By Stephanie Hintz
Lake Geneva, Wis.
“It’s not hard to connect with stores; you just have to be where they go to shop,” says artist Tracy Pesche of Trā Art of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. “Buyers go to the big gift shows, like the Atlanta Gift Show. Yes, it is a financial risk to attend one of these shows, but it will very quickly let you know if you are on the right career path.”
Pesche is definitely on the right career path; she expanded from retail sales to wholesale shows when she established her company as an LLC and attendance the Buyer’s Market of American Craft. She had great success the two years she participated in that show. “I didn’t go back in 2012, but that was because I had more stores than I could supply and I didn’t need to do the show,” she recalls.
Before that, she had dipped her toes into the wholesale market when she listed her company on wholesalecrafts.com, now www.indieme.com. “I have only done a few retail shows; I have pretty much always been a wholesaler,” Pesche says.
Early artistic roots
Pesche says that although she began her formal career in craft in 2010, she had been selling her work back in the 1990s while still in high school. “I have always enjoyed making things. When I was little, I would make potholders and sell them at my parent’s garage sales. I realized early on that it was very gratifying to sell something that you made,” she remembers. “I have also always loved color; it makes me happy and I like to make others happy as well.”
Pesche went on to develop her skills in the art field in college; she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Augustana College in 2003 and then received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Art Institute of Chicago the following year. “I was actually a ceramics major,” she says.
When demand exceeds supply
Fantastic sculptural wood art, such as hearts, fish, and suns are some of the company’s best-selling styles. “I think it is the whimsical, happy nature of my pieces that attracts my customers,” Pesche says.
Due to demand, the artist has expanded her production to incorporate the aid of a small group of artists from Bali. “It is a husband and wife team that is amazing at executing my designs,” Pesche attests. “They have family that I am friends with here in the states, and I am so lucky to have found the talent and some extra hands to help me.”
Pesche does continually work in her studio and makes quite a few pieces herself. “I like to make sure my top galleries that have been with me since the beginning have what they need,” she explains. “I don’t differentiate between what I personally make and what my helpers make. They are all my designs, and each is handmade to the same standards.”
Handmade business challenges
There are many challenges that handmade business owners such as Pesche face every day. The most difficult aspect for her was “just deciding to be all in” and choosing to make her business a full-time affair. “Now that I am a mother of two boys — a four-year-old and an eight-month-old, the most difficult thing is to find the time. But when I do get to work, I am reminded how much I love my job.”
What is most important when it comes to sharing her work with buyers and collectors is that Pesche says it brings joy and happiness to them. “Life is so serious; for one minute if someone can look at my art and smile, I think that is great.”
Tracy’s Words to the Wise
- Go for it! You never know how it will go unless you try.
- Go big or go home! It sounds harsh, but it’s really true. Don’t waste your time in little retail shows; attend a large wholesale show.
- Every business has its ups and downs, but just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going.