Ceramic artist Amy Meya has been creating tiles and sculptural ceramic wall and tabletop décor using low-fire white clay since 2008. She attended the Arts Business Institute a year before she exhibited in her first wholesale trade show, and found it very helpful – in fact, she says her takeaway is, “Don’t jump into wholesale without attending ABI first!”
We asked Amy to share some of her experiences with us.
ABI: What did you find most surprising about selling wholesale?
Amy: I think the most surprising thing I found was that it was actually a viable way of making a living as an artist. I was skeptical at first because I know a lot of artists who do the art fair circuit, and can’t wrap their head around how wholesale works.
It is a very different way of working, but in my situation, it is a more practical way to make a living than traveling all the time and hoping for a good show. The production aspect can be tiring, both physically and creatively, but I try to take one day a week and make purely creative work. It helps to keep me interested and develop new ideas.
ABI: How are you cultivating reorders from your galleries?
Amy: Most of the galleries I have sold to are regular Buyer’s Market buyers, so many of them only reorder at the show. I send out a Mail Chimp email blast right before the show, and several other times during the year and have gotten reorders from that also.
Another thing I have done is to mail a color postcard with all the items I want to sell, for example ornaments in the fall, to my current and new galleries. I have had a bit of success getting reorders this way. The best thing is when a gallery sells all the work and calls to reorder on their own.
ABI: What other ways are you selling your work?
Amy: Even though consignment can be difficult for a lot of people, the area I live in has some wonderful regional galleries that I consign a lot of work with. Stuff in Kansas City where I live, sells a large volume of my work. I get a nice-sized check from them every month. All the galleries I consign with (about 10) have a computer program that creates a statement sent with my monthly check that tells exactly what sold, and what items remain.
For me consignment is a great way to see how people will respond to new work, sell some one of a kind pieces, and to sell a larger volume of work. I wouldn’t offer consignment to just anyone. I call at least three other artists that any new consignment gallery represents, find out how their statements work, the inventory log, and how they plan to display the work.
I only do a very few local retail art fairs. They are just too much work to set up and weather is always a factor. Heat, rain, and wind are generally not very much fun by the last day.
ABI: Could you share some tips on how you make trade shows more affordable?
Amy: Sharing hotel costs with a roommate, and sharing meals helps a lot. Also eating light during the day cuts down having to pay restaurant prices for three meals each day.
The best thing I have done was to recruit a friend to do the show as well.We shipped our display and work to the show about four years ago, and Hargrove (the BMAC show coordinator) stores it for us. Her work is kept in my crate, so we split the monthly storage fee, and Hargrove delivers it all to my booth the day of set-up. Since we are in the same section of the show it is not a problem for her to get her work from my crate.
Coming from the midwest, it is much cheaper for us to store our work and display and fly to the show, we save two extra days of hotel costs and meals. If I could do it over again I think instead of shipping hard walls I would have gone a day early and purchased hollow core doors from Home Depot in Philadelphia and painted them on-site.
Visit Amy Meya’s Facebook page for more information about this artist.