Good Life Marketing Boosts Creative Success
Eco Artist – Ros Stoldt
Independent Australian Creative
WORK BY GOOD LIFE MARKETING:
Profile of a creative artist
Ros Stoldt is a superbly talented Australian artist and maker.
Her 30-year professional career has spanned many creative disciplines including pottery*, painting, printmaking, contemporary quilting, embroidery, weaving and textile arts.
She began knitting at an incredulous six years of age, and she’s continued refining her skills as a diverse fibre artist, showcasing her talents in solo and group exhibitions over the last 25 years.
Her work is exquisite.
Nowadays, Ros has turned her hand to eco printing- a pursuit that celebrates her obsession with eucalyptus trees.
Ros came to me for strategic business coaching assistance to help boost her creative work.
* If you’re lucky, you might stumble across Ros’ iconic pottery at online auctions.
The art of eco-printing
Eco printing (aka eco dyeing) is a labour-intensive artform.
Ros collects eucalypt leaves and buds from sustainable sources, which are stored in vats until use. Materials (wool and silk) are prepared with a natural fixative overnight, and then the on-fabric creation process begins:
Boiling water. Delicately wrapped bundles. The unmistakable scent of eucalypts.
Every single piece is one-of-a-kind.
Made entirely by hand. A labour of love.
And incredibly practical too. The end wares are completely natural, colour-fast and low-maintenance.
Art as a business
But Ros had a problem.
Her creations were on display in art galleries, but without visual curation, they lacked that all-important magnetism that converts to sales.
Despite the excellent quality of her goods, would-be customers were being repelled. And Ros knew it:
The displaying of my eco-printed scarves was a real challenge. You can’t just stick them anywhere. There’s an art to curating your work, whether it’s online, in a gallery or in a retail setting.
To make matters worse, her brand identity let her down.
Swing tags printed on thin, pearlescent paper told the wrong story.
And hand-drawn logos, while headed in the right direction, were devaluing her creations.
During our first strategy session, I could see that rebranding was going to make a huge difference for Ros.
The rebranding process
The transformation of a personal brand must be done with great sensitivity.
As any small business owner can attest, your brand is your baby – lovingly nurtured from concept to maturity.
You are the guardian of your brand, and you shouldn’t trust just anybody to handle it.
But knowing your own limitations is wise.
Ros could see her art wasn’t reaching enough ideal customers, and rebranding was the first step in the process.
I always start with the highest impact fixes.
In this case, it was the product tags:
The new look for Ros’ product labels reflects her personal style.
Contemporary. Bold. Minimal.
The original eucalypt leaf drawing is reinterpreted as a striking logo. Square linen-look cards feature a high contrast reverse side. And when they move in the lightest of breezes, the contrasting colours draw you in for a closer look.
The swing tags, along with some clever curating, transformed gallery displays.
Changing the brand identity gave us a chance to correct another issue Ros had noticed:
People don’t realise the length of time it takes, the amount of work it takes, or that each leaf image is an actual leaf.
So we included an explanation of the eco print process on the reverse of the labels. Each neatly attached tag honours its bearer with a beautiful description that conveys their value.
And Ros could see it working immediately:
The more you improve your presentation and communication with your customers, the easier it becomes. I have learned and gained so much from Sarah, it is ridiculous.
The art of pricing handmade
But brand identity is only one aspect of the strategy. And there was a much bigger problem to tackle.
Like most creatives, Ros struggled to price her art.
I was observing prices and displays by others, but didn’t understand the science of it.
I couldn’t figure out the difference between what might work and what was just throwing random ideas out into a big blue ocean and hoping it worked. I’d try and evaluate my own work, but it was hard to be objective.
It’s such a common problem. Especially with humble artists and creatives who work alone.
Handmade products are notoriously undervalued.
Online product pricing calculators abound, but they do more harm than good. A proper pricing strategy is essential. And it starts with detailed research.
I was already beginning to experiment with putting my prices up before getting help from Sarah, but she encouraged me to put them up more.
She showed me that people can and do charge the kinds of prices that make this a viable business. Sometimes they charge prices that are twice as much as mine for equal or lesser quality.
Her research validated everything. She wasn’t just making things up out of thin air, her advice was always evidence based.
“I’ve earned more money from sales. Working with you gave me a lot more confidence and understanding to do it. There’s more pride in my work and I feel happy to see my work being appreciated both financially and aesthetically. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without you Sarah!”
– Ros Stoldt, Eco Print Artist
The final branding touches
Eco prints are astounding.
Each imprint you see is a fossil-like memory of the leaf, bud and stem. The colours are all completely natural. If you look closely, you can see minute details where insects have chewed the leaves.
To reach a wider audience, high quality photography was required.
The value of sharp, clear brand photography is sorely underrated. But the impact is phenomenal.
It’s important to convey the truth of the work. Imperfections and all.
Especially with eco prints. Capturing their raw beauty is essential to reaching a wider audience, who may not have the chance to see the work in person prior to purchase.
For this type of product, I recommend good, natural light to represent colours accurately. And clean, simple backgrounds that don’t compete for attention.
Copywriting & artist statements
Writing an artist statement is the bane of every working artist.
And it makes sense. Nobody likes to toot their own horn.
But toot, you must. And the easiest way around the discomfort is to get someone else to write it for you.
In preparation for entry into a renowned exhibition, I helped Ros with her artist statement, artwork descriptions to feature in the exhibition catalogue, and wall labels for the gallery display.
These spiels are essential for selling artwork at exhibitions. They enhance the audience experience and give the potential buyer all the information they require to fall in love with the piece.
Here’s where many artists go wrong. There’s a fine line in art writing between casual and elitist, flowery and monotonous. Bringing your work to life is easier with an outside eye.
If you’re not a skilled copywriter, outsource it to someone skilled in both writing and marketing.
Art photography = product photography
Many creatives let their work down when they skimp on the last stages – the marketing of the product.
Quality photography is a must for creative makers. Whether you paint, sew, print, sculpt or bake, your visuals are usually the first point of contact.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a renowned exhibiting artist or a new etsy seller, amateur photography will diminish the value of your goods.
You can take nice photos on your smartphone, but the quality won’t cut it for professional printing. And the way Ros got featured in publications relating to the exhibition was to supply editors with high quality photographs.
Now, you don’t have to hire a professional photographer to get high quality photos. But you do need a very good camera, beyond-basic knowledge of product photography and an excellent studio-quality setup.
As with the copywriting, Ros found it easier to outsource this work.
In keeping with her brand style, I photographed the artwork with natural lighting and moody backgrounds. This allows the high quality of the fabric and intricate detail of the eco print to take centre stage.
The product photography, the names, the way she’s done write ups for my pieces of work and even my artist statement (which I’m normally so embarrassed about) – it makes me feel proud.
Bold marketing pays off
Most artists would rather starve than promote their work properly.
But Ros was willing and eager to experiment with her personal brand, attempting strategies that might’ve felt self-promotional and grandiose at the time.
Creatives, take note:
A lifetime of devaluing your own work and playing small will make any attempt at business success feel uncomfortable at first.
If you can bear the discomfort, you’ve already won the battle.
Ros valued herself when she allowed her work to be photographed, written about, and promoted in a professional manner. She valued her work when she allowed another person to help her brand. She honoured her skills and talent when she agreed to increase her prices.
It takes guts. And it pays off.
The exhibition announcements came out with prominent features of her artwork. Front and centre.
The entire-page newspaper spread had her artwork headlining in full colour – triple the size of the other featured artworks.
Social media posts featuring her exhibition pieces were seen, reacted to and shared over and over again.
And here’s my favourite part of the story:
On opening night at the exhibition, her highest priced artwork sold immediately. At a price 333% higher than she’d ever charged before.
How does it feel?
I’m so glad that Ros’ sales have improved, and that her pricing now reflects her value.
But more important is how it makes her feel:
You’ve just got to see the value in your work.
Sarah has given me support in believing in myself and what I did. Before I didn’t have that belief and I was on my own with no-one to offer that support. I just did it on my own, and it could be a bit hard honestly. It makes all the difference, because I have always worked on my own, for years and years. It’s like having a team behind me.
I tell everyone how amazing Good Life Marketing is, and what Sarah has done for me. I just can’t thank her enough.
Ros is a remarkably talented creative, in an industry where self-promotion and fair pricing are tricky subjects. Starving artist mentality runs rampant, and creatives chronically undervalue their work.
I’ve adored Ros’ willingness to push through mental barriers and try new things for the benefit and long-term viability of her personal brand.
It’s been an honour and a pleasure to help her work receive the attention and recognition it deserves.
HI, I'm SARAH
I’m here to help you work smarter, not harder. I teach passionate business owners how to charge premium prices, attract the best customers, save time and make money with ease.