I have made an important decision about how I market my work in the coming future. I have decided, now that I am turning 70 this year, that I will not travel to do crafts shows that are far from home. I will also reassess whether to gradually stop doing all shows. I realize this means less exposure for my work and perhaps even less income until I can find, or the crafts community can find, a better way of reaching the public and encouraging them to collect our work. I am struggling with building an alternative to the craft shows I have loved and which have formed my “community” during my whole working life. Selling directly to the public has nourished me in very special ways which I would never have gotten through gallery sales or other mediated forms of marketing. It is this community that has allowed me to develop my craft as an art form.
There are several factors entering into this decision:
I want to preserve my health. The rigors of travel and shipping of my display as well as the setting up and taking down of the display have taken their toll. I notice that, while it used to recover from a show in a day or 2, it now takes a week and sometimes longer.
I am not making enough money at crafts fairs to survive. Travel expenses plus the increased stress of and labor spent on preparing work and display for shipping cuts into studio time. The only way right now to counteract the decline in sales is to cut expenses, including travel expenses and fees associated with doing a craft show.
Business is down for many of us. For me it has been the fact that my enameled copper vessel forms are non-functional and exist in a medium that many people cannot assess and therefore are afraid to buy. They cost much more than my enameled copper light switch covers which were severely undervalued.
We, as craftspeople, recognize that as collectors of fine craft grow older they are thinking of what to do with their collections rather than trying to acquire more work. The major reason for diminishing sales is that the up and coming potential collectors have not been encouraged to embrace us and what we do.
There are a few surveys that have recently been published that confirm what many of us are seeing about the marketplace. The best i have found to address the issue is from the Craft Emergency Relief Fund Status Report from November, 2013.
So what is the solution? Online sales? Galleries where I don’t have direct contact with my collectors? Studio sales? A few shows a year? All of this is still in the hopper. I am encouraged that there are still folks out there who understand who we are and what we do. We need more of them.