Professional Practices: Conversation, Questions & Commentary with Andy Cooperman and Harriete Estel Berman
emiko introduces Harriete and remote-Andy, who is attending via Skype:
“It’s kind of an Oprah moment, we’re Skyped in with Andy Cooperman”
“We are going to kind of piggyback off of the last discussion and the meaning of success”
“Anyway, introducing Harriete! You all know Harriete as she’s a very active MAG member!”
“Has anyone gone to a professional development seminar?” show of hands in the audience
“What’s so great about MAG is that we’re willing to share information with one another. It’s not like the fashion world where you have to be all super secretive and have your own thing hidden away”
“Dispelling the myth that the artist is the flakey person, not to be taken seriously”
“So without further ado, we want to start with Andy”
Andy: “I want to apologize for not being there in person. I have this sort of retina situation unfolding and I need to be on my side for two weeks, yesterday was week one”
“Well whatever success is, there’s a lot of ways to define and achieve it. There’s a few keys in my eyes, one of which is perseverance. “ “The other thing that I’ve learned through the years is to look outside of the field and see what other opportunities there are out there” slide of making crowns for dental work
“I tried many a get rich quick scheme. When I moved to Seattle I started making these silver slugs and figured how could I lose… and of course, I did”
“The way to sustain a career in this field is to diversify. So, I see my career as a pie. In this case, a cherry pie. All the different slices contribute to the general well-being of the pie, which is my career. I don’t think I’d be happy only doing custom work, or gallery work. I really need all of it”
“So this is kind of one of the slices of the pie, which is custom or commission work.”
“Production work: I don’t do a lot of production work anymore, but when I do, it’s usually earrings like this, or these limited editions.”
“Another part of that pie, of course, is one of a kind exhibition pieces” shows a piece that’s currently on display at Velvet da Vinci, as well as Pucker and Coeur
“As things change, so do the slices of the pie. The economy changes, interests changes. So right now teaching is a much bigger portion of the pie” “The one slice that I left out, and that I feel is crucial in studio practice is to Play. To make the time to play and create in a way that has no set goal”
“And that’s it, for me! That’s the end!” photo of Andy’s (jeaned) butt
Harriete: “So briefly I’m going to tell you who I am and what I am about.” “So we all have to start somewhere.” “My current studio is a packed little space in a two car garage” “I’m not really a tool person, but this space is packed”
“As far as my pie goes, I also diversify and do silver repair. I’ve done that for years and it’s
“I also make jewelry, tea pots to tea cups, sculptural pieces, all out of recycled materials. So that’s the one thing I have as a common thread, I use all recycled and repurposed materials”
“I have some commentary about the impact of plastic on our environment. We see these bottles in the grocery store and don’t really thing about it, but they have a huge impact in our environment.”
“I also recently made a piece that’s 28 feet wide and 20 feet tall that’s all made from recycled pencils. It’s about the impact of standardized testing on our educational system”
“One of the projects I’ve been working on since 2001 is the Professional Guidelines. Andy has been working with me for at least 6 or 7 years working as an editor” she thanks additional people here, I just couldn’t keep up, apologies for that
“emiko helped me design the brochures”
Editor note: will include link to the Professional Development Seminar brochures here
“I also write a blog called Ask Harriete, where I write my opinion and/or answer people’s questions on professional advice” http://askharriete.typepad.com
“The Professional Development Seminar provides valuable information and is available at the SNAG conference.” “this year we’re going to offer a talk on shipping” “We’re also going to put together a comparison of various shippers for shipping within the United States”
“the PDS also provided, last year, a fabulous program of the audio and PowerPoint of the seminar which you can find online for free”
“One of the things that all of these programs have in common is the absolute #1 thing for your success: Professional images”
“I’m going to show you a quick tutorial on how to improve your images if you’re doing it yourself”
“People really affect their professional image and success by having poor quality images of their work”
Harriete talks through Philip Cohen’s process of photographing a piece of her work
“Use pieces of foam core to bounce the light onto the piece in subtle ways to enhance the reflective qualities of the piece”
“If you need a sharp point of light, you can use aluminum foil on cardboard to create a metallic reflector”
“All of this information is available online”
Editor note: I’ll add links in here
“By being a better advocate for your own work in your business practices, you can find more success in your development”
Here we transition over to Q & A with both Harriete and Andy Cooperman
Question from Martin: “We have craft shows, brick and mortar galleries and the internet: how are these working together and how do you see these evolving going forward?”
Andy: I think it’s really hard right now, because over all of this, we have a really crappy economy. One thing we can’t ignore about the web is the juggernaut that is Etsy. That’s not necessarily competing with the galleries per se, but it’s definitely competing with the craft shows.
Harriete: “It’s interesting to watch in the antique market the impact of eBay on the market. I remember going to an antique market and seeing this tiny little booth and it’s for eBay.” “ eBay has had a profound impact on the antiques market” “I don’t think there’s any easy answer right now. The real impact right now is on the galleries, which now have to have a brick and mortar presence AND an online presence”
Sienna: “I don’t really sell online, but I have a presence online. And you know, Facebook is another I think.” “when I sell something and represent an artist, the intimacy and contact I have with that person is a big portion of it”
Harriete: “It’s practically a requirement now that artists have their own website. I know there are some artists who don’t, but it really surprises me. I see it as a presence I have for myself, something that I can control, something that I can change at any time I want”
Andy: “Another thing Harriete, is that your website is just your work. A gallery site is showing only what they’re selling”
Sienna: “One of the things I do with my galleries, is that I offer my artists their own presence on the web”
Andy talks about galleries validating the presence of the artist’s work
Question from Janet Underwood: “What I might do to get the sort of response that other jeweler’s get at craft shows?” after discussing a craft show in which a jeweler across the way was doing really well
Andy: “I mean, what is she doing? What is she doing that’s making a difference?”
Shows images of Janet’s booth
Harriete: One thing I’d say is that your booth really need to represent your work” “If you’re making hand-made work that’s made to look like an artist made it, why are you displaying it on commercial displays?” “I feel like it’s somewhat of an anomaly in our society that we’re making anything by hand” “The only thing that we’re really selling is a unique identity or style that you cannot get anywhere else” “We’re selling a lifestyle and a branding that many people aspire to” “that idea is very romantic and over idealized, that’s what we sell”
Andy: What I think is even a more basic question is ‘Are you choosing the right venue?’ I really think that whether it’s a gallery, a store, or even a craft show, you have to look at your work and say ‘is this the right venue for my work? Does it compliment it?’
Harriete talks about having conviction around your work and overall style affecting the perception of your product by the customer
Andy: I think a really useful thing someone told me a while back was to take 10-12 pieces and lay them out on the table, and then step to see what the common thread is between the pieces. To see what that thread is and to pull it.
Discussion around the perception of visual display
Harriete: You want to suck people into your booth somehow.
Sienna: If you don’t want to spend time learning how to make your booth look good, you’re in San Francisco. Find a student that’s studying display and would be willing to trade. Then you can just work on pulling the thread like Andy said.
emiko: There’s something to be said about not doing everything all of the time. I’m a bad example, because I don’t’ sleep. Don’t be like me!
Andy: Everything plays a part, and you can’t forget that
Harriete: I remember talking to Amy Tavern and she was talking about how she went to her first NY gift show and people knew her work from her website and from online social media.
Question from the back: Can you show us an example of a good booth layout?
Harriete: I can show you some other time on Ask Harriete, but I didn’t bring any with me for this usage.
Question from the audience: Would either of you mind sharing your advice about the stickiest situation you’ve in professionally and what you’ve gained from it?
Harriete: “I’ll tell you why I started the professional guidelines. I would try my best to be professional and send my slides in beforehand and have everything lined up, but I’d still run into situations in which there were misunderstandings or issues.” “So many places, especially galleries, will expect you to send them your work and then send you their contract”
Andy: “I had a series of rings in Arizona, and somebody bought one of those rings.” “I had that person contact me online and ask if I would make another ring for their partner in the same style” “Prior to that I had always sent them back to the gallery, and I lost 6 sales that way” “So I made a pact to myself that I wasn’t going to lose another sale to that, so I said sure I’ll do that!” “So I did it, and then I sent a check to the gallery for 20% to be aboveboard with the gallery” “About a week later I get the check back from the gallery with a note saying that they had nothing to do with it and couldn’t take a cut, though they appreciated the honesty”
“Make your own decisions and stand up for yourselves” “It’s only one person who’s got your back and that’s you (and your family)” “Be open in your transactions”
Harriete talks about several instances in which the ‘artist price’ got people into trouble, as there wasn’t allowing for the right cut for those involved
Andy: I don’t believe in auctions. I really feel they damage the value of the artists.
From the Susan C: “I think there needs to be a differentiation between artists who are representing themselves out in the world and those who are working through galleries.” “Andy, in your earlier example, why didn’t you try to work with the gallery first? Instead of putting yourself in a situation in which you might have damaged the relationship?” “I also feel that auctions are needed to value the work in the market. We need to support people who do auctions that establish the free market value”
Andy: “I think that is the policy now, and if I were to enter into another gallery situation like that it would be part of the conversation” “I agree with you about the idea that we need to set an objective price or value for the work, but I don’t feel that auctions are the right way to do that” Andy talks about the secondary market and how it helps establish value on the broader market
Question from Mike Edwards: “Could you address getting liability insurance in teaching workshops?”
Harriete: “I haven’t yet talked to a person about liability insurance”
Andy: “I teach a lot. I guess I always assume that the venue is carrying liability insurance, and maybe I shouldn’t be. That’s a really great question”
From the audience: “If you are running a business out of your own residence, you’re going to need to have a license. You need to check with your city and your county. I almost started a workshop without liability insurance, but then thought better about it. Because they can come after you, your business.” “It’s not cheap, it’s in the mid-2000s a year, but it gives me up to $2million in coverage” “there’s kind of an elephant in the room, is information about safety” “You can go to OSHA and the EPA and get details on the kinds of safety issues you may have” “When we’re teaching and where we’re teaching, needs to include reasonable standards of practice and safety”
From the audience: “I’m a teacher over at the Crucible and we insist on every student signing a waiver, even though we have liability insurance.” “That does help to a certain extent”
Question from the audience: “How do you develop a web presence while still maintaining a relationship with the gallery?”
Andy: “I’ve thought for some time that what we really need is a summit of galleries and makers to have a real conversation around some real guidelines” “We have to get together and have some sort of summit”
Susan: “I think that’s an excellent idea Andy.” “I feel this field has never really developed a great online model”
Harriete: “I want to debate this idea of the relationship with the galleries” “There are galleries that represent their artists, but there aren’t that many” “They’re not representing the artist or the maker when they’re representing 100 other artists” “How much is representation going to generate in revenue”
Andy: “Just do the math: If that gallery is representing 100 artists, they’re not going to be representing you with much attention. It’s not really a sustainable model”
From the audience, Carol: “I sell through the Artful Home and I have images online with them that a customer emailed me about. He wanted to buy the necklace from me directly, rather than go through the Artful Home. I said that he needed to go through the Artful Home.” “It comes down to honesty” “You have to establish in your mind what you’ll do and how you’ll work with your galleries”
Andy: “I feel like you can facilitate that sale” “The idea here is to not lose that sale. You don’t win, the Artful Home doesn’t win, the customer doesn’t win”
Question from the audience: “How do you know what galleries to go to? How do you ensure that you get what you deserve? Are there techniques or tips for not getting screwed in the end?”
Brigitte Martin: “You can do two things: You can ask other artists the gallery represents what they think about the gallery and how they’ve been treated.
And then, quite frankly, ask for a contractual agreement. If you have any questions about it, just ask. Do it in a professional manner.”
Andy: “I think you need to keep that relationship open that you don’t just park your work there and wait for checks to roll in. You need to be proactive on the phone, on email, and maintain that personal contact. Ask what the clients are saying about the work”
“A good gallery looks at you and says ‘I like your bones, I like what you’re about’, and signs onto it” “I don’t think most galleries are like that now. There are some, certainly that do that, but many are just retail outlets with your work now” “Is the gallery interested in the details and the story of the work” “Those little stories are what sells the work” “its gives another depth to the work that the client can chew over and take back out of it”
Comment from the audience, Deb: “No one in the studio / art jewelry world is making a ton of money off of our work. Galleries are not taking a ton away from us”
Harriete: “there aren’t really a lot of galleries now, nice ones that is”