My transition this year from communications director to arts marketing director at the Kentucky Arts Council collided with Kentucky Crafted: The Market, the signature event of the Kentucky Crafted program.
In the course of my 18-year career at the arts council, I have heard artists’ refrains about two issues that gave me pause. The first: “The Kentucky Crafted Program is not for me. I make one-of-a-kind, high-end artwork.” The second, “I don’t want to do wholesale; there’s not enough business to warrant it.” I’ve heard these statements so many times, I began to think they were true. But in my heart of hearts, I didn’t believe it, so I asked recent exhibitors at The Market the $1,000 questions.
My first question was, “Did you sell any one item for over $1,000 on retail days? Due to the proprietary interests of the artists, I can’t divulge who sold what to whom, but the sales were impressive. The highest priced item sold at The Market was a piece of furniture for $10,000. Although there were very few artists who created work at retail prices of $1,000 or more, those that did, sold. Among the high ticket sales were furniture, wood carvings, jewelry, paintings and quilts. Other price tags of items sold were $4,500, $2,800, $2,500, $2,000, $1,300, several at $1,000 and a squeaker at $998.
With this kind of response, I’m ready to dispel the myth and recruit more artists into the program who create one-of-a-kind work.
I chose the second question to get a feeling for how much wholesale activity goes on at Kentucky Crafted: The Market. The wholesale days (especially sales to out-of-state buyers) create what economists call economic impact. Government programs are easy to justify when they create greater economic impact than their cost. So my second $1,000 question was, “Did you write any wholesale orders for over $1,000? If so, what was your highest single order?
Of the 50 exhibitors who responded, exactly half of them reported having written at least one order for $1,000, with many having multiple orders of over $1,000. Most of the orders were in the $1,000 – $1,500 range, with three orders close to or a little above $2,500. Sizeable wholesale orders were not as brisk as I had hoped to see, but I have a feeling when we get the formal sales reports in from exhibitors, we will see a very strong wholesale showing.
It seems that the time is right for artists involved with the Kentucky Crafted Program to start thinking bigger.
Big ticket items do sell at Kentucky Crafted: The Market. Big orders can be written at the Market. Kentucky Crafted 2013 will grow bigger in size and geographical market reach as long as Kentucky’s artists continue to focus on quality craftsmanship and artistic excellence, the foundation of the Kentucky Crafted brand.
Ed Lawrence, arts marketing director