Getting Your Work Out There

As an artist who works in several mediums – both conceptual and functional – I set out some time ago to devote part of my practice to developing a hand-dyed clothing line which could be sold commercially.  Along the way, I have learned some things about selling artisan-made work. This blog post is the first in a series I will be doing exploring the ins and outs of selling craft-based work through retail opportunities.
First I want to explore some pros on cons regarding consignment and wholesale. Early on in my time of reaching out to retailers across the country, I booked a month long rail pass and headed out east, hitting up Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto with samples of my work. I was successful at that time in getting my work in 3 of the 4 cities on consignment!
Train travel
With these first consignment opportunities, I was able to learn how to negotiate terms with several different individuals. I learned how different markets responded to my work, and I was able to beef up my website with bragging rights to say I had my clothing in stores across the country!
Since that time, I have had my work in stores out west as well, both through consignment and wholesale opportunities. It hasn’t always been smooth. I’ve had a store close and not pay me for sold items, with a very long delay of shipping my unsold work back to me. I’ve had stores not properly keep track of what they’ve sold and have had to fight to get paid. I’ve also called to check in on a store asking how things have been selling, only to discover that they had thought they sent all my work back to me at the end of the previous season only to realize that they had it packed away in a box at the back of their closet for the previous 6 months!
The difference between retail and wholesale orders is that the wholesale stock is paid for on delivery. The maker does not have to invest in producing stock and then wait for it to sell. Wholesale prices are set at 50% of the projected retail cost, and a retailer might sell it for even more than what you imagined was a fair retail price. It is their prerogative to sell it for whatever they want once they buy your product from you. Consignment is generally a 60/40 split in the favour of the maker. Over the next couple of posts, I’ll suggest some do’s and don’ts to consider for working within each system.
This post was by MCC member and fibre artist Kelly Ruth who is, to quote her, “causing mischief by daring to carve out a lifestyle that is most authentic to who she is.”