Marketing 101: Niche Markets Part 9
The Importance of Community
Sometimes the work we do as artists can seem very lonely. We need feedback, but we need it to be honest. Let’s face it, family is not always the best source for a good critique. My mother’s comment about our show in a prestigious gallery in Scottsdale was “whatever.” My in-laws were always positive; they loved everything and never saw any flaws of the need for improvement. There goes one extreme to the other.
I have been fortunate in having an artistic husband who can look at something and give a pretty honest critique, even though I know he’s biased – and he admits that. So what do we do?
The internet provides us a wonderful chance to create or join a like-minded community of artists. For someone like me who is really an introvert, being able to “talk” to other fiber artists on line has been wonderful – and full of opportunities, if you are mindful of them. I now have a number of cyber-artist-friends, and we enjoy following each other, reading about our various projects, and giving helpful advice.
But I don’t consider that a true community, although it is certainly helpful. I believe we need four types of community to help us prosper as artists. One is a professional organization, either online or in person. Two is human contact of some sort of a regular basis. Three is the spur-of-the-moment meetings, like art shows or gallery openings, where we can directly talk about art and get energized. Four is very specific local networking. Large or small, we need to search for these venues.
The Professional Organization.
We’re in niche markets, so sometimes we may be “out in the cold” for a like-minded organization. We don’t fit in the “fine art guilds” or other more mainstream groups that lend some “legitimacy” to our label as artist. Here’s where the internet can really be helpful. Thanks to Rachel Biel there is a growing online group for ANYONE involved in fibers and textiles. The Textile and Fiber Art list has over 400 members from 35 countries. A large group, but well worth the membership, as there are a great many marketing opportunities. Knitters, tatters, marblers, felters, quilters…anything using textiles and fibers. With the new website design, TAFA is becoming a hub online for all things fiber and textile. This is the type of group you need to research and then join.
TAFA members are diverse, representing products that range from supplies to museum-quality work. It includes working artists, retail and wholesale e-commerce, cooperatives, galleries, organizations, writers, publishers, and collectors (what more could we hope for in an organization?) TAFA members are committed to sustainable products in significant numbers, any using very traditional art forms that are centuries old, and they have a history of leadership within their niche through publications and workshops.
Small Personal Get-togethers.
Our own little group of eight of us started three years ago as a result of individual conversations with friends: a weaver, a clay artist, a jewelry maker, a water color artist, and us. We finally decided to get together once a month and share art tips and just generally encourage each other. We shared expenses for a small art/craft show to see if it would work for us, and we took a class on creating zentangles together. The biggest advantage of this group was that it encouraged us to do some new work each month, so we would have “show and tell” and a general critique. Each of us brought a different perspective in looking at each other’s artwork.
Galleries and Art Shows
When I asked folks about the importance of community, many spoke to the joy of wandering galleries and arts/crafts shows to talk to other artists. Talking to people in their venue is energizing. Remember not to disturb them if they’re talking with a potential customer. If they’re free, ask how the show is going, comment on an item, ask about their supply sources, and, above all…..give them your business card! Maybe they have some connections for supplies, for small marketing groups, or know of some people you should meet. Be respectful of their time, but you never know who you might meet, what list you might get on, or what you may discover for yourself. Plus, you give an artist extra publicity if you write about them in a blog post.
I added this as something extra because it didn’t seem to fit the other categories. I’m on a small online local group of just Tucson small businesses who keep each other apprised of local happenings. This is a simple Facebook group, but the connections are powerful. I visited one of the vendors at a show in a very upscale resort in Tucson, and I left with the impression it could be an interesting venue for us.
Whether we “suffer” for your art or not, we can’t underestimate the value of belonging to some sort of community that can help us promote ourselves, or simply survive those down times when we wonder whatever possessed us to make art! What are you doing for some type of community support? Any groups online you would recommend? Add some helpful comments for us all.
Dean and Linda Moran are the owners of Marble-T Design and have been marbling for 20 years. You can see their work at “The Art of Fabric,” follow their adventures on their blog, see examples of their marbling in their Etsy shop, and watch their updates on Facebook.