Bruce Baker’s Seminars
- The Arts Incubator in Siler City received a grant to cover the cost of bringing Bruce Baker to town to deliver four of his seminars about selling art. The price to Guild members was about the same as buying the CDs, so I took a deep breath and arranged my schedule to attend all of them. It’s not easy to add 12 hours of classes and 180 miles of extra driving into an already-full week, but am I glad I did!
You can contact Bruce or order CDs through his website at bbakerinc.com.
Booth Design, Product Development, Sales Skills, and Jury Slides. My expectations were that Product Development would be the one with the most benefit. I may be wrong about that, and it may be too soon to tell.
- Booth Design: Lots and lots and lots to think about, and even more to change. He didn’t make the point overtly: the booth is not the tent frame. I’ve been relying too much on the frame of my tent as the booth structure, and it needs to be different. Cover the gridwall with cloth. Hang gridwall horizonally and use that as a hanging surface. Find a carpet, and build / construct / obtain somehow better display hardware. Keep it all up at waist height because people will not bend over. After the Jury Slides session, I’m also thinking about displaying the rugs by colorway, but that may be tricky. I haven’t done two rugs from the same palette yet. Pondering a wall of cubbies with rugs folded inside, displayed as people show interest. Maybe. Wonder how other 10×10 vendors sell rugs, and where to go to see examples.
- Product Development: Pay attention to trends, and run like crazy when one happens to match up to whatever you’re doing. While this was a bit interesting, I’m inclined to think there’s a bit of after-the-fact explanation happening. “This sold well, and therefore it must be because we aligned with that trend.” I don’t know to what extent it is possible to consciously align to trends. And we didn’t think to raise the question of, “isn’t it the artists’ business to be setting the trends?” (Leonard Shlain, Art & Physics.) I feel similarly when I take color palettes from magazines. What then if the magazine designers are studying artists to find new palettes? This can become insanely circular very quickly. (which is a spiral, and my attraction for spirals is a known factor.)
- Sales Skills: The highlight of the set, and the CD everyone bought. (Slides & Booth don’t have pictures, and for those classes, it’s the bad examples that provide the most value.) What to say, how to say it, how to think about the selling interchange. I’d heard his casette tape on the same subject and I think I had made some changes in my presentation. Not enough. Bruce is, by birth and innate nature, a salesman, and he admits he started making jewelry in order to have something to sell. It’s easy to dismiss him in memory with, “but I’m just not that way.” However, even if I’m not and never will be that way, I can make adjustments and (try to) see this as a series of on-going opportunities to study what is happening and what needs to happen in order to get money for my rugs. Even one sale a month will make a difference to the studio’s financial status. If I can learn to do that, rather than trusting to the universe (which has not served me very well as far as rug sales go), life could be very different and I could realistically consider applying to “big” shows next year. After I get the booth design worked out.
- Jury Slides surprised me the most. I’ve been accepted to the local shows with no problems, and I thought I understood “good slides.” I’ve read Bruce’s articles in the Crafts Report about improving slides. What I hadn’t seen was jury’s view of the selection process, with set after set after set of slides flashing past in rapid succession. I suddenly understood what “body of work” means from the point of view of a jury slide set: five slides that relate to each other, that show some depth of skill and focus. I do not have this yet. Not in slides, that is. I don’t have five rug pictures that really sing when viewed together, when competing against tens or hundreds of other textile artists for a very limited number of spots in a show.
I quietly chuckled to myself when Bruce told us we needed to be writing business plans for what we wanted to do in a year. Not possible. I don’t know where the art will go. It goes where it will. But within 24 hours, I had the outline of a plan in my mind. Spend the rest of 2008 with my small shows, the First Sundays and local street fairs, practicing sales skills and improving presentation and merchadising. Pay attention to knitting a body of work that could serve as a slide set. I don’t know how I will do this yet. I pick colors in part according to which storage unit is the most full at the time and needs to be drawn down. This does not make for a consistent palette.
I am not yet sure that the possible similarity in design is enough to make any five of my rugs, apart from the spirals, look like they belong together. People see color, not underlying structure. Need to think on this a good bit longer. (Actually, I’ve done all the thinking that needs to be done. What I need to do is find a way to knit five rugs in compatable colorways. Given that my basic color selection process involves determining which bins or drawers are most full, and using those colors on the next rug, this is going to take some adjustment. Stay tuned.)