There are lots of reasons why artists love working with shop owners to get their work into customers' hands, but it can be hard to know how to approach these proprietors.
Ever TOTALLY bomb with a shop owner because you didn't have a proper line sheet or bugged them at the wrong time? Or, have you gone in completely prepared, only to find out that you came on way too strong for a shop that tends to be more casual with this sort of thing?
I asked store owners from around the US -- and one in Australia! -- to answer these questions:
- What is your process for taking inquiries/applications from artists?
- When selecting pieces for your shop, what criteria are you considering?
As you'll see from the store owners below, the process for getting into a store varies widely. Read on to get a feel for the sort of things they're looking for, but keep in mind that the MOST important thing to do is research! Submitting your work to stores isn't a one-size-fits all process, and if you want to be successful with stockists, you've got to personalize your approach.
And, stay tuned for Part II of this piece -- the store owners will tell us the ONE THING artists can do to increase their chances of getting into their shop.
Taking Inquiries: We find a lot of our artists on Etsy, which is incredibly fun due of the huge variety of art available. And we're able to pinpoint location whether it's made locally or elsewhere in the United States (something we pride our store on). The most fun however, is when an artist finds us. We try out their goods in the shop if we foresee a good fit and leave the rest to our customers! We also have a space on our website for artist inquiries that helps them get in touch with us directly and educates them on our buying processes.
Criteria Considered: #1 it has GOT to be made in the USA. It's fun for people to know that an actual person (maybe even someone from their home state) made the piece they'll be purchasing and that everything has a story behind it. We think about the consumer too -- the team working in the shop listens to their feedback and digs into trends which helps us keep up with the classics and find new pieces.
Taking Inquiries: Initially, we ask for the artist's website, resume, and past experience in selling (shops, markets etc).
Criteria Considered: First and foremost, does the aesthetic fit ModCo? Then we look at craftsmanship, scope of the products, overall collection consistency, pricing, and level of professionalism from the artist or designer.
Taking Inquiries: Due to the amount of interest we receive from artists worldwide, we only accept online submissions. We have detailed information on our website to assist those interested in submitting work.
Criteria Considered: When we add a new artist to our roster, there are many factors that we have to consider, such as: their original medium, their print medium, how the work will fit with our existing artists' work, the content of their works, whether we consider an artist's work to have broad appeal, and how fast we think their prints will sell.
Taking Inquiries: I have recently set up a submission email address, because submissions come at all hours of the day and it can be a lot to respond to. This way, they're all in one place so when I have some time to respond, I can.
Criteria Considered: I always ask myself a series of three quick questions: Do I love it? Will it sell? Can I afford it/do the terms make sense for Clementine?
Taking Inquiries: Yes, I have a submission email address set up on my website for artists to send work to. Unless I seek out an artist, I don't respond to any emails that come through other channels, i.e. Facebook, shop email address, comments on Instagram, contact form on the site -- only through the submission email address. This might seem like a little thing, but when someone goes around the submission process in hopes of getting their work in front of me faster, it only slows down the process.
Criteria Considered: I put a lot of thought into my selections. Will it sit well in the shop next to the other items already in the mix? Do I already have a lot of this style, color, item, etc? Will my customers like it? Can you already find this work in many other places? Does anyone in town already carry this work? Mostly though, I have to love it and feel strongly about the work. At the end of the day, that's the biggest deciding factor for me.
Taking Inquiries: Our process is pretty organic. We always love to hear from new artists that are interested in working with us, but we don't have a formal process. It definitely makes it easier for us to review submissions when there is a website link, social media links, look books and wholesale pricing and policies all in one email.
Criteria Considered: One of our main goals is that our customers are getting well-made products that will last them a lifetime. We believe quality of a higher caliber should always be one of the benefits of buying independent.
Taking Inquiries: I ask that the artists email a bio, what they like about our shop, and why they think they'd be a good fit in addition to line sheets and all social media links.
Criteria Considered: Whether they fit our aesthetic and are Chicago-made.
There you have it -- now, go prepare! Figure out what stores you want to potentially work with, do your research on their policies, prep your materials, and go get your work on those shelves.