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Selling Your Jewelry In Galleries: Some Strategic Pointers

Posted by learntobead on October 1, 2022

About Working With Galleries

Typically, an art gallery is a small business which exhibits and sells art. Galleries attract different kinds of clientele. Some people who purchase art might want to have something to hang in their home or business. Others would be considered art enthusiasts and collectors. They purchase art as investments. The profits the gallery takes in need to be sufficient to cover the cost to run the business, and have money left over to live on and play with.

The gallery owner, in effect, curates what is shown. The gallery will want to have some variety, but also some consistency in what is shown. Galleries tend to have reputations around what they specialize in. The gallery owner is typically very knowledgeable about art and how art connects with the current culture. Many galleries are biased against jewelry because jewelry is not understood universally as an art form. When you research galleries, you will want to document which ones would be more amenable to carry your jewelry pieces.

Most galleries have physical store spaces, but with a website presence. There are also digital galleries and online sales platforms. Some are open to all artists; some specialize in gallery shop membership. There are auction houses both physical and online. Also places like Amazon and Ebay have fine art and collectibles sections. Most sales are conducted in physical spaces, but more and more online.

Before you approach any gallery, be sure you have answered two important questions up front:

1. Does your work and your needs fit the gallery? Do some research. Look at the lines represented, the artists represented, how things are organized. Contact some of those artists and ask about their experiences with the gallery and how exhibiting there works for them.

2. What benefit(s) does your work offer the gallery, in other words, why should they represent you? It is important to establish and define your professional relationship with the gallery. Determine what the gallery needs from you to make things work out for both of you.

When you work is represented by a gallery, regular communication is important. Be on time with deadlines and materials needed. In a big sense, your relationship is a collaboration.

Gallery representation will increase your reputation, credibility and legitimacy. It will lead to you getting higher prices for your work. It will increase your visibility. It will enhance your brand.

Your Goals

The gallery needs to represent and promote you when you are not around. They will need to know a lot about you, and feel good about you as a designer and as a person.

That means your goals will be to:

· Research galleries which are a good fit between you, your jewelry, and their clients.

· Research artists/designers they represent and visit their websites; make note of their selection, styles, pricing and possible pricing formula they might have used.

· Create a strategy for presenting yourself and your work.

· Make your pitch to the gallery.

· Place your jewelry in a gallery for sale, priced so that you receive a good return.

· Create a collaborative relationship with the gallery owner around how best to serve the gallery’s clientele and collector base.

· Maintain good and frequent communication.

· Create jewelry for the gallery which has a high degree of consistency and coherency with you as a designer and the brand you are promoting.

· Have a high enough level of productivity so that the gallery can be confident you will always have enough jewelry (usually 30–35 pieces available at any one time) for them to sell, particularly if they want to replace pieces which have sold.

First, A Self-Assessment:
Is Selling In A Gallery Right For You?

Step back for awhile and answer these kinds of questions about you as a designer and your work. Be honest with yourself.

1. Is your jewelry consistent and cohesive? Have you developed a distinctive designer style and is this consistently reflected in the jewelry you want to place in a gallery?

2. Is your jewelry made of quality materials?

3. Have you implemented the best standards of technique, technology and craftsmanship?

4. Are your pieces appropriately finished from end to end?

5. How marketable are your pieces? Which are most marketable?

6. How should you refer to your jewelry style and aesthetic in marketing when talking with galleries and collectors? What labels would you give these? How accessible are these labels to galleries and collectors?

7. Where should you concentrate your efforts to find galleries and promote your jewelry to them?

8. Would your pieces fit in the highest-quality surroundings?

9. Are your presentation materials — portfolio, artist statement, business card, jewelry displays — professional and engaging?

Do this simple exercise. Imagine who the typical collector of a particular gallery might be. How does your jewelry look through their eyes? What would the collector think and feel and see when trying on a piece of your jewelry? What are their needs and desires, and how does your jewelry help them to meet these?

Make a good list of anything you can do to improve.

Also, you might get an objective opinion, say from another jewelry designer, or even a gallery representative. What kinds of things do they see which could enhance the appearance and marketability of your work?

Build Consistency Into Your Work

Consistent work makes it easier for the gallery owner to represent, market and sell your work. It makes it easier for the collector to connect with your body of work and purchase it. Consistency means that your jewelry is immediately recognized as designed by you.

Consistency can mean many things. If you are consistent on 3 or 4 factors listed below, then you have some wiggle room with the others.

Consistency can be conveyed by:

· Color, pattern, texture

· Use of point, line, plane and/or shape

· Theme

· Forms

· Rhythm, balance, volume, size/shape distribution

· Medium

· Materials

· Techniques and technologies

· References to history, time, place, situation, culture

· How your pieces are finished off

· Signature elements, like a certain bead or tag, included with your pieces

· Comfort, movement, drape and flow

· Predominant silhouettes

· How your pieces feel and look when draped on the body

· Size adjustability

· Selection of clasp and design of clasp assembly

· Display and presentation

Getting Your Portfolio and Presentation In Order

You will be bringing several pieces of information with you when making your pitch, whether in person, through email or online. At the lease, these will include an Artist Statement, a Portfolio, and a business card or resume or biographical profile, and sample pieces and or images.

Some pointers:

1. Everything should be well organized and reaffirm your designer style and brand

2. You should have very clear images of your pieces; in a few of your pictures you want to demonstrate the scale of your pieces, such as sitting them next to a recognizable object or being worn on the body or laying on your work bench as you construct it

3. You want to have up-to-date information about pricing and sold works

4. In your portfolio, you may want to include current prices, but you also may want to leave off dates; track the dates for yourself in other records not to be shared with the gallery; always refer to your prices in retail values, not wholesale

5. Your pricing strategy should be consistent from piece to piece; it should be based on both the cost of creating a piece as well as your current brand value; it should be based on a simple formula that can be explained to others.

6. The images in your portfolio should represent you as a jewelry designer today

7. If visiting in person, you want to always have samples of your work with you. The samples should be representative of the kinds of things you would want to place in this gallery.

Have A Clear Image About The Typical Buyer Of Your Work

You should be keeping good records of your buyers.

Who are they?

· Average age

· From particular neighborhood, city, area

· Buying for a business or for personal

· Situations in which they wear your jewelry

· Price points they favor

· Income / wealth

· Married / single

· Male / female

Why would your buyer come to a gallery rather than another setting to purchase jewelry?

Why would they come to this particular gallery you are targeting?

Some Notes About Pricing

Use a formula. Keep it simple and explainable.

Don’t undersell your piece. You need to make a profit.

Don’t underprice your piece. This disvalues it.

Keep your prices competitive with those of other designers you are competing with.

In a gallery setting, you want national or international prices. If you live in a lower cost locale, you do not want to base your prices on their expectations.

Don’t overprice. You won’t get repeat business that way. Keep your prices competitive.

Review your pricing regularly.

As you make more and more sales, adjust your prices upward for all your pieces accordingly.

It is better to suggest pricing to the gallery owner rather than ask their opinion of what prices to set. In this way, you come across as a more established, experienced designer. Depending too much on the gallery owner to set prices might make you come off as a novice with unproven market value.

Finding Target Galleries

Do online searches. Ask other jewelry designers.

Begin with galleries that are nearby to you. Do not limit yourself to the most prominent galleries. If at all possible, visit each gallery in person.

You want to answer for yourself these kinds of questions:

· Is the location good, bad or indifferent?

· Are the staff friendly and approachable?

· Are the staff knowledgeable about the pieces in the gallery?

· Do I like the way the pieces are displayed and labeled?

· Would the gallery be a good fit for my work?

· Does your work fall out of the general pricing of other jewelry in the gallery?

Making The Pitch

You can make your pitch by email, phone, online, or in-person. In-person is the best, if possibleCreating a personal connection with a gallery will make them more likely to want to work with you. Getting recommended to the gallery by an artist, designer or collector can often open doors for you.

Emailing:

Start your emails by asking them if they are currently seeking new jewelry designers.

In your first email, do not include attachments. This makes it too easy for them to reject you. Instead, use this first email opportunity to establish a personal connection. If you get a positive response, follow-through with attached documents.

Galleries can be overwhelmed with emails, so this is probably your weakest strategy for contact. It is easy for the gallery to send a thanks-but-no-thanks form letter in response to an email.

Online Submission Through Their Website

The gallery will present you with guidelines and a form to fill out. This helps them weed out designers who might not be a good fit. This helps the gallery discourage designers from approaching them. It may get you some attention, but do not depend on this approach.

In-Person:

Make sure ahead of time that the gallery is a good fit for your work. Otherwise this will be a waste of time.

If feasible, you might shoe-horn yourself into their operations. Be around. Visit the gallery. Attend their openings. Strike up conversations. Talk to the designers they represent. Ask them how they came to be represented by the gallery. Talk to the clients walking around the gallery and looking at the pieces, particularly the jewelry. Ask them what they particularly like about the jewelry they are viewing. Casually mention you are a jewelry designer looking for galleries in which to place your work. Don’t be sales’y. Perhaps email them after a visit thanking them for the showing or giving your take-aways about the show.

If cold calling or making a specific appointment, be sure your portfolio and presentation are in order. Make the talk very conversational. Try to elicit things which connect you and your experiences to those of the gallery owner. Be prepared with several questions. Also ask the gallery owner for feedback on your work and on your presentation.

NOTE: It is easier for the gallery to reject you if you try to make an appointment by phone, and more difficult to ignore you if you cold call.

Hand the gallery owner your portfolio. Give them space to review it. Don’t do a running commentary as they page through this.

Always make eye contact. Don’t be shy. Don’t look away or look down when you are speaking with someone. Use their first name and repeat it during your conversation.

The gallery owner, if interested in your work, will ask you a series of questions. Always be upbeat in your answers. Keep your answers short and to the point. Often the style of how you answer will be just as important as the content of your answer.

Depending on where your target galleries are, you most likely will be making your pitch in all these different ways. So your materials have to be adaptable — file structure, size, both digital and print files.

One thing the gallery, if representing you, will want to do is tell your story over and over again. Part of your pitch will be some subtle introductory training of them towards this end. Your story should be easy to understand and easy to repeat.

Emphasize the consistency in your work.

Show how your work will fit with other designers the gallery represents, yet at the same time offer something different and special. Tell them how your work can be distinguished from your competition.

Demonstrate your in-depth knowledge of their clientele and their needs and desires. Explain how your jewelry will meet their needs and desires.

Demonstrate that you are serious about your work, and are always striving to improve your technique and further hone your style.

Even if you get a positive reaction to your work at one gallery, do not stop approaching other galleries until you have a firm offer.

Be persistent.

After each interaction, send a thank you note.

Now Your Work Is In A Gallery
What Do You Do Next?

Maintain frequent communication with the gallery.

Keep the gallery informed of your new work. New work often sells best.

If your pieces are in more than one gallery, rotate them from gallery to gallery.

If you have ideas for the gallery, such as changes in displays, offer them as suggestions, not demands.

Frequent thank you notes are a good strategy.

If your pieces are getting a lot of positive responses, you might ask the gallery owner to do a show or special event for you and your work.

Ask the gallery for a letter of recommendation. The gallery owner should mention how great you are to work with, how buyers appreciate your work, and how sales of your pieces have done for them.

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FOOTNOTES

Denter, Carlin. Between Commerce and Art. About Galleries and Market. Art Jewelry Forum, 01/29/2019.

Horejs, Jason. A Post For Gallery Owners | How To Work Successfully With Artists. RedDotBlog, 10/4/2021.

Horejs, Jason. “Starving” To Successful. The Artist’s Guide to Getting Into Galleries and Selling More Art.

Volpe, Christopher. How To Get Into Galleries.

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Thank you. I hope you found this article useful.

Also, check out my website (www.warrenfeldjewelry.com).

Enroll in my jewelry design and business of craft Video Tutorials online. Begin with my ORIENTATION TO BEADS & JEWELRY FINDINGS COURSE.

Follow my articles on Medium.com.

Subscribe to my Learn To Bead blog (https://blog.landofodds.com).

Visit Land of Odds online (https://www.landofodds.com)for all your jewelry making supplies.

Check out my Jewelry Making and Beadwork Kits.

Add your name to my email list.

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Other Articles of Interest by Warren Feld:

Saying Good-Bye! To Your Jewelry: A Rite Of Passage

The Jewelry Design Philosophy: Not Craft, Not Art, But Design

What Is Jewelry, Really?

The Jewelry Design Philosophy

Creativity: How Do You Get It? How Do You Enhance It?

Disciplinary Literacy and Fluency In Design

Becoming The Bead Artist and Jewelry Designer

5 Essential Questions Every Jewelry Designer Should Have An Answer For

Getting Started / Channeling Your Excitement

Getting Started / Developing Your Passion

Getting Started / Cultivating Your Practice

Becoming One With What Inspires You

Architectural Basics of Jewelry Design

Doubt / Self Doubt: Major Pitfalls For The Jewelry Designer

Techniques and Technologies: Knowing What To Do

Jewelry, Sex and Sexuality

Jewelry Making Materials: Knowing What To Do

Teaching Discplinary Literacy: Strategic Thinking In Jewelry Design

The Jewelry Designer’s Approach To Color

Point, Line, Plane, Shape, Form, Theme: Creating Something Out Of Nothing

The Jewelry Designer’s Path To Resonance

Jewelry Design Principles: Composing, Constructing, Manipulating

Jewelry Design Composition: Playing With Building Blocks Called Design Elements

Contemporary Jewelry Is Not A “Look” — It’s A Way Of Thinking

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