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consignment/special orders - potter & gallery owner

updated mon 14 feb 00


Tim Skeen on sun 13 feb 00

Hi Chris

I'm a potter and now a gallery owner with a teaching studio. This is a long
message but maybe it will be helpful to some to hear some thoughts from a
potter that had work in a gallery and now owns one. It helped me see things
in a different way when I first opened the gallery and I'm still learning
The first thing my husband and I did was write a consignment agreement when
we opened the gallery. We have 16 artists and growing... I wouldn't put my
pots in a gallery without one and I wouldn't want to have any inventory in
my gallery without a signed agreement and inventory list from each artist.
The artist and I both sign the inventory list when they deliver work. Five
working days after the 1st of each month the checks go out along with a
computer print out of their account. I run my gallery both customer and
artist friendly. If the artist gives us their business cards and information
we put them near their work and by the door so customers can take the
business cards with them. If I talk with the customer, take all the info for
the artist and call the artist with the order then I think the gallery
should have a percentage of the sale because we basically did the prep work
for the sale and the customer will pick up the work at the gallery.

However, if the customer is interested in an artist's work, and they don't
see anything in the gallery they want to purchase, I give them a business
card and let them contact the artist. If the artist receives orders from
this customer, it is up to them if they give the gallery a percentage, it is
not in the consignment agreement. If they do, it's a nice thank you to the
gallery for sending work their way. If they don't it doesn't matter to me.
When my work was in galleries I would give a thank you percentage. My way
of thinking was, if the customer didn't see my work in the gallery I
wouldn't have the order and the gallery needs to meet their expenses to keep
the doors open and show my work. It's kind of like, coming full circle.

One of the messages I read mentioned about the gallery not doing anything
for the sale and that they get artist's work for free and galleries need
their work. I agree with part of this statement but I suggest for this
person to open a gallery and see what it takes financially, emotionally and
socially to meet the public everyday and deal with each artist and keep the
gallery fresh, clean and pleasing for the customers and make enough money to
keep the doors open. It's a juggling act sometimes with trying to slip in
time for one's own work. This is not complaining because I love most
aspects of operating my business but please take time to look at the whole
picture. Galleries do need artist's work, but I also work my butt off
spending as much time as possible with each customer to promote and sell the
work of all the artists in the gallery. (retail and commission) With
advertising, the store overhead, display work, promotional offers,
bookkeeping, and this is just the tip of the iceberg, etc.... Respectable
Galleries do their share when it comes to selling the artist's work. This is
my approach to operating mine. I know of galleries (which I pulled my work)
that could care very little about the artist or their work, they are in it
for the dollar. It's up to me as a consignee to do my research.

As a consignee, my biggest complaint was not receiving my checks on time,
and waiting two or three months to get one. I took my work out of two
galleries even though my work was selling. It's not worth the headache
dealing with a gallery like this. I think every artist and gallery owner
needs to do their homework and research before signing the contract. I have
an artist right now that is a pain to do business with. She tells me work
will be delivered and no show, she calls constantly and asks if she sold
anything and wants cash in the middle of the month, which she wants me to
deliver because she chooses not to own a car. (this is her last month in
the gallery) So it's not just the poor artist in some situations, galleries
have their share of headaches. We have artists that drop their work off,
they receive a check and you see them with new work every month. Other
artists promote the gallery as if it were their own and some drop off their
work and you never hear from them. I think trying to understand and respect
the other's position helps for both parties in a contract to get the most
out of the business relationship. If your not happy then the bottom line in
s--- or get off the pot, and that goes for a gallery owner or artist. We're
not children, we have the freedom to make our own choices. A gallery owner
shouldn't be a babysitter and an artist shouldn't have to worry about their
work or when their going to receive their check. It's not a game it's

Until they write their own consignment agreement, write one of your own and
have them sign it, if they choose not to sign it you have the option to take
your work elsewhere. It is better to have something in writing then take a
chance on a verbal contract. There is no excuse for any gallery not to have
a consignment form, it doesn't take a business degree to write one. One
last thought, when you start doing business with a new gallery a good idea
is to check on your work and the flow of the business regularly.

I remember Mel, writing about not more than 50 miles from your home. For me
that was great advise. Thanks! I only have local artist's work in the
gallery, it's easier for us to do business. Hope this helps...

Sorry I was so long winded, I'll step down off my soap box!!!
Good luck!