CROSS POLLINATION

Metal clay’s ability to use techniques and materials from other disciplines continues to amaze me. I think this cross pollination occurs in metal clay because metal clay artists seem more open to possibility. Maybe it’s because metal clay is new compared to traditional metalsmithing or maybe it’s the personality of the people who work in metal clay.

I’ve seen this happen to others and had it happen to me a number of times. I teach at Metalwerx, a jeweler’s school in Massachusetts. During one of my classes, another instructor, a lapidarist, heard me discussing bronze clay with the class. He caught me during a quiet period and asked if it would be possible to add diamond powder to the clay to create custom grinders for his stone work. I told him I didn’t know, but we could try. Being hesitant about the clay sintering with too much of another material in it, I first tried a mix of 40/60 diamond dust and bronze clay. We formed the clay and set a bronze tube in it, which would allow a heavy shaft to be soldered into the grinder head after firing. The bronze/diamond dust mix sintered fine, however, the amount of diamond dust was not sufficient to grind a stone. I measured out more with proportions of 50/50, then 60/40, and both of these sintered. The 60/40 mix was the best, but still not quite enough diamond dust to grind adequately. At that point, the other teacher took some bronze clay, and added the remaining diamond dust to it. This grinder head sintered and ground stone wonderfully. However, without measurements, its back to the drawing board to figure out proportions so that the mix can be recreated. But we now know we can make custom-shaped, sintered diamond grinders from the diamond dust/bronze clay mix for a reasonable price compared to diamond grinders……….well, at least once I acquire more diamond dust and get back to testing proportions.

Another instance of this happened during a lesson with a student. She is a printmaker, looking to develop a line of jewelry to sell in conjunction with her prints. We’ve been working on ideas for a while, but none fit her vision. During our last class, she brought in a piece of Komatex, a PVC sign product, which she etches designs in and prints from. Both she and I loved it. She because her jewelry is now textured from a plate that is made in exactly the same manner as her prints. Me, because of how quick and easy it was to use this material and how nice a pattern it imprints the clay. I’ve used scratch foam for a while now, but this just blew me away. It can take texture from burnishers, carvers, etching tools, etc. Plus its tough enough to use next to forever, unlike scratch foam which seems, in my experience, to have a life of about a half dozen rollings. Additionally the Komatex can be heated, will then take texture from anything you press into it, and when cooled creates a permanent plate. All of my experiments with it thus far have created wonderful texture plates. I love it and can’t wait to get more to test out in a class.

I know this cross pollination will happen again, and cannot wait to see what my next surprise is. Has it happened to you, what unusual material have you used with metal clay?

Mikki

About Mikki

I am a metal clay artist, living in Londonderry, New Hampshire. I teach from my home studio, at Metalwerx in Waltham, Mass and various other venues throughout New England. My work can be found at the shops of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and local galleries. You can see my examples of work at www.everlastingtreasures.org

Got My Mojo Working!

Earlier this month, I had the great privilege of attending the Metal Clay Mojo Conference in Chester, CT.  Organized by the fearless Lis-el Crowley, Mojo brought together a magical, inspiring group of metal clay artists who gathered in the most lovely of places.  I can’t say enough good things about this conference.

At 55 total attendees and presenters, Mojo was smaller than the PMC Guild or Metal Clay World Conferences that I’ve mourned since the announcements that they would no longer take place.  That smaller size concerned me, and I certainly missed all of you who were not there.  But the result was a more intimate feel that encouraged more mingling and less of the moving in packs that tends to happen at a large gathering.  I was able to connect more deeply with more people, and the laid back schedule meant that I rarely felt the need to rush from one thing to the next.  It was truly a restorative experience, and I’m forever grateful to all of you who made it so special.

Mojo included a fantastic panel of presenters, including Linda Kaye-Moses, Jackie Truty, Robert Dancik, Terry Kovalcik, Pauline Warg, Wanaree Tanner, Kim Paige, Sue McNenly and Lis-el Crowley.  Below, clockwise  from upper left are Robert Dancik, Wanaree Tanner, Pauline Warg and Terry Kovalcik.

Mojo Experts.collage

When I first learned of this conference, and saw the call for presenters, I gathered my courage and submitted my proposal for Wholesaling To Grow Your Business.  Now, I’m no expert on wholesaling, but I’ve been at it for about 18 months now, and I’ve learned a great deal in this short time.  I know that many metal clay artists are interested in the topic, and I wanted to share my knowledge.  Click below to see my presentation slides.

Mojo WholesalingI made my one-hour presentation three times during the conference, and people showed up, which was quite a relief.  A few of them even came back for a second shot at the information, which was a great confidence builder!  I learned so much from the questions that were asked, and I picked up some great tips from other artists that have worked with galleries as well.  The feedback was all really positive, and I don’t think it was just because people were being nice.  I was really proud of the contribution I made to the conference, and I appreciate Lis-el giving me the opportunity.

Hinged Locket GreenwareIn a post-conference class, I was finally able to take Terry Kovalcik’s Hinged Keepsake Locket workshop.  I swear, I’ve been trying to work it out to take this class for about two years now.  Well, I can tell you it was worth the wait.  Terry, as always, was a generous teacher and the group in the class was really fun.  It was nice to be able to stretch out my conference experience just a little bit longer. Here’s the locket and dangly bits still in greenware, all ready for the kiln.

Metal Clay Mojo was just exactly what I needed after a particularly difficult spring and summer.  I felt so safe and supported inside the cocoon of my metal clay family and my creative engine got all revved up.  There’s already talk of another Mojo conference in 2015.  I’ll be there and I hope I’ll see all of you there, too!

 

Wendy McManus

About Wendy McManus

As a metal clay addict, I spend most of my time working with, thinking about or dreaming about metal clay. I started the Metal Clay Magic project in 2009 to showcase amazing metal clay artists. In 2012, I engaged a diverse group of artists and converted the site to a group blogging project. You can find my jewelry at www.StudioMcManus.com

Metal Clay Mojo Presentation – Artist Web Sites

Artist Web Sites presentation by Kim Paige

Artist Web Sites presentation by Kim Paige for Metal Clay Mojo conference

This past weekend I participated in the Metal Clay Mojo conference hosted by Lis-el Crowley. Long story short…it was A-Ma-Zing! So many passionate artistic people together for four days in a beautiful setting with lots to learn & discuss…heaven! When (not if!) Lis-el coordinates another one I highly, highly recommend going.

I was a participant for most of the conference but I also was fortunate enough to have my presentation proposal accepted by Lis-el last year. So, for the first time I spoke on Artist Websites for my fellow artists! It was a great learning experience putting together the presentation and though I was a little nervous, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be!

Many people asked me if I’d be making my slides available anywhere after the conference. My answer is Yes! Please pop over to my blog post on RedTree-Studio.com where you can find the link to my presentation.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at kim [at] redtree-studio.com (replace the [at] with a @).

Kim Paige

About Kim Paige

As a mother of two young girls, a wife and the family breadwinner, I dream and plan for the days when I can spend more time with art and my business. Until then, I squeeze in as much time as I can in my little basement studio with support from my husband. I’m a techno-phile and information-junkie so when I can’t create, I love to stay up-to-date on the latest Metal Clay news. You can find my website at http://www.RedTree-Studio.com.

The Order I Hate to Get

It’s been a while since I posted anything, life has been chaotic in the past months, and not a good chaotic.  Hopefully, that’s over and I’ll be back posting regularly again.

I love to make things, and love to have galleries or clients call for more product or something special.  However, I do have one item I make regularly that I hate to get an order for, because I know whenever I make more of these, babies have died.  I make “Bereavement” pendants for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at one of the biggest hospitals in the Boston area.

The director of that unit and her nurses thought about this and the symbolism for a long time before she contacted me to make the necklaces.  The necklace consists of an open heart with a smaller solid heart dangling in the center.  The larger open heart represents the mother and her womb.  The small dangling heart represents the baby in the womb.  When a mother in the unit has a baby die, the staff will present the mother with the pendant.  The small heart is removed and buried with the baby and the mother keeps the now empty heart.

I figured out how to make these so that they are very simple, and take only a few minutes to make each heart.  I make these pendants for cost of materials only, as I cannot quite bring myself to profit from something so heartbreaking.

However, recently I’ve had to rethink this.  The Director of the NICU told me that there are other neonatal units in the area who are interested in this bereavement pendant and she thought I should copyright it.  So….in the future I may need to see about having these cast.  At that point, I probably need to add my labor and a profit to making the pendant.  I also need to think about copyright and whether or not that is something I want to do with this pendant and its symbolism.  What to do, what to do?  

 

Bereavement Heart Pendant

Bereavement Heart Pendant

 

 

Mikki

About Mikki

I am a metal clay artist, living in Londonderry, New Hampshire. I teach from my home studio, at Metalwerx in Waltham, Mass and various other venues throughout New England. My work can be found at the shops of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and local galleries. You can see my examples of work at www.everlastingtreasures.org

Bitten By The Pinterest Bug – Part 2

Birds and Birdhouses BoardIf you’ve been on Pinterest, you know it’s fun, entertaining and even useful on a personal level.  But how does this sea of images translate into marketing muscle?  This is where the fun really starts!

Marketing on Pinterest is all about building your tribe.  You want to attract followers who share your visual aesthetic.  I’m not only talking about your jewelry aesthetic, but what attracts you visually from the world at large.  When you pin images that align with your personal vision, people will find you and follow you based on their shared vision.  Once they follow you, they will see your pins in their Pinterest feed.  When you pin an image of your jewelry, it will appear in the feeds of your followers.  Some of those followers will re-pin the image of your jewelry, and now it will appear in the feeds of their followers.  Can you see how this can grow exponentially?

Anyone who sees a pinned image of your jewelry and wants to find out more can click through on the pin to the source of that image.  That source might be your website, online store, flickr page, or wherever you want your customers to find you online. Research shows that visitors who arrive from Pinterest are more likely to purchase your goods than those who arrive from Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere.

Pin BoardSo, how do you build your tribe?  First, focus on curating interesting pin boards that reflect your personal vision.  I’m into plants, trees and birdhouses, so I have lots of board and pins that reflect the beauty of nature. Creating these pin boards is the heart of your Pinterest identity.   Next, follow other interesting people on Pinterest.    They may take a look at your boards, and if you have interesting pins and boards (see step one), they may decide to follow you back.  These connections will grow faster than you can imagine.

The more I write about Pinterest, the more I realize I have to share.  Next time, I’ll share a few tools you can use to enhance your Pinterest experience and build your tribe.

Wendy McManus

About Wendy McManus

As a metal clay addict, I spend most of my time working with, thinking about or dreaming about metal clay. I started the Metal Clay Magic project in 2009 to showcase amazing metal clay artists. In 2012, I engaged a diverse group of artists and converted the site to a group blogging project. You can find my jewelry at www.StudioMcManus.com

Bitten By The Pinterest Bug – Part 1

pinterest_logo_red

Have you discovered Pinterest?  Of course you have, or perhaps you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months.  Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site, with a strong presence amongst affluent, college-educated women under 50.  The Pew Research Center recently published a study profiling the users of various social media platforms.  If you’re interested in this kind of data-diving, check it out.  Then, fly straight over to Pinterest and get started with your new obsession!

Pinterest is easier to use than to explain, so if the following description is baffling, just go to Pinterest, create your account and start exploring. The entire site is based on images and pin boards. Users pin images, from the internet, or from their computers, onto pin boards.  Think of these pin boards as topics or interest areas to help you organize your pinned images.  For example, I have pin boards for recipes, travel, tutorials, birds and birdhouses, colors, textures, awesome jewelry and several other topics.  You’ll create and name your own pin boards to reflect what you want to pin, and you can create a new pin board at any time to start a new topic.

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The easiest way to start filling your pin boards is by re-pinning.  Every pinned image on the site has the option to re-pin with just a couple of clicks.  You’ll also want to install a Pin It button on your browser toolbar, so you can pin images while you surf.  Many sites are starting to add Pin It buttons right on their site, sometimes on each image, to encourage you to pin their stuff.

While you’re pinning, you’ll also want to start following people and boards to shape what you see when you visit Pinterest.  Like Facebook, your Pinterest home page is your “feed”, or the incoming stream of what has recently been pinned by the people you follow.  Your feed will change dramatically based on who you choose to follow.  You’ll have the option to follow all of a Pinner’s boards, or just specific boards.  The site makes it really easy to trace back interesting pins and check out the boards of the people who pinned that image.  I’m following (and being followed by) lots of people I don’t know because of this discovery process.

If you create your account by signing in with Facebook, Pinterest will help you connect with your Facebook friends.  I found this feature to be really helpful, especially when I was getting started.  Be mindful if you do this, that your friends  on Facebook may be notified each time you pin something on Pinterest.  I was not interested in that type of cross-pollination, so I chose settings that would not show my pinning activity on my Facebook feed.

Pinterest search and topics

Another way to find images on Pinterest is to use the search bar, or the topic options that drop down when you click on the three-bar icon in the upper left corner.

Give some thought to how you pin images and how you credit the owner of each image.  It’s not a good practice to pin images from a Google image search, because the link to the original source for the image will be lost.  It is a good practice to list the website or originator of the image.  One of the cool things about Pinterest is the way you can click through on the pinned image until you get to the source site.  The entire community wins when these links are maintained.

So, you may ask, why am I so obsessed with Pinterest?  Well, as an artist, I love eye candy.  Pinterest is like a visual feast, and it’s really easy to curate your feed to shape that feast to suit your personal tastes.  When I’m looking for visual inspiration, Pinterest never fails to feed that need.  It’s an easy way to find and collect recipes.  My sister used it to collect ideas for renovating her bathroom, and now she’s imagining her new kitchen as seen on Pinterest.  A friend recently got married, and used Pinterest to help shape the look of her wedding.  I think of Pinterest as a visual search engine that’s curated by my fellow pinners.  It’s also a lovely distraction that can fill a moment or an hour with enticing imagery.

This post has been focused on my use of Pinterest for personal reasons.  Next time, I’ll talk about using Pinterest for promotion and marketing.  In the meantime, feel free to follow me or any of my boards at pinterest.com/wendymcmanus.

Wendy McManus

About Wendy McManus

As a metal clay addict, I spend most of my time working with, thinking about or dreaming about metal clay. I started the Metal Clay Magic project in 2009 to showcase amazing metal clay artists. In 2012, I engaged a diverse group of artists and converted the site to a group blogging project. You can find my jewelry at www.StudioMcManus.com

Deciphering Test Strips

Second of a Two Part Series: Sintering, Test Strips and Carbon-Fired Clays

In my last post I talked about why test strips are a good idea. For this article, I talked with Bill Struve, inventor of BRONZClay and COPPRClay, and owner of Metal Adventures, manufacturer of those brands. Bill provided me with a wealth of information, and also directed to me Mardel Rein’s very informative Learning Center page at her Cool Tools web site, about firing bronze metal clay.

So, how do we “read” a test strip?

There are many tests you can perform on a metal clay strip. The first one I usually do after removing the strip from the carbon is to drop it onto a steel bench block. It should make a particular type of ringing sound, very metallic. If it has a dull sound or a “clunk”, something is wrong.

The next test is to bend the strip. This test is designed to help determine if the piece is sintered enough to be malleable. You bend the strip into a tight “u” shape, approximately .2 inches (5 mm) inside the “u”. During this test, the outside surface of the strip is stretched, while the inside is compressed. The strip should not crack, tear or break. Thicker pieces will crack or break more easily than thin, so that is why test strips are done at a thickness of 4 or 5 cards—sort of a happy medium thickness.

The last test is to mix a tiny bit of detergent into a small amount of water, then place a drop of this water on the strip. The water should not be absorbed*, but sit on top of the strip. This is because with the progression of sintering, the piece becomes less porous. The water test indicates a “closed” porosity.

*This test will indicate a relatively full sintering. It is possible for the strip to pass the bend test but not this test. Not passing this test does not always indicate a problem with your piece. But if you are looking for full sintering, this is a good test.

Another test that can be performed on a strip is to hammer it really hard. The strip should not crack or break.

Unsuccessful strips can provide clues to what went wrong with your firing. And there are a lot of them! Mardel Rein describes them best in her articles that I mentioned before. I highly recommend looking at her page, there are a series of troubleshooting photos that are invaluable.

Evelyn

About Evelyn

I'm a metal clay artist who is learning something new every day. My goal in my work is to make things that are well crafted and distinctively from my own hands, like the work of a good tailor. My jewelry can be found at http://www.evelynpelati.com.

Why Use Test Strips?

First of a Two Part Series: Sintering, Test Strips and Carbon-Fired Clays

Ever since I’ve been using carbon-fired clays, I have become a big advocate of test strips. A lot of work can be wasted without the information that they provide.

Test strips give clues to how completely sintered your piece is, and how good your firing schedule is. There are so many variables to working in carbon-fired metal clay, it is often difficult to arrive at a proper firing schedule just by following the manufacturer’s suggestions. Many times you need to customize your own firing plan.

It’s tempting to just dive right in with new clay and create a beautiful piece of art. But I always hold myself back until I’ve successfully fired a test strip. Then I can fire my work knowing that I have a pretty good firing schedule. There is no bigger disappointment than putting a day’s worth of work in the kiln, only to have it come out ruined—either over-fired or breaking easily from under-firing.

Another use for test strips is as a “witness strip” (a term coined by Mardel Rein, owner of Cool Tools and expert on firing metal clays and troubleshooting). A witness strip is fired alongside your piece. Upon removing your work after firing, you can perform tests on the strip, which will give an indication as to what is going on inside your piece. If it is under-fired you will be able to re-fire the piece. This isn’t a substitute for testing to arrive at a firing schedule. This is a technique to do after the firing schedule is already determined, anytime you would like to be informed about a particular piece or group of pieces you are firing. Gordon Uyehara describes this use for test strips in his excellent book, Metal Clay Fusion.

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I really like this template from Metal Clay Supply for cutting out test strips. Since I make them often, it is a time-saver and also provides uniformity. I roll the clay to five cards thick. I also measure the strips before and after firing to help get a feel for the shrinkage rate of the clay.

Next time I’ll talk about tests to perform on the strips and what they can tell you about sintering.

Evelyn

About Evelyn

I'm a metal clay artist who is learning something new every day. My goal in my work is to make things that are well crafted and distinctively from my own hands, like the work of a good tailor. My jewelry can be found at http://www.evelynpelati.com.

The Basics of Sintering Carbon-Fired Clay

With the arrival of metal clay that needs to be fired in carbon came a whole set of challenges—determining the proper firing schedule and producing sintered pieces being the biggest. Quirky shrinkage can be another.

It’s helpful to have a basic understanding of what is going on in the sintering process.

For this article I talked with Bill Struve, inventor of BRONZClay and COPPRClay, and owner of Metal Adventures, manufacturer of those brands. Bill shed some light on this complex topic. I’m going to summarize what he said.

Sintering happens when the small metal particles in the clay get hot enough for the metal atoms of touching particles to begin to diffuse into each other. At first, there are a lot of connected open spaces between these particles. This is why, in the early stages of sintering, the piece is weaker. As sintering progesses, the particles coalesce more and the spaces get smaller. The metal gets less porous and stronger, until the piece is fully sintered. So, the sintered state ranges from a beginning stage to complete. Depending upon what you are making, and/or what you are co-firing, you may need or want to accept the sintering at an earlier stage or take it all the way to fully sintered.

Sintered metal powder.

Sintered metal powder. (courtesy of European Space Agency)

The sintering process is also the cause of shrinkage. Shrinkage for carbon-fired clays can be a bit mysterious. A piece can shrink at different rates in different directions. The forces on the clay that cause shrinkage during firing are not very strong. Because of this, if there is any resistance on the clay, it will inhibit shrinkage in that direction. But, as we know, due to the sintering process the clay must shrink. What will happen is there will be more shrinkage in the directions with lesser resistance.

Carbon can hold back the shrinkage of firing clay, providing the resistance we are talking about. The lesson here is to pay close attention to the position of pieces in the firing chamber, as it has an effect on the shrinkage. Also, carbon resisting the shrinkage can distort the piece. This is why we cover openwork pieces to keep the carbon out of the openings.

Thin pieces sinter practically all at once. But for thick pieces it takes time for the heat to penetrate. The outside will be sintering at a faster rate than the inside. It is even possible to have a piece that has a sintered shell on the outside while the inside is remains a powder. This occurs when the ramp is faster than the heat can penetrate the thickness. That is why it is wise to slow the ramp when firing thick pieces. It gives the heat time to gradually soak into the piece.

Knowing this little bit about the science of what’s going on when you fire these types of clays can help troubleshoot some of the problems we encounter.

Next time I’ll write about test strips, a good tool for troubleshooting.

Evelyn

About Evelyn

I'm a metal clay artist who is learning something new every day. My goal in my work is to make things that are well crafted and distinctively from my own hands, like the work of a good tailor. My jewelry can be found at http://www.evelynpelati.com.

How to Approach a Booth as a Visiting Artist

In the comments to my last post about New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF), Vickie asked about how to approach another artist’s booth.  It can be a a touchy situation.  The rules at NYIGF state that an exhibitor can’t enter another exhibitor’s booth without permission.  I was wearing an exhibitors badge, which I got from a friend.  So, how did I have so many friendly conversations with other artists during the show?

First, if the booth was designed well, I could get a look without stepping out of the aisle.  If the artist was engaged and greeting all passers by, they would start the conversation.  I would quickly state that I was not an exhibitor, but just got the badge from a friend.  I would let them know I am a jewelry artist, and I’m considering doing the show in the future.

If they seemed open to talking with me, I would start by asking them if it had been a good show for them.  If there was something about their booth I particularly liked, I would compliment them.  I had a few standard questions that I asked, including:

  • What other shows do you do?
  • What is your best show?
  • Will you be at Buyer’s Market next month?
  • How many times have you done this show, and how does this time compare to the past?
  • What do you think of this section?

Some artists were chatty.  Others, not so much.  I tried to follow their lead and match my level of engagement to theirs.  I didn’t bombard anyone with all of these questions, but rather felt for the best flow in my interactions.

Last July I walked the Atlanta Gift Show.  I’ve also walked and showed at ACRE Orlando.  Through those experiences, I’ve met quite a few artists.  There were a couple that are friends of friends.  Several of the artists are in my mentoring group.  With anyone that I had a previous history, it was much easier to approach.  I would remind them of our connection or previous meeting, which was a great conversation starter.

It’s important to note that I would only do this if there was no one else in the booth.  If a buyer approached, I would cut my conversation short and move on with a friendly wave.  It’s important to remember that the exhibitors have paid big bucks to get access to the buyers.  It would be the height of rudeness to get in the way of any opportunity.

Now, I did have a few awkward moments.  I got some blank stares.  One woman rudely stated that I should not even approach her booth without asking her permission.  These exchanges were definitely the exception, not the rule.

For the most part, the artists I spoke with were friendly, supportive and generous with their time and information.  If you are considering getting into wholesale, I strongly suggest that you visit a wholesale show.  Even if you can’t visit the specific show you are considering, it will be helpful to walk any wholesale show.  You’ll learn so much through observation and the conversations you’ll have.

Wendy McManus

About Wendy McManus

As a metal clay addict, I spend most of my time working with, thinking about or dreaming about metal clay. I started the Metal Clay Magic project in 2009 to showcase amazing metal clay artists. In 2012, I engaged a diverse group of artists and converted the site to a group blogging project. You can find my jewelry at www.StudioMcManus.com

What I Learned at New York International Gift Fair

For the past year or so, I’ve been working toward a successful wholesale jewelry business.  It’s been a slow build, which was perfectly fine during the first year, but now I need to ramp it up, increase my distribution, build my reputation and sell a heck of a lot more jewelry so I can be profitable and sustainable.

I’ll be showing my work in just a couple of weeks at Buyer’s Market of American Craft (BMAC) in Philadelphia.  I’m also considering if I should exhibit at the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) in August.  To that end, I decided to visit New York during the January show, so I could see it for myself and assess the opportunity.

javits_center-535x388

The Javits Center, home of the New York International Gift Fair.

I’m happy to share some things I learned:

  • Most artisans are incredibly kind and generous people.  They will welcome you into their booth, and talk openly with you, even though you may be their competition next year.
  • When people are not nice, it’s best just to take a deep breath and move along.
  • The show is huge, with many different sections.  Most buyers don’t walk the entire show.  Finding and getting in to the right section where your right buyers will find you is important.
  • There are pros and cons to every section.  If you don’t get into the section you most desire, you can still have a good show.  I realize this sounds like a contradiction to my previous point, but really both things are true.
  • If you ask 100 artists how the show has been for them, you’ll get 100 different answers that vary wildly.  Every single artist has a different show experience.  There are lots of things you can do to help your experience tip toward the positive.
  • Being engaged, smiling and speaking to everyone that passes by will be a big factor in your success.  I saw many artists sitting in the back corner of their booths, checking their cell phones, and generally not being very approachable.
  • Jewelry artists have found hundreds of creative ways to display their work.  I was really blown away by the quality and variety of display solutions in the show.
  • Even so, some jewelry artists still manage to have boring displays.
  • If you try to be too clever with your displays or work too hard at expressing a theme for your booth, the displays can easily overwhelm the work.  Remember to keep the focus on what you’re selling.
  • This is not a retail show.  You don’t need to have your work under glass.  You want the buyers to touch the work, so keep it accessible and display it so it’s easy to pick up and then put back in place.
  • This is not a retail show.  Buyers do not want to flip through earring cards stacked in a tray or spin your revolving racks.  Everything should be easy to see.
  • This is not a retail show.  If you have a zillion pieces in your line, you must edit the collection before coming to the show.  Overly busy displays really junk up the look of your booth.  Also, if buyers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices, they will glaze over and keep walking.
  • Beige linen necklace busts are now ubiquitous.   I’m not saying don’t use them.  I use them.  I’m simply saying you should be aware that they are everywhere.  You must find a way to stand out from the crowd.  Pull in some pops of color somewhere to liven up the look or incorporate some other unique display elements to complement the linen busts.
  • Your displays and your entire booth should reflect your brand and match your visual aesthetic.  Don’t use lots of acrylic and shiny elements to display work that’s organic and earthy.  Don’t use lots of vintage and romantic looking display elements if your work is industrial modern.
  • Make the most of the first two feet of your booth space off the aisle.  I saw many nice displays that simply pushed the work up across the front edge of the booth.  An L-shaped display using the front and center of the booth can work well.  I also saw a number of great island displays with the work centered in the booth, but still pushed forward.  I found the most challenging arrangements to be the 10’ wide spaces arranged in a U-shape.  This may maximize your table space, but if forces buyers to step all the way into your booth to see the work.  At a busy show, that’s asking a great deal of buyers who are practically power-walking down the aisles.
  • It is possible to have a really nice booth without investing too much.  Remember that when you invest in displays, you’re not only spending the money for those fixtures.  You also have to think about where you will store them, how much it will cost to ship them to and from the show and how long it will take to set up and tear down.  I heard stories of artists that spent 12 hours setting up.  I heard stories of tears, angry husbands and structural disasters that required a complete re-configuration at the last minute.  I also spoke to an artist with a fabulous booth who brought everything she needed in two carry on bags, and rented the rest at the show.  It can be done.

For now, I’m still on the fence about doing NYIGF in August.  It’s expensive – much more so than BMAC – but if I have a good show and pick up lots of new accounts, it could definitely be worth it.  I need to get through this next show and process all I’ve learned before I can commit.

Were any of you at NYIGF?  How about BMAC?  Will I be seeing you there?  I think our metal clay community has a huge opportunity in wholesaling.  Won’t you join me on this adventure?

 

Wendy McManus

About Wendy McManus

As a metal clay addict, I spend most of my time working with, thinking about or dreaming about metal clay. I started the Metal Clay Magic project in 2009 to showcase amazing metal clay artists. In 2012, I engaged a diverse group of artists and converted the site to a group blogging project. You can find my jewelry at www.StudioMcManus.com

So You Want To Do An Art Show…Part Deux

There are three basic things you will need when you start doing art shows.   The rest is just decoration….well…not just…but it’s decoration.

The first is a booth or tent.  If you aren’t planning on doing outdoor shows, you would only need a booth set up.  Me…I have done both indoor and outdoor shows so I use a tent for both.  After having a cheap tent destroyed in a storm, I decided to buy a serious tent.  After some internet research, I called the guys at Flourish.  It’s a shop of 10 guys in Arkansas.  They were wonderful in helping me choose a tent and had it to me in less than a week.  It’s very well made and easy to put together.  The canopy and walls don’t leak in the rain…something I can’t say about my first tent.  I use the tent frame for indoor shows.  I put curtains up on three walls and it makes a nice booth.

My next purchase was tables.  All the books and articles on doing shows will tell you that you need to raise your tables up.  Some people use PVC pipe to extend the legs.  Others use bed risers.  Another internet search and I found Lifetime tables.  I chose the 4’ tables that could adjust to three different heights.  I have been using these for years.Next….lights.  When you do indoor shows you need lights.  Let me repeat this….you need lights.  I have seen diplays of some really amazing jewelry in booths that were dark.  You can’t sell you jewelry if your customers can’t see it.  Also, good lights highlight your work and make it pop.  Yet another internet search….I research on the internet a lot….yielded lights.  Brightman Design is a small company out in California.  They might be small but their lights are great.  I think I’ve had them for about 6 years and only had to replace one bulb.  I have the telescoping lights that can clamp onto tables or booth walls.

 

 

As for the rest….JoAnn Fabrics has some great upholstery fabric for table cloths.  Pier 1 has been a great place to find unique table displays.  I like to mix up professional displays with quirky ones.  Depending on the season, I bring in flowers or pointsettas to make things pretty.

Gail Lannum

About Gail Lannum

My day job is research administration but my career...my obession...is making jewelry. I work primarily in bronze and am inspired by ethnic and tribal art. You can see my jewelry at gaillannum.etsy.com