Thursday , 29 July 2021
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

Marketing 101: Niche Markets Part 9 | The Importance of Community

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.

 

Local networking.

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.

 

Part 1: Niche Markets

Part 2: What is your wackiest marketing idea?

Part 3:  Getting out there

Part 4:  Have you done your newsletter?

Part 5: Your Newsletter Revisited

Part 6: Packaging and Displays – Field Trip Time!

Part 7: Can the Holidays Be Far Behind?

Part 8: The Holidays, Part 2

  

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16 comments

  1. I’m so glad to see you include TAFA here. They do an amazing job at cross-promotion as do their members and it’s a wonderful place to seek and receive honest and detailed feedback and critiques…

  2. This is a great article and encouraging, too! I am a member of TAFA and can confirm that being part of this niche group/team is beneficial on many fronts. I give a huge Thumbs Up! to Rachel Biel for her tireless efforts in keeping this community running and our artistic outreach to the world on target. I recommend group participation to everyone!

    • Georgianne – I absolutely agree – Rachel is a gem, and every artist should be lucky to meet up with someone who is so motivating and so helpful! Those of us in textiles and fibers know how difficult it can be to talk about what we do in an art world slanted to paintings. TAFA should live long and prosper!

  3. Good article. I think it is sometimes scary to form a group on your own so if one can find one already set up that you can join is great. How did you decide to form your own group and how did you go about gathering people to join you? Thanks!

    Sharon Orella
    http://www.etsy.com/shop/SOArtStudio

    • Hi Sharon – we started our group because I had been talking to a bunch of friends individually about art, and then I just decided to try and get these diverse friends together on a monthly basis. We’ve been together three years, and now we’re looking for new members. One went to Virginia for a year, one moved 200 miles away, and one went to Vienna to teach for three years…but we had some great art times, and we were able to encourage each other. I find just the opposite of you – it’s very hard for me to try and join an existing “in person” group.

  4. Crooked Little Stitches

    What a great article! I need to step out of my little box and make some crafty friends. I like the idea of building a community, much more than marketing, even though that is exactly what you are doing.

    • I think that in order to be effective at marketing, we need to just experience art with our friends. They motivate us, and then we become more energized and consequently better at our marketing.

  5. Another great article, Linda! You have a really nice way of collecting what might seem obvious into a clear narrative that really makes sense to me. What a gift! I think many of us skitter here and there and don’t realize that we really are parts of these communities and how each contributes to support, education, and connection in such different ways.

    And, thanks for all the promo you have been doing for TAFA, both here and on your blog! TAFA really is amazing and I take great joy that I actually had the opportunity of meeting you in person this year while most of the members seem unreachable in terms of location. But, you never know! Kentucky and Arizona are definitely not next door to each other! (Where each of us lives…)

    I would suggest one more way community plays into my own vision and life. Lately, I have been thinking of textiles as my window to the world. That is the focus of what I do each day, but it spills out into the larger community in so many ways and I see it over and over when I am interacting with TAFA members, helping them on their profiles or just connecting. Most of our members seem to have a special cause or focus that reaches out beyond the textiles. They might be raising sheep or find inspiration in nature or are involved in women’s issues and so on. Or, maybe they are raising children, homeschooling, volunteering somewhere, taking care of aging parents or even facing health crises themselves. We go out into the world and meet people on many different levels. We bring that information back into what we do and our art, our work, our way of life reflects that back out, like a mirror or reflection on glass.

    Collectively, the products we represent are a reflection of that larger community. We go out, process, and then give back our own take on those experiences.

    Anyway, I’m getting convoluted in my thinking here. Thank you for your voice and I look forward to your future posts! I always learn something!

    And, Georgianne! Thank you so much! You warmed my heart… :)

    • Ah, thank you, Rachel! I agree – sometimes life carries over in to our art in quiet ways….I am really interested in representing the planet through my Gaia series. Artists have always affected society, and we need to remember how important the role of artist is in society….tough these days, given the political climate!

  6. Thank you for writing such a great article. I’m sitting in an oncologists office right now, tending to my aging father. Sometimes we need community connections even when we may not realize it. I’m not able to work as much as I’d like but being connected in some way to other artist would probably serve to keep my positive creative energy flowing while trying to keep the ‘blues’ at bay.

    • I think it is so important to have some form of art in our lives, especially when we can’t make all that we would wish. Sometimes it’s looking at artwork, sometimes it’s making a list of the ideas you have, and sometimes it’s talking to the people we meet about what they like. Good luck getting through these trying times.

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