Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Consider it a Quest: How to Be Active and Authentic on Social Media

Dawn, Stained Glass Mosaic by P. MacLeod

How to find influencers in your field, fresh posts to share and keep it all organized.

Trying to figure out where to put your efforts in your online presence takes a little time to target which platforms make sense for you, which I covered on June 30, and then to effectively organize your time with social media tools (covered on July 23). But now that you have selected the right platforms for you, you may be thinking, "What am I going to say? Who do I need to follow? Who are the influencers in my field that I need to engage with?" It can seem overwhelming. But I have a few tips to share.

Who do you need to follow? How do you get more followers? Clearvoice is a site that lets you search for influencers in specific fields. I put in "art marketing" and got a list of top influencers in various aspects of the art business. I read through the list and selected the people I felt would give me the most insight for my interests. Then I followed them on Twitter.  As I continue to stay active on Twitter, I can build engagement with these people. And those people have a lot of followers who want to engage with other like-minded people. In this way, the circle feeds itself. Just post good content.

Oh, yeah. Good content. What do you say? The good news is you shouldn't self-promote every time you post. A good rule of thumb is the 5-3-2 rule--for every ten posts:

  •  5 should be content from others (sharing other blogs, articles, retweets, etc.)
  • 3 should be content from you (you can also recycle content--I'll cover that in a future post)
  • 2 should be personal status updates (shows, awards, public work, classes)
Identifying content from others is where following the influencers comes in handy. Gleaning through their posts, you can repost their content and tag them. Also, I found that Buzzsumo is an interesting way to find content to share. You can search on any topic by content type (articles, infographics, videos) and it will return the most popular shared content.  

Blogger does a great job of allowing me to control what day and time I want to post a new blog, but I also cross post my blog on my Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Pinterest. Buffer makes it easy for me to set a time that my blog post will be posted for Twitter and Facebook. The account is free and very easy to use. Buffer walks you through each step. It also offers analytics so you can get an idea of how much engagement you are getting and what types of content get the most engagement.

Another organizational tool I use is Pinterest. I have a board where I keep future post ideas. I use it as a way to cache ideas so that I won't forget something that could be useful later.

Take an hour or two once a week to organize your shared posts with Buffer. Keep tabs on your influencers updates once or twice a day (maybe a coffee time or standing in a line for coffee) for posts you want to share. Then use your dashboards to keep up with the analytics. 

Consider it a quest. Each week you'll learn more about using these tools, get better at your time management, and it will get easier to stay active and authentic.

May all of your scores run true!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Lookbook for Your Art? Sure!

Fall Tree, Custom Kitchen Mosaic by P. MacLeod

Lookbooks are a fashion industry standard. They communicate the designers brand vision and coming collections. So what can a lookbook do for an artist? A lookbook defines who you are and, as important, who you are not.  It describes you and what you offer that will help your clients personally, professionally or both.  

So how do you put together a lookbook? It should cover:
  • Your biography
  • What inspires you
  • Your brand/art statement
  • Your media coverage/presence
  • What you offer
  • Your contact info
  • LOTS of pictures of your artwork, your studio, action shots, etc.
A lookbook is personal. It's all about you and your work. Present your work in groupings, and maybe include your work in a setting such as featuring your painting as part of home decor (like staging). Allow people to experience your work. 

A lookbook is about 15 pages long. If you can create your own digital lookbook, the cost is relatively free and you can promote it on multiple channels (your website, Pinterest, etc.). If you don't have any graphic design experience, invest in getting a professional to help you create your lookbook. It needs to be very visually appealing and professional. For more expense, you can also have it printed for trade shows and the like. Unlike catalogs, lookbooks typically do not include prices. 

I have very few examples of art lookbooks, so this may be a great way to do something new to stand out from the crowd. Here is an article from the Art Business Institute that discusses art lookbooks. Art Gallery Fabrics has some very beautiful and professional lookbooks featuring different fabric artists and their work. 

I plan to create a lookbook for my work over the next couple of weeks. When it is done, I will share. I hope  if you create a lookbook, that you will share it with me, too! 

May all of your scores run true!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

5 Things to Consider Before You Donate

Victorian Style Stained Glass Mosaic Window
By Paula MacLeod

Saturday, August 22 is the 13th Annual Painted Chair and More Auction, the Independent Animal Rescue's biggest yearly fundraiser. The Independent Animal Rescue (IAR) is a no-kill, 100% volunteer, non-profit organization in Durham, NC. I have donated art for this effort every year since the very first auction. I have adopted a cat from IAR and have been looking for our perfect dog with them for the past year. This is an organization that I know well and fervently believe in their mission and the value of their efforts.

But, as an artist, I am solicited by LOTS of organizations. At one point, I felt that I could donate items to nearly all requests. That's not a good business decision, though. Why? First, look at how a charity auction of donated items works:

  • the organization gets free, desirable items to auction (live and silent)
  • people who come to the auction get bargains on those items
  • the artist gets exposure that presumably turns into more sales or commissions
  • the artist gets to write off the donation (but only the price of the winning bid NOT the full retail price)
The real winners in that line up are the organization and the people who come to bid. I did an informal survey of some of my artist friends to find out if anyone had gotten work or sales relating to an auction. Although it was a small sample (8), none of them had gotten any work related to any auction they had participated in. They represent potters, painters, jewelers, and glass artists. 

So even though the return, from a business perspective, is just the tax write-off, why and how do you decide to donate art to a charity?

1- Know your charity and fully support their efforts. Just as I have direct knowledge and experience of  IAR, you should choose based on your passions.

2- Make sure you know how the auction will work. Some auctions will split the proceeds with the artist, based on the final bid. The charity should ask you for the fair retail price and then create a reserve price. The bids have to reach the reserve bid or the piece won't sell. Be sure to keep the in-kind letter that the charity will send to you after the auction. This is for your tax write-off. 

3- Take your business cards and have them available with your work. If you can, go to the auction. As a contributor, you should have a comp ticket for the event. This will allow you to interact with people who are interested in your work.

4- Ask for a list of names and contact information of people who bid on your work. You can make a friendly follow up by post card or email.

5- Advertise to your clients, friends and family that you are participating in the event. Encourage people to attend. The more people who come to the event, the greater the likelihood of driving up bids and, in turn, making more profits for your charity.

After you select the charity or charities that you want to work with, when you are approached by a new charity, it is perfectly acceptable to say "no," and state that you already have charitable organizations that you support. Keep in mind that if you buy a ticket to an event and attend, that is support also, and may cost you less than a donation.

Our IAR adopted kitty, Juno.

I hope to see you at this year's Painted Chair and More Auction!

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, August 3, 2015

What's Hot in Asheville? Lexington Glassworks

Photo by P. MacLeod

What's Hot in Asheville? 

On a recent visit to the beautiful NC mountains, we visited Lexington Glassworks, which was featured in the WUNC-TV PBS series, NC Weekend (7/9/15). In the interview, glass artists Billy Guildford and Geoff Koslow discuss their backgrounds, approach to glass blowing and marketing. (I highly recommend watching the video.)

The 5000 square foot studio has huge bay doors in the front, which welcomes visitors. Inside, the front of the studio is a gallery of their beautiful functional and decorative work. The working side of the studio is also demonstration space where they welcome people to watch as they create their art.

It is important to note that Billy and Geoff hand made their equipment (furnace, hood, glory hole). Billy says, "We physically built the equipment ourselves from the raw material, a bunch of sticks of steel, then to all of the refractory material. . .To be a proficient glass artist, you'd better be a proficient metal fabricator and wood worker as well. It goes hand-in-hand. So it's really important before we started this studio that we knew we had a well-rounded background of skills." (Quote from video interview.)

As for their business approach, Billy explains, "When we were writing our business plan and figuring out what kind of business we wanted to run, we wanted to be very casual, so people could come in, witness the art of blowing glass because a lot of people don't realize it is an art form and how much work goes into creating one little object." (Quote from video interview.)

We were absolutely fascinated by the demonstration that we watched. They were working on rocks glasses with a crackle finish. The crackle is created by dunking the freshly formed glass shape into water so that it stresses the glass, but because the glass is still hot enough to be pliable, it doesn't thermal shock and completely crack. Billy and Geoff worked together and explained each step of the process as they created the piece.

As an art glass lover, I was completely in awe of their beautiful work. My budget only supported buying a glass ornament (picture below), but I hope to come back and buy more work in the future!

May all of your scores run true!
Lexington Glassworks' front gallery
Lexington Glassworks’ front gallery

Lexington Glassworks, located at 81 S. Lexington Ave., is open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.  For a look at the work or for more information, visit lexingtonglassworks.com.