Jewelry artist Kirsten Denbow recently started wholesaling. She took a deliberate approach in creating the lifestyle she wanted with her business. Here’s her story.
ABI: Why did you want to start wholesaling your work?
KD: Although I received my first degree in metalwork and jewelry design seventeen years ago, I really only began to seriously pursue my art as my business two years ago. When I looked at my options for getting my work out to the public, I realized that a wholesale business model made the most sense.
I teach, I have a pre-teen daughter, and I have a husband, so my time is spread thin. That said, spending my weekends in a booth at art festivals did not sound appealing. I have two local galleries where I consign work because I have a long term relationship with them, trust them, and they are close. Other than them, I did not want to put the time into mass amounts of inventory for consignment that I’d have to track and can’t control what happens to it. Once, I had a gallery close and take all my consigned work, never to be heard from again.
I have sold a bit online, but the amount of time it took to promote, blog, list, and participate in social media and other promotional tools did not seem worth it to sell one item at a time. I like that I have a relationship with the galleries and they in turn have the relationship with the customer. I can spend my time filling larger orders rather than selling one piece at a time. I realize I have to split the retail price with my galleries but it is worth it to have more control over my time and my product.
ABI: How would you describe your style?
KD: I started enameling about two years ago. Since then, my style has been colorful, wearable, approachable, and fun. I am an artist so I choose to make the work about the sculptural elements rather than the intrinsic value of the materials. I purposely choose copper, silver, enamel, and found objects over precious metals and gems.
ABI: What was the most helpful content in the ABI workshop you attended?
KD: I received quite a bit of helpful information at the ABI workshop! Besides getting to walk the show, the most important thing for me was the session on pricing and perceived value. I realized that I was seriously under-pricing/under-valuing my work. I went home, developed a new line, and upped all of my prices. Now I’m happy when my checks come in and not disappointed.
ABI: What is your best advice for other artists who want to wholesale their art or craft?
KD: Study. Do some research. Attend a workshop. It is okay to take your time. I have been intentionally growing slowly. Of course I want the business to take off and for my work to be a roaring success, but I am okay with taking it slowly enough to build the business year after year. I did not want to grow so quickly that I couldn’t make improvements, learn from my mistakes, or provide my customers with the highest quality product and customer service.