It never hurts to pay attention to the relationships you are in even if they are coming to an end. Partnerships change over time and they don’t always work out. It isn’t that they fail that matters, it is how you leave them that is important. We all have long memories in this business, and we all travel great distances. Nothing goes farther than a juicy story of “who done you wrong”. I keep talking about relationships in this business because we tend to talk to each other whenever we meet. Since I do 12 shows a year, that is a lot of people I talk to. I have gotten juice on galleries, promoters, artists, vendors, suppliers… Your reputation can be broken quickly and take a long time to mend. Be polite always, pay your business suppliers on time, be a good communicator and work very hard at being easy to work with. A gallery will give you a lot of leeway if you keep in contact with them and a framer will give you a 4-day turnaround if you are an excellent client who doesn’t always bother them. This is keeping a clean back trail. Don’t share your personal drama with promoters, they have enough of their own, don’t do it in your display either. I have watched one artist talk people out of buying her work over and over this way. Then she complains that no one is buying art, no one is buying from her. Of course that isn’t all.
Mentioning my mother, again: she is a sculptor. A very good bronze sculptor and one who was extremely successful for quite a while. Others in the industry would talk about how they would clean up (or “chase”) their own casting waxes, do their own patinas and make their own molds. It kept down the costs of casting you see. Mom was always a full-service person. Why is that? Well she first priced her things to cover her 1) time, 2) cost and 3) overhead so she didn’t need to cut corners or costs. Second she told me once, “If you use full service all the time, it will always be there when you need it.” Foundries, framers, shipping agents, suppliers all have overhead like you do and they use the services they provide to cover it. When there is labor involved, owners can have a higher profit margin to keep the other services competitive. Say your post office box service only charges 2% for brokering UPS/FedEx and USPS but they charge $20 to pack your art to ship on top of your shipping materials. Yikes! You say, I can do that myself. Okay, sure you can but if you and everyone else does it the owner will stop offering it. Here you are, you have something that needs to be shipped. You must leave town an hour ago for an art show and this gallery in San Antonio has a hot buyer for the one piece you just finished. Because you, (and everyone else) didn’t use Box Plus packing services; now you get to schlep all over trying to find everything. Same with foundries. When things get really slow, they have to lay people off. When they do that, good craftspeople who work on your art; have to find new jobs. They are no longer available to help you get your work out fast and it may not be as good. You end up spending a lot of time looking for a new foundry. Work with the people you rely on and they will be there for you. If you have kept your backtrail clean, they will stick with you. Artists from San Antonio talk to artists from Seattle and word gets around, good and bad.
It does sound like pros are gossipy old ladies standing around the porta-potties but they also tell the good stuff too. I was standing around in a group of artists once and someone said a bad thing about an artist who wasn’t with us. “I think that goodie two shoes thing is an act,” the unfortunate uttered. Just like that, there was a smoking crater where they were standing. I have never seen so many people jump to another artist’s defense like that in my life. Maybe we are a group of talented golden girls just standing around but by god, if you are golden in our eyes, we have your back. That is because we all have to walk the same trail and we are just trying to stay on the path.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the Spokane Art School Artist-in-Residence, and not necessarily to the Spokane Art School.