Ceramic artist Brenda McMahon shares her stunning portfolio and shares her experience in dealing with customers.
ABI: You have a fascinating background story. Could you share that with us?
BM: Before I discovered clay I was a network journalist at NPR, ABC & NBC. After a decade as a writer and producer in broadcasting, I decided to go on a cross-country trip to find my purpose in the world. 2 months of travel, hiking and exploring left me fulfilled, but without an answer. I made my way back to upstate New York and a notorious long winter. I decided to sign up for a pottery class to get me through it. It was love at first touch! That night my passion for clay began and now 20 years later I have been supporting myself as a full time clay artist for 2 decades.
ABI: What changes are you currently making in the way you do business?
BM: My early business structure was fairly simple; make money by selling my work at farmers markets and then juried art shows. After a few years, I began teaching pottery classes and I added wholesale to my business. The natural next step was to teach weekend intensive workshops & travel nationally for art fairs.
About 10 years ago my wholesale market dropped out so I put my emphasis into retail art shows. Now, after 18 years of doing weekend art shows, I’ve decided to redesign my business and take it in a new direction. As I drop art festivals from my schedule, I’m developing my commission-based work with residential and commercial clients creating one of a kind sculptural wall murals.
I am completing my first book on Saggar Firing and I’m taking my 20+ years of teaching experience from the national arena, into the international market with specialized saggar firing, tile & yoga/clay workshops.
After practicing yoga for 10 years, in 2011 I became a certified Yoga Instructor. That allowed me to bring my love of yoga into my life of clay. I am combining the two through workshops & creating Fine Art Designs for Yoga/Meditation facilities nationwide.
As I see it, my passion for creativity does not end in the studio. I want to create as vital and inspired a business life as I do a creative life. In that spirit, I am joyfully pursuing the avenues that sing to my heartstrings.
ABI: What is your best advice for artists on developing relationships with their audience?
BM: I tell all artists that the person who walked into your booth, regardless of whether they have purchased from you, is your best customer! Artists spend so much time ‘fishing for the sale’ that they forget to look right in front of them at the bounty of possibility.
My best advice is to develop relationships with the people who have entered your space and expressed a love of your work. THEY ARE YOUR PEOPLE! Keep in touch with your audience; share your process, your new directions, and inspirations. People love to support success and they want to be a part of your success.
If you can capture emails from these people, grow that list and stay in touch with them (in a respectful manner) you will find that the seeds you plant at each and every art show and gallery opening will be the bounty of your harvest for years to come.