawaddy Sunset Sunset over the the Irrawaddy River in Mynamar is punctuated by the gold spires of stupas.

Copyright 2015, Cindy A Stephens

 

Walt Whitman said "The sun and stars that float in the open air. The apple shaped earth and we upon it, surely the drift of them is something grand."

Tweet: The sun & stars that float in the open air. The apple shaped earth & we upon it, surely the drift of them is something grand @tweetsofgrass
 

 

That's how it felt to be surrounded by open air, ice, sea and penguins. I began shooting using the widest lens I had to convey the massive scale of my surroundings.

Inspired by my experience on Antarctica I wondered if I could emulate that feeling and those types of images at home. We look down so often and walk bowed and hurried deep in thought or on the phone.

What do you see when you look toward the horizon nearest you?  What's at the edge of your sky?

Tweet: Don't forget to #lookup @cindyastephens

 

 

 

 

 

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens fine art prints for sale original art online photography http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2016/10/new-original-art-online-in-my-store-on-zatista Mon, 17 Oct 2016 11:30:00 GMT
Finding customers for your fine art business http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2016/6/finding-customers-for-your-fine-art-business By Cindy A Stephens

Fine art for sale
I was waiting in line at one of those big home goods stores recently when I spotted a very large canvas print sticking out of a shopping cart ahead of me.  It was probably $99 for a 4-foot square canvas print.  How, I asked myself, is an artist to make a living when inexpensive wall art (many, poor quality prints) is readily available?
 

That moment came on the heels of a completely different experience -- the Vermont Spring Open Studio Weekend.   In case you aren't familiar with the open studio weekend it is a wonderful event when Vermont craftspeople open their studios to the public.  Many of these studios are in their homes or in close proximity (e.g., a barn).  You navigate the main streets and back roads of Vermont going from studio to studio relying on: 1) your map listing individual artists who participate in the event and 2) your GPS (essential gear). You meet directly with the artist in the environment where s/he makes art.  It's an intimate event that brings the artist in direct connection with potential buyers.

 

I criss-crossed the Bennington, Vermont area visting with craftspeople making pottery, jewelry, encaustic paintings and pastels.   One said to me "... the weekend isn't about selling it is about speaking with people."  Interestingly, his display case was almost empty after the 2-day open studio event.

 

You probably can't make a great living selling your art unless you have customers willing to pay more than what they would at a home goods store or low-end online marketplace (unless you sell a huge volume of art).  And there's the rub -- why would someone pay more for your art than a cheaper imitation?

 

How to Be Laser Focused on Customers

1) Decide who you want for a customer!

The answer to that question is that not all customers are equal and not all are right for you - the right customer for you will value your work and be willing to pay a fair price!  Don't try to sell your art to just anyone - you need to have a focus.  The person who buys inexpensive canvas prints at the local home goods store may or may not be the customer you want.

 

As a marketer for a technology company I can tell you from first-hand experience that one of the most challenging things you'll do is identify the customers you really want.  You are looking for the perfect marriage of your interest in them and their interest in you.  A few potential customers to consider for your art are:

  • Individuals (located where? what age ranges? what income ranges?)
  • Casual art collectors
  • Serious art investors
  • Interior decorators and designers
  • Corporate buyers
  • Creative Agencies
  • Photo researchers (for book covers)
  • Stock photo agencies
  • Other craftspeople
  • Friends, family, neighbors
  • Associations
  • And more....

 

2) Get to know these fine art buyers

Being laser focused on customers means more than simply identifying them. It means truly understanding their needs.  As marketers we often speak of buyer personas.  I recommend this Hubspot blog for anyone interested in learning more about personas: The Definition of a Buyer Persona [in Under 100 Words].  

 

What you want to do is try to really personify your customer.  For example if you are primarily interested in selling to interior designers dive a bit deeper. How old is your target interior designer? Where does s/he live?  Does s/he have a certain style or aesthetic (e.g., rustic, traditional, modern, shabby chic)?   What are her areas of specialty?  Does she do urban makeovers?  Work in the suburbs?  Houzz, an online platform for home remodeling and design, can be a great resource for better understanding the market by reviewing its designer bios and profiles.

 

Now, you may ask: is all of this really necessary?  Yes!  How will you know where to find buyers for your art and what price to charge, if you don't really understand them?  Case in point: where are you most likely to find them?

 

3) Come up with a plan for where to reach them

Assuming that you have professional-quality art that is priced right, you'll be rewarded if you spend some time to figure out where to find these ideal customers. (You might also be interested in this blog post: How to price fine art - tips for emerging artists).  Let's take the interior designer example we used earlier.

 

Is your designer likely to be looking for pieces for the latest assignment at traditional high-end galleries?  On Etsy?  On Houzz?  Does your art fit with his/her style?  If your art would work best in a chic, contemporary residential setting there isn't much point in reaching out to designers who focus on corporate clients or those who do breezy, seashore makeovers for beachcomber clients.  

 

Depending upon your desired customer here are a few places where you might get started looking for them:

You might also be interested in this earlier blog post: How can you use Twitter to promote your photography business?

 

Remember: it is about them, not you!

Identifying and finding potential customers is only half of the equation.  Selling your art will come after you build relationships with them (either virtually or in person).  How to do this is worthy of its own blog post.  For more on this you might check out what professional photographer Karin Rosenthal had to say in an earlier blog post: Building relationships with art collectors.

 

I am a marketer.  I am also an artist who deals with these same challenges as my readers, every day.  If something has worked well for you I'd love to hear about it.  Please leave a comment and share your tips.

 

 

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens art business art marketing finding customers for fine art business how to sell fine art http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2016/6/finding-customers-for-your-fine-art-business Tue, 28 Jun 2016 02:08:15 GMT
How to price fine art (tips for emerging artists) http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2016/3/how-to-price-fine-art-tips-for-emerging-artists By Cindy A Stephens

 

“It’s a nightmare”, Elizabeth told me when I asked her about how she sets a price for her original paintings.  Knowing how to price fine art can be one of the most difficult business tasks artists have to do.  Maybe this is why a blog I wrote on the subject – How to price fine art photography - is the most popular one I’ve written.

 

I was looking at pieces by English pop artist Sir Peter Blake, Robert Mars, and Damien Hirst in a modern gallery when some advice from my old blog post - telling artists to look at comparables to figure out what price to set – hit me as incomplete.  To be honest, this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

 

If you are an art collector there is software to help you manage your inventory, resources to help discover new artists, and databases where you can research recent auction prices and determine what you can expect to pay for art. 

 

What tools do artists, particularly emerging artists, have to help us set prices?  How do you know what a comparable is for your art?  How do you find a reasonable comparable if your work isn’t in a gallery (online or traditional)?  As artists, we need a better approach to pricing fine art – a more systematic one.

 

So, I’ve laid out a step-by-step plan to help emerging artists in figuring out how to price their fine art.  Importantly -- this is just a starting point!  Obviously the price will also be determined by your costs, demand (have you already sold a piece at a certain price point?); the audience you are targeting, your medium, your location and so much more.  I’ll have more to say on these in later posts.  For now, let’s get started.

 

Step 1: Collect relevant art profiles

When it comes to understanding what price to charge for your fine art print, oil, watercolor, sculpture, jewelry, furniture or anything else - be systematic.  Start gathering the most relevant facts about art in your genre.  You may find this art online, in traditional galleries, artist co-ops, art fairs, shows at local art associations, or in a catalog.  Don’t worry yet about trying to set your prices.  Just gather information.  And don’t try to remember it.  Write it down!

 

Sample Art Profile Template

http://www.cindyastephens.com/art_profile_database_template_bycindyastephens.pdfArt Profile Database TemplateDeveloped by Cindy A Stephens, Last Update March 2016

 

Here’s the data you’ll want for the art profile:

  • Location (name of the gallery, art fair, art show, etc.)
  • Date (when you saw the piece)
  • Artist name
  • Artist Level (I’ll describe this more in a minute)
  • Title of the art work
  • Series (if available)
  • Edition (if there is one)
  • Medium (e.g., mixed media, sculpture)
  • Dimension
  • Year
  • Asking Price
  • Selling Price (if available)

 

Think of step one as putting together a puzzle: get the pieces out of the box, put all the outside edge pieces together and look at the picture on the top of the puzzle box to see what it is that you’re trying to create. 

 

Step 2: Organize your art profiles

 

Take all of the art profiles you’ve assembled and begin to organize them.  I recommend a simple Excel spreadsheet for this. 

 

You can download a PDF sample of my Art Profile Template here:

Download Art Profile Database Template

Here are two techniques for how to organize the art profiles:

  1. Group by Location.  Assign each of the ones you have collected into a “Location” Category – where you saw the artwork.   To keep it simple start with perhaps 1-5 choices:
    1. Online gallery
    2. Traditional gallery
    3. Art Fair
    4. Show
    5. Etc.
  2. Group by Artist Level.  We all recognize that some artists have already mastered their craft and are well established. Others are just starting out.  Keep it simple.  Use a tiered approach and assign each that you have collected into one of these categories below. Just make an educated guess.
    1. Amateur
    2. Emerging Artist
    3. Established Artist
    4. Master Craftsman

 

Don’t forget to add your own work to this list too.  If you’ve sold a piece or two, write down all that information.  Actual sales are the best indicator of the minimum price you want to set for your work (notice I said minimum as you may be leaving money on the table and need to set a higher price).

 

Step 3: Look for patterns in the art prices

If you’re someone who loves Sudoku, crosswords, or puzzles you’ll enjoy this next part.  For others it may be out of your comfort zone.  You want to look for patterns in the data you’ve collected. 

 

Italian Boatscapeby Cindy A Stephens

Italian Boatscape, available at The Artful Home

 

Here are a few questions you might try to answer:

  • What is the average asking price of work that is most similar to yours (similar in terms of artist level, quality, medium and dimension) for a specific location?
  • How does the asking price vary by location?
  • How much do asking prices vary based on the dimension of the piece?
  • Have you sold pieces around a certain price point already?
  • What is the average asking price of work by artists at the “level” below you?  What about above you?

 

The idea is to use the information you’ve collected, along with your intuition, to find the right price range for your work – the price you want to start testing at.

 

Case in point: I have fine art prints available at The Artful Home and so I often look at other comparables at The Artful Home and other online galleries.  

 

Step 4: Set an initial price for your fine art

Keep in mind that the art profile data you’ve collected is not the whole picture when it comes to pricing your work.  You don’t know if the pieces you’ve seen are actually selling!  You are just looking at the asking price.  Maybe the artists whose work you are seeing are charging way too much for the quality of the art.  Or, perhaps they are undervaluing their work.  I suspect that emerging artists are not charging “market value” for their work and leaving “money on the table”.

 

Also, you’ll need to consider your cost for creating art – your time and materials.  For some artists this will be more of a factor in setting prices than for others.  And as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you’ll want to consider the buyer for your work and other factors.

 

Having said all of that, you have to start somewhere.  This is a simple method for getting started.  That’s all.

 

Step 5:  See and be Seen

The Darkroom Gallery in Vermont offers a unique option to photographers who submit work for upcoming shows called View and be Viewed.  You can see entries from others in that exhibit who are willing to share.  These include entries that were accepted and also those who were rejected.

 

It’s a great learning experience and one that’s inspired me.  Let’s share the art profiles we collect with one another!  Let’s build a rich database of art asking and selling prices to use, independently, to price our fine art.

 

Leave a comment below with the information you’ve seen, or email it to me at cindy@cindyastephens.com  and I’ll add it to my Excel Spreadsheet and share it back with my readers.

 

Let’s see and be seen!  Together we can help each other with the business of fine art and build our artistic presences.

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens art business art marketing how to price fine art photography http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2016/3/how-to-price-fine-art-tips-for-emerging-artists Mon, 14 Mar 2016 12:00:00 GMT
The Pink Monks of Myanmar: Eyewitness to Life as a Buddhist nun http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2016/1/the-pink-monks-of-myanmar-eyewitness-to-life-as-a-buddhist-nun It was easy to become enchanted by her.  Her unabashed smile was captivating.  And she seemed to radiate calmness, happiness and confidence.    

 

What do you know about Buddhist nuns?  You may have seen photos of Myanmar’s Buddhist monks in their saffron colored robes. Or, you’ve seen or heard his holiness the Dalai Lama. 

 

http://www.cindyastephens.com/people_and_cultureBuddhist Nun, Saigaing HIlls, Myanmar

Copyright 2015, Cindy A Stephens

 

Before my visits to Nepal and Myanmar I had read about Buddhism, which has always fascinated me.  Most of the books are written from a male perspective, however, and don't illuminate the lives of women in monastic orders, either Theravada or Mahayana Buddhism.

 

The 'Pink Monks' of Myanmar

The ‘pink monks’ of Myanmar are girls and women ranging in ages from around 10 upwards.  They wear light pink robes and have shaven heads. Myuk told me she had been at the nunnery in the Saigaing Hills for 30 years, since she was a girl of just 10 years old.  (Note, I may not have the correct spelling of her name). 

 

Myuk spoke excellent English and pointed out their learning room where they receive a free education.  The 100-150 nuns receive two meals per day and clothing.  For many young girls joining the monastic order is a way to escape poverty or worse situations. 

 

The nuns in this Theravada Buddhist order do not farm or sell small handicrafts.  Like their male monk counterparts they rely on almsgiving - the generosity of others - for their food and goods.

 

My brief conversation with Myuk, and the opportunity to get a glimpse into her life, was a real privilege.  These types of encounters and memories are the reason I travel to countries and cultures that are different from mine (spending 20+ hours on planes!).

 

Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, Nepal

In 2013, on my prior journey to Asia, I visited the Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery in Kathmandu.  According to the Kopan Monastery website the nunnery is home to around 360 nuns many of whom are refugees from Tibet.

 

Whereas the monks of Myanmar practice Theravada Buddhism the monks and nuns in Kathmandu follow Mahayana Buddhist practices.  If you’re interested you can read more about the difference in these two schools here.

 

Incense at the Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, Nepal

Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens

 

One of the things I remember most about my visit to this nunnery is learning about the incense the nuns make and sell to support the nunnery.  I had never seen incense made before and certainly never experienced anything like this.

 

I went inside a small room where four or five women were patiently bundling the incense that was drying on shelves near the room’s entrance.  Gift boxes of incense were sold in the monastery shop and used to support the monks and nuns of Kopan Monastery and Nunnery.

 

The day I visited the nunnery happened to also be an exam day for the nuns and I was privileged to get a brief glimpse of that part of their world too – becoming an eye witness to this important passage.

 

What I’m Reading

Often when I return from my latest main street or back road journey I find myself drawn to personal accounts of living in these exotic lands.  One of the next on my booklist is a story about the woman of Nepal called The Violet Shyness of their Eyes: Notes from Nepal

 

I've just finished reading a memoir by Inge Sargent (Twilight over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess) about her days as the Mahadevi of Hsipaw upon her graduation from a university in Colorado and marriage to a Shan prince.

 

More photos

You can see more photos of many of the people I’ve met on my journeys: here

You may also be interested in:

 

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Myanmar fine art prints for sale photos of Myanmar people http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2016/1/the-pink-monks-of-myanmar-eyewitness-to-life-as-a-buddhist-nun Sun, 24 Jan 2016 00:08:11 GMT
Generosity at Chauk Htat Gyi (Photos of the Myanmar People, Part I) http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2015/12/photos-of-the-myanmar-people-chou Dear Friends: It has been several months since I posted a blog with new photos and I feel I owe my readers an explanation.  While “sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans” is apt in this case it isn’t a very specific answer.  During the past year I journeyed to the Antarctic Peninsula, my technology company was acquired by a large firm, I changed jobs to return to a small tech company, and I became the curator (e.g., legal guardian) for my Aunt.  The last of these was the most challenging by far.  If I’m being truthful though, on top of all of those things (which reduced the time I had available to devote to my art) I also needed a “creative break” – a time to step back and re-energize.  As we approach the end of 2015 I feel rejuvenated and am looking ahead to the New Year: to my new photographic collection (working title: “At the Edge of the Sky”) and to more journeys to main streets and back roads.  And with that, I'd like to tell you about a few of the wonderful people I met on my latest journey to Myanmar….

 

What I remember most fondly about my visit to Myanmar this Fall are its people.  As my readers know I am a traveler, having journeyed to six continents and dozens of countries. So, I’m not looking at this experience from a limited vantage point.  And I can honestly say that the openness, generosity, and warm nature of the Myanmar people set them apart in my mind from virtually every place I’ve been privileged to experience.  Remember too, this is a country that was occupied at one time by the British and the Japanese among others. And today Myanmar is a country of some eight major national ethnic races.

 

I can show you photographs of the Myanmar people and you’d get some sense of them.  You’ll get an even better sense of the people and culture of Myanmar if I share a few personal stories with you too.

Cho Myanmar, October 2015

Copyright 2015 Cindy A Stephens

Chauk Htat Gyi

Arriving in Yangon from Bangkok I felt a bit like the imaginary Dorothy when she set foot in Oz – as they say, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. It can take a while to get one’s bearings in a new country, particularly in one that has been closed to Western tourism for most of its existence and is about to hold its first General Election since 2010.  I had a few butterflies as I removed my shoes and socks (a Buddhist custom) to visit the enormous 64 meter-long reclining Buddha image at the Chauk Htat Gyi pagoda.

 

While I began to look around I caught the eye of a beautiful young girl who was looking my way.  She was smiling.  I walked toward her general direction.  When I got closer she thrust out her hand and in perfect English introduced herself to me with a sweet smile.  Her Mum and brother were with her, “picnicking” on a blanket near the Buddha image.  She introduced me to her family and we spoke for a few minutes before I said good bye.

 

Buoyed by this experience I continued along the edge of the reclining Buddha image.  On the other side I saw another girl, about 13 years old, also dressed in a beautiful dress – her holiday finest.  I motioned with my camera to ask if it was ok to take her photo.  Once again, she was with her Mom and was simply enjoying the day together.  After taking a few images and chatting I thanked Chou and turned to leave and rejoin the others I was traveling with. 

 

Here's the really amazing part -- a few moments later she came running up to me and handed me an origami flower that she had just made for me!!  Imagine that – I took her photograph and ought to be the one to give her thanks.  And, she gave me a present.  Then, she made another for my friend whom I raced toward to tell her what had just happened.  

 

Chou gave me a present in more ways than one.  This encounter occurred on my first day in the country and put me at ease about travel to this very far away place at a time of great change.  I immediately felt that this was a special country and one that I would enjoy visiting. 

 

In the next blog post I'll share a story about my visit to a nunnery.  Until then, you may also be interested in:

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Myanmar fine art prints for sale photos of Myanmar people http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2015/12/photos-of-the-myanmar-people-chou Wed, 30 Dec 2015 12:00:00 GMT
Black Friday Sale: Save 25% on fine art prints http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2015/11/save-25percent-on-fine-art-prints Black Friday Sale!

Save 25% on fine art prints*

Starts Friday, November 27, 2015.  Offer ends Monday, November 30, 2015.  

 

Dear friends, celebrate Thanksgiving with a SALESave 25% on fine art prints*  

COUPON: BLACKFRIDAY15WEB

Order online at www.cindyastephens.com
 

Please note: Prints ordered on or before November 30 are expected to ship on December 21, 2015.

 

 

*Offer  expires on 11/30/15 (11:59 PM ET).  Offer is good for 25% off one qualifying order. This particular offer code cannot be redeemed more than once per account and/or billing address.  Taxes, shipping and handling will apply.

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Black Friday Cindy Stephens Fine art prints buy photography online http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2015/11/save-25percent-on-fine-art-prints Wed, 25 Nov 2015 02:17:45 GMT
Starting a Successful Art Business Online [The Lone Beader’s Story] http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/11/starting-a-successful-art-business-online By Cindy A Stephens

 

This Thanksgiving one of the things I am grateful for is having the opportunity to connect with, and learn from other artists through the tremendous reach of the Internet and social media.

The Lone BeaderYorkshire Terrier

Case in point: my recent conversation with The Lone Beader (a.k.a. Diana L. Grygo).  I didn’t know Diana until I reached out to her via Twitter.  I was intrigued with her artistic presence and wanted to learn about her experiences with #Etsy, her new iPad app, her experiences creating an art blog, building her Facebook following, and more. 

 

In short, I wanted to know:  how did you do it?  How did you start a successful beadwork business?   She graciously agreed to chat and share her story.

 

One thing that I immediately learned from The Lone Beader is - if you want to get free advice from other artists who have struggled to figure out how to price art, sell it and create a successful art business, then just ask them! Most people are willing to share their stories.

 

How The Lone Beader started a successful beadwork business

The Lone Beader is a self-taught beadwork artist currently working in Boston, Massachusetts.  She primarily sells her work through Etsy, her website, and some custom orders on Facebook.  She has some 2,700 followers on Facebook and more than 2,000 admirers on Etsy.

 

The Lone Beader is the culmination of a journey that began in 2006 when a friend suggested that Diana should start a blog to promote her beadwork.  She had sold a few pieces already and decided to try blogging. Diana began documenting progress of her beadwork, blogging every day.  While she knew that there is a huge community of beaders, what she hadn’t realized is how they’d help her build her business.

 

Side note:  I wrote about the importance of blogging in an earlier post: Building your online presence

 

Diana joined a forum online and connected with other beadwork artists.  A few linked to her and mentioned her blog.  Gradually her following began to grow.   Eventually, someone requested a beaded pin of a dog so she made it and sold it directly via her blog.  Other people began reaching out too via her blog.  

 

The Lone Beader

Image courtesy of the Lone Beader

“Someone commented ‘I was looking for you on Etsy’,” says Diana.  “I didn’t know about Etsy at first, but after doing some research, I learned that it would be a great place to sell my work.”  Diana opened her Etsy shop in 2008.

 

You might also be interested in:  Building an art business: is selling art online right for you?

 

Diana shared with me that her shop is slowly growing.  She worked hard to promote her name and started her Facebook and Instagram business pages.  She used her blog to promote them and vice versa.  Diana said that people looking for something unique will find her on Google through online searches – her use of keywords and hashtags help people find her.

 

“I use a lot of hashtags in my posts,” she says.  “They help a lot now.  Hashtags weren’t very common several years ago.  They became big on Twitter, then Facebook started to utilize them, too.  So now if someone is searching for #poodle, for example, my beaded poodle will show up in the hashtag feed.”

 

Diana says she has found two target markets for her business.  The first is the beadwork community who wants to learn what she is doing.  She now offers patterns for $10 to beaders who would like to create their own beaded dog pin.  She tells me that “others might worry about someone else copying/selling their design, but I don’t.  What I do is labor intensive.  You have to love it and want to do it over and over again.”  The second market is dog and cat lovers.

 

That brings me to the next chapter in her story, pricing her beadwork.

 

How to price art

The first time Diana sold something seriously, she told me, was in 2004.  She created a flamingo painting.  “The piece was being photographed for a publication and someone saw it and said he’d like to buy it.” 

 

The Lone BeaderFlamingo Beadwork painting

Image courtesy of The Lone Beader

Diana said she could make him a new piece and came up with pricing based on an hourly wage.  She asked for 50% up front.  Diana tracked the hours spent and billed her client for the remainder when the 8x10 painting was complete. The flamingo painting sold for $1,000.  She says it helped her gauge how much to price her work.

 

The majority of the cost for creating Diana’s beadwork is time.  She says that beads don’t cost very much.  Most of the beaded dog pins and pendants take her a full day to create due to the amount of sewing involved.

 

One of her most popular pieces is the beaded Yorkshire Terrier.  Interestingly, Diana started at a lower price and focused on building a following.  Eventually she decided to raise the price.  “As soon as I raised the price, it started selling,” she says.

 

Here’s Diana’s advice on pricing:

 

  • “If you are selling one of a kind work that isn’t easily duplicated, come up with a fair price that reflects the quality.  Customers associate price with quality every time.”
  • “If you believe in the work and it is as high quality as you can make it, and the customer can see exactly what they are getting, then they will be willing to pay that price.”
  • “It is hard for artists but they have to decide when they have popular items, to keep raising prices to keep up with demand.”  In fact, in terms of common mistakes artists make Diana says “try not to underprice the work in an effort to make a sale.”

 

With the busy holiday shopping season upon us I asked The Lone Beader if she does any special promotions this time of year.   Diana is planning to run a Black Friday promotion and another one a couple of weeks before Christmas for her ready to ship items.

 

Side note: You might also like my interview on pricing with commercial photographer Scott Indermaur:  Tips for how to price commercial photography or my blog on How to price fine art photography

 

Launching a mobile app based on her art

Diana’s art business continues to evolve.  She recently released her iPhone app in the iTunes store.  Diana has embraced social media and the beadwork community and patiently created her artistic presence and art business from the ground up.  She is a self-taught small business owner who learned about tax IDs, business bank accounts and the components of running a successful business.  In the next chapter she may take the plunge and make The Lone Beader her sole source of income and full time career.

 

One of the gifts that social media has brought to all of us artists is the opportunity to tap into a community – connecting artists from all disciplines, across all geographic boundaries and all stages of career.  Want to get free advice from other artists who have struggled to figure out how to price their art, sell it and create a successful art business?  Ask them!  Embrace it and tap into this rich artist community.

 

Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.

The Lone BeaderDiana Grygo The Lone Beader is a self-taught beadwork artist currently working in Boston, Massachusetts. She loves to create extremely dimensional beaded paintings by stitching glass seed beads to felt. Her work also combines images from history with ideas of the future using mixed media. Her current pieces are inspired by pop culture, classic cars, and rock'n'roll music. Join her on a journey and let her beadwork take you for a ride. Please visit TheLoneBeader.com for more photos & news, and please stop by The Lone Beader's blog to follow the progress of her bead embroidery.

http://thelonebeader.com/

http://www.etsy.com/shop/thelonebeader

http://www.facebook.com/thelonebeader

http://instagram.com/thelonebeader

 

Download my FREE iPhone app today!  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/thelonebeader/id870098922

 

 

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens The Lone Beader art business art marketing beadwork how to price art marketing http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/11/starting-a-successful-art-business-online Sat, 22 Nov 2014 17:49:05 GMT
Providence Cityscape http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/10/providence-cityscape

 

The morning after Waterfire in Providence

 

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) cityscape fine art fine art prints online providence skyline waterfire http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/10/providence-cityscape Tue, 14 Oct 2014 00:37:03 GMT
Preparing your ecommerce art site for holiday shopping http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/9/preparing-your-ecommerce-art-site-for-holiday-shopping by Cindy A Stephens

 

In New England we’ve been having a glorious Indian Summer so it may seem too early to blog about the holiday shopping season.  After all, it isn’t even Thanksgiving.  Consider this fact however: according to last year’s The DeepProfile study, one in three shoppers will start shopping before Thanksgiving.

Shopping for christmas goodiesShopping for christmas goodiesChristmas packages, ornaments candy cane and a bow in a miniature shopping cart.

The holiday shopping season can present unique challenges for art businesses:


• Art is not usually mass-produced like electronics or toys. Instead artists often have limited quantities of original pieces (e.g., an oil painting or sculpture).


• Selecting art is personal - what appeals to one person won’t appeal to another - so buying art as a gift can be especially difficult.


• Artists that aren’t represented by a traditional gallery or have their work in highly visited ecommerce sites (e.g., Etsy) will have to find creative ways to stay top of mind.

 

One way to overcome these difficulties is to do what fine art photographer Karin Rosenthal does, host an annual open house.

 

Karin told me she sells roughly 30% of her yearly print sales during the December open house.  This open house has allowed her to make a living primarily from the sale of artwork.

 

Read my interview with Karin Rosenthal, Building relationships with art collectors

 

If you want to sell online instead of in your home or studio, however, you’ll have to come up with another way to capitalize on the busy holiday shopping season that can represent a sizable percentage of your annual sales.  I have three art marketing tips to get you started.

Have some inventory ready to ship quickly

 

One way to overcome the unique artistic challenge of having limited quantities of pieces (versus mass-produced items) is to tell buyers what’s ready to ship now and what will be made to order.  And have some of the available inventory ready to ship quickly, in just a few days.  For example, in the Lone Beader’s Etsy shop (@lonebeader) she clearly tells visitors what inventory is available now and what will be a custom order.

The Lone BeaderEtsy Store


Sometimes, having pieces ready to ship immediately can be too costly for artists.  Consider this example: photographers who use outside printers. These artists would be paying to have prints created before they are sold, and incurring the printing costs up front.  One workaround is to have a few smaller-sized pieces made that are somewhat less expensive, and then offer larger sizes “made to order”.


Read my interview with Jessica Burko for more tips on turnaround time, Building an art business: is selling online right for you?

Offer gift certificates

 

A great way to make your art accessible to a wide variety of shoppers this holiday season is to offer a gift certificate.  Sites such as Zenfolio.com make offering gift certificates easy for artists.  You decide the amount of the certificates (e.g., $100) that you want. 

Zenfoliogift certificates for art businesses Providing gift certificates solves two problems.  First, it gives shoppers a way to purchase a gift without the stress of having to decide which piece to buy.  As I mentioned earlier, buying art is personal.  Second, gift certificates provide a low cost way for shoppers to buy even if they can’t afford to purchase an original painting or other more expensive piece.

Create holiday pieces (editions) and traditions


There’s no question that Black Friday sales are big business for major online retailers.  Buying online has become part and parcel of holiday shopping to avoid crowds, get a great selection, and terrific deals. 

 

As artists we don’t want to devalue our work and lower prices that we’ve worked hard to raise.  And let’s face it - it may be hard to compete with the more common holiday gifts.

 

That said, there are tasteful ways to tap into the buying frenzy.  One way is to concentrate on your current clients who already appreciate and admire your work.  Sending an early holiday card to wish them well and thank them for their business can go a long way.  You might also enclose a special discount coupon that s/he can pass along to a family member looking for gift ideas.

 

Another option is to create one-of-a-kind holiday pieces or limited holiday editions.  While there are many opinions on the concept of offering limited editions, stop for a moment to consider what Byers Choice Ltd. (caroler dolls) or Thomas Kinkade (painter of light) or Hallmark (ornaments) have created in terms of demand for their new holiday pieces. 

 

• Painters – Do you have limited-edition Christmas prints of your original oil? 
• Glass sculptors – Do you have holiday ornaments?
• Photographers - Could you create custom greeting cards? 

 

Get creative! We are after all, creative professionals.  In my opinion the best way to take advantage of this busy shopping season is not to try to compete with the mass-produced, always-on, retail frenzy.  Instead, consider new ways to delight buyers and show your appreciation for their business.    

 

Want more ideas? Check out  The Ecommerce Guide to Holiday Shopping & Marketing


Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens art art business art marketing buying art create artistic presence fine art online http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/9/preparing-your-ecommerce-art-site-for-holiday-shopping Wed, 01 Oct 2014 02:40:07 GMT
Five Tips for Selling Your Art on Your Website http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/6/five-tips-for-selling-your-art-on-your-website-an-interview-with-jessica-burko Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University

By Cindy A Stephens

 

Did you think that if you hung out your online shingle (i.e., built your website) buyers would find it and you’d be successful selling your art online?  Artist and arts marketing consultant Jessica Burko told me that the biggest mistake artists make about selling online is thinking “if you build it they will come.”

 

The truth is that selling art online through a personal website isn’t right for every artist.  It involves confidence, marketing skill, and perseverance.  And, even if you have all the “right stuff” to be successful selling online the time you devote to creating your artist presence is time you might prefer to spend creating new art. 

 

See my related blog is selling your art online right for you?

 

If you’ve decided that selling art through your website is right for you then you’ll want a few pointers to jump-start your activities.  After all, retailers like Amazon.com have made an art (pun intended!) of selling online.  The best approach is to think like a buyer and his/her shopping experience.

 

Below are five tips that Jessica shared with me to help artists be successful selling online:

1. Mirror common online shopping practices
2. Let buyers know they can purchase through your site
3. Have great photographs of your art
4. Tell your personal story
5. Figure out how to pack and ship your art before you make that first sale

 

Tip #1: Mirror common online shopping practices
“People that are regular internet users are also ecommerce consumers,” says Jessica,   “They are very accustomed to shopping online on clean, user friendly, beautiful websites with very easy to use payment systems.”  Artist websites should be similar.  For instance, she says there should be a smooth transition to whatever ecommerce tool or portal the artist has chosen to accept payments.  Visitors expect it. 

 

While it is important your website is well designed you don’t need to do something out of the box.  According to Jessica, “Do what is expected by internet shoppers for the ecommerce portion of your site.”  For example, she advocates that shopping carts should look like the familiar shopping carts you see on other sites.

 

If you re-invent something entirely unfamiliar you risk confusing your buyer.


 
Tip #2: Let buyers know they can purchase through your site
I asked Jessica to tell me the one thing that artists can do to make it easier for buyers to purchase art through their websites.  Her answer may surprise you (it surprised me): “What makes it easier for buyers to purchase art, is to tell them they can!”

 

“When someone goes to a show or your studio they might not immediately realize that they can buy the work online,” Jessica says.  She adds that “You have to tell them that they can buy the work online and have marketing to point them towards an online shop with easy to use shopping cart features.”  Having an online shop can lead to post-event sales.  “It is a great tool for after an event,” she adds.

 

As a professional marketer I can tell you that any traditional wall between online shopping and offline shopping (those activities that do not take place on a website) has been torn down.  Consider a TV commercial or program you saw recently that provided a hashtag or website address to visit. 

 

Increasingly buyers move back-and-forth between offline and online experiences and our role as small business owners (i.e., artists) is to recognize that and make the most of it.

 

Tip #3: Have great photographs of your art
It’s easy for photographers who use digital capture to incorporate great images of their work on their sites.  It is more difficult for painters, sculptures and other artists to have great photographs of their art.  They may need to learn the best lighting to feature their art and how to take a high quality photo of it.

 

According to Jessica artists need to “Learn how to photograph their work in a good way, and have multiple views of the work.”  This applies to photographers too.  She says photographers may want to have one image that shows only the work, and another that shows what it looks like framed and hanging on a wall.  “Showing your art in a different environment helps potential buyers imagine it in their homes.”

 

Tip #4: Tell your personal story
Last year around this time I interviewed Aline Smithson about describing yourself and your work.  It is my most popular blog post.  Jessica echoed Aline’s sentiment about the importance of telling your story.  She says that “Your inspiration, what your process is, can be a make or break moment between buying or not.”

 

If you are interested in learning more about how to tell your personal story I recently recorded a 30-minute webinar on writing an effective artist statement that you might find useful.  I give tips for using written descriptions of work as one element of an artistic brand; the do's and don'ts of writing artist statements; and the difference between an artist statement and a bio.

 

Listen to a 2-minute podcast preview of my 30-minute webinar:  writing an effective artist statement [webinar preview]

 

Tip #5: Figure out how to pack and ship your art
The fifth tip that Jessica provided about selling your art online may also surprise you: “Before you sell online figure out how you will pack and ship it.”  She said consider offering only matted work and not framed work or smaller prints versus larger ones.

 

In addition, she says it is extremely important to have accurate shipping costs (don’t forget to  list shipping cost accurately in the shipping portion of your check-out process) and to work out kinks related to packing and shipping in advance.  I agree. I sell through my personal website as well as an online gallery.  Figuring out the sizes of the prints I wanted to make available online and what it would cost me to ship them took time but was very important. 

 

As artists we often spend the most time learning our craft either from a creative or technical standpoint, or both.  The business aspects of how to make a living at our craft are often an after-thought, and one reason why selling art online isn’t right for everyone.  If you have decided to do it, take the time to learn from others.  It can save you a lot of time – time you can devote to making art.

 

You might also be interested in: is selling your art online right for you?


Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.


Jessica Burko Jessica Burko has been an exhibiting artist since 1985 and has displayed work in solo and group shows throughout the United States. She holds a BFA in Fine Art Photography from Rhode Island School of Design, and an MFA in Imaging Arts and Science from Rochester Institute of Technology.  To learn more about Jessica Burko and the Arts Marketing services she offers please visit: http://jessicaburko.com/about/ 
 

 

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Jessica Burko arts marketing selling art online http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/6/five-tips-for-selling-your-art-on-your-website-an-interview-with-jessica-burko Tue, 01 Jul 2014 01:45:06 GMT
Building an art business: is selling art online right for you? http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/5/building-an-art-business-is-selling-art-online-right-for-you An interview with Jessica Burko

 

By Cindy A Stephens

 

 

Do you create art for your own enjoyment?  Or, are you motivated to create art in order to share it with others for their appreciation?  Do you expect to make income from your art?  Why you create art is often a difficult and personal question to answer. 

 

If you expect to make some, or all, of your income from your art then you’ll need to think like a small business owner. And in this digital world that means you’ll need to figure out if selling art online via your personal website is right for you.

 

“When artists take the initiative to self-promote and also sell online, those things bring a realization that being an artist isn’t just doing something powerful for oneself, but it is also taking on the role of small business owner,” says artist and arts consultant Jessica Burko.  She says they start to realize “I own a business and need to make it viable.”

 

Photo by Jessica Burko

Selling art online is de rigueur but it isn’t for every artist.  When you put together an art marketing plan ask yourself these questions: 

 

1.       Do I have the skills needed to sell art online?

2.       If I build a website to sell my art will anyone come to it?
          (put another way, how will I drive traffic to my site?)

3.       What turnaround time will I offer for work that is sold?

4.       What control do I want to have over shipping and any printing of work?

 

Do I have the skills needed to sell art online?

“In no other profession would one go to graduate school for their craft and be taught how to create but not how to make a living at it,” says Jessica.  “No one turns out doctors without the knowledge of how to have a job as a doctor.”

 

When Jessica and I spoke she pointed out that artists are turned-out by the thousands often with no skills for working in their profession.  “There’s a mystique that artists are supposed to make a living solely by their art,” she says.  While this is possible Jessica acknowledges that even established professionals don’t magically sell their work and need to spend time on accounting, their websites, and a long list of other activities.

 

Read the blog post how to build awareness for your work

 

If you don’t have the skills you need to run your arts business and make income from your art through your website there are many organizations that will offer assistance.  One that I’m familiar with is the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston.  The A&BC offers programs like the Artist’s Professional Toolbox and a webinar library with tips on legal issues, estate planning, marketing, business basics and more. (I recently recorded a webinar for them on how to write an effective artist statement.)

 

If I build a website to sell my art will anyone come to it / how will I drive traffic to my ecommerce site?

According to Jessica, think of your website as building a retail store where no one needs it.  “You are putting your website on an overcrowded internet,” she says. The biggest mistake artists make she says is thinking that you build a website then buyers will just find  it.  “You can’t just build it and walk away.”

 

As a digital marketer I can tell you that driving traffic to a website takes skill and perseverance.  Having a blog is one way to begin to create artistic presence and drive traffic to an ecommerce site.  Online influence expert Stephanie Sammons previously told me that “most people give up before they reach their desired level of success with the volume of people visiting the site, growing their network or connecting with them.”

 

Read my interview with Stephanie on building your online presence.

 

If you don’t have the time or interest in driving traffic to your own ecommerce website you might consider making your work available for sale through an online gallery. There are many online art galleries that will promote artists. (See 5 considerations when choosing an online gallery for your work.)  “Let them create the platform for you”, Jessica says.

 

What turnaround time will I offer?

If you are going to sell art through your website you’ll want to mirror common online shopping practices.  These include reasonable turnaround times for your work.  Jessica advises “If there is a three-day turnaround time state that up front.”

 

For instance, if you are a fine art photographer who typically uses an outside printer and you don’t have a supply of prints [i.e., inventory] readily available she suggests you could sell only small prints online that you can print at home and ship quickly.

 

“Maybe you will only sell things in your online shop that you can get rush printed,” says Jessica.  “Because people buy online and are used to getting their purchase the next day it is recommended to have some portion of your art available for immediate shipping.”

 

Look at a few of your favorite retail shopping sites and online art galleries to get ideas about the common shipping times.  The Artful Home, where people can buy sculpture, art glass, and fine art prints includes shipping date information with every piece, e.g. “This piece ships on or before: Tue, May 6, 2014.”

 

What control do I want to have over shipping and/or printing of work?

As I said earlier, selling online isn’t for every artist.  If you produce wonderful three-dimensional sculptures, how will you pack and ship your work?  Are you prepared to have it crated for delivery?  Even photographers with light, two-dimensional work will need to consider what they offer for sale online.

 

If dealing with shipping first-hand isn’t for you online galleries such as Saatchi Art will make and ship prints for their represented artists.  And they provide instructions for their artists to pack unframed or framed paintings and other artwork.

 

I’ve considered each of these questions as it relates to my art.  Each of us has choices when it comes to whether, and how, we make income from our art.  For some, the right decision will be to have others handle the work of setting up an ecommerce site and promoting it.  For others, having more control over the details is important.  Whatever decision is right for you make a conscious decision and then have patience.

 

You might also be interested in:

 

SoWa Art Walk on May 4, 2014, 11am-6pm

 

Check out this blog about it by Jessica: http://www.bostonhandmade.org/2014/04/sowa-art-walk-this-sunday-may-4th-in.html

 

 

Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.

 

Jessica Burko has been an exhibiting artist since 1985 and has displayed work in solo and group shows throughout the United States. She holds a BFA in Fine Art Photography from Rhode Island School of Design, and an MFA in Imaging Arts and Science from Rochester Institute of Technology.  To learn more about Jessica Burko and the Arts Marketing services she offers please visit: http://jessicaburko.com/about/

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Jessica Burko art business art marketing create artistic presence http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/5/building-an-art-business-is-selling-art-online-right-for-you Sat, 03 May 2014 14:40:12 GMT
How to write an artist statement [webinar preview] http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/4/writing-an-artist-statement-webinar-preview Last year I interviewed Aline Smithson about describing yourself and your work.  It is my most popular blog.  

 

The idea that our work doesn't always speak for itself is a hotly debated topic.  As a full-time marketer who visually and verbally communicates my company's story, I believe that written descriptions of our artistic intentions compliment our art.

 

I recently recorded a 30-minute webinar for the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston on writing an effective artist statement.

 

Click on the red play button below to listen to a short 2-minute podcast and get a sneak peak at the webinar.

 

 

Note: This podcast has been re-recorded since the blog was originally published, to correct a factual error.

 

Click here for the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston webinar library where you can view the pre-recorded 30-minute webinar in its entirety for $10 (free for members).

 

Pre-recorded 30-minute Webinar: Writing an effective artist statement

Do you think that your art speaks for itself?  As visual artists we are comfortable sharing stories through images. Buyers are not visual artists and often want to know why we created work.  Artist statements are used to bridge the gap between our creative intentions and the audience of our work.

 

In the webinar you'll learn about using written descriptions of your work as one element of your artistic brand; the do's and don'ts of writing artist statements; and the difference between an artist statement and a bio.  You'll also come away with examples of statements and bios as well as a list of resources.

 

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) artist statement examples arts and business council of greater boston how to write an artist statement podcast webinar http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/4/writing-an-artist-statement-webinar-preview Mon, 28 Apr 2014 11:00:00 GMT
How can you use twitter to promote your photography business? http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/3/using-twitter-to-promote-a-photography-business Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University

 

I hadn’t expected commercial travel photographer Ken Kaminesky to tell me that he spends too much time on Twitter.  Ken has 103,000 followers on Twitter, which is impressive by most standards (certainly by mine).  Ken shared with me that his Twitter stream is slowing down significantly because he is on the road so much for business and also for his new photography tour business with upcoming tours in Italy, Iceland, and Jordan. 

 

www.kenkaminesky.comReprinted with permission from Ken Kaminesky

Reprinted with permission from Ken Kaminesky

 

 “I wish I could delegate it but that isn’t the point of social media,” he says.  “The point on Twitter is to be a resource and to get to know a person,” adds Ken.  In fact, answering, engaging and proactively reaching out to people on Twitter is what Ken attributes his Twitter success to.  It is rare, he says, when he doesn’t reply when someone tweets something relevant to him.  (Case in point:  Ken generously gave me an hour of his time to interview him, despite his extremely busy schedule).

 

Despite the rather large amount of time that Ken spends tweeting, he is confident that it has helped his career and has propelled him to achieve better strategies for marketing.  “My Twitter following gives me credibility.”    Ken says that his success on Twitter allows him to reach out to send a media kit to a tourism company, for example.  “They see my numbers and say this guy is for real.”  This means that what once might have taken months or weeks to make meaningful business contacts now takes days or hours.
 

 

How to use Twitter for business

Jack Hollingsworth recently told me “Sadly, photographers spend too much time in the social environment without monetizing their interests.  It’s a big problem.”  Ken says that he is still learning to be more strategic on Twitter adding “Twitter is the crack of social media – it’s addictive.”

 

There are many ways to use Twitter strategically to promote a business.  Ken shared three of his tips with me.

 

•      Marketing is a small part of Twitter.  Ken advocates a 10 to 1 ratio: Tweet 10 things that are of interest to you for every 1 that is about you.  People he says, don’t want to know about your business too much.  He sees that people who have good followings are those who talk about the industry and what they are passionate about.  “For me those things are curating, architecture, science, travel, and art.”

•      Be personable.  Seeing the person behind the photographer is something that Ken is passionate about.  He wants to really talk with people, as people not businesses.  This echoes Ken’s earlier comment about delegating – people can’t get to really know the person behind the tweets if those tweets are being done by someone else. “Talk to people,” Ken advocates.

•      Network and socialize with key brands.  Talking to people extends to magazines, writers, companies that are prospects for your commercial work, and others. “Show interest in what others are talking about and if you find them interesting use that as a strategy to be able to talk to them in their language.  Tweet at them.  Send a direct message.”  Ken advises that if you are researching someone for business perhaps reach them on Twitter first.  “It’s a more social thing.  Read their Twitter feed.  Engage them afterwards.  Be a social person and use social media to its full extent,” he adds.

 

Reprinted with permission from Ken Kaminesky

Reprinted with permission from Ken Kaminesky

 

Some of you may remember a marketing conversation I had with fine art photographer Annu Palakunnathu Matthew about building relationships with galleries.  Using Ken’s approach , consider reaching out to a gallery owner on Twitter before mailing an unsolicited portfolio. The point would be to develop a relationship first and connect on some shared interest.

 

See also how to find and work with a gallery

 

Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+

Facebook is also important, Ken says, for social engagement with people.  You can be more personal on Facebook but you can’t reach out to potential corporate clients.  “Facebook isn’t about that,” Ken says. 

 

One social media network that Ken would like more time for is LinkedIn.  “Networking and marketing, that’s the beauty of LinkedIn”, he says.  For Ken, LinkedIn allows him to connect with peers and collaborate on projects together, perhaps globally.

 

Google+ is also important to Ken in terms of photography these days.  He says “the Google+ team is doing a great job and makes it a great social sharing channel.  It will be a very important social media platform for years to come.”

 

Unlike these other social media networks Ken says “the beauty of Twitter and its 140 characters is that it respects your time.”  “It is really tough,” says Ken. “Social media has added to the workload for those who already have a full plate to begin with.  It’s also opened a lot of doors.  It is a double-edged sword.”  

 

Mostly Ken tells me that social media has been fantastic to him although he still wishes it didn’t take us so much of his time.  He’d prefer to be doing something creative, which isn’t happening enough these days. 

 

Do you really want tens of thousands of followers on Twitter?  Do you have the time that it is going to take to build your following and then engage with them every day?  Go into it with your eyes wide open, set clear priorities and monetize your interests to create your artistic presence.

 

See also 5 tools Ken Kaminesky uses for managing his photography businesses from the road 

 

Ken Kaminesky is a commercial travel photographer and visual storyteller. His work has been featured in numerous commercial publications, including the New York Times and on the cover of National Geographic. He communicates his passion for travel, and for the landscapes & people he meets along the way, through his popular blog, and through yearly workshops in places as far-flung as Jordan, Italy and Iceland. His favourite place in the world is always his next destination. He believes that everywhere has a story that will inspire people, and he’d love to capture it in an image. He doesn’t usually talk about himself in the third-person. 

 

Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Center Cindy Stephens Ken Kaminesky Marketing Photographic Resource Twitter using Twitter for business http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/3/using-twitter-to-promote-a-photography-business Tue, 25 Mar 2014 01:10:58 GMT
10 Resources for Using Keywords to Create Artistic Presence http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/1/10-resources-for-using-keywords-to-create-artistic-presence Posted by Cindy A Stephens

 

Figuring out how to get your art in front of a potential buyer can be challenging.  The truth is that there isn’t an easy, quick way to do it.  It takes patience, persistence and dedication.

 

Traditionally, picking keywords to optimize your website for search engines was one method for driving traffic to your website and getting your art in front of art collectors.  In recent months, however, this has become more difficult due to some changes that Google has made.

 

I recently refreshed keywords for my fine art photography website and want to share a few helpful resources on what’s changed recently and how to use keywords to create your artistic presence.

 

What’s changed recently?

1.       Search: Not Provided: What Remains, Keyword Data Options, The Future (Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik)

2.       6 Major Google Changes Reveal the Future of SEO (Search Engine Watch)

 

What can you do?

3.       7 tips for Winning Favor with Google (Stephanie Sammons)

4.       SEO Basics: 8 Essentials when optimizing your site (Search Engine Watch)

5.       Keyword Research and Optimization (ClickZ)

6.       Chapter Five Keyword Research (Moz)

 

Where can you go for more information on search engine optimization?

7.       Entrepreneur articles on SEO

8.       Search Marketing daily articles

9.       Search Engine Marketing articles (MarketingProfs)

10.   Social Media Examiner articles

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens SEO keywords http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/1/10-resources-for-using-keywords-to-create-artistic-presence Wed, 29 Jan 2014 03:00:00 GMT
Pictures from Kathmandu Nepal http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/1/pictures-from-kathmandu-nepal Posted by Cindy A Stephens

 

All of my senses came alive in Nepal.  From the moment I landed and disembarked I knew that I was going to have an extraordinary few days.  And I did.

 

Upon first arrival in a place as interesting as Nepal, I find everything new and fascinating.  So, one of the biggest photographic challenges is to stay focused on a theme.  Before I left for Nepal (and India) I decided to extend my fine art photography series about the main streets in America, to Asia.  It was one of two travel photography themes that I wanted to focus on during the trip.  What would the main streets in Nepal look like?  Would there be similarities to America?

 

Kathmandu, Nepal

Copyright 2013 Cindy A. Stephens

Kathmandu

Leaving the beautiful Dwarika’s Hotel one morning, I was struck by the small shops along the many unpaved roads of Kathmandu.  In front of each small storefront a woman squatted, boiling tea for breakfast.  Row-upon-row of boiling metal pots sat upon small fires tended by these women.  Behind them bikes, cows, buses and pedestrians rolled past as the steam from their morning meals climbed, mingling with the smokiness from the nearby funeral pyres that burn 24 hours a day, 7 days each week.

 

Later, the corrugated metal storefronts opened to reveal a freshly butchered animal splayed on a counter top or clothing or sundries.  Everything was orderly and swept clean by straw brooms used to clear debris into the dirt roads.  I had the sense of tidiness and a way of life that seemed to function despite the poverty and lack of modern facilities. 

 

Durbar Square Kathmandu

One of my favorite ways to experience a new place is by foot.  Walking through narrow and winding passages I feel part of the daily hustle-and-bustle of local life (even though it is hard to blend in with my dSLR and sunhat -- to ward off the ultra-violet rays 4,500 feet above sea level).

Copyright 2013 Cindy A. Stephens

While the main streets of Kathmandu have a distinctly different palette from those back home, their basic orderliness and function and family-run shops were reminiscent of New England.  Walking through the labyrinth of merchants to Durbar Square, however, was a unique experience.

 

It is very difficult to fully describe the scene to someone that has not experienced the melee of rickshaw sounds mingling with the smells of incense mingling with the colorful silk fabrics for sale mingling with the feel of rough-hewn dirt underfoot mingling with an almost palpable flavor of the place.   Travel is often something one experiences wholly by all the senses at once.

 

Copyright 2013 Cindy A. Stephens

Every new twist and turn along the way to the palace in Durbar Square brought a new delight from glass merchants selling colorful beads to the women lighting candles at a small temple.  And, the shop owners leaning out of second-story windows to hang manikins draped in beautifully colored saris.  And finally the entrance into the main square, replete with cows, pigeons, children, a funeral procession, the old and the in-between.

 

My exploration on foot of nearby shop windows (glass not corrugated metal) for the purpose of creating fine art travel photographs yielded puppets, beautiful masks, jewelry, apparel and reflections of life in the streets beyond.  Exploring by rickshaw on the other hand, yielded a blood-pumping adventure along bumpy streets perilously close at times to cars, rickshaws and people.  I would not have traded that adventure for anything!

 

In all, I left with the observation that life is Nepal (and also India) is about living.  It is about: fetching water; cooking; eating; cleaning; tending to the sick, dying and dead; raising families; craftsmanship; spirituality; and earning a meager living. All of these are evident on the main streets of Kathmandu.  At home many are masked by the constant race to have more, do more, and be more.

 
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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Kathmandu Nepal travel photography http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2014/1/pictures-from-kathmandu-nepal Thu, 23 Jan 2014 03:00:00 GMT
3 ways to create standout customer appreciation holiday cards http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2013/11/3-ways-to-create-standout-customer-appreciation-holiday-cards On Saturday October 26th I happened to be at a local mall during its Halloween Trick-or-Treating event.  A week later, I ran into the same mall to replace a watch battery and was startled to find a large Christmas tree in the same spot where happy, costumed kids had stood just seven days before.  It's official - the holiday countdown has begun!

 

Acknowledging customers is something that artists should find creative ways to do year-round.  The approaching holiday season certainly makes customer appreciation top of mind, however.  Take a listen to my short podcast for three ways to create standout customer appreciation holiday cards this season.

 

 

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens artists photography podcast http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2013/11/3-ways-to-create-standout-customer-appreciation-holiday-cards Wed, 06 Nov 2013 12:30:00 GMT
How to price fine art photography http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2013/10/how-to-price-fine-art-photography Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University

 

Last month in this column, I reported on my conversation with photographer Scott Indermaur on how to price commercial photography.  This month I turned to D’lynne Plummer, from the Arts & Business Council, on how to set a price for fine art work.  In a time when many artists sell work in multiple channels (e.g., Etsy.com and direct to collectors from a studio), D’lynne advises them to “have different product lines”.

 

Create product lines for your work

D’lynne shared an example from her experience with the Artist’s Professional Toolbox program.  A recent graduate has very detailed, large and relatively expensive oil paintings.  These pieces are represented by a traditional gallery.  In addition, he sells prints on Etsy.com from different paintings, for a few hundred dollars.

 

D’lynne says “he would never have these less expensive prints available for purchase in his studio.  Similarly people on Etsy would not be likely to purchase one of his more expensive oil paintings, they would generally make that type of commitment in person.”

The concept of “product lines” and “channels” is a marketing one that may be new to some artists.  The easiest way to think of it is as having two different types of art, at two different prices, and selling them in different ways.  For instance in the example above the artist had:

 

1)      Online Etsy.com shop (channel); Prints or mass-produced items (product); Lower-price

2)      Gallery representation (channel); Originals or limited edition pieces (product); Higher-price

 

Alternatively, consider this example D’lynne shared of a book binder who also sells earrings at craft fairs once or twice a year.  The artist supplements her income from her book binding craft in this way, selling at a lower margin and having less of a direct relationship with the buyer online than in her book binding work. 

 

A word of warning: you need to be careful not to have the same work available at different prices in different channels.  “If one piece is produced in an archival way and in museum glass in one channel and that same image is produced on a greeting card or mug in another that is a bad strategy,” says D’lynne.

 

Also, “artists need to be careful.  If they are represented by a traditional gallery, before they do anything they need to speak with their gallery,” says D’lynne.  She cautions that you can’t bring the work that you are selling for $50 into a gallery space and have a conversation with them about selling that same work for $2,000.  However, she also understands that artists try to go where the buyers are.

 

“It is incredibly smart to go where people are.  For instance there are restaurants in Boston that have great shows with artists.  Most gallery directors will appreciate that you are a business person and are trying to meet buyers where they are,” says D’lynne.

 

Determining the right price for your work

Pricing is not “static”.  For instance it can change as your career matures as an artist or as the market you are in evolves.  So, the BIG question is what to charge for your work (realizing that you may have different products that will be at different price points)?  How do you figure it out? 

 

D’lynne suggests artists look at prices from two angles:

1.Make sure you are fully compensated for your materials and time of doing business: Understand and keep track of your costs, including computer software, your studio space, and the specific cost of producing an individual piece.  This includes your time.  How long did it take you to create it and what is your hourly rate?  She advises that by the time you come up with a number for your costs you should feel right about it.  Obviously you’ll want to more than cover your costs when you set a price (see tip 1 below). 

 

2.       Look at “comparables”. If you’ve bought or sold a home before you know that appraisers and real estate experts look at homes in your neighborhood that are comparable to yours in square footage and upgrades to determine the fair market value for your home.  Do the same with art.  D’lynne advises that you go to galleries and fairs to see what the work is, what people will pay, and set the “low” and “high” ends of the spectrum for what comparable work is priced at.  You’ll also want to consider whether the artist is at a similar stage in his/her career as yours. 

 

Gallerists also take into pricing consideration an artist’s education (e.g., MFA); how many people have seen the work before; and the quantity of pieces produced.  “Historically the more pieces were printed the lower the quality was,” says D’lynne.  “This isn’t necessarily true anymore now that printing processes have changed with digital technology.  However, setting a small limited edition of 100 pieces tells a buyer that the artist has created something special.  It drives value higher.”

 

Tip 1: Multiply your cost-of-goods by 2 to get started  

A traditional rule of thumb is to figure out what it really costs you to produce a piece and multiple that number by two to arrive at a price.  “This is the only way you can guarantee that the other things you didn’t control for are covered and gives you room to negotiate.”  D’lynne feels that for artists, they may give away a piece to cultivate a relationship or may have glass break and need to create some padding to account for these events.  Make sure that this price isn’t below the low-point that buyers are willing to pay, however. “You don’t want to have bargain basement prices for work that shouldn’t be priced that way.”

 

Tip 2: Negotiating

“Think of your clients as investors.  It’s a great thing to say that other patrons have purchased the same work at $2,000 and it would be unfair to sell their investment for less and devalue it.”  D’lynne adds that customers don’t want to see the same piece available for a lower price anywhere else.  She also advises artists to be prepared to address matting and framing.  Buyers will frame and matt a piece and may ask you to do this work for them.  “Decide in advance why you will, or won’t, negotiate.”

 

Tip 3: Tracking costs

I track my costs of doing business in an Excel spreadsheet, which allows me to update it when a cost changes, calculate my profit for a specific piece, and understand how my profit is changing as my costs change.  If you want something more robust for your recordkeeping, look at QuickBooks.

 

Tip 4: Resources

Check out the Arts & Business Council webinar library for tips for dealing with legal issues, business basics, estate planning, and finances and fundraising.

 

As artists we need to decide what is important to us. Some enjoy creating personal relationships with buyers, others will consider selling art online as one way to get their work out, and still others will secure gallery representation.  Choose the right path for you and then do your homework to set the right prices for all your art.

 

D’lynne Plummer is the Director of Professional Development for the Arts & Business Council, where she oversees educational programming and the Essential Training for the Arts program. Previous to joining the A&BC, D'lynne was a freelance arts journalist and essayist for various regional and national publications, including Art New England, and later worked as a marketing consultant and copywriter for clients large and small.  D'lynne has taught writing and marketing courses since 2007, presenting her workshops at the National Arts Marketing Conference and for arts agencies throughout New England.

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cindy@cindyastephens.com (cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens D'lynne Plummer Marketing conversations for photographers Photographic Resource Center how to price fine art photography photography http://www.cindyastephens.com/blog/2013/10/how-to-price-fine-art-photography Thu, 10 Oct 2013 11:00:00 GMT