nana Kate's First Art Show Booth in Aug 2018

It has been more than a year since I set myself up for business.  I started with a website with the allusion that; “If I post it, they will come” via the magic on the inter-web.  That may seem pretty naive and in fact, it was because I had a lot to learn about the internet and especially about how to sell creative works.

I am naturally a curious person so I did some research and found The Abundant Artist Association, which I joined.  They have a lot of marketing courses on “How to sell your Art Online” which I studied, but only implemented a small portion of their suggestions.  I found out that it is hard to sell your art online and that you have to talk to people.  In November of 2017, a guest conference call on art shows with Owen Garratt opened my eyes to the possibilities of art shows, but I wasn’t intending to sit outside in the heat and humidity to sell cards.

I retired in January of 2018 and decided to give this art business a good try, so I started making more paintings and cards.  Well now I have inventory, but I needed customers.  In May, I received an email from my local art association, Mt. Horeb Area Arts Association, that announced the Black Earth, WI Chamber wanted artists for a new art show in August.  I discussed this with my husband and we decided to enter.

After I applied for a booth I remembered the program on art shows and the discounted training materials and purchased the videos from Marketing Tools For Artists .  I found out I had made my first mistake by signing up for a new, unproven art show, but I was going to make the best of it and prepare a booth that would dazzle the visitors.

Dave and I worked out a lot of details with the art booth, a lot of thinking, doing and arguing, but in I think we put together a pretty nice booth for first-time art showers.  The art show in Black Earth wasn’t very good because it was poorly advertised and not very many visitors.  It was a great opportunity to try out our booth and we learned a lot and simplified our signs so the next weekend when we set up for the Bailey’s Run Vineyard show we were more prepared.

Bailey’s Run was another new show (remember never to go with new shows) and we didn’t sell too much, but I am satisfied that if I were to go to a larger show, I could sell cards.  What I learned from my experience is you need to go to shows that have at least 1000 people to find a few that will like your stuff.  You need a proven show and you have to find the right type of person for your art.  I also learned that I don’t like being outside in the heat and humidity and will try to find shows that are inside, but that is a luxury.  I liked talking to people, and it was fun, but it is not a social event so tell friends to meet you after the show and not try to socialize while you are marketing.

I will continue to look for shows and I will continue to simplify my set up.  It is one of the quickest ways to get new names for the website subscribing by having a show giveaway and hopefully, someday, I will be able to get people to buy cards online too.

Nana Kate handing out cards in a graphic image
Talking by S.M.W.

In January of 2017 after a challenge from my art instructor, David Becker (http://davidrbecker.com)

I thought I would try to sell prints online by signing up with a Print on Demand company.   It sounded so easy and would be a great way to make a little money on my paintings because after a while one just doesn’t have enough friends and family who want your stuff. 

I started to do a little research and found the book “How to sell your Art Online” https://theabundantartist.com/ .  Perfect, that was  all I needed and I would be on my way to greatness.  It would be so much easier to work from home, not to worry about weather with outdoor art fairs.  I would not have to talk to people and be sociable and smile a lot.  I could sit home, paint and put money in the bank.

That kind of naive thinking is the same as finding a pill to make you lose weight.  Oh yes, I am still looking for that pill, but with very low expectations.  But with the sale of art online, I was really thinking this might work, after all, Amazon sells everything online, why couldn’t I do that too.

I read the book, created my web page (it took 6 months for my slow technological learning curve to come up with the most rudimentary website) and then I started to take the Abundant Artist classes.  Well, guess what, the selling online only works if you talk to people.

Selling art anywhere is just like any other business, you actually have to talk to people.  You have to create relationships with people so they get to know you and want to help you grow your business.  Some people like to buy from you just because they like you, Who knew?  Some people actually like your art and your message, but mostly they need to feel comfortable with the person before they will invest in your work.

How disappointing to realize that word of mouth continues to be the best form of sales even in this age of social media that is suppose to increase how we are all connected.  I suppose I should not have been so surprised, Jesus, a pretty good role model, knew that you need to start with a few good men, specifically, eleven, and teach them everything about yourself.  Then when they meet other people they can pass the message along and eventually after a couple thousand years everybody will know your name.  The system works.  I guess I have to start by getting a few good men (or women).

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They say that people read blogs because bloggers have some sort of expertise on their subject matter.  If that

Nana Kate doing web research
Nana Kate Searching by SMW

is the case, then I should know something about starting an art business.  Well I do know something about starting an art business, but I don’t know much about whether the art business will be successful.  The reality is, I just started in July (officially when I registered with the state for sales taxes).  I don’t know what will happen, I am still learning.   I am going through the process with you so we can learn together.   After all, like my husband says, “Everyone is good for something even if it is just to provide a bad example.

This isn’t my first business, before this I sold Mary Kay, Magic Mill wheat mills, ran my own health food store, made and sold living wreaths and worked for six years as a regulatory affairs consultant.  The only connection with all of these was a desire to run my own business.  So here I am again, starting another business, this time with art.

I did pretty well with the regulatory consulting business and a lot of the success was getting a good mentor.  I was approached by another consultant to help her with a heavy work load.  She provided me with some initial work, helped find the right networking groups, and introduced me to new opportunities.  I also spent a lot of time researching and obtaining training in my field so that I could present myself as a qualified expert.

So, with that in mind, I started doing my research.  It is a lot easier now to do research, you just have to turn on the computer and Google.  I spent a lot of time looking for help and I found Cory Huff and The Abundant Artist, https://theabundantartist.com.  He has a book called “How to Sell Art Online” and I felt I had found the Holy Grail.  This is what I needed to get my business going.  Not only did he have a book, he had classes to provide further training on just the type of sales I wanted to do, online. 

I am very happy with the knowledge I have gained from Cory Huff, I haven’t completed all the course work yet, but my website was a direct result of the suggestions he has laid out in his programs.   And now, he has set up a new art group that allows us to share our experiences, so I have access to even more counselors.

Close up photo of a Pole Bean Flower
Pole Bean Flower

One morning I looked over to our pole bean trellis and saw this tiny little flower that was the sweetest violet-pink color.  Normally I would have just walked past it to my car, but that morning the pink caught my eye and drew me in closer.  It was as if the Holy Spirit was whispering to me, “Come over here, I want to show you something special.”   

As an Extraordinarian, I was obligated to investigate this flower even further, so I took this close up photo with my husband’s help.  It was so beautiful.  In some ways it seemed so frivolous on God’s part to make such a lovely, tiny flower, just to turn it into a green bean.  The real tragedy though is most people probably would never see this little wonder.

That is why I decided to sell cards.  I felt like I had a mission to expose the extraordinary, but if I only sold original paintings or even prints, I would only be able to get my message out to a small group.  If I sold cards, many more people would be able to see the paintings and would have the ability to read about the inspiration for their creation.

I suspect my choice is not the path of great monetary wealth, but each time I look closer at one of God’s creation I am filled with an abundance of His Love that could never be purchased with earthly riches.   I think that is pretty Extraordinary too.

Nana Kate

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Leaning In

Leaning In illustration
Leaning In by Granddaughter S.W.

 

One Sunday morning our Pastor was talking about his decision to take on a position in a different church.  The process to move or stay involved a lot prayer, but it also involved “leaning in “ to the decision.  It wasn’t a quick yes and go, it was a process of elimination, checking out the options.  At each step a decision was made and a new door opened or closed until eventually everything fit into place.

I never really thought about creating an art business, I just liked painting and making cards for people.  In the summer of 2016, I took a watercolor workshop put on by Dave Becker.  I had a wonderful time and learned more than I will be able to remember.  During that workshop I was asking the other painters what did they do with all their paintings.  Most of them worked for fun, some placed them in local galleries and some had websites, but not many were actively trying to sell their work. 

I hadn’t sold any of my paintings and I was beginning to have quite a few that looked pretty good.  I had been creating Christmas cards for fifteen years.  I also made cards of encouragement for friends.   I would put a message on the back and people seemed to like these cards for both the painting and the message.  Several people started asking if I sold them and I said they were just for fun, but it started my “leaning in” process.

I am still “leaning in”, still trying to figure our how to start an art business. I am hoping to help others by writing down my process.  I have been leaning since January 2017 and hope to have my business running with some income by my retirement in February of 2018.  In future blogs I will tell you how I started my business and maybe you can help me get it going. 

Thank you for visiting,

Nana Kate

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