Sell Art - and Market Crafts
Arts and Crafts
I love making and selling crafts, along with works of art. Actually, I used to be in the arts and crafts business. I made and sold all kinds of things, and my husband helped. I’ve always been creative, but it took me a couple of years to discover that there was a market for such items – that I could actually make extra cash selling crafts. Then it took me a couple of more years to learn how to really make money with arts and crafts. It’s a real feeling of accomplishment when you find that someone likes your crafts or works of art enough to purchase them and display them in their home. My first “store” was a yard sale at my mom’s home. She lived in a suburban neighborhood with lots of neighbors, and since she lived just a block from a shopping mall, I knew we’d get a lot of traffic if we advertised, so we put an ad in the local newspaper. We had lots of prospective buyers that day, and we sold tons of stuff! Even better, the sale was right after Thanksgiving, so we got a lot of orders for Christmas. I was very encouraged, so I began making more handmade items and creating more acrylic paintings. I soon discovered that I could make money selling art, too.
I continued selling my crafts to regulars. I also continued coming up with new ideas and new products. I began taking wooden cheese boxes, sanding them, and painting the lids with deer, quail, ducks, lighthouses, geese, and other designs. Whenever I went to town shopping, I carried a finished box with me. I don’t know how many of these I sold!
That February, I came up with a design for wooden bunny baskets. I made three for my kids and personalized them with the kids’ names. I sent a couple to school with my teacher friends and immediately began getting orders. Orders for these Easter baskets were coming in so fast that I had to actually hire some help in order for me to keep up. I finally managed to make a few extras to take to craft shows and fairs.
I learned that with selling crafts, there’s a lot of competition, so you have to have something different. You have to have some sort of edge on the competition. Popular items might be ones that look more “finished,” having more details. Or it could mean that the items are truly unique or useful. For success with selling crafts, you sometimes have to think outside the box. One of my most successful items was a magazine rack I designed. It was made of wood, and one end was painted to resemble a house in spring, with lots of flowers blooming in window boxes. The other end was the same house painted in a Christmas theme, with snow on the ground, a wreath on the door, and poinsettias in the window boxes. The wooden racks could be turned to show either end.
Meanwhile, I was scouting arts and crafts fairs and festivals. These are great places to sell crafts because you’ll have a captive audience, so to speak. Also, many people attend arts and crafts festivals for the chief purpose of seeing and purchasing handmade items. I looked for ideas, and I noted which booths were the most successful. Why were people drawn to certain booths? What kinds of items were the best sellers?
I set up my tent at the fair in an attractive manner – one that was customer friendly. Prices were plainly marked, and I held back a few items for display only. Customers could place orders for these items. They paid a deposit, game me their name and number, and I, in turn, gave them a receipt and my card. I called them when the item was ready. By this time, I was making wooden rabbit baskets in my sleep!
After Easter was over and the bunny basket craze had calmed down, I continued doing craft shows. I always tried to do a lot of seasonal items and to have my booth attractively decorated according to the season. This definitely drew in more customers. For example, for arts and crafts festivals held during the fall months, I’d use bales of hay on which to display some of my items. I’d also use pumpkins and shocks of Indian corn as decorations. My booth or tent was always welcoming and attractive to prospective customers, and I’d display some of my best and most unique items out front, where they could be easily seen by passers-by.
Crafts To Sell
About this time, I began to place a few items in gift shops and boutiques on consignment. I named my price for the crafts to sell, and the store added 15% for their cut. A few stores wanted a much higher percentage, which I refused to go along with. The resulting price would be too much to charge consumers. I looked around until I found reasonable rates.
When you have crafts to sell, and they’re attractive and unique, you might be surprised to find how powerful the word of mouth can be. I didn’t have to advertise very much in order to stay busy. We sort of specialized in custom orders. For example, if someone wanted an item to match their kitchen décor, they might bring us a paint sample of a swatch of fabric. We’d mix our paints until we had an exact match. Some customers wanted their names on an item, which was especially true with welcome signs.
Another way to market your wares is to print some simple flyers. Have a pic of the items, a brief description, and your phone number. Pass them out to friends and ask them to post the flyers on community bulletin boards at work. Leave no stone unturned!
To be successful, you’ll probably need to always be coming up with new craft ideas. Trends change fairly frequently, so what was a big seller a few months ago might not be popular today. Of course, it’s a good idea to always have some seasonal items ready to go. My biggest sales were always made around holidays, especially Christmas. These items weren’t necessarily Christmas-themed, however. Many were purchased as gifts, so they ranged in type. Since I live in an area with many hunters and fishermen, items with deer, largemouth bass, quail, ducks, and geese were always popular as gifts.
Some of my craft ideas that were especially popular included items that were functional as well as attractive. For example, we sold lots of shelves, magazine holders, wooden stools, small cabinets, and quilt racks. I made a wooden hen that was popular, even though it was completely decorative. I decided to make it more useful by adding a couple of wooden pegs across the bottom, and the sales increased sharply. After the added pegs, the wooden chicken could be used for hanging candles, dishcloths, keys, etc.
So…where can you get craft ideas? I got lots of ideas from magazines and from craft fairs. I never exactly copied the designs of others, but I would use some of the ideas I liked. I always tried to make the ideas better, however. I’d draw my own patterns for items, and sometimes, as I’ve already explained, I’d try to make a decorative item into a useful item.
Selling art is a little different from selling crafts. I found that my art didn’t do as well as my crafts at arts and crafts fairs. It seemed that people at such events were more interested in the crafts. Luckily, I found a few shows that specialized in art, and I had more success. People were there to look for and buy paintings to hang in their homes or offices. Another option is to hang your art in a gallery. In most cases, the gallery charges a monthly hanging fee. Depending on the individual gallery, the fee could be very small. This is a good way to get your work seen by art enthusiasts.
I also had success selling art on an individual basis. My husband and I are both artists, and we made sure that people got to see examples of our work. We placed paintings in art shows and in galleries. We donated a couple of paintings to a silent auction for charity, too, which turned out to be great exposure.
Many of our paintings were done on commission. For example, someone might want a painting of their grandfather’s barn or a portrait of their home. They supplied us with photographs and we took it from there. We’ve also done paintings of sailboats, yachts, and office buildings. People like having something unique – something that’s “all theirs.” We were more than willing to fill this need.
Sell Art Online
Of course, now, with the ubiquitous computer and internet, you have the world at your finger tips and can sell art online. Place your items on Ebay or start your own website. Just remember that if you have something different and unique to offer, along with a reasonable price, you’ll do well. Make sure your site is attractive and user-friendly, too.
If you don’t want to create your own website or place your items on Ebay, you can still sell art online. There are all sorts of sites that are set up just for buying and selling art. And some of these sites aren’t just for paintings, either. You can also find sites that sell handmade jewelry, apparel, sculpture, pottery, wood crafts, stained glass, photography, and other arts and crafts. Some you might want to check out are Etsy, EmptyEasel, Yessy, Zazzle, OriginalArtOnline, and MyBestCanvas. Most sites charge a fee, but you’ll probably find that it’s reasonable, especially when you consider all the exposure you and your work will get for the price. Few galleries get as much “traffic” as online sites, so you’ll have a much better chance of actually selling art or selling crafts.
The key to selling art online, or in selling crafts online, is to go where your customers are. I’ll give you an example. Several years ago, my best pal and I decided to stone pageant dresses. I’m not sure if this would be considered an art or a craft, but we obviously knew who our desired audience was. We did a good job on our first creation, and it won a couple of huge beauty pageants. We placed a photograph of the winning queen in the dress on pageant boards and on other sites where we knew pageant girls and moms would be visiting. It didn’t take long for us to start getting requests for stoning pageant dresses! If you want to sell art online, and you specialize in wildlife, go to a site that hunters, fishermen, and outdoorsmen are likely to frequent.
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