by Carolyn Edlund
I recently had a conversation with Ashwin Muthiah, CEO of Easely, on the topic of artists talking about their work. Here are some ideas on discussing your work with prospective clients.
Carolyn: Since art does not sell itself, it’s essential that artists plan ahead on how to most effectively speak about their work to potential collectors. This might be at a gallery show, an open studio, a fair or festival, or even a social event. Artists really have an advantage here – most people find them fascinating, and are interested in art in general. And, these type of events definitely draw people who want to see art, and experience it.
Ashwin: That’s true, there certainly is a mystique around being an artist. Most people feel that they could never be an artist themselves, and meeting people who are really talented is a treat. But give them credit too – appreciating art is an exercise in creativity. And collecting art is a way to express our creative nature. As you converse, ask them “Are you a collector?” This is a compliment. Most of us don’t think of ourselves as being art collectors, but in reality it’s not hard to get started. All you have to do is buy one piece of art that you love.
Carolyn: That approach is wonderful. Art lovers really value each piece that they buy. I’ve heard people say, “If the house was on fire, I’d grab the art first!” and I feel the same way. So engaging with others at an in-person event about their love of art is a plus. After all, most people’s favorite subject is themselves.
Ashwin: Right … and that naturally leads to what they like about your artwork. They may be very taken with a striking image or your color palette. But there are other, more left-brained people who want to know, “How did you do this? What is the process?” Everyone makes connections differently. When you are able to talk about your artwork on many levels and from different angles, you can find those things that really intrigue the people you are conversing with.
Carolyn: I’ve found this to be true as well. I once heard the comment, “I don’t know how it’s even humanly possible to make this!” Well, yes it is – if you know the methods of working with the medium. Talking about your technique is really eye-opening to most people, so be ready with stories or facts about the studio process. How many firings did it take to complete this piece? How many hours did it take to carve the wood, and how did you achieve that shape? What are the materials in that mixed media art?
Describing your inspiration and process of creating what you do adds value to your work, as well as helping the listener to remember you. The more they come to know you, the more likely they are to become interested in owning a piece of your work!
Ashwin: Telling your story is definitely a great conversation starter. But since it’s also about the other person, you may want to ask them, “Which piece is your favorite?” and find out why. This is where you may find out that they are drawn to your work because it triggers a memory, or you will learn something important about them that will help you determine if they are a good prospect for a sale of your art. If you created the piece to be an heirloom, or if it has an unusual story around it, tell them. When collectors own your work and display it, they share that story. It is quite meaningful to them.
Carolyn: When you exchange stories with an admirer of your art, a real connection can be started. It may even lead to the question, “Are you interested in owning this piece?” Even if they are not ready to buy at that time, it makes perfect sense to get their contact information and stay in touch. It takes a lot of work to set up an environment where you meet the very people who will become your new collectors. Make the most of it by following up. After all, it takes more than one contact to close the sale.