Saturday, August 29, 2009

Alternative Venues for Artists and Crafts people: Antiques Malls.

Figuring out Pricing and Sizes
for Art in Antiques and Craft Malls.

Ive been an Artist vendor in Antiques malls since 1994. Before that I knew other artists who leased spaces at these malls, painted there on the weekends, and eventually went on to own their own galleries.

Antiques and Crafter malls present a great opportunity for people who want to go into business for themselves mostly because they can start out small see what will sell and have a show case space to market their work.

Most of these malls require a lease and take a percentage. Usually they handle all of the money and collect taxes. Sometimes they require attendance to annual or bi-annual dealer meetings and participation in one or more publicised events per year, usually around Christmas time. Once you have fulfilled your contract obligations you receive a monthly accounting off all you have sold and are responsible for your own promotion and inventory. It can be amazing for someone starting out or someone like me who just likes the freedom.

Sizes that sell well:Size and price.. When you first go in to the perspective mall, walk around and see what other people are selling that is similar to yours and try to keep your prices at or near theirs. Of course if they are selling original Art for $5 or $10 dollars then that would be a problem. Of course I am assuming that both you as the perspective seller and the person selling have credible talent that will develop a following that will have their needs met by your creations.

There are sizes that usually sell well at a reasonable price for you to make money in this venue.
These are standard sizes:
2.5 by 3.5 inches ( Art trading card size) frames to 4 by 6 with a matt
4 x 6 inches frames to 5 x7 inches with a matt
5x7 inches. Frames to 8 by 10 with a matt
8 by 10 inches or 9 by 12 inches frames to 11 by 14 with a matt

Other sizes are with canvas or board you can rarely get a good price for larger paintings in this type of venue because everyone is looking for something inexpensive and hopefully cheap.
These are standard sizes for larger works: ( in inches)
11 by 14
16 by 20
18 by 24
24 by 30
30 by 36
Please keep in mind these sizes are expensive to frame but you can find used frames generally in these sizes then paint to fit the frame. I would keep these sizes to canvas or board because matting and framing a watercolor under glass in these larger sizes is really expensive.
There are also gallery wrapped canvases you can buy now that don’t need framing. You simply paint around the edges. These are great for keeping it simple.

If you want to matt your work for easy framing. You can sometimes find inexpensive matts at Wal-Mart to fit standard size frames. You can also find matts sometimes at places like the Dollar Tree ( if you have those where you are) at 2 matts for a dollar . If Matting is too expensive and makes too much over head then you can use these alternatives. Try to always get acid free matts and coverings. These will prevent a world of problems in the long term and protect the value of the painting

Make matts from
1. poster board ( white , black or other neutral colors ( you cant always get acid free poster board)
2. Watercolor paper : this makes a nice heavy alternative matt and you can paint it using inexpensive acrylic paint that you find at Wal-Mart or a craft store. ( almost all watercolor paper sold today is acid free)
You should keep an inventory of unframed but matted and backed art to sell in sizes 5 by 7 and 8 by 10. Some People love to look through little boxes or bins to see what inside. Its like a treasure hunt for them

An easy way to protect them is to use acid free Page protectors. You can get a package of them from Wal-Mart or Staples for a reasonable sum of money . A page protector will cover an 8” by 10 “easily. You can use clear packing tape to tape it closed. Along with the matted work of art you can also slip a piece of cardboard the same size as the matted art to keep it from bending when people look at it. You can slip your business card in side and a price tag taped to the front or back with seller id and everything. There is also shrink film you can get from an art supply store for larger works. The idea is to keep the elements off the painting so it doesn’t discolor it or allow humidity or oil from hands from devaluing the work.

Framed work:
Variety is the ticket and something unique that people won’t find anywhere else is the best way to go. I'm a great one to try to find great frames in odd places.

Sometimes dollar stores like Dollar Tree has tons of small frames. You can find them as small as 1” by 2” and up to 9 by 12. Sometimes they even come with matts for a dollar.
You want to have a selection of frames that can hang on the wall, as well as table top frames. The more unique the better. Remember to scour yard sales and flea markets for frames too.

Tips on frames:

* check the front and make sure there are not chips nicks or scratches. Unless the frame is old barn wood or from an old boat plank they won’t buy it if it looks damaged. That goes for chips in frame glass as well. It won’t sell if its broken.

* it’s better to get wood frames when possible .. there are lots of frames that you pay good money for that fall apart or you can’t put a wire on the back of because they are either hard plastic or they are pressed sawdust. It’s hard to put a good hanger on the back of one of these as they tend to break the frame.

* The preferred method of hanging a painting is using wire. That means putting screw-eyes on either side of the back of the frame and stringing wire between them. When done correctly the painting will always hang level ( sometimes even if the room isn’t) Always put little stick-on acrylic tabs to protect the walls on frame back bottom corners when they are made of metal or are over 8 by 10 in size.

When you get some money ahead, I would take a class at the local craft frame store to get some tips on things that will improve the professionalism of your display. This training is a legitimate business expense. Sometimes the way a painting is framed will sell it when no one is buying from other people.

Display to sell:

One of the things I have noticed is that these venues have a lot of repeat business. Sometimes they are just killing time, sometimes they are very serious buyers, and sometimes they are on a mission. You want to target the serious buyers and the trinket hunters. When I was selling a good deal these are things I learned:

1. Redo your entire space every week to 10 days. Its an old antique dealers trick I learned from a church friend in the antique buiness. It makes it look like you have completely new inventory.

2. Change out a quarter of your store space once a month. If something hasn’t sold in 6 months bag it up and store it away or put them in a different venue. But take a good look at them first, if they are really nice and no one Is buying then maybe you aren’t drawing the right market. If you have a huge following on FB, don’t forget to get a fan page together and a blog. Promote those items online and make special events happen even if the Mall isn’t having any. Its not what you are doing, but what you are seen to be doing that draws attention to your work. Social networking is really important these days because people now seem to buy because of relationship not just because of the quality or popularity of the work. Good work will sell its self, but you have to get the people there to see it first.

Sometimes putting an item away for 18 months and bringing them back with a completely different mix of items will sell them. I have one painting that I sold one or two prints from and could never sell the painting. Its an awesome painting. That painting keeps increasing in value and everyone who sees it raves about it. That’s the painting I need to keep until the right buyer comes. Every once in a while I will exhibit it. But I’m quite happy to have it in my living room until that time. You cant afford to have a lot of inventory like that. Don’t keep trying to ride a dead horse. If it isn’t selling, even if it is the best work you have every done, try changing subject matter to something else. Keep in mind too that the puppies that sold last month may not sell this month because you might have saturated your market. Its important to keep generating new clients as well as keeping the ones you have.

3. Have a huge piece art that draws attention and might be outrageously priced. Maybe a banner or poster one month, then a painting a couple of months later. Keep the patrons guessing.. it’s the drawing card that gets their attention. What ever you use try to look at what your neighbor vendors have and use something so different than what they have that people will be attracted to your space first. You may not sell your show case focus art in this venue, but if people like it, they will buy your smaller art. The big one pays for itself through the sales of the little ones.

4. Make your booth an adventure in discovery. The longer you can keep people in your space the more likely they are to buy something. The more of an adventure they find there the more likely they are to return for the thing that impressed them the most. Before the economy started going bad.. I could sell to 1 in 10 people that saw my work for the first time. 1 in 50 were repeat buyers. 1 in 100 would buy consistently and over a period of about 18 months would spend $500 or more dollars. That is a larger than average rate for most retail. I found out later that one framing shop in town attributed about 5% of their overall business to framing my little paintings that people bought. Remember also that an adventure does not mean it’s cluttered and too busy. If people can’t see it they won’t buy it.

Remember that an Antiques or Crafter Mall is on the same level as A Regional Art Show. The difference is that you have people coming to see your work everyday rather than just for a festival or event of one or two days.

In pricing their are rules:
::A painting is only as valuable as the price people are willing to pay.
::You can lower your price, but you can’t raise it once you put it in a venue.

So before you get in too deep study to see what other people in the mall are pricing the same type of things you want to sell . So that means look around and see what other people are selling things for. For instance if you are seeing original watercolor that is 8" by 10", then look at the quality.

Don’t be tempted to under price your work simply because another dealer is putting low prices on theirs. Their reasoning might be that they can’t sell it after two years, so they mark it down. It might be reasonable to put a $85 price on a 8 by 10 watercolor study, and even more reasonable to put a $200 price on a watercolor that has a lot of detail in it. But it might not be reasonable to put a $1,000 on the same painting, unless say, the Prince of Wales painted it. It would be just as foolish to put only $20 on the same painting because that wouldn’t cover your expenses and over head, not to mention your time.

In order to stay in business you need to make a profit. Any profit you make should go to investing back into the business until it stands on its own. Out of that profit you pay yourself, make improvements, buy new equipment, replace things.

Another thing to keep in mind is that an original painting should always be worth 5 to 10 times the price of a reproduction or print of that same or similar item. So when you are pricing things price them in relationship with both other items you are selling in your space and make them competitive with those around you.

Be sure you know the difference between a serious art seller and someone who hasn’t a clue. In this business you are going to be bringing people in from the outside so they need to see you are serious.

An amateur and high school students sells a 16” by 20” painting on canvas for under $50. An artist who knows the value of their work, someone just starting out, would sell the same painting for $400 to $600. An established artist with regional recognition would sell it for $800 to $3,000. A person with national recognition might sell the same painting for $5,000 and up, A person with world wide recognition would sell it for $10,000 and up. Remember though, the higher the price the fewer buyers there are that can afford to buy it.

It might be right to think at $10,000 you only have to sell 4 or 5 paintings a year but the thruth is you sill have to eat , pay the rent and buy art supplies while you are waiting to make the sale.

There are several layers of pricing I use:

Quick STUDY PRICING: these are simple paintings done quickly like loose watercolors usually in smaller sizes
My quick studies fall into this category. Its also the highest selling group.
You may want to start a little lower in price than mine are at first to build up your business.
I price watercolors like this: ( add 10% for acrylic and 20% for oils, for drawings I drop 1/5 of the price)
2.5" by 3.5" at $12.50 to $25.00 ( depending on the details)
4” by 6” is $20.00
5” by 7” is $30
8 by 10 is $45( I don’t usually paint quick studies in this size)

STANDARD SQUARE INCH PRICING: Work priced by the square inch and are usually actual paintings or drawings that have all the elements of a master work of art.. including a background, foreground interaction of subject with its surroundings, such as shadows, highlights, reflections etc, and sometimes even direct interaction with the viewer. If additional elements and subjects are added to the same painting then 30% of the base price is added for each element added.

Matting and framing are not added to the cost of the painting and would usually be the responsibility of the buyer if the work were a commission. I use this rule of thumb for framing. The cost of the frame should not be more than 1/5 the total cost of the painting.
SQUARE INCH Pricing ( frame and no matt..) just the painting .
This is a real painting.. meaning not a study, it has a background, a fore ground and 1 subject that interacts with either the viewer or its surroundings , shadows, reflections, highlights etc etc:
Drawings: $1 a square inch (graphite or ink or watercolors on lighter weight paper)
Watercolors or colored drawings: $1.50 a square inch ( must be on heavy paper to last)
Acrylic or Gauche paintings: $2.00 per square inch ( on heavy paper 300lb or more)
Acrylic or Gauche paintings: $3.00 per square inch ( on canvas or board)
Oil on gessoed paper: $3.00 per square inch
Oil Paintings: depending on the skill and experience of the artist $3.50 to $5.00 per square inch( canvas or board)
Miniature pricing is the exact opposite of standard pricing. The smaller and the more detail the more price it commands. And the pricing includes the frame as it is also considered part of the work of art. A true Miniature may not be framed larger than 5” by 5”
Example: 2.5” by 3.5” priced at $25.00; 2.25” by 3.25” will be priced at $50; 2.00 by 3.00 will be $75. For every quarter of an inch you go down add $25.00 then add the cost of framing.

Just so you know established Miniature artists get about $100 to $300 for a 2.5 by 3.5 original watercolor or oil painting so you can imagine what the price would be if it was 1” by ½ “ plus the framing
I hope this information helps some of you just starting out. Please feel free to post questions or email me at

All rights to this or anypart of this blog are strickly reserved by the artist. Please do not use without permission.LindaLMartin,Artist Copyright©2009


Melissa and Emmitt said...

hi linda!
wow! what a wonderful post! your are so talented and generous!
have a wonderful day!

LLMartin said...

Hey Melissa! How are you doing? Thanks so much for the kind words. I hope my post gives a lot of artists and crafters some new options for getting their work out.