Wednesday, 25 April 2012

BCTF - what worked for me - part 2

So it's Part 2 of what worked for me at BCTF and today I'm concentrating on product range and I'll tell you a little bit about how I decided on which products to take with me to my first trade fair.

Deciding on your range

Anyone who has been following me for a while will know that I have dabbled in a quite a few different media since completing my Foundation Course in Art and Design. I had decided not to go on to do a degree in Illustration/Decorative Arts/Fine Art  as I didn't know what I wanted to do and also I didn't really see the point in getting into lots of debt. I wanted to spend the next few years developing my work at my own pace and explore lots of different media in the process. As a result, I would describe myself as 'self-taught'.

Long story short, it took a while to find what I liked but I still didn't really know what to concentrate on. One day I would be free-machine embroidering, the next textiles, watercolour, print, sketching... enjoying it all but still struggling to find 'my thing'.

The Creative Business Course I found myself taking part in 2010 really gave me a more clear direction. I was advised as to which was my stronger work, (the ink illustrations), advice which I also received from some well-respected and lovely people I have met through my creative ventures. I invested more time into developing the ink drawings, growing my body of work as well as exploring themes and ideas. I then looked at ways to extend my product range, started to produce cards, tea towels and also looking into getting my designs onto other products.

For the trade fair I had to decided what to take with me to show to the buyers, Should I take all of my designs (about 40!) or narrow my choice down to the most popular? I decided on the second option and to keep it as simple as I could. I didn't want to limit myself but at the same time, didn't want to over complicate things and overwhelm my customers with a huge selection of images. Then there was the decision to make about products. I had been exploring decals onto glass and ceramic, mugs, note-books etc. I wanted to do it all but was finding costings were too high and time to develop ideas was running out.

I selected 20 designs, four formats (cards, A3 and A4 prints and tea towels). Once the decision was made I felt happier and feel that the range was strong and product variety small but well-thought out with a good range of price points. So far I have recieved more order for my cards, but think this could be an ideal way for new stockists to test the market and if they sell well, they may want to buy prints in the future.

Another thing I want to mention is the range of your pricing. As with all selling it's good to have a broad range of prices, from lower cost items (for me this would be my cards, postcards and badges), medium range (my prints) and then higher cost items, or signature pieces, such as original artworks and commissions. Then your range is accessible for a wider audience.

Hope that's been helpful. I'd love to hear your comments...


  1. Excellent advice, it sounds like this Creative Business Course was really beneficial! Do you know if it still runs?

    I've been thinking about expanding my range into cards, mugs, etc but not entirely sure it fits with my paper work. I have two strong ranges - book sculptures and jewellery - and the jewellery ranges are only expanding and getting more complex! Would you suggest keeping away from more commercial products like badges and mugs as they may over complicate?

    Katie xxx

    1. Hi Katie, I dont think it is running this year, if you want some information it may be a good idea to give the office a call, they are based at Rufford Country park. Mayber for your range of jewellery mugs and badges wouldn't be an option, i think they would detract from your work

  2. Just saw an awesome article about this recently, I'll have to dig it out for you. It was about the artistic pro's and con's of using lower priced items in your range to encourage repeat buying and sales of the larger items.

    Some were arguing that it cheapens your work but in most cases I do consider it to be a very savvy way to market yourself.

    After all that work stripping the range down, I really think your range had a great mass appeal in price, content and variety.

  3. Hi Sue,
    I love your work, and from the photo above I think you made an excellent choice about what to take to the show.
    I have a similar background to yourself and have only recently found my "thing" after many years of searching!;)
    Good Luck with your new stockists.

  4. I think it's a good idea to look at other designers who have made the ‘Big Time’ and see what they produce. I can't of think any who don't do greeting cards! I'm applying for BCTF next year and although my prints are my best sellers my next job on my to do list is the expand the card side of the business. Thanks for the insights x

    1. you are welcome, I think the cards are an ideal to way for a buyer to test their market and see if their customers will like your work, and it's a great way to lead into prints etc. Good luck

    2. Thanks Sue ;) I did tend to stray away from cards as there's a better profit margin on prints. But after some research there is a good profit in cards. Just looking at a buying new (100 old) printing press that will help me produce more effectively, plus a good excuse to rescue an old machine ;)


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