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the marketing mix (was: inverted snobbishness?)

updated mon 18 jun 01


Janet Kaiser on sun 17 jun 01

Dear Jacqui

there is no need for spatting, either publicly or
otherwise. I just gave my response/s to your post from
our point of view. Nothing was meant _personally_ and
it is unfortunate you should interpret my comments as
such and so literally. As many have already said in the
past, personal attack is not usually meant and when in
doubt, we should presume none was intended.

I should have taken this advice myself, but when
statements such as, "I don't believe it is your job to
foster our talents, draw us out etc." and "I don't
personally think it's a gallery owners responsibility
to counsel potters on how hard life is being a potter"
are made, there should be room for me to respond. It is
usually valuable to hear from the other point of view,
especially if it helps to understand the problems and
difficulties we all face, however disparate our
situations first appear.

Let me try to be concise and put the whole problem of
artists/makers marketing into perspective... If work
never sells and/or is constantly rejected by galleries,
it is usually one of two reasons: either it really is
"crap" or it is over-priced. It could also be a
combination of both. As Vince and others have already
said quite volubly: "good work sells itself." I would
not go as far as saying this is the whole story, but it
has to be the most important part.

Pricing is the second most important factor. Many
artists and makers are oblivious to the market value of
their work and what people are/would be prepared to
pay. Whether fair or not, the price work can command in
the marketplace is finite. It is an economic reality
not a subjective judgement. Neither galleries/shops nor
makers/artists can afford to have work standing around
gathering dust because it is too expensive. It is
equally uneconomic to spend a week making one piece, if
it is only going to have a selling price of $10.

Thirdly, location. No good trying to sell $1000 pots in
a village shop or one selling Made in China mugs at
$1.99. Nor is it any good offering raku pots to a
gallery or show which is going to exhibit stoneware
sculpture for the time you are targeting.

If work is high quality, is reasonable and being
offered to an appropriate outlet at the right time,
there is no need for anyone to suffer the repeated
rejection you refer to. Good work, in the right place
at the right time may appear like a "lucky break", but
actually only involves persistence, good research and

If artists/makers give up before this happy event, it
is because they are not prepared to make any sort of
compromise or re-evaluate their work, attitude,
approach to selling, etc. Yes, they may have to stack
shelves at the supermarket whilst they are developing
their art and skills... It is a hard life being an
artist or maker as everyone on Clay Art knows. It takes
many years to develop a latent talent / skill / style
and many cannot afford or do not want to invest that

If quality and price are constant, galleries will be
over-joyed to be invited to see "new" work... The one
remaining myth which should be exploded, is that they
are capable of recognising and engaging artists/makers
of merit (or potential merit) who are totally unknown.
Most want to see the CVs and references because they
are not prepared to take any risks and depend on tried
and tested work and/or recognised artists/makers. There
are exceptions, but galleries run by administrators
need a second opinion of some sort if they are not
going to rely on their own subjective tastes. It is the
great paradox... The Creative Artist has to first
create, then produce and reproduce so much work in the
same vain that the original creativity is confined to a
very limited degree. (Look at Damian Hirst: he is more
or less unable to sell his new work, because it is not
animals/animal parts in tanks of formaldehyde. He is
trapped by his own originality and reputation).

Somewhere in all this, the ability to promote oneself
and ones work (by whatever method) has to find its
place. The artist/maker has to develop a "selling
technique" of themselves and their work. If they feel
they are personally incapable of approaching galleries
or other third parties effectively, they should employ
someone to do it for them. This could be a friend or
relative, a professional agent or a fellow
maker/artist. It is, however, not half as effective or
productive as talking to a future business partner in
person. Only then is one able to pick up on the
sincerity, integrity and professionalism of either

Yes, associations can work effectively promoting
individual members, but if they do not exercise strict
quality control, they lose credence with galleries,
exhibition organisers and ultimately the general
public. It is very difficult for co-operatives, guilds
and associations to exercise an effective evaluating
system which does not upset individuals. One returns to
the rejection syndrome and it is even worse, because it
is dished out by ones peers! The very people who one is
expecting to encourage and support you are going to be
those to exclude you if your work is not considered up
to par. The alternative is sending galleries a group
submission from everyone, leaving them to sort out the
wheat from the chaff... This is not a good tactic,
because they are likely to put the whole lot back into
an envelope and send it back unprocessed or marked
"rejected". Group rejection my soften the blow, but how
does that help promote the group or individuals within

Nothing is easy, is it? There is a great deal to take
into consideration and there is no right or wrong,
black or white. The "marketing mix" for individuals
will vary, but I suggest the basis has to remain
Quality, Price, Location, Timing with a good portion of
equanimity when presenting oneself and ones work to
prospective partners.

"Rejection" is such an emotive word... If you got QPLT
right to the best of your knowledge and ability, then
there is no need to feel it was a personal kick in the
shins if a gallery/show does not accept work on a
specific occasion. It is not a never-ever-again
situation. If work was not accepted the first time,
just try again another time. Sooner or later the "lucky
break" is bound to occur.

And finally... Always rise above personal affront and
injury at "rejection". Ask for reasons if there is
going to be some positive, learning process in an
otherwise negative situation. Be prepared for waffle
and transparent excuses from those who do not want to
hurt your feelings or cannot be bothered. But do take
what is said seriously if they are brave enough to be
honest with you...

Yes, brave! No gallery would want the reputation of
being unapproachable or high-handed and that is a real
danger when being honest with individuals. The
gallery-artist partnership is invaluable to both and
nothing should interfere with it being established
either immediately or at some time in the future. Hurt
feelings and reported incidents can snowball in the
telling and the imagination, and reputations can be
made or broken by gossip... The easy way out is to
avoid saying anything. We are all human after all.

Janet Kaiser
The Chapel of Art . Capel Celfyddyd
Criccieth LL52 0EA, GB-Wales Tel: (01766) 523570