Marketing your woodwork - advice please

I posted this in the binary group and thought that this might also be a good forum for expert advice.
I've been carving wooden boxes and have found that I really enjoy it. I've been told I should make them and sell them, hence the questions:
The topic has been bantered about over there in several different threads but I think it could use some real focus and input. . Would some of you be willing to share the details of your marketing strategies and give those of us who are new to the craft the benefit of your experience? How do you get your items out there for your buyers to find them? Where do you put your items for sale? If you consign, what is a good percentage rate? Valuing your items - that's a toughie. Hopefully ya'll will have a lot to teach us 'newbies'
Thanks in advance!
Kate ______ /l ,[____], l-L -OlllllllO- ()_)-()_)--)_)
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search the archives of this group using these keywords "sonomaproducts craft"
you will find a thorough story and comments by others here
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I'd start with an internet web site and list completed pieces on Ebay.
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Ebay?? Nine out of ten shoppers that shop on ebay are looking for a 'deal'. They don't go to ebay looking to pay what something is worth. Non a great place IMHO to sell hand crafted (quality) woodworking items. Gramps who bangs out 50 painted step stools a week out of scrap pine and a few nails might sell a few, but...
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Thu, Oct 18, 2007, 1:12pm (EDT-1) snipped-for-privacy@spam.filter (Kate) doth wander in dazed and ask: <snip> this might also be a good forum for expert advice. <snip> I've been told I should make them and sell them, <snip> I think it could use some real focus and input. Would some of you be willing to share the details of your marketing strategies and give those of us who are new to the craft the benefit of your experience? How do you get your items out there for your buyers to find them? Where do you put your items for sale? If you consign, what is a good percentage rate? Valuing your items - that's a toughie. Hopefully ya'll will have a lot to teach us 'newbies'
"Expert" advice? Here? ROTFLMAO
Yeah, I've heard that too. Probably most of us have been told we could get rich selling our stuff.
Yep, the subject has been beaten to death here any number of times. Why not once more?
Personally, I think location is an important part of it. You try selling someting in your small town, you might be able to get $5 each. You go 20 miles east of town, you can get $10 each. But you go 20 miles west of town, maybe you can get $15 each. If you went 50 miles down the road, in either direction, you might get $50 each. And, if you were in some place like New York City, or Hollywood, you might be able to get $100-200 for the same piece. There are no hard and fast rules for selling. As far as pricing, set a price, and if you get swamped with orders, you know it's too low, and you need to raise the price. Or, if you don't get any orders, you know you need to lower it.
When you find out, please let the rest of us know. Personally, I sell a piece here and there, not a lot. I'm not overpriced, people who buy are content with the price, it's just that I haven't yet found the right marketplace. It probably doesn't help that I do not like sales people, and don't want to be one myself. LMAO I need someone that will come to my shop, hand me money, and take away a batch of my work, then repeat a week or so later.
JOAT "I'm an Igor, thur. We don't athk quethtionth." "Really? Why not?" "I don't know, thur. I didn't athk."
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On Thu, 18 Oct 2007 16:19:42 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (J T) wrote:
<snip>

Me too, bro.. they call it wholesale.... I'd rather get it out of the shop and let someone else share the profit so I can be IN the shop, not out pimping my work..
mac
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Fri, Oct 19, 2007, 7:53am (EDT-3) snipped-for-privacy@bajadavis.com (macdavis) doth sayeth: Me too, bro.. they call it wholesale.... I'd rather get it out of the shop and let someone else share the profit so I can be IN the shop, not out pimping my work.
"Pimping my work". Ah Mac, you are a poet at heart, that's about how I feel when I think of playing sales person, hate that. But if I ever make it big, I'd hire someone else to be in the shop, making me money, and I'd build another shop, for play. LMAO
JOAT "I'm an Igor, thur. We don't athk quethtionth." "Really? Why not?" "I don't know, thur. I didn't athk."
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On Fri, 19 Oct 2007 10:01:20 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (J T) wrote:

Poet at heart, journeyman old fart.. bout the same.. lol
A friend gave me some great advise that can be used as rationalization not to be out selling...
He said that the best way to discount your prices is to sell it yourself... It's much harder to represent your work as "art" or "hand crafted" then it is for someone else to..
mac
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"Kate" wrote:

of your

As others have suggested, develop a web site and use ebaY.
Lew
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says...

My wife does crafts - knitting, spinning, weaving, felting, and slip casting ceramic bells. She's spent years tootling around craft shops and co-operatives, putting her stuff in on a commission basis. Typically they want between 30 and 40% of the end retail price, which is quite a chunk. You have to work out how you value your time in terms of dollars (and/or fun factor), then add the commission and see if the buyers will wear the resulting price. My wife found that with her wonderful homespun garments she can't find buyers if she asks $2/hr. With the ceramic bells she makes more than 10 times that... and has difficulty meeting the demand. She's stopped making garments for sale and sells her felt as wallhangings, goes under 'art' and suddenly commands big prices, for a lot less work. So it goes, you have to work to consumer tastes.
Obviously, the whole thing starts looking much better when you sell directly or do commissions, the problem is you have to get your name and work out there before you begin to get those. Even better if you find a place that buys your stuff outright to onsell, then your worries stop the moment you drop it off. No shoplifting, no breakages ... again, most shops will only do that after they found your stuff sells really well. She's hit that zone with her bell-casting now.
h.t.h., -Peter
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Until you actually meet face to face and shake the hand of someone who is, and has, been successful (financially) at selling home crafted woodworking, I suggest you keep your skepticism. That includes EBay where you compete with China re-sellers and CNC machines.
Simple fact. You cannot compete with a factory. John Henry lost to the steam power tool, and you will too.
The only way to make money, is to convince the buyer that what they are buying is more than a simple wood box. What they are buying has some sort of intangible value added. For example, a unique handcrafted work of an artisan of exceptional skill, the buyer will possess the bragging rights to have ownership of an object that their friends will admire and complement the buyer for her (his) esthetics tastes, the object will be a memento of some event in the buyer's (owner's) life. If purchased as a gift, the object will have a emphatic positive reflection on the giver's tastes and purchase discretion.
The higher the intangible value added, the more car payments you can make. There must be more ways than I know of, but to me the best is to stay away from church basements, and step right up to Art Fairs, and Arts and Craft street shows. The buyer needs to look, feel, and talk to build their confidence in you (or whoever is selling the item) and the object.
Web site will help to demonstrate to customers that you are more than an artisan who is unknown to them at the street fair.
Where you choose to sell your craft items is so very important to the financial success of your enterprise.
Phil
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eBay is the perfect place for small items. Don't be discouraged if at first they don't sell. Just re-list them. Set a buy it now price. Don't use a hidden price reserve. Use great pictures, not to many. Share your passion (if you have it) in your listing and point out things you are really proud of. Figure out the basic shipping cost to the farthest point away in the states and just define a flat shipping price, at cost. The lower the better. Just UPS or FedEx Ground.
Consignment sucks except very high-end and when you are a know artist and can command a better deal. They want 50% and force a low price so they get theirs. Most of the shops that do it are cheap bastards or they would just buy it from you.
You can do craft fairs but they are real hit and miss. Only go to affluent places or shows that are about your type of work. You need lots of inventory and it ain't easy to get into the juried shows, but they are the only ones worth it You have to apply usually by January for the spring, summer and fall shows. It is a bit of chicken and egg; they want to see photos of your booth but how do you do that for the first show ever? I set mine up on my front lawn... it fooeld them.
On eBay trick is to put one piece on eBay and have your own site with lots more stuff listed. eBay doesn't like links out of their site or direct suggestions but you can just put your web address in a logo image or on one of your photos and people figure it out. I have a buddy that makes a living selling photographs that way.
If you are really good and have big capacity, you can find a trade show that caters to the specialty gift marlet or such and get a booth and hope for the best. You need to look pretty pro and understand how they expect to do business but you can go pro that way if you play the cards right.
BW

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"Kate" wrote

Your work is too good to just "make and sell carved boxes", Kate. Give some thought to eventually providing a carving service for other woodworkers. There are a few of woodworker/carvers who team up on projects and my bet is that would probably be more fun and rewarding, over time, than making and carving boxes for sale on eBay/crafts fairs.
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Kate,
Having seen your photos of your work at ABPW I can assure you that you have both uncommon patience and talent.
The lion's share of the market for your talent are people who have the disposable income to spend on high quality, unique items like yours. Doctors, lawyers, judges, investment bankers, etc. In addition to eBay and a web site, the word of mouth advertising that you will get from just a couple of such satisfied customers will keep you busy carving indefinitely. Cultivate such contacts where you can, wherever it is that you live. It is highly likely that at least one such referral will lead you to a reputable gallery. You've got to get to know the gallery and consignment folks -- they'll be kinder to you and your work if they know and *like* you than if you're just some other unknown would-be artiste.
If you make that same box again it will doubtless not be identical to its predecessor for many reasons. You need to emphasize this trait in your marketing as it will help you to command the price that your work deserves. Likewise, employ exotic woods and advertise that you're willing to take commissions.
Consider also writing magazine articles and/or a book about carving, or teaching classes at a local college or university known for its decorative arts programs. Not only will you gain invaluable exposure and marketing credentials, the rest of us will get a chance to learn something from you. You may rest assured that all but one or two of us will accomplish nothing more than to ape your efforts and so will pose no concern to you as competitors. The one or two that can do what you do will be welcome to you as colleagues and inspirations -- and you can learn from them what the market will bear for your work.
All the best,
J.
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Kate,
While I am not expert, have seen others go thru this.
First off, look around to see if there is a local Arts Council. They may sponsor shows where you can exhibit/sell your art to see if there is any interest in what you do.
The other is totally evaluate your commitment and set reasonable expectations, how long do you expect to be in the business, how many units can you produce, can you set up a business account, with CC processing, etc. Your local friend Better Business Bureau and various groups can help you on what you need to do be in business. (Perhaps your bank might help).
Evaluate the competition, if any. Find out what the produce, where they sell it and for what price. Talk to them, if they are willing and ask them what advice they would give you.
Join a local woodworkers group and make contacts with people who might be in the general business you want to be in. They might have references, etc. to push you towards.
A artist friend of mine got a lot of sales by hosting wine/cheese parties in her house and built a database of customers. She started by going to as many art fairs she could afford. While watercolors are different than boxes, it doesn't hurt to collect information about people who purchased your product before. They might like to know about new pieces and/or sales. Remember, they probably have friends and family admiring your work in their home. Few artists follow up with this idea. I've dropped my name to a lot of folks, some of whom I've brought product from and rarely do I hear from them.
Be creative in how you position yourself and your products. Do you have a web site? Brochures, business cards? Do you send a thank you card to buyers?
This could be a part-time job or a full time job, the results you achieve could be same if you spend 30 or 100 hrs a week. You won't know until you start tracking the various elements of your business/marketing plans (you do have them right?).
Take courses in Marketing through your local community college. I did and boy I really understood marketing after that. The professor might act has a sounding board and/or consultant.
Hook up with a group the SCORE which are retired business folks. They run classes on how to start up a business/write a business plan and have consultants (free!) who can look over your shoulder.
Good luck!
MJ Wallace
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Create a portfolio.
Take many photographs of each work. Put them in a big, fancy notebook, preferable one with a carved cover.
Use this as a sales tool for commisioned work.
Also, come up with as many applications for your carvings as possible.
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Thu, Oct 18, 2007, 1:12pm (EDT-1) snipped-for-privacy@spam.filter (Kate) doth sayeth: <snip> I've been carving <snip>
Upong reading the o ther responses, and thinking a bit more, come up with a bit more.
I tried eBay. Couple of postings, zip, on two items. Then got a bidder for both. Turned out he didn't pay, and was "barred" from eBay. However, it's my understanding he'd been barred before. I've followed a number of things on eBay, not bidding just wanting to see h ow they did. I wouldn't recommend eBay.
Tried a couple of consignment s hops. Not thrilled. One took my item, but claimed no interested after a month. Went back to take it back, and found out it was bing "displayed" under a table, next to a wall. I'm not sure anyone even saw it. I doubt I will try consignment again.
I've got a friend who makes some nice little boxes. He sells the majority of his at craft shows. I guess around $40-50 is an average price, and apparently he sells out each show. I believe he does 4-5 shows a year. I've not tried myself, but sounds workable. Thing with that is, my feeling is you'd want two people. Then you'll always have someone at your booth/table, even if the other goes for food, bathroom, looking, etc.
Flea markets. I think my stuff would do well here, but don't have anyone to gowith me - two people, same as craft show. I'm thinking of taking in a few to se if any of the sellers would be interested in taking some on consignment, or just buy them for resale.
Mainly the thought of becoming a sales person holds me back. I hate that. That's one reason I would like a flea market, or craft show, I could sit there and read, and if someone wanted one they would give me money and take one away, otherwise they would just look and not bother me. I think that way of selling would make me satisfied. Of course, the best way would still be someone pull up to my shop, take my stuff, hand me money, and leave. I could definitely learn to love that.
JOAT "I'm an Igor, thur. We don't athk quethtionth." "Really? Why not?" "I don't know, thur. I didn't athk."
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I hoped for a little advice and was amazed at just how much good information all of you have to offer. Thanks to everyone for your replies and information.
. Surely I'm going to crack my shin on the coffee table in the dark now and then, but your help will make the journey a little less tedious. I'll let you know how it goes, now I need to get bacl to whittlin on wood or no matter how much I know, I won't have any to sell!
Thanks so much :)
Kate
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Lots of big corporations are always on the lookout for unique and special items to give to their clients, sales staff etc. You boxes would certainly make that grade.
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