The Arts Business Institute chatted with veteran designer and craftsman Jonathan Simons about his experiences getting major publicity – and how you can do it too.
ABI: You’ve gained some national attention for your handmade line of spoons and kitchen utensils. What do you feel is the best way to gain this type of attention?
JS: Yes I experienced the “Oprah Effect.” The best way I know of to get national attention is for a celebrity to love your work and to want to talk about it. There is no chance for a celebrity to love your work if they have never seen it or don’t have it. I was fortunate enough to have had one of MY FANS give my spoon to Rachael Ray as a sincere gift, without my knowledge.
Then Rachel Ray presented my spoon to Oprah.
Celebrities have walls around them to protect them from approaches of all kinds, but they have to let their fans in to some extent. So if there is a celebrity that you wish to approach, find a true avid fan of theirs who also loves your work and they have a better chance of getting your work in front of the celebrity.
There is a good book on this process called ‘It’s who you know’ by Bret Saxon and Elliot Goldman
I also was found at a craft show by Christina Pirello who loves my Cat Tail® Spoons and cooks with them on her TV show.
ABI: What are you currently doing to put Jonathan’s Spoons on the national stage?
JS: Recently our daughter nominated us to ‘Martha Stewarts ‘Hand Made in America’ initiative. You can see our profile here. Please share the link on social media to help spread the word!
To have a celebrity with the stature of Martha Stuart actually notice the handmade community and to offer this kind of support helps create our new community of makers.
About thirty-five years or so ago, we helped initiate The American Crafts Movement. Our level of artwork has really developed over the years… the older artists/makers have a level of experience that is difficult for a young maker to compete with. This new media helps to level the playing field- because finally anyone can market to the world.
I just want to also say thank you to Martha Stewart for spotlighting creative American Makers. It is a wonderful thing she is doing for our community.
ABI: What is your best advice to new artists who are starting out and want to get some traction with the press?
JS: Cultivate your story. People love the fantasy of imagining that we live in the woods by a little river and where we create spoons for a living… which we do actually! Our life as makers and entrepreneurs is a fantasy to people who work 9 to 5. And developing that story is what media is interested in.
So develop your story- live your dream- make it wonderful and find a fan of your favorite celebrity.
We also send out press releases to the areas where we are showing our work (we learned that from Arts Business Institute workshops) but the most important part of the press release is the photography, outrageously good professional photography.
Don’t miss these exciting ABI business workshops for artists – coming up in Fall, 2014! Each workshop is perfect for artists and craftspeople who want to launch or grow small businesses. Learn How to Make Work That Sells, Start Wholesaling, Develop Gallery Relationships, Market and Sell Your Work Effectively, and much more Individual business consultations available at each event.
ART+BUSINESS NYC, New York, New York, September 27-28, 2014
No More Starving Artists, Edinboro, PA, October 10-11, 2014
Art Business Bootcamp, Naples, FL, October 17-18, 2014
Marketing Magic, Montclair, NJ, November 8, 2014