Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Approaching Galleries - Part 1

This is the first part inmy new series about approaching galleries and stockists which I've put together in response to a call -out for new blog topics. I thought I would ask a few of my stockists what their thoughts were on the topic in the hope it will give you some good practice points and tips and you can add some more names to your list of stockists this year.

First up I asked the lovely Tracey Benton from Atelier Gallery in Barnstaple if she would mind answering a few questions. Tracey got in touch with me a few years ago when I was only just dipping my toe into the creative world and she has been stocking my work ever since. She very kindly has shared her thoughts with us below.

Do you prefer to find new artists/designers yourself or do you like them to contact you?

It's a mix of both. I am more than happy for artists to approach me. It's really important that for any gallery you would like to approach, you take time to check that your style of work fits with that of the gallery. So if it's a craft gallery like mine, don't expect me to be excited about your latest oil painting - no matter how brilliant it is. I'm not overly keen on artists popping into the gallery unannounced especially if I have customers. It's best to make an appointment or to ask about the submissions process. And absolutely, definitely don't have a huff if a gallery isn't interested in your work - it could be for any number of reasons; perhaps you've not done your homework and checked that your work is the right fit, perhaps they already have some similar work or they may have taken on several new artists and don't have capacity for more.

How do you prefer to be approached by new designers?

I prefer to be contacted by email in the first instance, with up to 3 photos information about the work and the artist and a link to the website. You wouldn't believe how many emails I get from makers saying 'here's my website, take a look at my work and see if you like it'. Yes that is literally all they say and I'm afraid that these just go straight into my trash folder. If an artist has taken their time to do their research and write a polite enquiry then I will almost always write back - except if it's super busy. It's not a good time to approach galleries in the run up to Christmas.

What kind of information would you hope to gain when considering stocking new work?

Things that I need to know are trade/RRP and that you understand the rudiments of SOR (most galleries work this way). Give an indication of delivery times and lead times for re-orders. Some ceramicists for example will be upfront and say that they can't deliver for 6 weeks as work is made to order. I also want to know if there are other stockists in area.

What kind of factors would influence your decision about whether to stock new work?

If the work fits with the style of the gallery and if the price also sits well - you don't want something that looks expensive or overly cheap compared to the rest of the work. If the work is new, interesting, unique and plugs a gap that's always a bonus. Also if the maker seems professional to work with, that's really important as it's annoying if customer wants a commission and the maker just faffs about or doesn't deliver when they say they're going to deliver - if there's a hold up, be up front and let the gallery know immediately. And always send a delivery note with prices on as it looks professional and is a massive help to the gallery.

What is the most novel kind of way someone has got you to notice them or their work?

In all honesty I'm more likely to be bowled over by someone's work than the method that they use to contact me. It's lovely if a maker sends a small sample but I just feel guilty if they've gone to that trouble and the work is just not right for here. I'd start with an email in the first instance - let your work do the talking.

Thanks for taking part in my new blog series Tracey, it's always great to hear from someone 'in the know'. If you want to find out what's going on down in Atelier in Barnstaple you can check out the website here or you can ;like' Atelier's Facebook page here.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Capturing Heartfelt Moments - my new range of Commissions

One of the aspects of business I will be concetrating on this year will be the commissions side - it's really something I would like to expand and I'm looking at three main areas - Weddings, Family Trees and Heartfelt Moments.

'Heartfelt Moments' is an idea I explored and developed during the Mentoring programme I took part in during the last healf of 2012. The idea behind it is the 'illustrated gift of words' to someone special, whether it be a specific message/phrase/lyric/poem/saying we share we our nearest and dearest.

To illustrate the concept of Heartfelt Moments I asked the recipient of my first commission to tell us a little of the background to the piece they commissioned....

 'Coming up to our first anniversary, I was looking for a paper gift for my husband, something a bit unusual and with a special meaning to both of us. I decided to try and find a print with "The Owl and the Pussycat" as a theme, as this was the poem my softie husband had chosen as a reading at our wedding ceremony. I searched on the internet for ages but just couldn't find anything I liked.

Then I came across Sue's work when she was exhibiting at the Creative Twinning event in October. I loved Sue's whimsical black and white drawings, and on the offchance, asked if she could do a commission, expecting it to be both costly, and to take a long time - it wasn't either of those things! We agreed the design and Sue sent through a mock-up to check that we both had the same idea in mind, and within a couple of weeks it was ready. We both love it, and owning a unique, original picture from a local Nottingham artist is the icing (or the slices of quince) on the cake!'

If you, or anyone you know, would be interested in commissioning an illustrated message for someone special please get in touch to discuss your requirements.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Approaching New Galleries - new blog series coming soon

I've been thinking about new ideas for blog posts as I do love to write blog posts which my readers will find useful and helpful in their own creative businesses. I did a shout-out for new ideas a few weeks ago on Twitter and Facebook and this was the first suggestion that came through: How to approach Galleries...

Last year, after my series of posts on Trade Fairs, Jenny Creasey from Itch Gallery in Oakham, very kindly agreed to do a guest blog post about what she, as a buyer, looks for when attending trade fairs. This blog post might give you a bit of insight into what your buyers expect of you but I thought I might blog about this whole process from my point of view and what has worked for me in the past.

I will also aim to get some insight into how galleries like to be approached by speaking to some of my stockists and asking them for their thoughts.

If you have any topics you would like me to cover on the blog please feel free to leave me a comment or drop me a line

Friday, 22 February 2013

Creative Industry Day at Central College Notts

So, last Wednesday (it seems so long ago!!) I was invited to be part of the Creative Industries Day at Central College Nottingham. Along with about 15 other exhibitors and speakers from different creative business sectors I went along armed with sketchbooks and examples of my current work and spent the day chatting to students about creative careers. It was a fantastic to be able to tell my story and chat to younger people about their hopes/aspirations and dreams for their own creative careers. I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the experience. Every time I leave that comfort zone behind I'm learning new things about myself, my skills and abilities and where I want my creative business to go in the future. It's making me feel more strongly than ever that this is the right path for me and I'm enjoying every step!

I'd just like to extend my thanks to all of the staff at Central College for having me, I really enjoyed speaking to your lovely students. Thank you for making me feel so welcome.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Be More Productive - Part 2

Soooo, this is the 2nd of my posts about being more productive. The last one was quite a while ago but if you missed it you can read again here. This time it's about reducing distractions and it sounds very easy to do, but it does take a bit of self-discipline!

The beginning of the day for me goes a bit like this... I get up, eat breakfast, walk the dog or go for a run, then I head up the long commute which is my garden path to my studio at the top of my garden, armed with my cup of tea and iPod. I need to have plenty of good music to keep me sane throughout the day. (At the moment I'm enjoying The Weepies, very chilled out and easy to listen to but I'm sure you all have your favourites). I then switch on my computer, check my emails and respond to any that are urgent and then I'm ready to tackle the list of jobs for that day. Quite often, before that I'll have a sneaky little browse on the net, catch up on my favourite blogs, see who's been tweeting or facebooking and then I may stop off at a few forums to post or comment..... Can you see where I'm going with this? The internet and all of the wonders on offer can be VERY distracting, and before you know it, twenty blogs down the line, it's 10.30 and time for another brew...

So, if this sounds familiar, you'll know where I am coming from when I say that we need to cut down on time spent online if we are to become more productive. Did you know that most people are interrrupted approximately every 12 minutes while we are working? And did you know that we can probably control most of these interruptions if we REALLY want to?

What I do, is try to limit the amount of time I check my emails. I physically close the program down if the computer needs to be on, just so I'm not tempted to go and peek when the little 'you've got mail' ping sounds! Ditto, Twitter (as much as I love it) and also ditto Facebook. We need to switch them off. No-one is going to die if we don't check our emails every 30 minutes or tweet every time we feel the need. Trust me, if you really want to be more productive you need to take these distractions far far away!!

Schedule email checking times, schedule in some time for social networking, and stick to this. Even if you need to set a timer to make sure you don't exceed your allotted time, it will work. It just takes a bit of practice. To be able to concentrate on what you are doing you need to be present and 'in the moment' and this is nigh on impossible if you have beeps, texts, tweets and things taking away your attention from the task in hand.

I've even started doing this at the weekend. I'm having iPhone free days, where I'm determined to spend quality time with my husband/friends/family and make sure that they are the people I'm paying attention to. It can be all too easy, when you work for yourself, to constantly be thinking of work, catching up on emails, and thinking of what you need to do, and if you're like me, it can start to take over. Put a stop to to it now. To remain on top form you need down-time as well, so give yourself a treat, turn off the phone, put the laptop away and spend time with your nearest and dearest, it will feel good, trust me!!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Planning your path

It's always good to have a plan. People who know me well will know that I like to have plan, I like to know what I'm doing and how I'm going to do it, and I think it just makes me feel a little but more in control of things when I have a plan. Now I'm not saying I'm a complete control freak, or that I'm never spontaneous, but I think, especially as far as my busines goes plans work well!

Right back when I was thinking of starting a creative business I attended a couple of local council funded seminars on business planning and I did even write a business plan which I still have. It's very different to what I'm actually doing now, but looking back at when I wrote it I knew where I wanted to go and the mere act of writing it down helped me to achieve a lot of the goals I had written.

I recently attended an excellent training day courtesy of Design Factory run by Pete Mosley, business mentor, creative life coach and author of Make Your Creativity Pay. The topic of the day was Creative Business Planning, something I needed to revisit now that my mentoring scheme is coming to an end. I dug out my old business plan before the event and realised how out of date it was and how it wasn't really relevant to my business now. And it just so happened that throughout the course of the day we were going to be doing a lot of thinking about formulating a new plan. Sounds very promising.

Throughout the day, guided by Pete, our creative group, explored many issues. We looked at the different areas of our creative and personal lives and rated how well we thought we were doing with each one. This then gave us clear areas on which we knew we had to concentrate and helped us to formulate clear goals and pathways to achieve them. As I mentioned earlier the mere act of writing things down is the first active step on the road to getting things done.

By the end of the day I'd written my two year plan on a timeline, which made it more 'visual' and I now have several new tasks on my list to help me get to where I want to be.

If you ever get the chance to go to one of Pete's training days I'd strongly recommend it. Many of the creatives I know have either read his book or attended one of his events and they all have very good things to say about them. To find out more you can browse Pete's website here or read his blog here  and you can find out more about his programme of training events here

It would be great to hear from anyone else in the process of revisiting their own business plan and to hear about all of your hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future...

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Being the Artist in Residence for the Nottingham Festival of Words

So it has been a long time coming but the Festival of Words Artist in Residence slot has finally arrived and I've been busy this weekend at my stand in the Newton Building of Nottingham Trent University (see below)

As some of you know, I applied to the Nottingham Festival of Words last summer and was subsequently accepted, I was over the moon. Then when I was offered the Artist in Residence slot I was even more delighted. But as the weekend was looming I began to wonder whether I would be able to do the position justice and I started to mull over ideas of the things I wanted to do over the Festival Weekend.

As well as exhibiting my new Collection of work, inspired by words of love and made especially for the Festival of Words, I decided to run a drop-in collaborative 'live' art work which I would be inviting visitors and members of the public to contribute to. The task of participants was to draw a pebble shape (which reflected the pieces of work I was exhibiting at the Festival, and then to write words/words inside it of something that person loves). The aim was to build up a work of art over the course of the weekend made of pebble shapes, full of words that the contributors love. It was great to see people demonstrating their own artistic flair, adding flourishes and illustrations to their work.

It was fantastic to see the piece build and grow over the course of the first day (Saturday) and to see families, adults and children of all ages taking part.

It was also interesting and fun to read the words people had written. Every aspect of lives were covered, from peoples' names, family pets, places, food, activities, friends, smells and tastes. It was extremely rewarding to have been involved in this part of the Festival and it has most definitely made me think about other collaborations and ways of working in the future. Lots of ideas buzzing around my head at the moment...

Here is an image of Saturdays 'live art work'. I think the results are fantastic and have made this part of the project really worthwhile and rewarding.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

making things happen

If I have learned one thing over the past six months of working with my mentor, Debbie Bryan, on the Design Factory Mentorship programme, it is that one of the major things you should be concentrating on is your ability to make your own opportunities and make things happen yourself. This can really make a difference to your business and your progression as a Creative Business Owner and when you start to see results it can be really motivating and inspiring. Take my word for it, it's working for me.

Now, when I first came into the Creative Sector in 2008, I must admit I was quite in-awe of what was going on in the local area and I didn't have a clue what was going on nationally. It's only by making links with other creatives, through Nottingham Craft Mafia and Nottinghamshire Creative Business Scheme, joining online forums such as Etsy, Folksy, and UKHandmade that I began to feel a part of the creative scene.

It can be all too easy to rest on your laurels and  hope that people will 'discover' you (I did this a couple of years ago and got very disheartened when the orders and queries from stockists DIDN'T come flooding in!). I had a lovely website online and I was waiting for people to come across it rather than putting myself out there and gaining recognition for myself. Once I realised that the answer to increasing peoples' awareness of me and my work lay with me and I actually got off my butt and started being pro-active in my approach to my business, then that is when things started to happen.

I became a lot more active with my social media, making links with other creatives, I started to blog a lot more regularly and I made the effort to get out of my comfort zone and do things I would never normally have dreamed I was capable of. In return for this my followings have slowly increased and blog readership has gone up considerably. I started approaching new stockists once my confidence grew and I found that I was getting a really positive response to my actions, reaching my target of stockists by the end of last year. Eventually I found that people started to seek me out which goes to prove that making things happen yourself in the first place really can enable you to reap the benefits of your efforts later.

At the moment I'm really busy with lots of exciting new projects, many of which I have initiated myself. I'm a definite advocate of the northern saying 'shy bairns get nowt' and think I have proved this to myself many times over the last twelve months. If you don't put yourself out there who else is going to?

I'd love to hear how you are all promoting yourselves and getting your names out there. What's working well for you? It would be great to share...

Monday, 11 February 2013

Book Review - The Artist Unique - Carmen Torbus

It's time again for my monthly book review and this month I'm reviewing The Artist Unique by Carmen Torbus.

The Artist Unique is a treasure trove of ideas for exploration and self discovery in your creativity. It is all about finding your own voice rather than copying projects and ideas directly from a book.

It gives a great selection of 15 different techniques and effects brought to you by 15 contributing artists. I particularly enjoyed these sections as I live finding our about other artists and their creative processes.

This book is like a tool kit giving ideas for different mark making media, attachments, texture makers and other paraphernalia. There are several work sheets to work through which might help you find that spark of inspiration and all of the way through the book you are encouraged to try out the different techniques and put your own individual mark onto the work you produce.

I think this book is ideal for those who feel as though they are still looking for their true creative voice and haven't quite found it yet. I don't think there is a guaranteed recipe or path for finding it, but when you do, you will know. And even if you have travelled down the route of self discovery who's to say that's the end of your journey, you can always go further, develop or refine your style or try something completely different. There are no rules, you can make them up as you go along.

The author, Carmen Torbus,has done a great job with this book. There is just the right balance of information and instruction but plenty of inspiration and encouragement to go your own way.

If you would like the chance to win this book please leave a comment telling me about the latest new skill you have learned and how you have put it to use.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Creative Industry Day - Central Notts College

I thought I would tell you about something I'm taking part in next week. I've been lucky enough to be accepted to be part of Creative Industry Day:

Art, Media and Creative students at Central College Nottingham will gain an insight into some of the types of careers open to them after they leave college. The College is hosting a Creative Industries Day at its Charnwood Centre on Wednesday 13 February when over 200 full-time students will be able to talk to people who have set up their own business in the creative industries.

Local business owners in areas including Branding Designers, Journalism, Music Industry, Broadcasting, Eco artists, Creative Entrepreneurs, Social Media Experts, Designer Makers, Contemporary Artist, Clothing Manufacturers and Television Industry.

Course tutor Carolynn Aitken said: “The day will allow our students to gain inspiration and ask questions of people who are in roles they may one day consider for themselves."

For details on Creative courses at Central College Nottingham contact 0115 914 6414.

It's a great opportunity to forge links with other creative-practitioners-in-the-making, and I'm really looking forward to taking part.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

When your friends make your wishes come true...

Remember in January when I blogged about my 2013 Wish List and the simple things I wanted to do this year? Well, a very good (and thoughtful) friend of mine read my blog post and then came to stay for a long weekend a few weeks later. And what should arrive by special delivery on the Saturday morning of her stay? My very own kite!!

This was number 6 on the wishlist and I got to make that little wish come true on a windy Sunday morning with a very special friend and my very special husband. It was great fun, very cold, but great fun, it makes me thankful that I have people in my life who listen to my dreams (however grand or small) and help to make them come true!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Catching up with mundane jobs

Today was my first day back in the studio after a week of being poorly, a weeks holiday in Norfolk and a long weekend of having some great quality time with an old friend. It was good to get back to work, but before I could do anything I decided my studio had become a complete mess and I just had to tidy up! I can't start work when the place is in a mess so I spent a good couple of hours with the radio on sorting out the debris of boxes, stock, invoices, sketchbooks and paperwork that seem to have accumulated since the pre-christmas rush. I sometimes resent having to spend time on the mundane jobs, such as tidying up, sorting out stock and doing paperwork, but I suppose these jobs need doing to keep the wheels turning. I can get on with some new work on Thursday after my first new gallery visit of the year. Watch this space for details...

All is now ship-shape and I feel I can see the floor a bit better now, and things just seem to feel more tidy in my own head too! This looks better doesn't it? All clean and tidy and ready for a very productive and busy start to 2013. At least I will stand a better chance of being able to find things now!

Have you been gripped by spring-cleaning fever yet or is your studio a bit less regimented and more 'relaxed'?

Friday, 1 February 2013

Sketchbook Peeks - Josie Maskell

This month we have the very talented illustration student Josie Maskell showing us her sketchbooks.

Before we start, tell us a little about yourself/how did you get into art/craft/design career and how it all started and where you are now
I am an Illustration student in my final year at Plymouth University. I have always been creative but I really got started when I went to art foundation at Trowbridge college where we got to try a huge range of media and experiment with all kinds of work before I had to decide what degree courses to apply for. Choosing to do a foundation course is the best thing I ever did, I tried so many new things and it really helped me to choose a pathway to follow

How long have you been using sketchbooks?
I started using sketchbooks in school as a way of tracking my work and showing research and development. When I started university we were encouraged to take a sketchbook with us everywhere to do drawings of anything and everything as drawing practise underpins all of the work that we do. I have gone from using A2 sketchbooks in art foundation and have shrunk down to A4 ones for uni projects and a tiny A6 one I always have in my handbag.

How often do you sketch?
I try to sketch as often as I can, in my first two years of uni we had modules that required “drawing out” so going out purely to draw a certain place or subject. This year I find less time to go but over the summer I worked in America and spent my breaks drawing. I also try and take trips to museums and galleries to draw people and objects as I find this really inspires me to start other work.

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
I enjoy starting new sketchbooks, especially when I have an idea for the sketchbook already or somewhere to go to do drawings for it. Over Christmas I have been doing “the sketchbook project” which gets sent to America for people to view, I was a bit more nervous about starting that one because I know so many more people will see it! If you want to find a bit more out about the Sketchbook Project you can find out what it's all about here.

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
I either draw from life, or I make up strange imagery and patterns from looking at different artwork and objects and taking out the elements that I like.

How would you describe your creative process?
I do most of my initial drawing in black linework before either re-drawing over and over to develop, or just scanning in drawings I like to be coloured and edited on Photoshop. I use different techniques filling areas with colour, occasionally adding texture and editing colour palettes.

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
My sketchbooks used to contain all my research and artwork I had edited, printed out and stuck in. I now use pinterest to collect artwork and inspiration and just fill my sketchbooks with thumbnails, idea generating sketches, and lots and lots of drawings before I get the right one to scan in.

What is your favourite medium to work with?
I almost always draw in black line using fountain pen or fineliners, I recently bought some rotring technical fineliners and I am quite in love with them, definitely worth the money if you look after them

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
I went to London at the start of this year just to draw and I took a tiny sketchbook to fill with drawings. I drew so many things, and I tried to make them as strange as possible whilst also writing the occasional comment on what I was doing. (write notes about your drawings if you find something amusing, its always fun to look back at!) This is my favourite sketchbook so far, followed closely by my American sketchbook because of all the memories!

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why? Right now it is one of the London sketchbook pages. I drew 3 very strange characters inspired by an abstract painting in the TATE. I was then sat watching a very strange film about apartheid where a girl said “I wonder how wishes are made” I wrote this above the drawing just because it seemed to fit as one of them was crying. Not sure why but I just like it the strangeness of it!

Thanks for taking part  in sketchbook peeks Josie and showing us your pages! If you would like to find out a bit more about Josie you can read about what she is up to on her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

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