Thursday, September 23, 2010

Q & A with a Woodworking Gallery Director

Sharon Ricci, the director of Northwest Fine Woodworking in Seattle,  kindly offered to answer a couple of questions about the business of selling fine woodworking.
Sharon Ricci

Please tell us about your role at Northwest Fine Woodworking.
I am Director of the gallery which entails managing day to day business, developing and orchestrating events to engage the community about fine woodworking in the Northwest, and selecting a revolving inventory of furniture and craft that meets the criteria set forth by the cooperative membership.  Being a coop, the gallery is run by many helping hands so my role is key in keeping things on track toward the bigger picture. 

When an artist approaches a gallery with intent of showing there, what do you think are the most important things they should consider? 
 A gallery is a business geared toward customer service.  Be prepared before you approach any gallery with a clear idea of how to describe your work, and have professional looking images of current designs that are available.  Know that each gallery has its own rules for reviewing new work and if you want to succeed you will have to work with them on their terms to get your foot in the door.  Also there is a fine but definite line between persistence and annoyance. 

What is the biggest mistake in your opinion that woodworkers make in regards to showing or selling their work?
Not having media worthy photos of their creations!  Bad lighting, wrinkled bed sheets, a cluttered background, blurriness – all of these things can be corrected so that a photo is crisp, clear and appealing.   

What do you think is the best way a woodworker should market themselves and their work?
Be prepared with the above (good photos, a brief but direct description of your work and a body of available designs) then talk to lots of people about what you do.  You have to visit many shops and galleries to see where your work would be a good fit, absorb what else is out there as competition or compliment and talk to the sales staff about what clients respond to. 

Woodworking is a rather solitary career pursuit and many artists and builders get into a grind of working in the shop for long stretches of time at the sacrifice of social interaction.  If that sounds like you - force yourself to go to at least one gallery, museum or community event a week so that you can talk about what you are in the process of making and grow connections.  Having a website and dropping off cards will never be as appealing a meaningful conversation and a hearty handshake. 

Any advice for seasoned and aspiring woodworkers in this tough economy?
Follow your inspiration!  When you make something from a place of passion and enthusiasm it generates passion and enthusiasm.  We are all starved for those things that are genuine and uplifting.  If you can work in that state of mind the end result will be successful on multiple levels.

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