Thursday, May 6, 2010

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

I spent this morning jurying applicants to as well as for the American Craft Retailers Expo. If you ask jurors for any show or website, they'll tell you most people make the same mistakes, so I'm going to give you some tips to help you be one step ahead next time:
First of all: Jurors want to see a line of similar work - not a felted belt with glass earrings and a quilted pillow. You need to show us a line that represents who you are in a cohesive collection. If you can't do that you're probably not ready to sell your work, and you're definitely not ready for wholesale.
Considering that artists are visual people, I'm shocked that so many don't realize how important photography is. Everyone wants to think that their work will speak for itself, but here's the thing: jurors can't pick up your work to look closer, turn it over, see the detail, or move it to see how it catches the light. We have only the image you give us and we have hundreds to look at so you don't get much time to impress us. You owe it to yourself to make that image the best you can.
  • PLEASE, do not send images that are out of focus. I constantly shake my head in amazement at how many artists send in fuzzy images, or images taken from so far away we can barely tell what we're looking at. Most jurying is done on the web now, so remember your images will be small and we can't zoom in on them to see them better.
  • Do not send images taken on a busy background. We don't need to see your work placed prettily on branches, your work in baskets or birds nests, or your work on wrinkled fabric or sitting in the grass or on a rock. We just want to see your work. We want to see it with no distraction or competition.
  • We want to see your work close up, well it, with no shadows and no props. We want your work to speak for itself and speak clearly and brightly. The best background is a graduated background (shown below). There is a reason most professionals use it - it works.
This is the image I first used for my magnets:
Not bad, right? Most people think this is fine. And many people send in much worse. But here's what Jerry Anthony did for me:
What a difference! In this image the magnets pop, glow and float off the page. They don't look like a DIY project, they look much classier and way more valuable.
When it comes to photography, this is NOT the place to pinch pennies. Your images are one of the most important tools you have to sell and promote your work. If you are not an expert it will be worth every cent you spend to hire one. It probably doesn't cost as much as you think, and a good image will make your work look it's best, shine above the rest and tell a jury you're professional and know what you're doing.
I'll talk more about jurying soon. Next time - jurying for a wholesale website.


Manya Vee Selects said...

You're right, Pam. It seems like this should be so obvious it doesn't even need mentioning. But it does. Hence your mentioning! Thank you for being so clear and concise, with images to help us all visualize it better.

julia said...

Excellent post, Pam! As both an applicant and jury member I have to say your advice is perfect! I've shared your blog with the etsyRain group (again). Thanks!

Pam Corwin, Business of Crafts said...

Thanks, you two! It always makes me sad to see someone who is working so hard, developing promising work and then losing a shot at a good show because they don't know the ropes yet. Julia, I'm sure you've seen this plenty of times as a juror.

It really does seem obvious, doesn't it Manya? The interesting thing is how many people seem to be afraid to delegate, spend money or trust others to help make their business the best it can be. We're so invested we want to do it all, but (as you know, as a consultant) it's really not the wisest way to go about building a business!

Anonymous said...

Everything you said is spot on. To sell online, photography is key. Hire the right person for the job, a craft photographer. Also to show a body of work.

Nancy Goodenough

Leigh Anne Weller said...

Great post, Pam. I think every artist should read this and pay attention! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I just juried a few, and your second paragraph is oh-so-true. Don't throw in the kitchen sink to show your breadth of work. Definitely show a variety within a cohesive body of work. Good suggestions here, Pam.

Nancy Goodenough

Wil Haslup said...

Some time ago I had a project working for a company that held a large crafts market twice a year. They were building a database driven site to showcase the artists that came to their shows. The quality of the slides ranged from impossible to recognize to amazingly great. It's always a surprise how creative people who have a visual sense when it comes to making their work may spend so little time on images of it.
Nice post. : )