Marthe Le Van of Mora Contemporary Jewelry was our guest judge for the 2017 Halstead Grant. As a jewelry gallery curator, Marthe has some great insight into what it takes to get your jewelry noticed by buyers. We asked her to share some tips here on the blog.
Marthe says, “The first version of this blog was scrapped right after it was written. The topic was ‘presenting your work to a gallery,’ and though it was peppered with genuinely good advice, it was not the best strategy for finding retail partners in the real world. Any gallery or store owner worth her salt is constantly on the lookout for new jewelers, but rarely does an unsolicited email lead to representation. In five years of curating Mora, not one jeweler has been added to the store from a cold email presentation of her work. This isn’t to say that it couldn’t happen, and that we don’t accept submissions, but it is so very rare that encouraging it doesn’t feel necessarily honest or useful. So, here’s version 2.0—tips on ‘positioning yourself to be noticed by a gallery.’
Assuming you’ve got market-ready jewelry, here are some practical actions you can take to widen your circle, to make connections, and to put yourself in the right place at the right time to form successful retail partnerships. I hope they are helpful!”
Build a friendly posse of jewelry peers. A strong social network with whom you can ask questions, share information, test out ideas, pool resources, check references, and get honest feedback will serve you well.
Find a mentor. A more-experienced jeweler can be an invaluable resource for navigating the retail world, just remember to pay it forward to the next generation!
Join professional organizations. From international alliances to local guilds, belonging to a professional group offers prime networking opportunities, especially at events and conferences.
Apply, apply, apply. Submit your jewelry to as many calls-for-entries as you can. Competitions, exhibitions, grants, residencies, fairs, and shows often hire industry insiders to jury their contests. Simply entering guarantees eyes on your work.
Get a job. No, really! Working for a gallery or another artist is a great step in learning what these environments are like and give insights as to how to better approach a busy gallery and how to engage with a jewelry-buying audience.
Do your homework. Sizing up potential retail partners has never been easier. Every store or gallery you want to be in business with should have a website and social media. Go there! Poke around. Dig deep. Get to know their history and story, look closely at what jewelers they represent, how they present themselves and the work they sell to the world. Sign up for their mailing list. Follow their social media feeds.
Groom for Google. Your online presence is working for you 24/7, and this silent partner needs tending. Make sure you’re easy to find online and that you’re making a great first impression with a compelling (and current!) website.
Post, engage, repeat. Make sharing your jewelry on social media an active part of your routine. Instagram’s visual-driven content is tailor made for jewelry marketing, and the only cost is your time. It’s hands-down the best platform for global engagement and can definitely lead to commercial opportunities.
Hit the road. Traveling to check out an art fair or trade show is a business expense and a great way to get into the game. Lots of jewelers and collectors and curators and editors and bloggers and buyers are congregating in one place, and they’re all looking to discover great new work. Show up wearing your very best jewelry and mingle fearlessly. (And while you’re out-of-town, make it your mission to visit the stores and galleries you think might be a good fit for your work.)
Jewelry Artist Tara Locklear at Bijoux Contemporary Art Jewelry Sale