home resources "The Independent Artist" Issue 7, pg 1

"The Independent Artist"
Issue VII, Spring 2010

The Independent Artist

A Conversation with Bruce Baker:
Helpful Advice from a Pro
by Larry Berman

There are a couple of things that come to mind when it comes to artists picking their slides for the jury. First and foremost, what artists do is create work, and over a period of time they cherry pick that work to make their selections to be photographed for jury slides. They have their photo session and when they are done they usually have a grouping of work that does not hold together as a cohesive body. It is a little of this and a little of that, potentially all nice pieces, but they dont work together to create an artists identity.

A much better way to approach the challenge of jury slides is to conceptualize a body of work that works together as a group, fresh, imaginative and impeccably crafted. If you take the time to create a body of work and then photograph it, POW! Now when your slides pop up in front of the jury there is a relationship. They see the connection between the pieces and the palate and the story of what youre trying to say to the world with those objects, be they two-dimensional or three-dimensional. When you do this you make it easy for them to decide if you are in or out of the show. Juries tend to reward artists that make it easy for them.

Another challenge that artists face when choosing slides is knowing how to get the jurys attention. When I am conducting a workshop I often ask: What are you trying to say to the jury when you pick your slides? Most artists respond with look how talented I am! Or pick me! Problems occur if this is what you are telling the jury. Artists end up showing a range of talent rather than a theme and focus. Jurying is a very hard job. When you make this job esier by showing amazing work, easy to understand, with theme and focus, you just got their attention. I have seen this happen when I have been on a jury and a slideset with strong visual impact and a relationship (theme) is obvious. There may be an audible Whoa or Wow reaction. Otherwise, its just one more set of slides that pop up and some jurors score them up, some jurors score them down and they landed right in the middle. You dont get into shows from the middle, you have to be on top or you will be rejected. When you create a body of work, jurors take notice and it makes their decision easy, thats what gets you into shows. If an artist shows a range of talent in their slides, usually it just looks confusing and results in more rejections. Make your work and slides impressive and easy to understand and you will get into more shows consistently.

Another common problem I see is that artists cannot get customer comments out of their mind when they are selecting pieces to be photographed and sent to the jury. The customers and the jury are very different. To be more specific, an example is if you use dragonflies or hummingbirds as a motif in your work, many customers will likely react positively because its familiar. The jury on the other hand, is always looking for cutting edge and artist identity. If images have been assimilated in our popular culture, a jury will generally view it as negative; they perceive it as commercial and have already seen it in so many slides before. In general, if the customer likes it the jury most likely will not. So when you pick your slides you cannot rely on what your customers are telling you.

Two things that are really important for artists to understand is the importance of a body of images that work together visually. (In fact, you might even create two or three bodies of work to see which one is the most photogenic, sometimes even though it might be excellent art, that doesnt mean it photographs well.) Based on what the jury wants to see, leaving what the customers wants or says out of the equation.

The current economic climate
Artists are really struggling as a demographic for a myriad of reasons. Yet I keep running into artists who are telling me theyre having the best year ever, simply because they have embraced change and done things differently. Some of them are working larger, which is a smart way to go. When I go to shows and galleries these days, almost everything on display is small scale. Too many artists are working small thinking theyre going to increase their sales because money is tight. The success stories are artists who are working bigger and making their work more expensive and more impressive. People who can afford to buy art live in large homes and often have more than one. These successful artists, in these tough economic times report to me that they are selling large scale art at higher price points over smaller pieces. It really makes sense that people who have money to buy art do not want small scale. The people who used to buy small art are so financially stressed they can no longer afford it.

The message is for artists to embrace change, some are changing their scale and others are changing the types of shows they choose to do. Certainly, fine art isnt going to sell at a farm market, but I encounter a lot of functional potters, for example, who have shifted some of their marketing over to farm markets. Success at a venue like a farm market would not have been possible a decade ago.

Change is in the air, and artists who are embracing change seem to be doing better than the people that think the 90s are coming back. These are interesting times. We suffer from the fact that our government pays so little attention to the arts. The arts are always the first thing to go from any budget. We have lost so many craft organizations and galleries in the last few years it is a crime.

The Booth
Many artists are coming to me because they know their booth is not very good and they want help to make it better. Ultimately, theres no cheating, the merchandise must match the merchandising and the merchandising must match the merchandise. That simple rule is where many artist start to go wrong. It is common to find incredibly contemporary pieces of art that an artist has displayed on unpainted pine furniture, so wrong. You cant fool customers. When the merchandising and the merchandise work together that is where sales magic happens. Visual merchandising isnt rocket science, but it does go from the floor to the ceiling, which at most shows the ceiling is your lighting system or your canopy. Many artists go to the shows and have no floor covering. Just for the visual alone its a huge mistake, without floor covering the booth is not finished, not to mention the comfort factor. Customers hang around a booth that is comfortable to stand in.

Fabulous displays do not require spending a lot of money. Creativity is so much more important than spending money in a booth. Ive seen absolutely fabulous displays completed for a couple of hundred dollars and they work brilliantly work being the operative term. So many people turn their booth into a work of art and that can be very detrimental to your sales. Your customers should not be talking about your display they should be commenting on your art and wanting to touch it. The booth should virtually disappear and let the artwork pop out. If the display makes people want to touch your work then all the better.

Large Format Photos in the Booth
Large format photography displayed on the walls of your booth does more to pull people in than just about any method you can use to attract customers attention. In the case of jewelers, its so easy for two or three customers to block off jewelry cases from customers in the aisle. They walk by and dont even notice what the product line was. Any photo is better than no photo but the image should focus on lifestyle and image. These photos should speak to your target demographic. When they do they get pulled into your space. If you go to any mall most mass merchandisers use large format photography as a marketing tool, but it often isnt about the product. Its about who you will become when you wear the product or how it will make you feel if you own this object. Never underestimate the lack of imagination on the part of your customers, they need these images to show them how something will look on the body or displayed in a kitchen. When my business partner and I were doing shows we would always use large format photographs prominently displayed of models wearing earrings and necklaces, which we sold multiple times at shows. When we would sell out of that style, we would put up a new photograph. As soon as we did, the jewelry in the new photograph would start to sell. It was so predictable and so immediate; I realized quickly that people could not imagine how a particular earring looked being worn without the photos!

A picture says a thousand words, and, for example, if you make functional pottery, you can show a table with all your dinnerware and tabletop accessories. The fine linen, the place mats, etc.then have it photographed. Every time you use that photo, you are telling the customer exactly what your line looks like on a table and you only have to do the work of setting it up once, yet you reap the reward of that effort every time you hang up the photo.

Booth design is always thinking outside of the box and being creative. I find it very curious that artists are the most creative people on the planet. We think in ways that blow most peoples minds. But wen it comes to booth design or merchandising, most artists want to do whatever is the easiest, whatever is the quickest, and whatever is unfortunately, the most commercial. A lot of the display systems that are available work, but they have no individuality, every booth looks almost alike. So, be really creative and break the mold, the one thing that you always want to keep in mind is dont make people work to see your work. You need plenty of light and the product needs to be at or near eye level. It needs to be really touchable.

Merchandise for high touch; that is a thousand dollar tip! If you display your work in such a way that it makes people touch it and not just stand and look at it, that will fill your cash box. Getting people to touch the work is ultimately the key. I see booths that are overcrowded or there are things that are barricades, keeping people from being able to reach and touch something. They are displayed too low so people cant see it or dont feel prone or promoted to touch it. Or they are displayed too high where its out of reach. Getting that touch response in your visual merchandising will do wonders for how it creates sales.

2D work
For those who are 2D artists, most want to work small because its easy to handle and its easy to transport and this scale brings the price point down. But, ultimately, thats where the problem begins. If you are making $175 or $450 art, the customer that this price point appeals to have a million choices of where to by art in these price parameters. I think smart artists are working more modularly. For example, three pieces that work together as a triptych to create one large vertical rectangle. As an artist you dont have to deal with huge canvases but several smaller ones that fit together as one. With this method you can create art that is impressive and will appeal to upscale customers. Modular art is working well for a lot of the artists I am in contact with. There might be one large, two medium and three small pieces that all work together as a grouping. The pieces can be purchased individually in some case for a customer who is looking for a smaller piece or a lower price point. Thats one direction I see 2 D artists going. I also have been impressed by the diptych; two paintings side by side; each available individually, but they install in a corner, which is a very cool thing. Im also seeing two-dimensional art and three-dimensional art that works together as a set. This is accomplished by either one artists working in both of these formats, or two artists collaborating or finding someone whose work is very similar in a three dimensional context and showing the two dimensional piece in the background and the three dimensional piece in the foreground like a diorama.

Another technique to sell 2D art is to include the installation in the purchase price with the agreement that you can photograph the work once the installation is completed. What I always tell artists is they need to ensure the collectors anonymity, but in this way you can start building a portfolio of your work in collectors homes or offices. Then, when you show your work, have a media presentation with a digital projector in your booth. It is a constant and changing portfolio of your work. The more homes that your work appears in the more people are going to want it. This presentation can show a variety of different kinds or architecture, from corporate to traditional or contemporary. Digital projection has a lot of visual impact, the projectors are very small and with the right technology you can run one from an ipod.

Using Digital Projection

Im seeing it more and more, but its still happening very slowly. I cant figure out why because though my first digital projector cost more than my car, now you can get one four times brighter and one-third the size at any big box retailer for a reasonable price. The expense is seriously outweighed by what it enables an artist to do. I hear all the time from artists, I can only show six large pieces in my booth. You can show six pieces in your booth, but you can have 130 pieces on your iPod that you can project for the customer. At the opening I went to recently, they had a 24-inch monitor and I sat there and watched the entire presentation because I couldnt stop. Then I went and got my wife and we both stood there and watched it. This type of presentation has a lot of power to keep people in your space giving you much more opportunity to sell to them.

Wrapping Up
I think that one of the biggest problems we face in the Art/Craft industry today is that artists are not happy and they are not having enough fun. I realize it is hard to put on a smile when you are under financial stress but being gloomy will only cost you sales. I go to a lot of art and craft shows where there are a lot of unmet expectations. People are just sitting in a chair looking really bored or miserable. Then when customers come into your space they pick up on your bad vibe and it doesnt make them want to buy art. I would tell everybody out there, As much as you can, go to shows with no expectations and declare your booth a happy space and project successful energy! You will be amazed how the good vibes you send will attract more people in and create more business potential.

Some shows I attend, I go from booth to booth, Hows it going? answer: Really terrible! Then I go to another booth and say, Hows it going? answer: Fantastic! Ive almost sold out is what a woman said to me recently. The difference was, she came there with a good attitude and everybody wanted a little piece of her success. I know its hard, its been tough times for people at a lot of shows, but if you make that obvious to your customers, your business will only go down the tubes.
Ultimately, the way to create better business is to know how to greet people, learn how to sell, and show them a good time. What theyre looking for is honesty, sincerity and integrity. And when you project those qualities more and more people will want to buy your work.

Bruce Baker is a jeweler, juror, and artist consultant. Contact him through his web site for a one- on-one consultation about your jury images. He also sells CDs for artists on the following topics: Your Slides and the Jury, Booth Design & Merchandising for Craft and Trade Shows, and Dynamic Sales and Customer Service Techniques.

Eve Lerman: On Battling
Imports at Art Shows

In September 2009, NAIA was pleased to welcome Eve Lerman, Senior International Trade Specialist, U.S. Department of Commerce for the U.S. Commercial Service in Pontiac, Michigan, as a presenter at the Director/Artist Summit in Peoria, Illinois. What follows is a summary of her session on the misrepresentation of imports.
Ms. Lerman described her everyday job as supporting exports of U.S. products. Pointing out that in her former life she was a lawyer specializing in international law, Ms. Lerman stressed that she does not currently work as a lawyer, but is an international trade special- ist. Shes not permitted to provide legal advice and is not an expert in customs, trademarks, and the like, but was presenting information and ideas to generate discussion.
Her presentation addressed how unscrupulous exhibitors misrepre- sent products they sell as Made in the US.A., when in fact they are imported at low cost from other countries, thus depriving authentic U.S. artists of income in a difficult economy. In addition, this mis- representation raises doubts among buyers, who cant tell if the art is made in the U.S. or imported. As a result, the U.S. is damaged cultur- ally, as legitimate artists are pushed out of the marketplace

Government Agencies
Ms. Lerman helped work through the thicket of government acronyms by going through a list of federal agencies and explaining how each might help to address the problem. These include the Federal Trade Commission, Customs and Border Protection, the Department of the Interior, Congress and the President, and the International Trade Commission.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The FTC is an independent government agency charged with protecting Americas consumers. It works to prevent fraud, deception, and unfair business practice and provides information to consumers to stop, spot, and avoid these.

Examples of the problems they address include mortgage fraud, charity scams, and misleading advertising. The FTC provides consumer advice on subjects such as buying jewelry or genuine Native American arts and crafts and regulates the use of Made in U.S.A. markings.

Most manufacturers/marketers of U.S.-produced products are not required to disclose U.S. content, with the exception of textiles and wool. Those who choose to make the claim that their product is Made in U.S.A. must adhere to the all or virtually all standard: 1) All significant parts, processing and labor that go into the product must be of U.S. origin; 2) No - or only negligible - foreign content; 3) final assembly or processing must take place in the U.S. In order to assess how the Made in U.S.A. designation applies to a particular art or craft, youll need to review the specific rules pertaining to it.

If you believe product is wrongly promoted as Made in U.S.A. because it wasnt, or it contains significant foreign parts/processing, call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or file a complaint at www.ftc.gov. If you are aware of import or export fraud, call the U.S. Customs Service Fraud Hotline, 1-800-ITS-FAKE. The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel Networka secure online database/investigative tool used by civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

The FTC website is http://www.ftc.gov

Customs & Border Protection (CBP)
CBP is part of the Department of Homeland Security. CBP helps to enforce country of origin marking rules and classify products for import tax. Its National Import Specialists handle questions regarding binding ruling requests on tariff classification, and country of origin marking.

The Tariff Act 1930 requires that articles of foreign origin imported into the U.S. be marked (as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the article permits) to indicate country of origin. However, exceptions to the act are on the J-List, which includes works of art, defined narrowly as paintings, prints, and sculpture. The marking is required for other categories of arts/crafts. For example, terracotta pottery from Mexico was ruled not to be art for purposes of the J-List, so the country of origin had to be listed on each piece (1994 ruling). Thus, many products sold at art fairs are covered by the marking requirement.

It is a crime to remove or obliterate markings to conceal the origin of products; origin labels must stay in place until the product reaches the ultimate purchaser. Articles that are not marked appropriately at time of importation are subject to additional duties unless they are properly marked, exported, or destroyed under CBP supervision.

With activities such as the importation of large quantities of paintings for sale in hotel shows and the like (often referred to as art by the foot) rising in popularity, a group of Rockport, Massachusetts artists pushed a change in the rule to require Country of Origin Marking for works of art in the 1990s. The effort failed. The CBPs Office of Regulations & Rulings refused to remove art from the J-List. However, a national artists organization like NAIA might succeed in such an effort by seeking Congressional support and partnering with arts advocacy groups to push such a change.

Another factor that might come into play is the import tax. International agreements govern import taxes. Higher import taxes ultimately increase the final price for the consumer. The tax on art imports is zero. Because some products may overlap categories (e.g., stained glass might be glass or art/sculpture), the import tax on an item can vary. The import tax on other glassware ranges from 7.2 to 38 percent, so more specific classification numbers might move items imported as art to other categories where taxes apply. However, this may not be worth pursuing since art is already narrowly defined, and many other product categories are already at zero or a very low tax rate. Further analysis of classifications and tax levels is needed to evaluate this possibility.

The CBP website is http:// www.cbp.gov

Department of the Interior (DOI)
The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1935 created a board to promote development of Indian Arts and Crafts. The act allowed the board to create a trademark denoting the genuineness and quality; regulated and licensed use of trademark.

Counterfeiting the trademark or knowingly selling goods as Indian products when they are notwith or without the trademarkcan result in an injunction, fines to $2,000, and six months imprisonment.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 instated a truth in advertising law making it illegal to sell any art or craft product in a manner that suggests it is Indian produced. A first-time violation by an individual can result in a fine up to $250,000, five years in prison, or both. For a first time business violator the fine is up to $1,000,000.

Such a law allows for civil law suits on behalf of Indian tribes enabling them to collect damages. For example, marketing artwork as Indian JewelryDirect from the Reservation to You would be in violation if the jewelry was produced by someone other than a member an Indian tribe or a certified Indian artisan. Similar legislation, modeled on the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, could be written to protect all U.S. artists and craftspeople.

DOIs website is found at http://www.doi.gov/iacb

Congress and the President
Congress and the President have the power to adopt new laws that have the power to protect artists in the United States. In order to generate Congressional support for favorable legislation, NAIA could be best served by partnering with with arts advocacy groups on the national (e.g., Americans for the Arts) or regional (e.g., ArtServe Michigan) levels.

International Trade Commission (ITC)
Per Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, the ITC conducts investigations into allegations of certain unfair practices in import trade. The Trade Remedy Assistance Program provides special assistance for small business. Because the typical case involves problems with a single exporter t the U.S., it would be harder to get relief for artists through the ITC since there are numerous products involved from a variety of countries and producers.

The website for the ITC is http://www.usitc.gov

Possible Remedies
Toward the end of her session, Ms. Lerman presented several ideas on how artists could possibly combat misreprentation in the marketplace. Please note that NAIA has not adopted any of the following measures; these are just presented as suggested by Ms. Lerman:

Create a trademarked logo for the National Association of Independent ArtistsMade in USA
License the collective trademark/logo to directors and artists on condition they certify requirements met
Directors supply TM stickers to artists at shows who certify product meets Made in USA requirements
Check with Federal Trade Commission to be sure that NAIA and fair directors will not be liable for misuse
Create Registry of Made in USA Artists to help public identify authentic art
Establish NAIA Certified Fairs program for U.S. art fairs that act to eliminate imports masquerading as US-made art
Lobby for new law modeled on Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990
Investigate whether greater specificity in tariff code might help U.S. artists
Pursue elimination of exception to country-of-origin marking
requirement for imported art
Develop model art fair prospectus language to combat imports
Educate fair directors on how to report suspected violations
Develop shared database of violatorsexhibitors will not be allowed to participate in any NAIA shows (check antitrust rules)

This statement accompanied the presentation: This presentation is for general informational purposes only. Nothing contained in the slides or communicated verbally should be interpreted as legal advice, an official pronouncement on US law or policy, or the official view of the US Department of Commerce. Ideas presented are for discussion purposes only. Information is based on research, conversations with government and private sector contacts, and analysis of same. Laws and regulations are complex and are presented only in part. Before taking concrete steps advice should be sought from legal counsel and specific government agencies responsible for applicable law and policy.


site mapsitemap