Making the Leap
Top tips from artists who exclusively sell their wares through wholesale
Jennifer Marie Hofmann
Jennifer’s Handmade Soap
Jennifer Marie Hofmann has been making soap since 2009. It all started with one batch of soap and she couldn’t stop. Fascinated by the science of soapmaking, she found it was the design possibilities that captured her love for the craft. She continues to study her work and experiment with new designs. Her soaps are visually appealing, but also natural, gentle, and moisturizing. She makes a range of bath products from balms and scrubs to butters and facial items to soothe and moisturize all skin types. ''I take pride in making high-quality handmade soaps and bath products that leave customers always coming back for more.'' She started wholesaling her products in 2012 and continues to add new products to her line each season.
When asked to offer her best tips for new wholesale artists, Hofmann shares: ''The best piece of advice I can give to people just starting out is to know your product and know your price point. Don’t try and conform to what everyone else is doing--you’ll sell yourself short or overprice your work. That said, you have to make what makes you happy. If it’s a little more work and it means your price point is a little higher than your competitors’, it’s okay. There are going to be customers out there who’ll love your work and be willing to pay the extra costs.''
Maggie Bokor Jewelry
|Maggie Bokor is known for her organic, elegant jewelry. She lives an inspired life as an artist, musician, and entrepreneur. She designs from the heart, inspired by her beautiful natural surroundings. And she believes in the heirloom quality of her work and loves hearing stories of how her work has touched the lives of others who wear her creations.
Interested in the organic nature of working with silver in a ''clay-like'' state, all of Bokor’s originals are designed with metal clay. ''This malleable metal allows me to focus on surface and detail. I cast in sterling silver to create unified collections. Working with patinas, I create different looks with each piece.'' She then finishes her designs with semiprecious stones and freshwater pearls to add color and personality.
Bokor is a ceramics graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design. She successfully combines her clay techniques and tools with her metalsmithing experience cultivated throughout the years. Her assistant, Jackie Kitts, is a MECA jewelry graduate and helps make all the magic happen.
Bokor says her number-one rule for anyone considering wholesale is to share your story and make sure you have a strong brand presence because your work needs to speak for itself.
Color makes Charity Stewart happy. ''Maybe because I have lived under the gray skies of the Pacific Northwest my entire life, I can’t help but to embrace [color]. As a child, I discovered the joy of working with glass by helping my grandmother create stained glass windows. Those lessons in creativity piqued my interest in the medium and my lifelong fascination with the interplay of glass, light, and color began.'' Ten years ago, Stewart took the leap from the corporate world into doing what she loves most--spending time with her daughters and pursuing her passion for glass art.
Much of Stewart’s work is inspired by the colors in nature and her travels through Italy. Each is finely crafted with Murano millefiori, an ancient glass technique where rods are fused together then sliced to reveal flowerlike patterns. These tiny pieces are hand-cut, intricately arranged, and fused multiple times in her Portland, Ore., studio. She shares, ''My hope is to bring you a little slice of history and a big splash of color with each creation.''
Stewart’s best wholesale tip (after pulling together a nice cohesive collection) is to establish a wholesale pricing formula that makes it profitable for you. She explains: ''So many artists I talk to who are interested in wholesaling tell me they just can’t sell their goods at 50% off. This is working from the top down and is the wrong mindset when it comes to wholesale pricing. The key is to start at the bottom by breaking down the cost of materials by piece, logging how much time is involved in the process, and doubling or tripling from there. Having an idea of what your overhead costs are, what you want to pay yourself hourly, and the perceived value of your work also come into the equation. Although it’s time-consuming and tedious in the beginning, I feel establishing your prices this way ensures profitability and is critical to your success.''
Judy Dugan and Julia Murphy
Jumping Cracker Beans
Designer of the ''Card of the Year'' at the 20th Annual International Greeting Card Awards (''The Louies''), Judy Dugan’s writing and graphics backgrounds come together as she creates cards and instant snow gifts for Jumping Cracker Beans, a company she cofounded with business partner Julia Murphy nearly a decade ago. Dugan adds surprising eye-catchers to her card designs--real Fender® guitar picks, foil truffle cups, packets of candy sprinkles, spices, plantable seeds, zippers, instant Snow To Go!® powder and pop-up bows--as springboards for her playful humor.
||''A lot of greeting card publishers produce handmade cards in other countries. We feel good about supporting jobs in our local community,'' says Dugan, whose company manufactures cards in San Jose, Calif. ''We have our cards handmade for us by [employees of] Goodwill® and artists with special needs.''
Murphy’s top rules for any artist ready to start wholesaling their work are be prepared for producing in volume and be aware producing in volume can change your relationship to your artwork.
Charlotte Arvelle Glass
|Charlotte Behrens started working in glass back in the late ’70s. ''I was off of work after an accident and just happened into a store selling arts and crafts supplies and bought my first book about how stained glass was made. It had a few pictures on how it was done and I bought my first glass cutter, glass, and supplies and taught myself how to do stained glass,'' she shares.
Over the past 20 years, Behrens has learned to paint on glass for church windows and bought her first kiln. She explains, ''Right at that time, I came across a talk on this new technique called fused glass. With that small kiln, I was able to start fusing glass.'' Using a few hand tools including a glass cutter, a grozer to nip/break the glass, and a few diamond hand pads to edge the glass when needed, she creates intricate and visually stimulating kiln-fired glass sculptures and ornaments.
Behrens encourages any artist interested in wholesaling to determine a good wholesale price for their work. ''Can you price your work to retail at least two-and-a-half times your wholesale price or more? Is that price in the range of other handmade pieces? Are you too high for your area? Can you make a profit and a reasonable wage at the wholesale price? Some pieces you make may not be profitable for you to produce for the wholesale market, so look again. Is there a technique that doesn’t take as long that will produce a product you can then wholesale? At that price, are you willing to make possibly hundreds of an item and still be able to produce them without burnout? A good wholesale price needs to be fair to both artist and buyer to work well for both parties,'' she explains.
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