Q: I’ve been working in warm glass, creating mostly jewelry, for about 17 years. Originally, I sold mostly wholesale, because I had a young child at home and didn’t want to be out on the show circuit away from her. Now that my daughter is 15, I’m heading back to doing retail shows more and more. More than that, I want to move away from production work and into larger art objects, such as glass paintings and castings. My question is, how do I move from selling jewelry to selling larger and more expensive art objects while still maintaining some of my current customer base so that I don’t go broke?
—Nancy, via e-mail
A: Growth and change are essential components of any artist’s creative life. On the other hand, predictability and finding the old favorites are often what drive a customer back to a maker. I think you can, with careful planning, have both.
Here’s how I would do it. Finding time to make the larger work is the first hurdle. It seems this could happen in two ways. First, you could cut back a bit on your production work by eliminating the items in your line that are not selling well. You could then dedicate the time you gain to the new work. Second, you could hire someone a few hours a week to do those parts of the production work that don’t have to be done by you. Either way, the goal is to grab some time from your production schedule to feed your need to branch out creatively.
Once you’ve made the work, you’ll need to figure out how to get it to market. In this case, it’s a market that is significantly different from the one in which you are known. I took a look at your booth and think I may have a suggestion. Redesign the way the jewelry smalls are displayed, and place one of your new large wall pieces in the middle of each wall and surround them with the jewelry. A new display won’t result in instant sales of you new work, but it will get it before the eyes of potential customers while maintaining your cash flow from your established line of jewelry. You might also find that a new look in your booth might increase jewelry sales.