Monthly Archives: May 2010

Galleries vs. Festivals and Our Future

I’ve been doing a lot of really Deep Thinking.

Galleries vs. Shows is a big question in my mind right now.  Do I REALLY want to be in more galleries?  The galleries do all the work, display my work, maybe advertise it, and they are taking all the risks. They have a lot invested in me and a number of other artists.  For that I get 50%, or in the case of my most recent check, 30% because the buyer bought “more than one piece.”  I was not contacted on this, and I took the entire “hit”.    (RANT ALERT!  It was an out of state gallery.  They no longer represent me, as of 30 minutes after the arrival of my check.   So I didn’t even cover the cost of my supplies in this one.  I guess you win some and you lose some.  After checking my contract, discounts were addressed, “with the permission of the artist”, which they never got my permission on this.   I understand they have all the bills, but it didn’t seem fair, whereas most galleries are very fair.)  There are some galleries who are really feeling the pinch, and just scraping by, and doing what they have to do to keep the doors open for all of us.  I understand and appreciate that.   The economy has played a huge part in the art jewelry market, and I’m sad that my friends with galleries are hurting.  But it seems like the check is never really what I am expecting.  Sure, it’s an ego thing that lasts for a few minutes when I get asked into some well known gallery, but in this case, that feeling didn’t replace the price of my materials.

On the other hand:  I apply to a show,  have photos made, (they aren’t cheap) pay the jury fee, ($25-50.00),  pay the fee to be in the show, ($300-700.00), buy a tent,  (not the $199.00 one that won’t stand up to the Colorado winds, but the EZ Up Express II, the $359.99.00 one with the sides and a roller bag,   http://www.EZUpdirect.com),  spend $200.00 for  mammoth sized weights to keep my “stuff” from blowing away,  buy display materials  (the shows are getting so uppity that the jewelery booths are looking like some portable mall store and you look like one of the Beverly Hillbillies if you don’t have all the glitz, halogon lights, pro panels etc), have postcards and business cards made, travel to the show, and either get a motel room or buy a 5th wheel ($48,000.00, or $85,000.00 if you have to buy the big truck, too!)  set up, stand there in the heat, cold, rain, snow, wind, dust (pick one) and smile while I’m dying to take a break, put up with hoards of people in your booth, or stand there wondering why no one is stopping, then take down everything when I’m dog-tired,  (sometimes in the aforementioned rain, snow, wind, etc), lug the mammoth weights, tent, and pricy display cases to the car,  repack, drive home, and I get 100% of the money.

It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?  Galleries win hands down.  Still, all that said, I do get really excited when I get into a dynamo show.

I like doing shows for the first 6 hours.  I don’t like having no customer contact through the gallery.  It’s a real toss-up.  Sometimes I really miss the old days of the hippie art festivals, the Rhinebeck Craft Shows of the 1970s, everyone  in tie-dyed t-shirts and their treasures spread out on a wobbly card table for the world to see.  Not that I was into jewelry or art at that time… I was off digging square holes somewhere in the world then.  But  it’s my idealized version, a nostalgic look back and maybe a sanitized version,  of what really went on.

But now that back to basics really appeals to me.  Am I the only one who feels this way?  Bruce Metcalf wrote about so many of the shows looking so glitzy and so much the same. Is that true?   The big shows like the Buyers Market of American Craft  was just not a good fit for me, though they are for some of my closest friends. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a show where a bunch of friends just get together, and put on a nice art show?  I’m  thinking this indie-craft  (independent-craft)  market really has some valid points.

But what has become glaringly apparent in the last few months is how much I make my jewelry just for the pure joy of the process.  I’m at the point that I don’t do it for money, though I do feel the need to sell something to justify my rabid purchases of Gary B. and Clamshell stones. And metal.  OK, more tools, too.    If it sells, hey, that’s really great but I’m not beating myself up anymore if something doesn’t sell.   I enjoy the process. Many of my friends buy my pieces, and I am in a co-op gallery where I get a very fair per-centage of the sale price.  I like this grass-roots feeling of all this.  I am the one maker, only one person,  I own my own multi-dollar company, and I am the premier, outstanding jeweler on my block.  And I like it that way.    I don’t know if I still have that need to set the world on fire, jewelry-wise.   I am enjoying my teaching and writing so much, but I do want to share what I make with the world, just for the joy of being out there with the artists. It makes me feel creative, a part of something really cool.  If I’m successful at a show, Ok, if not, well, it wasn’t the right fit for me.   So I have mixed feelings.  All of life is a trade-off , and I dont know which way to go, thought I have some strong leanings.  Does anyone else feel these confusing feelings? I can’t be the only one who feels this.

So what do you think?.