Thursday, June 24, 2010

Letter from the President

The Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival is almost here, and I hope you are feeling the anticipation and excitement. I'm a little jaded when it comes to "craft shows", but I think the Palo Alto show is special and I look forward to it every year. I love Palo Alto for two reasons: I get to hang out with my favorite clay and glass pals and sell side by side with them, and the audience at Palo Alto are just as high quality as the work you see there. If only every show had customers like the Palo Alto show: people who love clay and glass, who are interested and educated about the medium, and are willing to spend the money supporting the artists whose work they love.

"Educating the customer" is a common theme when artists are learning how to sell and market their work, and thinking of clever ways to do that without feeling like a used car salesman can be a challenge to artists. I used to be a big fan of the "mellow sell" which comes down to, "You like it? Then buy it. You don't like it? Don't buy it." Not a lot of room there to tell the story of my work and get people interested in what I do. But educating the audience is key to creating a smart and appreciative customer, people who will not only buy from you, but buy from other artists. Creating a culture of buying handmade, locally crafted art is essential for our future as makers and artists.

As I've become more comfortable selling my work, I've gotten better at engaging the potential customers who walk in to my booth, and educating them about the what and how of my work. I have my own style and way of doing it which is still reflects my mellow approach, but my goal is to make sure that if the person can manage to resist buying a piece of my work, they are going to walk out of my booth with a shred of new knowledge about ceramics. This year, I'm going to create fresh postcards that have more than just a pretty picture on them, but also some words about my story as an artist, part of my education campaign. A high quality audience takes maintenance, so take some time to think about your own ways of educating your customers before Palo Alto, or any show you may be doing this summer.

See you in Palo Alto!

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