[This is a guest piece by one of our favorite young creatives in Bali. For the past few years she’s been living her dream as a full time artist. Read below for her DIY approach to selling for artists, crafters, and designers & learn how to get you artwork stand out from the rest. Take it away, Jiawen… ]
This article could also be titled ‘my journey selling yoga prints’ but then you might not be so interested to read it. I hope you do though, because I think I learned some valuable lessons along the way figuring out what I could do with 12 simple black ink illustrations scribbled on art block paper in 2008.
As a creative type, you may scribble and doodle a lot, maybe even creating larger more ‘serious’ pieces, and these pieces get stored away or forgotten about. My yoga drawings almost had the same fate, but because I was in between jobs at the time, I had more time to look at them, and, driven by my enthusiasm for the subject matter, I decided to make them into fine art prints to sell.
So, if you are a pro-active artist/craftsperson/designer and not afraid of being ‘commercial’ read on to find out how I created a product to sell for many years to come, and along the way set up multiple avenues for selling any other art I produced.
1. Turn Your Art Into a Product
As scribbles on paper, my ink drawings weren’t worth much. I needed to create a product to sell. After some thought, I decided that this series had the potential to sell as limited edition prints – in this case, editions of 70 each – to people who were equally ardent about their practice of yoga as I was. I researched and selected art-grade eco-friendly paper, and looked into silkscreening and digital printing.
Of course, your art is precious to you. But, use a critical and unbiased mind to think a little bit more.
Could it also be valuable to someone else, as it is? Or does it need some tweaking or to be presented in another form? How can you ‘make a product’ out of your creative work?
2. Be Brave, Sell it Yourself
I then started to look for avenues to sell my prints, but I had no retail contacts, and there were no yoga specialty shops where I was living at the time. So I tried selling the prints myself. It is simple to set up your own online shop via Etsy (or any other online marketplace). There were also local craft markets beginning to blossom around the city I lived in, and though ‘market outings’ were a huge effort, the exposure and direct contact with customers paid off. Also, the nice thing about creating your own sales is that you don’t need to pay a commission fee, so all that effort can be worth it.
What opportunities exist locally for you? Look closely… sometimes it may seem like there are none at first, but look and you shall find. That’s been my experience anyway, though it may take a couple of months or even years to actually see things get easier!
3. Figure Out Where your Buyers Hang Out
Yoga prints will only sell to a niche audience. I wouldn’t be selling at any souvenir shop or hotel in Bali. I imagined who would buy my product – yoga teachers, yogis, friends of yogis. And where all, or almost all, of these people would shop or spend time at. The answer was obvious – a yoga shop, if anything like that existed, and yoga centres which had retail areas. Living in Ubud, Bali has been a boon to this mission – I contacted two major yoga centres and they agreed to take my prints on consignment.
What kind of art are you making? That will decide the right place to sell for you – galleries, craft showrooms, niche retail areas, interior design showrooms, specialty stores – these are just a few of the possible places to consider. Put your intuitive feelers out, imagine who your buyers are, know how much your art is worth, and, really importantly, where it will look the best.
In general, I’ve found that smaller, owner run shops are usually the most receptive. Also, don’t be afraid to ask, and never take it personally when you get a ‘no’. Just move on and forward!
4. Gift Wrap Your Art (Make It Look Nice!)
This was the biggest and most useful discovery to me. As an artist, I had NEVER thought of properly packaging my work. All I’d been interested in before was creating. And then when I tried imagining how my art would sell in shops, I drew a blank! It was a huge challenge for me to design this packaging.
Because of the small scale of my business, I came up with a packaging system that I could DIY at home with my home office printer, ready made protective plastic wrap, cardboard cut to size in bulk and lots of personal handiwork. I still make up by hand each package as and when I need to replenish stocks in shops. I also offered retail shops support and advice about how best to present my work, by providing display baskets and laminated information sheets.
Presentation is so important. Even if it’s as simple as a label tied to a canvas with a writeup about you, do it! A bit of packaging and branding does wonders. Buyers love the extra information, and will be prepared to pay more for the same product when it has its best foot forward.
Also, you don’t have to invest much into packaging if you don’t want to – a handwritten label, digital printing and so many other DIY options are possible! As an artist, you’ve got the taste level, so you are probably the best person to make/design your ‘bells and whistles’.
5. Follow Up, Often Enough
Once you’ve arranged to sell with a shop, set up a schedule to follow up with sales and stock replenishments! A half empty shelf is a very sad looking thing. And you always want to stay on top of the money side of things, because financial income will allow you to keep being creative in the future, stress free!
These days, I make a combined living from operating my etsy shop (inkypots.etsy.com), selling at markets when the opportunity arises, and receiving income from art consigned to local shops. It’s not a lot by most people’s standards, but it does allow me to live according to my terms, doing what I want to do.
I hope this article helps you see that it’s worth the time and effort needed to sell your work yourself. An artist may not be able to survive by relying purely on gallery sales, or hoping that the right buyer comes along to the studio. By getting out into the wider world, you could find it easier to earn a living, doing what you love to do.
Jia Wen Loo always wanted to be an artist, but didn’t dare to until two jobs later, countless office hours, and being thirty hit! She lives a simple life in Ubud, Bali with her partner and two cats, making pots, drawing, and dreaming up creative schemes.