Amy Flynn’s handmade one of a kind “FOBOTS” are a huge hit with collectors. She shares her story and how she markets and sells her work.
ABI: You originally had a career as an illustrator. How did you transition to making one-of-a-kind robot sculptures?
AF: I didn’t really quit being an illustrator–when the economy started tanking a few years back, it sort of quit me. My clients were going bankrupt, failing to pay for work I’d completed, and my biggest client put a one year moratorium on buying freelance work. I’d been making these funny little robots for my own amusement out of junk in our basement. My darling husband said “Why don’t you take a few weeks off until things pick back up (little did we know!) and make some robots? You’re so much HAPPIER when you’re making your robots!”
I did, and pretty soon the little guys started taking over the house. I showed a few to some friends that own a craft gallery, and they said “Why in the world aren’t you selling these?” They encouraged me to exhibit at the Buyers Market of American Craft, and we sold out my first collection of bots. Other artists there encouraged me to try applying to the better outdoor art festivals, and now I do about eight art fairs a year.
ABI: Why is your collection called Fobots?
AF: It’s a word I made up–it stands for “Found Object Robots”. I even trademarked the name. One word of advice–hire a lawyer if you can afford it. Applying for the trademark was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! Every time you think you’re done, there’s another hurdle to jump. And another. And another. But you keep thinking, “I can’t quit now–I must be almost done!” And then there’s another damn hurdle!
ABI: How do you sell your work?
AF: I started out selling wholesale–the idea of applying to art festivals and being at the mercy of the weather was too intimidating. Wholesale was very successful for me, but I missed the interaction with my customers.
On a dare, I applied to my first art show–the Saint Louis Art Fair. I still can’t believe they let me in. It was kind of like saying “Gee, I think I’d like to be in a play”, and getting cast in a Broadway show. So we bought a tent and drove to St. Louis. I was so green it was PAINFUL! Trouble setting up the tent, the displays wobbled, little kids were grabbing at everything, I wanted to quit! But at the end of the show, we’d made a lot of money and a bunch of new friends and I was hooked. With experience, it’s gotten a lot easier. A LOT. But it’s still a backbreaking and stressful way to make a living. Anyone who thinks artists are lazy should follow an art fair artist for a week.
ABI: You have about 2500 names on your email list. Tell us about your newsletter marketing campaigns.
AF: Of course, sales are the primary reason to do an art fair. But the opportunity to get your work out in front of the public and collect names for your mailing list is a great bonus. I have a guest book on a pedestal in the front of my booth, and people can sign if they want–no pressure. I’ll send them a brief thank you after the show. Then I send out two or three newsletters a year–I don’t want anyone to think I’m spamming them. And I subdivide the list by show, so if I’m going back to a particular festival, I’ll send a brief blast out to the folks in that area to let them know I’m coming.
ABI: Once a year you sell your robots from your website. How does that work?
AF: It’s too hard to maintain website sales when you’re busy doing art fairs–I wouldn’t want to sell something at a show, and then get home to find someone else wanted to buy it. So it’s just once a year–November 1–that I put a new batch of FOBOTS on my the site. It’s a lot of work–I’m terrible at this technology stuff! This year there are 63 bots, and I might have time to add a few more. But once they’re sold that’s it until next year. I let my mailing list and the people on the Facebook FOBOT fan page know when it starts, and then whoever contacts me first gets to buy it! Get a fan page–it’s easy and it’s free–what have you got to lose?
Artist Profile: Amy Flynn
November 4, 2011 by 4 Comments