Reprinted from my blog on the American Tapestry Alliance website, Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017
I thought it would be interesting to have a place to write about my personal experiences with marketing and promoting my work. I’ll add to this as time goes by so you can follow along with my progress with selling my work.
September 2016: After an unsuccessful summer season trying to sell my tapestries in galleries I decided to take a class about using social media. I learned about Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram. I already had a webpage so I did have an online presence. Why do more?
I want to sell my tapestries. My work has been in numerous exhibits where I live, in Maine as well as internationally. I had three solo or joint shows in Maine over the summer of 2016. I sold nothing in those shows! Why? There are several factors I considered. Price, the work itself and market.
Beginning with price, if I go to low I’m not just hurting myself, but I’m hurting my fellow weavers by undercutting them. Low prices can be a problem in other ways. I was told a story about an artist who had a show of his work. A woman came into the gallery and wanted to purchase one of his pieces. The price tag said $1000. The artist realized there was a typo, the correct price, he said was $100. The woman left the gallery without purchasing the piece. She wanted an expensive piece of art and at $100 the work was devalued and she didn’t want it. I’m still trying to figure out my prices. Once I do I will post them on my website.
The next element I considered is the work. My tapestries are figurative. I was told by a respected gallerist portraits are harder to sell. I once tried to weave a landscape and ended up with a portrait. I’m not inclined to change what I weave just to make sales.
Market, now that I can do something about, but how do I get my work in front of buyers? Not just any buyer though, I need people who are interested in my medium and my subject. My work has been in exhibits in many places including the US, Europe, the UK and Australia, but have sold very little. Why? Well, in some shows the work isn’t for sale and others, I don’t know. What I do know is that all the people who have bought my work have been women between about 50 and 75 who have experience in fiber in some way, weaving, spinning, knitting, seriously or for enjoyment. How do I get to that audience? That’s where social media comes in.
So now it’s a year later (2017) and I’m looking back wondering if it was worth the effort to invest all this time into social media. I have two Facebook pages, business and personal (FaceBook requires a personal page to open a business page), a LinkedIn page, Instagram and now this blog. What results can I see? As of today I have 206 Instagram followers, 193 connections in LinkedIn and 742 FaceBook friends.and growing. I only use these resources for “business” and try to be friendly and positive. My plan with these tools was to get a wider, broader reach out into the world for my tapestries. How have I benefitted from this? I’m part of a very large, international community of tapestry weavers, something I value and my name is becoming known. I have even pushed outside the circle of tapestry to other fiber oriented people. Just in the last week I have been asked by two different places to teach tapestry. Vavstuga, a Swedish weaving school in Massachusetts has booked me to teach a beginning tapestry class in June and I was asked to teach a master class in the UK! I believe neither of these opportunities would have come my way without my postings about workshops I’m teaching elsewhere. I love teaching but my goal is to sell my work. I see this as the beginning of things to come. I hope I’m right.
I haven’t sold anything using social media yet, but I haven’t tried either. I have heard of people selling art on Facebook and Instagram. I’m planning to try one or both venues. As I make my way into this maze I’ll keep you posted with my results. My conundrum though is whether to look for a gallery while I’m exploring online sales. One of the problems with the galleries that I’ve experienced is they didn’t know anything about tapestry. Who best to speak about your own work but the artist. Which leads me to the idea of doing craft shows, a subject for another time. I just did a video interview with Sara Warren, a veteran of craft shows with a good track record of sales. Watch for that video. Sara was very informative and I learned a lot from speaking with her.
Until next time, Barbara Burns
It’s been a very long time since I have written here. In the ensuing years I have increased my presence on SM. I now have 1487 followers on Instagram, about 3000 friends on my two Facebook pages combined. Obviously, I have not been working very hard there. I’m a member of a cooperative gallery and have work in another gallery here in Maine. Both places have been a success, but not quite in the way I had thought. Yes, I do sell my tapestries there, but I have chosen to branch out a bit. I have made pillows with tapestries woven at 6 epi. They sold very well last year.
I found a textile printer and have images of my tapestries printed on silk. These I make into scarves and a duster style, long vest from a pattern I drafted. I am also just beginning to frame some of the images to hang on the wall at a price point many more can afford. I have done this for a couple of reasons. First, the tapestry sales are low and as a working member of the gallery I am there manning the counter two days a month. It didn’t seem worth my time for so few sales. I like being there so I didn’t want to give that up, but I wanted more sales and I got them. Second, I want to see my work out in the world to share with folks and this felt like a way that works and I can enjoy the process too.
I have decided not to try and sell my work online, but I do post links to my page on the Gallery website when I mention my work. As far as I can tell I have made one sale so far from this. It’s a good thing I don’t need to make my living from this, but what if I did? I know there is so much more I could do, but my goal is not about the money. It’s about sharing my work and I feel successful in that.
Until next time,