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When Size Matters

My intension is to make beautiful things that people want to wear. Now I know this sounds rather straight forward but it does have a significant impact on my work, on my design process.

One of the things I love the most about having a creative business is how my work becomes stories in other people’s lives, it’s the present from the sister who went to the far side of the world, it’s the serendipitous find at an artisan market on a girls weekend, it’s the teachers present from the little girl emanating sunshine; my little designs take on a new life all over the world and I adore that!

How I find creative satisfaction with my designs becoming other people's stories

Creative satisfaction

So my earrings need to be below a certain weight, brooches and pendants have a maximum size and when I go bigger, I know I’m making something that only a few people will give a new home to. It is fun making extra big pieces, or extra long earrings but I only make a few of them, knowing they could be in my life for quite a while until their new owner arrives and finds them.

This is true for all of us artisans and artists, we need to carefully (and respectfully) consider the needs of the people who will give new homes to our creations.

Designing with Size in Mind

So the print maker and painter need to have a standard size that easily fits in frames readily found by the customer, the card maker needs to create stationery that travels for the prize of a regular letter, the textile maker designs cushion covers to fit shop bought inserts. You get the picture.

If you make a painting or a print that doesn’t fit a standard frame and means the customer will then have extra costs to hang it, you’ll be saying goodbye to a lot of income. If you make it easy for them you’ll see a big boost to your sales.

It’s a two way street too, if you’re doing the framing yourself and you have a standard size you work with then you can get a batch of frames made up for you and that’s much cheaper and easier than always having to look for custom frames.

What about when your the frame maker? I love picking up picture frames made from recycled wood so I have them ready at home for that fabulous painting or print I find. Mostly they fit 8” x 6” or 11” x 8” pictures, but I have one that isn’t standard and it’s been empty for years.

So to help you think creatively about what sizes matter with your work I’ve come up with five tips.

5 tips for artists and artisans, makers and crafters for sizing their creations

1. Think about who will be giving a new home to your work and make for them.

2. Does your customer need to do something further with your work, eg. like frame it? If so, make it really easy for them to find an affordable next step, such as a standard sized frame at the shopping centre.

3. Is it likely your customer will be in a large expansive home or a smaller house or apartment? This can impact the size of your work, whether it be paintings or wall hangings, furniture or homewares.

4. Is weight an issue for your designs like it is for my earring ranges? Heavy earrings were a fad of the 1980’s and have stayed out of fashion because they hurt – they rip ears and give some people headaches. If something is uncomfortable then people will leave it in the drawer. If they’re doing this they will probably not shop with you again. If they are wearing your work and getting compliments then you have that beautiful thing called word of mouth marketing happening for you.

5. Will your creation have to travel, be wrapped as a present, go in the post? Think about what’s easiest for your customer with this. One of the shops at The Rocks selling digguerdoos has free shipping, I explain that my ceramic necklaces and brooches are really light for suitcases and posting, all to look after the customer and make life easy for her.

Make it easy to say “Yes”

By thinking through what matters to your customers, those who spend their money with you so you can keep being creative, you take away the risk factors for them, making it much easier for them to say yes.

If you’re selling your work through a shop, stockist or gallery you’ll find that if it is easy for them to sell then they’ll put in more orders, even do more events with you. Yes, again this is very simple but it is crucial, it’s a competitive space you’re part of and if your work is moving more quickly then you’ll get more opportunities.

Keeping the Creative Business Dream Alive

There are certainly times and projects that are much better suited for the extra big or particularly small and it can be great fun to work on them.

It can also be very important for your creative development and growth too so be sure to keep these in your creative output. It is just a question of balance between what brings in the money that funds you doing what you love and what will stay with you for a long time.

An artist friend of mine survived a horrible fire season, the stunning bushland around her and many homes in the local town were devastated by the bushfire. As a response to the eight days of fires in the hills surrounding her tranquil valley she painted a series of paintings depicting the blackened landscape. While they have been in exhibitions and won awards they have not sold. But what’s been most important is the process of painting them, of the community seeing their beloved landscape and village shown in art after this traumatic experience.

I think she will always have these paintings and they will stay tucked away in their storage, having done the bulk of their life’s work already. Years down the track they will come out and they may be part of an exhibition marking the 20th anniversary of those devastating fires but it is unlikely they’ll financially pay for themselves. Yet on an emotional and creative level I think they have more than paid for themselves, they have been part of her own private mourning and healing as well as for many in a close knit community that lost so much.

Finding Creative Balance

So there’s an important balance to strike in your work – the pieces that bring in money so you can keep doing what you love and the pieces that are deeply focused on creative expression and both are vital for the creative muse.

Personally I much prefer to be making my best sellers than working in someone else’s business. But I know they are best sellers because they fit beautifully into other people’s lives.

So what can you do with your work to make it more accessible to your wonderful customers?

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