This week, the Creative Women were treated to a fantastic talk by Sarah Duggan, who runs the wonderful Baxters Gallery in Dartmouth.
For those of you who don’t know, the Creative Women events are regular meetups hosted by us, with the purpose of getting together with other like minded souls, drinking plenty of tea and coffee, eating lots of cake, and hearing inspirational creative women speak.
Over the last few years we have had a whole plethora of brilliant women talking, and over the next few months we have more (you can book up to hear Sarah James talk here.) We try to bring learning and expertise to these get-togethers (we loathe to call them networking events….) and each time, we all walk away inspired and buzzing. Yesterday was no exception.
Having known Sarah for a few years now I was fascinated to hear about her history as a buyer. Her experience in the field is so comprehensive and she talks with such passion about her work. But it was her tips for approaching galleries that really educated the women in the room.
As we know, creative types are insecure types. They lack courage and confidence. The thought of approaching a gallery with their work fills them with fear and dread. So it was reassuring when Sarah encouraged them to give it a go. There was so much in Sarah’s talk that she shared, but here I will pass on her advice when approaching galleries with your work.
By far, the most important thing to do before even thinking about contacting a gallery, is to do your research. Is it right for you to be in a gallery? What kind of gallery do you want to be in? Does your work ‘fit’ within that gallery? Do you know other artists who exhibit in that particular gallery? Are they the kind of artists who also 'fit' with the work you do? What kind of work does that gallery attract? What kind of customer does that gallery attract? Don’t attempt a ‘scattergun’ approach with regards to contacting galleries – they have to be right for you, and you have to be right for them. It is a two way relationship built on trust, and so it has to work for both parties.
Once you have done all of your research and have found a gallery that you feel will fit with you and your work, you have to get in touch. There are some right ways to approach the gallery, but there are also some examples of Sarah’s that don’t work so well…!
These may seem obvious to you and me, but apparently Sarah is regularly approached in this way – astonishing!!
So, Sarah’s top tips for the right way to go about things are:
Do your homework, find out the owners name and have knowledge of the gallery and its space if possible.
Write an email first with a few good quality photos – not 5MB each – and a brief synopsis of:-
Who you are – have a artist’s statement or CV – make sure it’s short, we don’t need to know about everything you’ve ever done.
What your product category is.
How you sell at present, for example; I am in 3 local galleries including *** (one with a website maybe)
Tell us what motivates and inspires your creative process.
And why you think you would be a good fit. It can just be I love your gallery and follow you on FB but it’s better to have thought it through more such as “I’m often shown alongside X and Y who you also show”.
Tell me what influenced your decision to contact me.
If you see a gallery you like the look of then go and ask how they like to be approached. Some work with appointments for example.
Don’t worry if you are not in other galleries and this is your first foray. That can be exciting for us finding brand new artists. Experience counts but we are happy to nurture and advise.
As we mentioned earlier, a relationship between a gallery and an artist is one that can grow and develop and is worth nurturing.
As Sarah explains; "I receive at least 10 requests a week from potential artists and makers and so obviously have to say no to lots of people. When you receive a NO from a gallery I know it must be disheartening but there are many reasons and so try not to take it too personally. If you think your conversation with the gallery owner has been good then ask them for some pointers as to why it was a no.
So once you have been selected to show in a gallery I would say try and keep the buzz going and the sales coming in by being proactive. Phone your galleries to ask if they need a top up. If you know they have had some of your work for a while then suggest swapping some of it. Even if you sold it as firm sale this is something that really helps and will be great for your relationship with your stockists. But as with any other budding relationship...don’t phone too often!"
There was so much more invaluable advice that Sarah shared with us, that maybe we will expand in another blog post soon, but for now, next time you are in Dartmouth or nearby, do take a visit to the wonderful Baxters gallery and say hello to Sarah – she’s always very welcoming and a legend in the world of artists and makers. I might even see you there!!
The CBN Team xx
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