The Art of Selling?

6 squared dishes by belatrova

platters (Photo C. de la Torre)

The easy part of a business like belatrova, and any other art/design/craft-based project, is the making of the product. Far more mysterious and challenging is the art of marketing, of finding your target audience, those human beings you know have been put on this good earth to buy your merchandise.

Excellent advice abounds, like The Design Trust run by Patricia van den Akker which really gives helpful insight into website traffic and media tools (“no nonsense business advice and tips for designers and makers”), or the many design blogs which promote certain products but also publish tips by designers and makers on a regular basis. You could easily spend a day surfing and googling them and come out a little wiser if disconcerted because of the many options available.

belatrova already has its website, its facebook page, and its blog. It has its first outlet in London in the Horsebox Gallery, and is taking part in its first “open workshop” week, opening its doors to the public as part of h.Art, the very successful Herefordshire Art Week when visitors can see an array of artwork at exhibitions in locations such as castles, manor houses, barns farms, churches, workshops and galleries throughout the county.

Many have paid us a visit, and we have benefitted from a great deal of feedback and comment, and learnt about the elementary art of selling. The basic, essential, person to person, market place, art of selling.

view of wall display of belatrova ceramics

the view from the entrance

Though No 9 Bankside is strictly a workshop we did set it up as a showroom for the occasion and learnt soon enough that when people came through the main entrance the “wow” factor set in as they faced the display of ceramics on the wall opposite. All very well, but a display does not always invite the viewer to touch and handle the objects, it can actually keep the potential customer at arm’s length.

We noticed that most visitors preferred to go to another shelving unit that was lower and easy to stand close to, and which provided a waist or chest high access to the displayed ceramics. These were always being picked up and touched, and (importantly) purchased. Unlike the main display opposite the entrance, with nothing between it and the person entering but an empty floor space which dramatised the display – most people warm to proximity and clutter rather than to distance and minimalism.

table with ceramics on display

an invitation to touch

Solution: a table placed right in the middle of the room, between display and door, with stacked ceramics and a notice inviting customers to handle the goods.

Result: more sales.

customers handling ceramics around a table


Other tips we have picked up in this temporary market place include:

– welcoming visitors as guests and offering them tea or coffee helps create a relaxed atmosphere that is friendly enough for the customer not to feel that she or he is perceived as only a customer but also as someone who might share an interest or a delight in common with the maker

– establishing eye contact makes it easier for the customer to come back to you with questions

– if you have a bowl to sell put some fruit in it

– do not display anything above the eye line, waist level is best , and tables are friendlier than shelves

We suspect that most of you know all this, and that we have been teaching grannies to suck eggs, but we have enjoyed observing and learning things that we may well apply to exhibitions and trade shows. And we have specially enjoyed meeting you – getting to know some of our supporters and customers is a real plus.

ceramic lamp base with shade

belatrova’s table lamp

And you can still come and visit us at 9 Bankside in Ledbury (HR8 2JQ) until the end of h.Art on Sunday 15th, just follow the pink signs. Come and see our new range of floor and table lamps.

Or you could just come and gaze at the Maestro, Stuart the Wheel, throwing pots and jugs in his mesmeric way.

potter Stuart Houghton on his wheel

mesmeric Maestro

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