I've had a couple of negative experiences in the last few months and thought I might share them here. I'm not really sure who reads this (feel free to chime in and lets get the conversation going) but if you're an old timer then this is nothing new for you, if you're a hobbyist or an up and comer then maybe this might give you some forewarning for these situations and you can decide how you want to do things.
I was invited to take part in a group show last fall, it was a good theme and a really good group of potters so I was excited to be a part of it. The gallery wanted a photo of a piece that would be included in the show for publication/promotion, that's not abnormal or unreasonable at all, done. A week or two before delivery he sent an email asking us to shoot images of all the work for the website...I was sending about 25 pots, so that seemed like a bit of a task. I was going to have to haul out the photo setup, get it all dialed in, shoot the images, and get them edited to be uploaded. Anyone who shoots their own photos can tell you that all that takes about as long as making the pots, which means in a show situation you are doubling the amount of work for less money. Anyways, I really toiled over this which seems a little ridiculous, but it really frustrated me. In a 50/50 consignment situation (don't even get me started on the bullshit that is consignment), or really any split situation with a gallery/shop, it is my understanding that you are paying them 50% to cover the marketing and selling of the work. I definitely feel that shooting images of the work falls into that category. Back to the story, rather than confront the gallery owner and argue my case I simply decided to play ignorance and just didn't shoot images of the work. I never heard from him once the work arrived about the images...but the show was a success, I sold a lot of the work so I was happy with that, I still haven't been paid, but lets save that for another post. Even though this was months ago it's been on my mind a lot. It just lends further creedence to my belief that the artist-gallery/shop dynamic is seriously flawed. I had decided to let it go, this situation happens so rarely that it's not worth getting more worked up about.
Last month I heard from a former student of mine who works for a small museum. She asked if I would like to sell work in their gift shop, it seemed like an easy opportunity to maybe sell a few pots. It was consignment but it was with someone I knew so I made the exception. She told me what type of pieces they wanted and I let her know that I had the work and could send it to them. The next day she informed me that the director wanted me to send individual photos of each piece with dimensions and descriptions...these aren't big pots we're talking about, a lot of cups and smaller pots. I opted out of that arrangement because to be honest it just is not worth my time. I would have to do all the work I have to do to post on etsy, then pay to ship all the pots in hopes that I might get half the price at some point in the future, no way. I can understand that since they may not have been familiar with my work they would need photos, I keep a stock of photos for just such an occasion. Also with higher priced work that may be a more reasonable request. The situation just left me fuming, and as you can perhaps tell by now I am not good at letting go of situations that leave me feeling like I'm getting screwed.
I have the very fortunate luxury of being able to be selective about how and where I sell my pots, I can't dismiss that. But, I feel that these situations take advantage of us and our need to make an income. If I weren't in a situation to be selective I would probably let myself be taken advantage of to try and make those few extra bucks, I'd have to! I inform new accounts that if they are unable to see my work in person I am more than happy to provide them with a visual catalog of what I can do, I'm not sending individual images of every pot. When I'm offered consignment I politely decline and let them know that I don't do consignment, if they ask why then they may get the short polite answer or the longer scathing answer, it depends on my mood and the kind of operation I think they're running . There are exceptions of course, taking part in group shows or shows where the gallery is merely a location and/or didn't curate the exhibition. I do have one consignment account, but he has a proven track record and sells more of my work than most of my wholesale accounts, and he always pays on time. He has treated me very well so I see no reason to rock the boat.
So what's the point of all this? I don't really have one. I'm just sharing my frustrations and how I choose to approach these situations. When I was starting out I would jump at any opportunity to get my work out there, but I'm 16 years in and feel that I've paid enough dues to not have to put up with this kind of stuff anymore. I don't intend for that to sound egotistical, but there has to come a point where you have developed experience and enough of a reputation that you don't need to be put through the ringer to sell some pots at a little shop. I'm just so frustrated with some of these places asking for a cut and demanding more work from the artist. I make it, you sell it, end of discussion. Bring back the guilds!