My $1,000 questions

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.


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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

Categories: Visual Arts | Tags: , , ,

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8 thoughts on “My $1,000 questions

  1. Why is it that economic impact is only a consideration from a wholesale standpoint? Since we did zero wholesale sales at all, and had a good retail show, the economic impact of The Market on my high end craft business at least, had nothing to do with any wholesale buyers at all.
    We survive because of retail sales we make at shows like this. Wouldn’t that be considered a positive economic impact?

    • Sarah Schmitt, arts access director

      It’s good to hear from an artist that high end does sell during retail days! That’s at least one of the Market myths dispelled. Of course, all of this is going to be heavily dependent on the product, right? This kind of dialogue certainly helps shed some light for artists who haven’t done the Market before or haven’t participated yet. Thanks for your comment Cynthia.

  2. bob gates

    The Folklife Program knows a few traditional folk artists who sell high quality, one of a kind objects such as the Mammoth Cave basketmakers along hwy 31E and the luthiers we presented in the Made to Be Played exhibit. They also represent the unique regional folk cultures of Kentucky. We look forward to helping you recruit some of them.

  3. It’s not just the Market that generates transactions with out-of-state businesses. A department store in Louisville is part of a chain headquartered in Davenport, IA. Their buyer found me on the KAC website several years ago and has ordered ever since. Their spring order this year was $3900.

    • Ed Lawrence, Arts Marketing Director

      That’s fantastic. So great to hear that the Kentucky Crafted program works in many ways.

  4. Chris Cathers, Kentucky Arts Council

    The economic benefits from the Market are evident in so many ways. We’re currently working on a one-page, color flyer to illustrate just how the Market affects the state and local economies. That report should be available by the end of the summer. It will be in a format that is similar to the Public Value Report we currently have for the KAC’s Kentucky Art Partnership program. You can view that report on the Advocacy page of our website. So glad to hear all the good comments!

  5. I feel that 2-dimensional artists–painters, photographers, etc. need wholesales people who are interested in that type of work. In the five years as a KY Crafted exhibiter, I have found lacking the right kind of buyers for our products. Suggesions might include: buyers from law offices, hotels, hospitals, travel agencies, etc. to market our products. There should be equal representation for both crafts and fine arts artists. Thank you.

    Judy Rosati, Judy Rosati’s Fine Arts Photography LLC

  6. To just say that 2D artwork sold can be a bit misleading. Because there are so many different Markets within this category. Even within the category of painting. I would be interested in knowing if folks bought more landscapes, abstract, etc. The Market used to be one of my best shows, yet the last year I did it it was my worst show of the year, so I decided it wasn’t worth it anymore to take the gamble. Yet I believe that paintings do sell, I believe that content is a factor that should be addressed. To just say that paintings sell at the Market as a means to encourage others to participate could be misleading.

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