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I Took The Handmade Pledge

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How to Approach a Retailer

This is a blog post full of obvious advice for handmakers who would like to sell through a shop like Wise Daughters. Obvious, and yet today I have had at least two faux-pas committed that kind of boggle the mind. So here goes. Six simple rules for breaking into retail:

  1. Take 1 minute to go on my website (or that of any other retailer you want to approach). If you visit, you'll find a page called "Info for Makers" that tells you what to do. Easy!
  2. While you're there, please find out my name so you can use it when you email. My name is not "Hi there" and especially not "Hi there!!!"
  3. Do not send ME an email that tells me how badly you want to get your work into, say, Arts on Queen. Proof-read, please.
  4. Do not try to promote your product by telling me it's better than what I already carry. Nothing is more off-putting than an artist who disses craft, or other artists' work. And for all you know, that object you're critiquing could well have been made by me!
  5. Do not pitch stuff made in Poland, China or anywhere else.
  6. After I've said no, for whatever reason, please do not expect an hour of free consultation about where/how to sell your product. I have a class on that very subject, for which I charge a small fee. There are also lots of other resources at your disposal.

Remember, selling is all about the relationship.

Good Packaging

One of the topics I touch on in my Art of Selling workshops is packaging. This in the context of branding, but there are several other important considerations too, like choosing sustainable materials while creating a professional look.

I thought I'd take a minute to share a few really good examples.

1. Melissa of Ladeebee/Vintage Baby Revival has taken the humble luggage tag and turned it into an affordable, simple and eye-catching packaging tool. She also uses them to tag her knitwear, so there is consistency. Look how cute! With very little effort, her product is ready to present as a gift. The only info on the back is her website, which is really all that's required much of the time.

LadeeBee/Vintage Baby Revival

2. Adrianne of Vintage Love needs to go that extra step and put her switch plates in a small plastic bag to keep them clean and to enclose the accompanying screws, but the bag is just the size of the product to keep waste to a minimum. What's fun about this packaging is the language on the back. Adrianne lists ingredients, directions and the following tip: "Sit back relax and enjoy your fresh and funky piece of nostalgia!"

Vintage Love

3. Katie of Eclectic Media Artist makes owls so cute they pretty much sell themselves, but if a buyer needs a nudge, this is it: a simple cardboard tag that gives Katie's website and says "(happily) made in Canada." Brilliant. Suddenly the buyer is happy too. Made in Canada is a key message for artisans to share (or Made in Toronto if only locally available).

Eclectic Media Artist

4. Leila Cools puts her fused glass jewellery on simple cards, but creates a consistent and attractive look by fabricating her own stands for shows and shops. Not only does a retailer like me appreciate a ready-to-go display, but it gives Leila control over her brand. Repeat customers can see at a glance what they want.

Leila Cools

The package needs to be an extension of the product in look and feel. Using as few words and as little material as possible, you need to present your brand, make it easy to find you, and tell buyers what they need to know (contents, care, etc.). The extra thought and time that goes into packaging will absolutely pay off.

Express Yourself through Art Journaling

A number of people have asked me to explain what happens at Art Journaling (starting up next week and happening monthly this fall). I realize I should take a stab at describing why it's such a delightful way to spend an evening.

Anna Redish teaches this class; one thing you should know about Anna is that she gets more excited about craft supplies and techniques than anybody I know - and I know some very crafty people. Another thing you should know is that Anna is never without an art journal on her person. She started making them out of tissue paper so she could always have one in her bag or pocket. Anna believes in the power of self-expression, and in striking while the muse is with you. She also believes in being prepared for creativity. She told me to read Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit, which I did, and I immediately identified some ways Anna has applied Twyla's advice. Advice about how to overcome your fear of the blank page (or studio), how to build your skills so you'll be ready to implement ideas when they strike, and how to challenge your assumptions about the way things work, so you'll be willing to try something else when they don't work.

So what do we do in art journaling? Well, it's a lot like regular journaling, in that it is uncensored and all about the process. Making marks on the page, not judging the finished product. Sometimes we do write. My favourite activity was when Anna fired us up to write a rant, as full of expletives as we liked. We wrote in 4 directions, rendering the finished page illegible. We put a finish coat of colour over top too, just to be sure our secrets were safe. Sometimes Anna gives us a starting phrase and we write from there. Here's an example:

Art Journaling

One night we wrote ourselves letters on a particular theme and learned how to fold them up like this:

Art Journaling

Another time we learned photo transfer, and I had fun making pictures of 40s stage actors from an old theatre magazine appear in my journal. And one night we played with paint and bubble wrap, entertaining our inner children no end.

This fall, Anna will be sharing all kinds of techniques for applying marks to a page - all of which are great to use in other projects - but the best part will be in the doing. Focusing on artistic expression as a way of silencing the chatter in your head and being in the moment.

This workshop series is offered on a sliding scale to help make it accessible to everyone. Whether you're an artist looking to unblock your creativity, or somebody who wants to explore your artistic side without any pressure to be able to draw or paint a certain way, I really encourage you to give this time to yourself.