Monday, 18 March 2013

How to Approach Galleries - Top Tips

So my blog series on Approaching Galleries has gone down a storm so it seems. It has been great to get the opinions of some of my lovely stockists about what they expect from artists and designers and also to hear from you about how you have put all of this into practice...

So I've compiled the following list of things you need to think about when you are approaching new galleries:

  • Make sure your work is of the required standard before you set off. Get the advice of someone impartial who will give you an honest critique of your work before you start to approach stockists. You may think your work cuts the mustard but it's often a good idea to show it to others first and get valued and impartial opinions. I got the help and advice of someone when I first started out and I took a selection of my work along to show them. It appeared the work I thought was my strongest was in fact the weakest. I took the advice offered and have now stopped making the other work whilst concentrating on my ink illustrations.

  • Do your homework - research the galleries you intend to approach. Do you think your work will fit in there? Is the pricing of the items on sale there comparable? You're wasting your time blanket emailing galleries, like Tracey said, not everyones' work fits with what the gallery are looking for. Check out the gallery website too, some have really helpful tips about how they prefer artist enquiries and even have online forms to fill in.

  • DON'T COLD CALL, all of my guest bloggers have said this is a huge turn off for them. 

  • Contact the gallery beforehand. Try to find out the name of the proprietor, maybe even ring them to ask for a point of contact. Drop them an email, ask them if they are looking for new makers/work to stock. Tell them a bit about you and your work, include some images (good ones) with dimensions and prices and make sure your prices are clear (trade/RRP/SOR). Dont' forget to mention your Unique Selling Point, what makes your work so special. You could also include a brief bio and CV as well as links to your online presence (website, blog, facebook page, twitter etc)

  • If you don't want to email them you could always send something about yourself through the post. I have some lovely little folders which I pop price lists, product info, business card and maybe even a sample of my work. In the age of digital communication, you never know, this could really stand out. It's always nice to get real mail.

  • Don't be disheartened if you don't hear anything back immediately. Some galleries have certain times throughout the year when they go through applications. Others may just be busy. Also some may not like your work, don't take this personally, just move onto the next one. If you don't hear from someone within a few months it could always be a good idea to follow up. Drop them another line perhaps or give them a call.

  • If the gallery does contact you expressing an interest in your work, this is only half of the battle! You now need to go and meet them. Be prepared, give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination so you don't arrive flustered. Ask them whether they are interested in a particular line/range so you know what to take with you. Take along your price list as well so you have all prices on hand. I always take a notebook with me so I can take a few notes and also if they take any work I can record what I have left with them. Make sure you come across professionally, show that you are prepared and make sure you ask questions too. Do you know what their rate of commision is? How long would they like to keep your work? Take a copy of your Sale or Return agreement to leave with the gallery. You may be aware of their terms and conditions bu are they aware of yours?

  • Once you have made contact with a gallery and embarked on a professional working relationship with them, nurture it, keep in contact with them, enquire as to what is selling and what isn't. Show you are willing to let them know when you have new work available. Pop them onto a stockists newsletter so they can keep up with what you are up to. Send them invitations to your trade fairs and let them know where to find you. All in all, treat them well. These collaborations can lead to many new opportunities and are mutually beneficial to both parties. It's always great to make new contacts within the creative business.\
So I think that's about it for this blog post. I'd love to hear from you about how you go about approaching galleries and what works for you. Once again, everything I have mentioned here are the things that work for me, there may be lots of other things i haven't mentioned so feel free to add comments if you think I've missed anything out


  1. From my experience of 18 years with a craft co-operative I would heartily endorse all this. It may sound silly to say this, but please read Gallery requirements carefully. We asked for a Retail Price list and then would receive wholesale prices. Many Artist's statements are a lot of waffle - galleries need to make a profit and are unlikely to be swayed by poetic language if the work isn't saleable.

  2. Rebecca handy thanks for your comment, please can you resubmit it as I've just deleted it by mistake.... Apologies

  3. I agree with the 'waffle' in the previous comment! You should always keep your CV and artist statement simple, sharp and to the point. Summarise what your work is about but don't go on. List recent achievements such as exhibitions, awards, and publications you have been in. This will give galleries an idea of how successful you are in other environments.
    I have only been in businesses as a designer maker for 5 years but in my experience I have found that sending an atractive pack / portfolio via post or delivered in person works best to begin with. The galleries can have a good ponder and it is physically 'in their hands'! I'd then follow it up with a polite email or phone call to see if they are interested and would like to take that interest further


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