We are nearing the festive season and I will participate in two different, crafty Christmas markets in the next few weeks. Having started on this freelance illustration path a little over a year ago, I still don’t have much experience with markets and art-fairs, but I really look forward to engaging with people face-to-face as opposed to over Facebook.
The little experience I have is thanks to having participated in the annual “brocante” in my street. This is a very Belgian thing to do, a mixture of a flea-market and a garage-sale, where people basically empty their basements to the street in front of their houses and try to sell as many things as possible. The prices are very low, and most items on offer are second hand at best.
I decided to participate and not only it was lots of fun, it also made me feel more part of the community, plus I made some money. It was a great way to engage with people, to let them know what Im doing, hand out my business cards, and even to get a few commissions.
One important aspect of these markets is negotiating of course. I started the day with certain prices and decided to lower them around midday, after having seen that my initial ideas were probably a bit too high for the “brocante-crowd”.
I sold individual cards and I tried to sell framed pictures as well. The entire day there was only one person who bought a frame and I heard many people commenting (with a bit of complaint) to their friends/partners that they’ll do the framing themselves because it would be much cheaper.
Ahead of the Christmas markets I felt like sharing some secrets with you about pricing my art. What exactly are you paying for? I think its important that people have a full understanding of what is behind a certain price tag.
When you buy a framed print of a house that I’ve drawn you are paying for:
1. THE CONCEPT: Many of you could have easily have had the same idea. In fact, many people do draw buildings, there is nothing revolutionary about that. But I select each building carefully for one reason or another, and I came up with the concept to print postcards with these illustrations. I have a certain style and a perspective that is unique to me.
2. THE TIME: The most obvious thing about this is the time I spend on each drawing (which is about 2 days/building). I hand-draw each building on paper, digitalise my drawing and then colour on the computer. The colouring and finishing with the details takes the longest time, I experiment a lot to make sure the colours reflect reality but have this little magical, childish aspect at the same time.
But I also have to find the buildings I draw, take pictures of them so I can draw every detail that interests me, and once Im done with the drawings I have to have them printed. I personally go to the print-shop to make sure that the colours, the size, the paper are all fine and exactly what I want. Later on I have to go back to collect the prints.
I could go on for a long time about what takes time, for example I could add the fact that I have to market what I do and advertising and publicity can eat up hours of your day without you noticing. I reach out to other artists, to magazine publishers, to shops around the city and I build an online presence. There are lots of “failed” attempts for each successful one, so this is very time consuming.
Or I could remind you that I had to invest time and money in learning how to use the graphic design softwares that I use, or pay for the licence to use them.
3. THE QUALITY: Based on the feedback I received in my life so far: I have good taste. Consider that a portion of the price rewards my good taste in picking the best looking buildings, drawing their details carefully, choosing the most suited colours, having experimented with printers, with papers, having taken the time to find the frames that would value the drawings most.
So when you attend a Christmas craft fair in a week or so and you are looking at handmade items, do ask the artists about their processes. Find out more about how they develop their concepts, how much time they spend on a particular item and what is important for them in terms of quality. They’ll be happy to share and you’ll be much better informed. Perhaps even inspired to buy after hearing a personal story instead of just staring at the price. ;-)