Show season has begun with verve and many of us are tearing about the country with overstuffed vehicles from one stand build to the next. I’ve just returned from Top Drawer at Olympia, unloaded my poor overworked little van and am ploughing through the follow up mail and calls – the bit all we self deprecating arty types hate with a passion! However, for the really tough job, up front and centre on the stand, I have a secret weapon: her name is Amanda; a devoted protagonist and promoter of my work. Quite frankly, I don’t know what I’d do without her. She can say and do what I simply cannot; wax lyrical. And this is a problematical Catch 22 that affects all artists and craftsmen representing themselves; how do you blow your own trumpet, without actually sounding as though you’re blowing your own trumpet?
Of course we’re proud of our work, it wouldn’t be on the stand if we weren’t; it would be languishing in the studio ‘sin bin’. But there’s a huge difference between pride and hubris when it comes to self-promotion and too much or too little of either can be disastrous. The hard truth of it is; most of us can’t afford to pay a PR or marketing bod to do the selling bit for us. We’re one man bands working our little socks off in our studios, snapping away for Instagram, posting on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and a plethora of social media platforms. Essentially, juggling hats like a vaudeville act.
Forging close working relationships with good galleries is a must whenever possible, but ‘good’ is a relative term. A good gallery curator loves artists as much as their art and is highly knowledgeable. Above all, though, they must have in spades what most artists do not; business drive. This highly prized combination is actually quite rare and as such they have the pick of the best, very often because they have actually launched careers through being the best at what they do. I am fiercely loyal to the galleries I work with, because they are worth every penny of their commission. But this doesn’t mean I can sit on my laurels hoping they’ll do all the work for me; I have to pull my weight and get out there.
Easier said than done.
So, how does the wallflower artist deal with the night terror business of selling the creations of their souls at trade and art fairs?
How about this for a suggestion: swap stands.
I could sell another glass artist’s work with fervour; I know how it’s made and the work/costs involved. I appreciate and admire the skill, talent and concept that went into creating it. And because I didn’t make it, I have no qualms about propounding the merits of it. In essence we can all be great gallery curators if we’re not representing our own work.
Food for thought!