We’re often asked by students and emerging jewellers for hints on how to establish a relationship with a gallery  – and keep it! So here’s a few little snippets of info that we’ve found useful for ourselves as both  practitioners, and gallery directors. Running a contemporary jewellery gallery is challenging and not particularly financially rewarding..and we’re continually making mistakes and learning….but we all know that none of us are in the arts for the dollars….and if we wanted to make a half decent living, we’d be selling Pandora beads and not beautiful, challenging, exciting Contemporary Jewellery.
While we certainly wouldn’t like to think that we’re in the same category as this Sydney chef, there have certainly been a few times when Melanie and I have also felt like having a bit of a rant….so I thought it was time to put pen to paper…..bk and Mel

1. Deliver work on time for exhibitions. While it may be cool to be fashionably late to a party, this is definitely not the case for your work at an exhibition. It’s stating the obvious but a lot of time and effort goes into putting on a show, and when there’s been deadlines given, and plenty of leeway, the excuse, of ‘sorry, I’ve been busy” is one sure way never to be invited to participate again….hey, we’re ALL busy! It’s disrespectful to the other artists and the gallery and effects the integrity of the exhibition.

2. Make life easier for the gallery that represents you, not harder – by providing consignment notes at the same time that you provide us with your work. Galleries have to spend a large amount of time on administration of work. The more artists, the more work. If we have to do YOUR paperwork  as well as OURS, it just doesn’t work. If we have to chase you up on it, it just doesn’t work. Make sure each item in the consignment clearly identifies which piece it relates to. Your work cannot be shown to clients unless we know how much to sell it for and details of materials, processes etc. By providing a consignment note with your work, you show us that you’re not only a fabulous artist but that you’re also professional.

3. Invest in good quality/professional images of your work. Galleries are always needing images for publicity as well as for use on websites, blogs and invitations. It’s in your best interest to supply quality images (with correct photographer credits and image details) as your name will be beside the image promoting not only the gallery but you the artist as well. While we do make every effort to photograph work, fantastic images supplied by artists will take priority as they’ve made our job of promoting them so much easier! Please, no black, blue and textured backgrounds! Poor images of your works aren’t worth sending. Simple white is the general rule when dealing with galleries, publicists and magazines. If your photography skills aren’t crash hot, invest in some professional shots. A wise friend once told me that you can get years of value and mileage from just one or two great shots.

4. OWN your work – by this I mean take pride in your work out there in the universe, repair any defects in your work free of charge and as a priority. We’re not talking the usual wear and tear here, but rather situations like ‘the brooch finding doesn’t work – it keeps falling off’, or ‘it just fell apart – I only wore it a few times’. While none of us like to be out of pocket for our precious time and materials, the reality is, if we’ve made something poorly – this is the consequence. Remember, the gallery’s reputation has been effected by selling the item to a valuable client, the client’s time has been effected by having to deal with the return of the piece,  and there have been financial outlays by the gallery – the time spent placating a client, the correspondence entered into with the artist, the costs of return postage. We expect artists to guarantee their work for an absolute minimum of 6 months, although many of our artists offer a lifetime guarantee on any defects.

5. Beading/threading/stringing – call it what you want – just make sure its done right and tight. Yes, after time some neckpieces may need a retread, we tell our clients this, just like a pearl necklace, there may be a maintenance cost sometime in the future. However, it’s important to have the work threaded properly in the first place. Any area where thread will rub against metal will quickly effect the integrity of the piece – the metal will wear away the thread very quickly. So, crimping a bit of silk beading thread together at the end of a finding just doesn’t cut it. Try using gimp to protect any areas where metal may rub against thread. Glue – this can discolour and look ugly. Knotting – ensure that the piece is knotted tightly and back down the length of the neckpiece. Neckpieces can also stretch, another reason to ensure the threading has been done tightly in the first place. We recommend outsourcing your stringing to companies that specialise in this procedure.

If you’re using coated steel wires and nylon threads invest in slightly better quality versions rather than fishing line and ones purchased from the local hardware shop. Beadalon beading products sold through A&E metal merchants or on the Beadalon website have great coated wires and threads, these wires last longer, and depending on the version you buy, have great flexibility, stopping them from kinking and snapping easily.

6. Earring wires – Make them straight and strong! It’s important to make sure your earring wires are straight and work hardened. Burnish any wires after they have been soldered otherwise they can bend and flatten, just in the process of being delivered to the gallery – we are totally serious – it’s amazing what can happen!! Burnishing takes a few minutes and ensures the wear ability and integrity of your work.

7. Turn up to exhibition openings – particularly if you’re in the exhibition and live in the same city! It continually surprises us when artists don’t turn up to their own shows. It’s important to support your gallery and your fellow artists by turning up to openings where possible. It also enables you to meet other artists and potential clients. Okay, I have to fess up here – I am guilty of this one. I once submitted a work  to an award exhibition and was so embarrassed about the work, that I couldn’t face turning up. I ended up winning in the emerging category and wasn’t there to collect my prize! I was new to the CJ world, shy and scared of people – so I totally get it – BUT – it’s REALLY important!

8. If you want to be known, get known – this one’s for all those students and emerging CJ artists out there. To stand out from the crowd, regularly attend openings and visit galleries, introduce yourself, offer to help out as an intern, be enthusiastic!

9. Cleanliness is next to Godliness – yes, washing your hands regularly WILL keep those nasty cold bugs away, and delivering your work clean and tarnish free will make all the difference!

10. And lastly – packaging (only because the OCD side of me needed to make this 10 hints) – we love receiving parcels! One of the best, best, best things about running a gallery, is that we get to pretend it’s Christmas all the time. However, like kids, if it takes a degree and various surgical instruments to either unpack or repack the box, the shine quickly wears off. Make sure work is well padded, but don’t over do it. There’s no need to use a roll of sticky tape and 3 layers of paper and 4 sheets of bubble wrap for a single pair of earrings. Also don’t pack everything in like an extremely well thought out jigsaw, with no room to move. While at the time it might seem brilliantly clever it just makes us feel like frustrated 3 year olds when we can’t fit that last piece of jewellery back in, and spend half an hour trying to work it out….and failing…..and then we need to recover with coffee and cake!