by Carolyn Edlund
Bill Kaufmann and Cynthia Mosedale of Linden Hills Pottery seized an extraordinary opportunity to partner up with a popular chain store to sell their work – with amazing results.
I recently spoke with Bill Kaufmann about their experience in setting up a display and selling their production ceramic work through an invitation from Pottery Barn. He explained their experience.
“In early May of 2016, the general manager of Pottery Barn in Edina, Minnesota approached my wife and I about an idea the company was trying out—featuring local artists at their store,” says Kaufmann. “Linden Hills Pottery would be the first to test this idea. This particular location, a flagship store for the international chain, was huge, stuffed with items ranging from manufactured table ware to complete furniture settings for a house. I questioned how we could fit in. As it turned out, the first outing was such a success, we were invited back in December for a three-day Black Friday showing.”
Creating handmade inventory for this holiday sale was a big undertaking, but Mosedale and Kaufmann were able to build sufficient stock in their production ceramic studio. The studio business provides their full-time income, and they are familiar with the process of getting ready for a busy season.
I asked Kaufmann about the overall experience, and how Pottery Barn worked with them to get out the word and promote their participation.
“A few factors helped make this a big success,” he recalls. “The manager of the store, Jeff, was incredibly accommodating and the staff amazingly supportive. They used the store’s powerful Instagram connection to advertise the show and connect to our website, where it was also advertised. We had developed a following from the Edina Art Fair and used that list to attract customers, too. But the one factor that made the December show over-the-top was Black Friday. The store, the mall, was unbelievably jammed.”
This in-store holiday shopping event was a smashing success for Linden Hills Pottery, drawing interest from customers as well as sales.
Kaufman explains, “Jeff gave us a space with prime location, and they supplied beverages and snacks for the day. And, his terms could not be beat (zero per cent commission). We spent money on color posters that advertised in-store that we were coming, and used a display that would fit the store environment. We did a small painting demonstration that attracted interest, but otherwise we kept out of way. The store was incredibly busy, and so were we.”
Does this open a new door, a new connection between the big box store and studio artists?
“I think yes,” he says. “Many of the Pottery Barn customers thanked us for being there. We added a little pizzazz, some color, something different they had not seen in a Pottery Barn. Made local was important. They got to meet the makers, the work was signed—it all made a difference to them. We had given up a holiday art fair to be there, and our sales easily surpassed what we would have done.”
What was his advice for other artists who may get an opportunity to work with a big retailer?
“Ultimately the bottom line rules,” Kaufman advises. “It was worth the effort, and I would do it again. Advance planning, and a lot of discussion about what each party wanted was necessary. Expect surprises; all the factors are not controllable. Work with them and they will work for you.”