This part of the process made me want to rip my hair out, make a noose, and hang myself.
Because at this stage I was almost wishing that I had just gone with the galleries option to print and mount for me and save myself the cost and headache of shipping.
I'll start with packaging the smaller prints you plan to sell.
Any packaging that will touch the print itself needs to be archival and acid free, because if it isn't, it could cause the print to fade quickly over time. It can also cause discolorations and warping in some cases. You can purchase acid free archival materials from a few places, my favorites are
Bags Unlimited and Clear Bags
It's a good idea to get the backing board, so that your prints aren't in danger of being easily bent, and the bags are a good idea to keep them tidy, prevent fingerprints from handling and it makes it easy to stuff a business card and certificate of Authenticity in the back. I really like the bags with the sealable flap.
Now, for shipping. Remember folks- I work for the postal service. Take my advice on this, really.
There is no reasonable way you can expect any shipping service to handle your packages individually and with the great care that they deserve. It's not feasible. Each carrier handles far too many packages daily to ensure that each package can be treated with extreme deference to it's contents. Of course, we try our best and we don't go out of our way to put packages in places where they'll be destroyed, but it's up to you to package them to withstand the perils of shipping. Doesn't matter who you use.
If you choose to send your prints un-mounted to the gallery- send them inside a plastic bag, rolled and in a shipping tube. Don't forget to tape the heck out of both ends of the tube, because I see it happen all the time that the ends pop off and contents spill out or moisture gets in. Any tracking labels should be affixed length-wish. So that the scanners can scan them. (Laser scanners can't bend around a tube!!)
If you have already mounted your prints, this is where you'll be kicking yourself.
First you need to find a sturdy box, like a really sturdy box. If the prints get tossed in a hamper or truck and something else kinda heavy get's put on top of them, they will bend, even when mounted on gator board.
The UPS store and possibly Pak-Mail have large, sturdy boxes you can buy that should stand up to shipping. Make sure to wrap in bubble wrap and for an extra measure of sturdiness I would add another panel of foam core or something, just in case the box gets punctured.
Shipping costs: Comparison
Probably every carrier will have a surcharge for size. These are large prints and the packaging will make them even larger. So be sure to account for the size surcharge when calculating your prices.
We are going to assume a piece comparable to what I just shipped. The dimensions are
L=33 H=33 and W=6 and it weighed about 15lbs. It's going to Texas from Indiana.
USPS- 77.90 for Standard post- Delivery estimate- 2 weeks.
UPS Ground- $75.74 4 days shipping
UPS Second day air= 164.64 2 days shipping.
Fedex 2 day Am=$94.22 PM=84.20
Fedex turns out to be the best deal for the time. Since I'm a procrastinator, I need a two day service.
The gallery won't ship these back to you for free, and mine had the caveat that if you leave them there for too long, they will be considered a donation to the gallery and you forfeit any proceeds from their sale. So, you'll also need to pay that shipping cost again, to have them returned to you. You can do this easily by asking for a bill of lading or have a pre-printed label to be included in the package. The gallery will re-use your own packing materials and return them to you in the same manner you have sent them. They are not responsible for damages during shipping.
*A note about postal insurance. I have never heard of anyone who has had an easy time making a claim and immediately getting their money back. It is usually a long drawn out process and often ends with the postal service determining that the fault was not theirs. I don't know about the other guys.
Another thing to mention is that you can only insure an item like these for the cost to recreate them. Not for their implied value, but for their actual replacement value. How much would it cost to print and mount them again? That's your insured value. You cannot insure for potential loss of income either. So if the carrier loses your package and finds it after the show has ended, you cannot claim that you lost $10,000.00 in potential sales. Because you can't prove you would have made those sales. Is the insurance worth the cost? It's up to you. If you're willing to fight with them to comp you , sure, go for it. If it's more of a headache to you to fight the red tape, then leave it be.
There ya go! Everything I've learned the hard way from start to finish about approaching galleries, printing for shows, and shipping large prints. I hope I've been helpful for you and if you liked this series of posts, please like and share these with the little links below.
If you have anything you'd like to add, do it in the comments and I"ll update the posts with credit to you!
SHOW YOUR WORK! A beginners guide to gallery shows, told by another beginner- PART DEUX Printing and Mounting
Let me preface by telling you all that I am writing these posts with my first show barely under my belt. So, basically, this is a "What I learned the hard way" type of how to guide. There might be better ways, I could be wrong about some things, but mostly, follow your instincts about things.
So, you've got yourself into a gallery show! Congratulations!!! Get ready to be financially raped by printers, mounters, framers and shipping companies.
Depending on what you've been accepted to show, and how many pieces the gallery has chosen from you, you may or may not be in for some serious costs.
For example, my recent experience:
The gallery was specific about the size of prints they would accept. The print itself had to be exactly 30x30 inches, with a 1/2 inch white border all around. They had to be mounted on white backing that was not mat board and ONLY french cleats were acceptable hanging hardware. The paper used had to be gallery quality archival satin or matte finish and if it didn't fit these rigorous standards, they reserved the right to not hang your art.
Okay. No problem. Let's do this thing.
FINDING A PRINTER:
Wal-Mart, Target, and Meijer do not offer the kind of quality paper that galleries will accept. Get that out of your head right now. Neither does Snapfish or Shutterfly.
If you want to do this online, you need to search for print labs that are capable of producing archival quality giclee prints. (museum quality also works in a search)
A comparison of online printing prices for a 30x30 unmounted print-
The gallery also offered a print package- at $100.00 per print with an additional hanging and mounting option of $30.00.
Now, That is really expensive. And you don't get to see the print before you pay. I used a local printer in our town and I was able to sit down with him and he was able to advise me on paper choices, whether or not my file size was big enough to blow up to the size I needed and he had a "guy" that he used to handle the mounting- At no risk to me if damage occurred.
His prices were great- $49.00 a piece on fine art giclee satin paper and the mounting was an additional $42.00 each. He didn't have the brand of paper I was hoping for, but offered to keep it on hand for me if I wanted to buy the roll for myself and just use him for his printer and ink. Also, before he printed he pointed out a few mistakes I had made and gave me a chance to fix them, then he triple checked with me the sizes and quantities.
The important thing to note here is that I was not responsible for damage if it occurred while in his or his mounter's care. Everywhere else I checked did not offer that, you would be responsible to replace the print if damage occurred through shipping or mounting.
Finding a local printer wasn't as easy as a quick directory search. I kept getting directed to Wal-Mart and CVS and another instant photo lab, but nobody who dealt with Gallery quality prints. (Though be careful, because they all claimed to be best quality!!) Finally, I called the camera shop and asked him and he referred me to the guy I found. You could also call the art gallery and ask them for recommendations. They oughtta know!!
If your gallery has given you the opportunity to have on hand smaller prints for sale, consider these things:
Offering a smaller size of the large print will give a buying option to all price points. Maybe someone isn't ready to drop two grand on a gigantic piece of art, but they may be willing to drop $150-$400 on smaller prints.
The trick is to make these smaller prints as desirable as you can, and you can boost their perceived value in the eyes of the art buyer by using a few tricks.
Limit your edition size. Limited editions give an image that "Get it before it's gone forever" kind of urgency. This is a binding agreement you make that says you will only print so many of this image, in this size, on this kind of paper and once these are all sold, they won't be available anymore. The more exclusive the edition, the more value it will have to buyers, who covet the "one of a kind-ness" of an art piece. The larger the print size, the smaller the edition size should be.
Mine goes something like this:
8x8, editions of 30- $150.00
10x10, editions of 25- $300.00
12x12, editions of 15-$600.00
20x20, editions of 5-$900.00
30x30, editions of 3-$1200.00
Add a "Certificate of Authenticity" to each print. Here is a helpful link regarding these:
It's an added layer of assurance that the print the buyer is getting is indeed one of a kind.
You should also, sign, date and number the print on the back with either a pencil or an archival ink slick writer pen. (WAIT FOR THE INK TO DRY BEFORE YOU PACKAGE!!!)
Sign the print on the front. It will increase the value of the print to have it signed by the artist. Use the same kind of archival ink that you used to write on the back, and your signature and year created should go in the lower right hand corner, and the title should go in the lower left hand corner. Smallish.
Your smaller prints should have at least a half inch border all around to make framing easier for the buyer. Now, make the image size 8x8, but the total paper size will end up being 9x9 because of your half inch border all around. (The first 3 editions of "Bipolar" and "Innocence" in sizes 8x8 and 10x10 don't have this because I forgot to instruct the printer to do that.
Sometime last year, I decided to pick up conceptual photography and dedicate all my time and energy into that style. It's been endlessly rewarding to plan, create and execute my visions and it's incredibly humbling to see the outpouring of support I've received since I've begun this journey.
Unlike family or senior or stock image photography, there isn't a large opportunity to make money through conceptual art, and even though making money isn't the reason we create art, it is a useful tool in being able to continue creating your visions. So, you need to realize that your market lies within the art collector community and you reach these people through galleries who are willing to show your work for you. You grow your recognition through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Filckr, 500px etc... but really your target audience should be the collector. The art buyers. Wherever they are...
I spent a great deal of time wondering why I wasn't getting contacted by hoards of people clamoring to buy my art. I figured with as much as I put myself out there, surely someone would see me and think "OMG, I HAVE TO HAVE THAT PRINT ON MY WALL RIGHT NOW!!"
It doesn't quite work that way. In fact, it works entirely the opposite. YOU have to be the one to seek out buyers and YOU have to be the one to sell yourself and YOU have to be the one to approach galleries and agents and magazines.
So, step one: Approaching a gallery.
It is a terrible idea to pack up your portfolio and take a day trip around town to every gallery you come across, interrupt the owners and beg them for a chance to shove your work in their faces. You should probably do a little research online about the gallery first, visit the gallery in person (SANS PORTFOLIO!) and get a feel for what kind of artwork they like to deal in. I've been lusting after a gallery here in my town for a long time, only to finally realize that they deal exclusively in paintings and sculpture. It would do me NO GOOD to approach this gallery with my photographs. They just aren't interested.
Most galleries have an option to become a member and membership grants you certain privileges such as first crack at submitting for a show, or a member's exclusive show in which you can submit for free. I highly recommend becoming a member of any gallery in your area. There are all kinds of benefits such as free or discounted classes, opportunities for networking, group field trips and plenty more.
If you do find a gallery and you truly feel that your work would be a good fit, then do a little research, find out who is in charge of accepting new work (a curator? a Jury? A monkey with a dartboard?) and send them a polite email introducing yourself, explaining what kind of artist you are, and that you would be honored if your work would be considered for showing someday.
"Dear Cathy, My name is Tara Denny and I am a conceptual photographer. I specialize in creating bizarre, dreamlike darker art and I would love to someday be considered to have my art on display in your beautiful gallery."
Be sure to thank them for their time and consideration, leave them links to where they can see more of your work and possibly even pay them a compliment on a show that you have seen in the past
"I was moved to tears by the show you hung last spring from Bagger Manning, his work with processed cheese is unprecedented and life altering"
Seriously, though, don't be insincere. Make it a compliment from your heart because nobody likes a disingenuous compliment.
ANSWER THE CALLS FOR ENTRY!
This is the time when a gallery is asking for you to submit your work and it's the best time to get their attention. Usually this is done online now, however, I've seen a few where the options to submit an actual paper portfolio is still there, but still not preferred.
A call for entry usually goes down like this:
The gallery will make the announcement that they are looking for art that fits a certain theme or medium. I once saw a show entirely dedicated to afro's. Sometimes there is a submission fee, usually around $15-$35.00 more or less. This is to cover the costs of promoting and hanging the show, and it also serves to weed out the artists who aren't serious about their work.
Submit your BEST WORK that fits their theme if there is one. Otherwise, just submit your best work. If you are submitting for a solo show you may not even have to submit the same images you plan on showing, the CFE will give you those details.
For that fee, you usually get to submit around 3 images and can pay an additional fee to submit more if you like. They often ask you to accompany your submissions with an artist's statement.
WHAT IS AN ARTIST'S STATEMENT?
Boiled down, and artists statement is like the blurb on the back of a book, only about you, the artist and what kind of art you create. It is your first impression to the viewer and the gallery and it is an essential and valuable aspect in showing your work to the art world. You can make this as long or as short as you like, but it should include who you are, what kind of work you do, possibly what influences your creativity. I've seen some artists statements that tell the viewer exactly how to look at their art, and I've seen others that tell the viewer to make up their own interpretations. Mine reads more or less like this:
" I am Tara Denny, a surreal, conceptual photographer who specializes in dreamlike darker art. I use my art as a way to express my emotions and work through chaos in my life. It is my way to communicate to the world when words fail me. Even though my work is darker, I believe that is speaks to more uplifting themes such as hope, empowerment, and overcoming odds."
Like many people, I have a hard time writing about myself and my art. I feel better just letting people see my work and judge it on that alone, but galleries like a statement, so you need to create one. It needs to be personal to you and you can add as much or as little as you like, as long as you have the basics covered.
Here is a helpful link regarding Artist's Statements and why you need one.
Once you have submitted, wait. and wait. and wait. The artist panel or jury or monkey with a dartboard needs time to review all the submissions and earmark the ones they feel will best represent the theme. They will always notify you whether or not you are selected, and if/when you are selected, they will offer more instructions with how they want you to proceed.
On a side note- When I submitted to Artlink, they also asked for an Artist's proposal. And this really threw me, because googling that dang thing didn't bring up anything useful. An Artist's Proposal is for when a gallery is selecting solo shows (a show all to yourself!) They want to know what you are capable of doing with the space they are offering.
"If given the space, I would be able to commit to 10 30x30 images, framed, mounted and wired for hanging.." Or "I imagine using the space to hang 3 images in this size and 6 images in this size, all dealing with the many subtle sub-plots of every Monty Python movie ever made"
I found this handy link- http://theartguide.com/callforentries It seems to be a giant list of galleries and art shows around the country who are accepting calls for entries for the next few months. Read through each one, as sometimes the calls are only open for local residents, certain age groups, or certain themes, and most of them require a submission fee, but it can go a long way into getting yourself "out there" to show as many times as you can.
Now, having said that- check your contracts!! If you sign on with a gallery, you may be agreeing not to show anywhere else until your contract is up, or the gallery may be asking for exclusive rights to your images forever. Make sure you read the fine print!! You don't want to get sued!
My Fellow Fine Artists
Tammy Zurak of Z Photog Studio | Memphis, TN, USA | Fine Art/Illustrative Photography Gallery:
Pam Korman of District Photography | Philadelphia, PA, USA | Fine Art Photography:
www.bonniealrifai.com Fine art photography
Handy Andy Pandy