Working with artists can be inspirational, however, as a business owner it’s important to understand the questions to ask this creative group as you commence business activities. In building our relationships with artists across the country, we’ve come to learn a few key questions to explore in the beginning to manage expectations on both sides and avoid unpleasant consequences on the back end.
Understanding the motivation behind each artist, and their personal preferences and timelines, is key. For example, in ceramics, some may consistently be creating new pieces, however, the kiln size and how often they fill and fire a kiln may vary. Some fire monthly, others only a few times each year. This may impact their ability to deliver pieces on a shorter turnaround. There is a definite timeline from shaping clay on a pottery wheel, to kiln, to delivery to your door. This question is the same for other artisan areas too, like custom woodworking and forged metal pieces. If you work with artists, make sure you know their timeline, and that your business model is in sync with it - and your customer delivery commitments.
A second question is, can the artist duplicate a piece close enough to the original you already have on hand? Consider that glazes and finish processes change, so ask about those things every time you order. Yes, the whole idea of an artistic piece is that there isn’t an exact duplicate of it - even when it’s fired in the same kiln, at the same time. That’s what makes each one beautiful. On the flip side, the pieces need to be close enough to the original, in your opinion as the business owner, so that what a customer sees on your website or social postings matches what they receive in their gifts. It’s a delicate balance that requires attention.
The third key question you should not assume you know the answer to is, does the artist even want to duplicate the piece? And if so, how many times? Some artists don’t want to work on multiple pieces in what feels like a production line. They find inspiration staying in the new creative mode and will limit reproduction intentionally. That’s important to know up front. Their pieces may be special edition or limited quantity, which is fine, as long as that’s clear from the start.
We enjoy our artist interactions, and the beauty of their work is central to our business. That said, understanding the nuances of our network is not trivial and it ties directly into who our own best customers are. For us, it’s those who appreciate a gorgeous piece of artisan work (meaning: no two will be identical), and that hand-crafted takes time (meaning: order in advance to be sure). If both of those elements work for our customer, then they are sure to give gift boxes that are personal, hand-crafted, and beautiful.