Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thankful Thursday #5

The Mentor: Biba Schutz, art jeweler

The Lesson Learned: I am the only one who knows what's right for me.

A few months back, I had a phone conversation with the successful, talented Biba Schutz. She was kind enough to spend over an hour on the phone with me discussing all sorts of concerns I was having, such as… did I always have to procure the sale of a "special order" through one of my galleries even if it was unassociated with any of them? The answer: no, I don't have cut out to my galleries if they had nothing to do with the sale in any way, shape or form. In the past I always gave my galleries their percentage on custom work regardless of how I received the order, because I assumed that was what I was supposed to do. I also asked Biba, was I allowed to sell my work on my website in conjunction with consigning at the galleries? The answer: yes, it would be essentially just like owning my own "store" or gallery, and as long as the prices remain consistent, there's no problem. I've been so concerned about not tarnishing my gallery relationships that my business has been suffering and has not been able to grow in the ways that I would like it to. However, it's impossible to know all the answers to this stuff and it's ok to fumble through it at times. You live and learn.

The biggest question I had been wrestling with for quite some time, was whether or not to pursue wholesale. I had asked one of my galleries their opinion on the subject (about a year prior to my conversation with Biba) because I had been getting a lot of inquiries about wholesaling my work… their answer: it wasn't a good idea. Their reasoning: because the type of work that I do is "really more appropriate for one-of-a-kinds." I took their advice, blindly, because I assumed they just knew better than me.


Fast forward a year… I'm unhappy at the slower pace with which my one-of-a-kinds are selling and frustrated at the idea I may need to have a part-time supplemental job for the rest of my life. Wholesale was becoming more and more appealing as a concept. I began to wonder: why was I letting someone else decide the direction of my work and control my economic stability? Many art jewelers tend to either hold teaching positions or wholesale their work in conjunction to one-offs because it makes for more consistent income.

Enter Biba. Her advice and guidance regarding wholesale was invaluable. Most importantly, she stressed how it was a big decision to make and that there were a lot of aspects to consider and that only I could know whether wholesaling my work was the right move for me or not. After our conversation, I had renewed confidence in my ability to decide the direction of my jewelry line as well as a restored belief that ultimately I am the only one who knows what's right for me.

Wholesale world, here I come.

brooch by Biba Schutz


Rebecca-the-Wrecker said...

wow biba's work is amazing and her words are wise. thanks for sharing.
i have slowly started wholesaling my bread and butter work- mostly stuff that is under $60. You just have to keep pricing as consistent as possible between your own web shop, consignment galleries and wholesale shops so i make alot more on work sold in my store, more on work sold by consignment and less by wholesale. but with wholesale at least you get the moola upfront and don't have to deal with too and froing of stock. And the retailer knows they HAVE to sell it so they push it harder than consignment work which can get neglected by galleries at times who may also have wholesale stock that they give prime position.
I'm looking forward to the day when I am 50% wholesale and 50% one-off more experiemental consignment/exhibition- think this would be a good balance...

Midge said...

Thanks so much for sharing your methods/ideas Rebecca! Isn't it all so complicated and frustrating at times? How do you ensure that the people who are buying your work wholesale will sell it at the same price you sell it retail on your own? For instance, if you have a necklace that you sell for $100, and you wholesale it for $50, is it possible to ensure that the wholesale shop will sell it for $100 as well, so that all remains consistent? This is where I get concerned for my customers. I want my pricing to be fair so that if someone buys a piece from my website, they can feel confident they couldn't buy it cheaper elsewhere. I'd love to hear about your experiences with this!

Yes, I agree the 50/50 prefect balance of wholesale/one-offs would be lovely to sustain. This is what I would like to aim for.

Rebecca-the-Wrecker said...

hi midge
yes that is a tricky one- especially in oz where GST (tax) registered businesses have to charge another 10% on top of the end price and I do not as I am not registered (turnover is not high enough but all galleries and retail outlets are registered). So in your example the final retail price of a necklace i wholesale might be $110 or higher if they take more than 100% mark-up plus tax. But generally I try to base my webstore price on 50% markup and the extra tax so if anything the gallery/store prices may be higher - they know their market and can charge whatever they like but still have to sell it. I think it is their lookout if they dramatically overprice the item.
If they complained (some outlets are paranoid about customers 'shopping around') I point out that postage adds to the cost and if they still were unhappy I might take the opportunity to raise my own webstore price - I think pushing prices up is usually healthy and it is something I find very difficult to do most of the time!
on another topic, some jewellers have a seperate business name for their wholesale work distinct from their one off practice. Maybe that is a good idea- I dunno really!
Also check out this excellent post of Diana Fayt's and the discussion following

Midge said...


Thanks so much for all your insights. It really is so helpful to hear about how other artists manage these things. I wish there was a forum for further discussion. Anyone out there know of any?!

And thanks also for introducing me to Diana Fayt's work - wow, lovely!

Judy said...

The American Craft Forum is a great place to go to get some advice from seasoned artists. I have learned a ton there. The Arts Business Institute used to be a good place to learn more about the wholesale market, but they don't seem to be holding as many seminars as they once did.

I have been on for 2-1/2 years now, and it has been a good way to build the wholesale business without a huge investment. It takes time, and additional advertising (their Buyer's Guide or featured items), but it can be a good way to start. I did the ACRE show this spring, and it was a good show for me.

You can not control how someone will price your work once they buy it. But you can try to have some geographic exclusivity to your work. This helps prevent the pricing battles between galleries. Just don't make an iron clad commitment to someone who doesn't end up buying much of your work. Make it a balanced deal.
Love your work! And Biba's advice was spot on. You are the only one who can decide what is right for your business.


Midge said...


Thanks so much for your insightful comments and suggestions. I will definitely check out the resources you mentioned! And I agree, geographic exclusivity is important and will hopefully prevent price wars.

Thanks again!
Margaux :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Nice Blog .very possible Jewelers Point choice is available and their customers don't have to shop anywhere else. In addition, they are placing a greater emphasis on training their employees than they have in the past. The days of receiving second rate advice and service at national chain stores are becoming a thing of the past.