Search This Blog

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

December 2014 newsletter


A Pretty Talent Newsletter
December 2014

Hello everyone who has a Talent for making Pretty things

It has been a busy time at A Pretty Talent since the launch of the shop from its Facebook platform to a full-blown website.  In this newsletter I will review what has been happening and look ahead at what is to come.  I will introduce you to the artists that have joined the newly established Gallery and talk a bit about the baby to the page, the Art on Auction section.  I will also do a bit of a product review as well as to devote a part of the letter to practical advice and tips for artists and crafters.
Throughout the journey to get the shop to where it is today, one thing has always been of the utmost importance to me, and that is to maintain a personal touch with clients, artists, suppliers, etc.  There are too many online stores where you have no idea who you are dealing with or who to get in contact with.  At A Pretty Talent, we actually encourage you to leave your shopping cart at the till and talk to us first about a better deal.  We keep posting email and contact details to make it easy for you to get in touch.  This will always be important at A Pretty Talent.  We want to know you.  This is the one shop where you matter and the things which are important to you, become important to us.

Where it all began

I loved browsing the various pages and groups on Facebook where artists and crafters advertised their works, or simply posted it to share with others.  During this time, I became increasingly aware of the fact that a number of people, especially, but not restricted to, people living in remote areas, found it hard to find the things they needed to pursue their talents.  Living in the hub of things, I also realised that almost all of the time, the things they could not find, were widely available where I lived.  This sparked the idea for creating a page where I would offer to source the required items for people and send it to wherever they were, asking only a small handling fee to make it worth my time and effort.  The name of this page?  A Pretty Talent.  After all, this was going to be a page to benefit those who had the talent to create pretty things.
Almost immediately I became introduced to some of the most wonderfully talented people you can imagine.  It did not take long for me to start thinking of them as friends rather than clients.  Being able to purchase items on a slightly larger scale made it possible for me to negotiate better prices with a number of dealers/suppliers, where they were not attached to chain stores, or found themselves under other contractual obligations.  These savings were a blessing to both me and my clients.
I then came across an advert on Facebook promoting a way to sell items directly from your Facebook page.  Having started to accumulate products that were frequently requested, rather than rushing off to search for it in the shops, I decided to test the waters.  I found this to be a perfectly wonderful setup, however I found that my friends and clients was a little sceptical about the whole business and that most of them found it very hard to negotiate.  Back to the drawing board then.
This was when I started taking a serious look at launching an online shop in the true sense of the word.  I finally decided that I’d had enough of the frustrations and limitations of the Facebook shop and took the plunge.  APrettyTalent.com was launched.  I have not looked back since.
Initially there were a lot of hassles trying to sort out payment methods.  I wanted to make sure that clients would have as many payment options as possible available to them, including debit and credit cards, EFT’s, PayPal etc.  It was equally important to me that clients’ details would be handled confidentially and I had to find a third party (financial institution) that could be trusted with this.  This institution runs fraud checks where necessary, which serves as a safeguard for everyone who buys or sells items on the website.  This means that you immediately have a little extra security on your transactions, something which is very important to me.
I frequently came across buyers or sellers on the craft pages where people had paid money for item which was never delivered (no, not as a result of the Postal strike), or where the item that was delivered was substandard to the one that was displayed in the Facebook posts.  These items very often could not be returned and people became disgruntled.  Sellers also found themselves in the position where they had sent items, trusting buyers to have made the payments, only to have found themselves defrauded.  A Pretty Talent serves as mediator here.  We receive the money and payments go through the necessary security checks.  When it has cleared, we inform the artist/crafter that they can now send the item that was paid for.  We still keep the money.  When the item reaches the buyer and the buyer accepts it as a satisfactory product in good condition, and the window for returns have expired (two weeks from receiving the item), then only do we pay the money into the account of the artist/crafter.  Unless there are unforeseen issues (such as the postal strike) the whole process should be finalised within 2-3 weeks.
Anyway, I regress.  With payment issues finally sorted, A Pretty Talent was officially launched during the last week of October.

The Art Gallery

Long before launching the online shop, I had already started toying with the idea of an online Gallery.  This was of course not a new concept, but I had a few of my own ideas that I could bring to the table.  Perusing the Facebook art pages and groups there were two things that became very evident to me.  The first of these were that artists did not have the necessary knowledge of how to promote themselves.  I would see some of the most brilliant art, lost between posts by other lesser works where the lesser works would gain more attention because the artist did not know how to photograph their work, or how to post it properly so that it would attract the most attention, or a myriad other reasons.  The second problem I encountered was lack of confidence.  Posting a work of art with a comment like “I don’t know what I’m doing but …” will not attract buyers.  Yet I saw fantastic works posted exactly in this manner, or even worse.
I also found myself wishing I could remember the name of the artist who was responsible for a certain post.  There are simply too many artists and the works are too jumbled up to even try to make heads or tails of this.  A lot of the admin of the groups or pages have made attempts at this, but the best attempts still seemed to fail and fall far short of what was needed.
This is why I finally decided to lend some assistance by providing a platform where artists could exhibit their work properly under their own name.  They would have a link to give people which would take them directly to their own works, without having to scroll through countless other works by other artists, a.k.a. the competition.
I provided artists with a list of guidelines that would have to be adhered to if I were to promote their work.  A buyer would have to know the dimensions of a piece, whether or not it is framed, a clear picture, the medium and surface, etc.  Most of the posts on Facebook had little or no information about their art.
I also go a step further.  I do my best to promote the artists in the Gallery across as many platforms as possible, taking it to social networks everywhere.  Pretty soon I want to start looking at paid advertising, but that is a discussion for another newsletter.  Artists who join the Gallery are much better positioned in the market and they now have someone commenting on their work, who does not apologise for lack of skill, but who promotes them the way they deserve to be promoted.
What does this cost?  You could expect to pay quite a bit of money to have someone do all of this for you, but I have decided on a wholly different business model.  In this model, I don’t make any money until you do.  It is only when you sell a piece of art that A Pretty Talent takes commission on the sale.  I realize that most galleries work this way, but it is also true that most galleries ask quite a bit more in commissions than what we do, not to mention that some ask hanging fees as well.  Still I have been criticized for asking any commission at all.  Sadly there are some very expensive realities that have to be covered and as much as a Facebook platform is free, running an online shop is not.  But I think you will also agree that you get quite a bit more in service from the Gallery, than from a mere post on Facebook that gets lost as time progresses due to the frivolity of a thing called a Timeline.
Another thing we do for the artists in the Gallery, is to write a Blog entry on them from time to time.  I have written such a Blog entry for artist Anton Kilian (http://aprettytalent.com/collections/gallery/products/anton-killian) already and you are welcome to take a look at it.  Here is a short extract:
“This month saw us welcoming Anton Kilian to the Art Gallery in A Pretty Talent.  Anton’s work has not been on display for long before one of his paintings was sold and he was extended an open invitation to display as many works as he wished to in the Gallery.  What is particularly fascinating about Anton’s style is his liberal use of colour.  He has an incredible talent for capturing the mood and emotion of his subjects, which enlivens the expressions on his portraits.  He then goes one step further by adding surprising splashes of colour to the paintings.  In the hands of a less skilful artist, this would detract from the work, but in Anton’s case it serves the purpose of underscoring what the portrait was already communicating.
Whilst it is certainly possible to see the brilliance of the artist in any one of his paintings, putting the paintings side by side and studying them in this manner, will establish this knowledge as an undeniable fact in the eyes and minds of the viewers.”
If your work is already in the Gallery and you would like to see something like this done about you, contact me at the email address below and I’ll get back to you.
To read the Blog entry for Anton Kilian, follow this link:
To read the latest update of the Guidelines to the Gallery, follow the link below to the notes on A Pretty Talent’s Facebook page.  If you do not have a Facebook account, send me an email to Marietjie@APrettyTalent.com and I will mail you a copy.

Made By Hand

With the Gallery well under way, I decided to turn my attention to the crafters.  I firmly believed, and still do, that A Pretty Talent could become a fantastic place to market these goods and products.
Crafters run into much the same problems as artists.  There posts move too far down the timeline and gets lost.  They are not known by name by their clients who can’t search for them.  I also came a cross a number of groups who refused links in their posts.  This made it difficult to invite repeat customers to like a personal page so that your info would be more readily available.  Worse still was the fact that a post would summarily be deleted if a potential client dared to leave any contact detail in the comments.  There were simply too many potential sales slipping through the cracks, and that is before I even start addressing the issue of non-payments and non-deliveries.  It seemed the groups were doing their best to bring buyers and sellers together, but simply were not equipped to deal with the task at hand.  For this I blame the platform.  Facebook groups are simply not set up to deal with this kind of traffic.  The groups are better suited to this, but the fact that Facebook randomly decides when users will and won’t see the newsfeeds from groups that they have liked, has led to a lot of distrust, causing people to shy away from pages. 
Another problem was the fact that many of these groups/pages were closed.  You had to apply for membership.  No problem.  This was readily granted.  The problem arose when you wanted to share a post and found that you could not.  Just last night I wanted to share a post from someone who made laser cut outs with a friend who was looking for this, but could not do so.  Another potential sale lost.
This is the reason it was so important for me to include the sharing buttons on A Pretty Talents store.  Every single product, piece of art, or item can be shared across the social networks by simply clicking on the buttons provided on the product’s page.  Better yet, you can leave a review of the product for every potential buyer to read.  You can even use a star rating system to rate the products.  And you have someone to turn to for intervention if the transaction seems to fail for some or other reason.
The restrictions on the craft groups have made it very difficult for me to advertise the services available through A Pretty Talent and I find that the growth of this section is much slower than I would have expected.  But it is early days still, and I am far from giving up.
Before parting from this discussion I would like to mention that, just as with the artists, crafters and their products will enjoy the same kind of promoting across various platforms.  There is a sliding scale for commissions, and commissions only get paid once an item is sold.  The rest of the organization is much the same as for art and I do not care to waste your time with repetition.
Crafters who would like to exhibit their work on A Pretty Talent’s Made By Hand section, can follow the link below to read the latest update of the Guidelines for Crafters, on A Pretty Talent’s Facebook page.  If you do not have a Facebook account, send me an email to Marietjie@APrettyTalent.com and I will mail you a copy.

Art on Auction

It was not long after this that I became engaged in a conversation on yet another Facebook group with some artists who expressed their wish for a place to sell their slow-moving art.  Most artists have paintings which they have painted some time ago, but for one reason or another, these works have not been sold.  Most of these have simply not been marketed correctly, some have not been promoted at all, and some have simply not been matched with the right buyer yet, despite all the best efforts being made.
Artists do not regard these paintings as substandard.  They still value these paintings and would love to see them do that which they were created to do; adorn the walls of someone who appreciates them.  Keeping these pieces is not an option.  Many artists simply do not have the space to accommodate older works, setting their studios up in the corner of the dining room, or some odd space around the house.
Someone in the discussion mentioned the possibility to putting the works on display and allowing potential buyers to make an offer on the works.  I mulled this over and came up with the idea for Art on Auction.
Artists are invited to send me these works, or others which they need to move quickly.  The art is not listed under the artist’s name, but as a single product.  There is therefore no requirement of submitting a certain number of works.  It still has to have good quality photos and be accompanied by all the necessary information a buyer would want to know.  The artist’s name still appears with the work.  The only difference is that there is no fixed price.  The normal selling price is listed as a discount, to serve as a guide for buyers, but the listed price is recorded as R0-00.  Buyers are instructed to contact me with an offer.  If the offer matches, or exceeds the reserve price I have on record, the work is sold.  If it is below this price, I contact the artist with the offer and it is either accepted, or negotiations begin.
When I launched this concept it was met with great applause.  The only reason there are such a limited number of art works available in this section is because I ran into one of the issues I mentioned earlier on.  I was sent a number of works by artists to place in this section.  When asking them why they did not rather submit their work to the Gallery, I received the unison answer of lack of confidence.  If you take a look at the quality of art on display in the Gallery, you have to agree with me, that there is not a single artist who does not deserve a proper place in the Gallery.  Some artists who have work in the Gallery have also submitted work to the Auction site and I have gladly included them there, because these truly are works which they need to move quickly.  Simply not believing in yourself will never serve as a good enough reason to submit your work here.  Send me your work and allow the buyers to see it on display and then vote with their money.
Once again it became evident that I would have to draw up some guidelines to make it easier for artists to avoid the pitfalls of bad marketing.  A copy of these can be found on the Facebook page for A Pretty Talent, by following this link to the notes.  If you do not have a Facebook account, send me an email to Marietjie@APrettyTalent.com and I will mail you a copy.

Drawing Equipment

One of my client-friends approached me about some advice on drawing equipment, wanting to know which pencils I thought were the best to buy.  This will always be a subjective matter and you will always have people on both sides of an argument vehemently supporting or rejecting a product.  That said, I did write an extensive article on the matter which I posted in the newsfeed in the shop.  Not only does the article review a wide range of products, I have also included photographs showing the quality of these items when put to the test.  This makes for marvellous comparative shopping.  It gets better still.  The article is also riddled with some really useful tips for blending, shading, adding washes and water, as well as negative drawing with an eraser.  Various tools are discussed, beside the pencils as well, making for interesting reading for anyone keen on drawing and not wanting to waste money on buying the wrong equipment.
To read the full article, follow the link provided.

The State of Affairs

Where is A Pretty Talent currently?  New products are added to the shop weekly (almost daily) and the stock keeps expanding.  Statistics show that ever more people are visiting the shop and that the number of first time visitors is on the rise.  The majority of visitors still come to the shop via Facebook links (approximately 50%), but more and more people are visiting the shop through means of search engines and direct URL navigations.  In layman’s terms this means that people are already starting to recognise the shop by name, remembering it and searching for it through memory rather than through some link they happened upon on Facebook or some other social network (all of which show hits).  This is excellent news for everyone whose works are on the ‘shelves’, because it means that within two months, we have already transcended the social networks, something which is usually only achieved through some form of paid advertising.
We all have a vested interest in making this work.  The more visitors the shop has, the better the odds of someone noticing your work and purchasing it.  I want to encourage everyone who has an item in the shop to make use of the sharing buttons and to get the word out there.  A Pretty Talent has arrived on the scene and is here to promote South Africa’s creative talent.  The greatest success is not in numbers, but in establishing artists by name in the hearts and minds of the South African public.  The same goes for crafters.  You no longer need to restrict the sale of your high quality products to the dusty walkways of the markets.  You can now promote your work under your own name and establish yourself as a crafter of quality products.
While you are out there promoting yourself and what is essentially your shop, why not encourage people to open an account in the shop’s homepage?  Simply click on the Create an Account option in the top right corner of the page, in the purple bar, and follow the steps provided.  This does not cost anything and it does not require any financial information from you.  It simply makes it easier to buy from the shop, if you see something you like, and it ensures that you receive the newsletter, keeping you abreast of what is happening.  You can also choose to deselect the box, if you choose not to receive the newsletter.
Speaking of which, the newsletter endeavours to explain in great detail what A Pretty Talent is all about and what we have to offer.  Why not send it on to the people in your address book who might find a service like this one useful?  Spread the word and bring both the buyers and the exhibitors.  You can also share it on the web page by clicking on the social network sharing buttons at the bottom of the article.  Everybody wins!

The Future

So let’s look ahead at what is in the pipeline at A Pretty Talent.  There are a number of ideas I am considering, one of which is services.  A large number of artists and crafters have services to offer and we want to explore the possibility of facilitating contact between customers and service deliverers.  A cake decorator could advertise their services in a specific area and clients could get in contact through the shop.  The same could be done for commissioned art works, art lessons, etc.  Here the possibilities are endless.
We are also in the process of investigating the possibilities of making the shop available for the sales of self-published e-books.  There are a couple of snags which still need to be sorted, but it is starting to look like a very real possibility and we might very well launch this option in the next few months.  We would like to hear from you if you have any ideas or opinions on this.  Please send an email to Marietjie@APrettyTalent.com
Something else I am looking into is organizing an Art Tutorship Tour.  The idea is that a group of enthusiasts would get together and tour from one artist to the next over the span of two week, learning some tips and tricks from participating art instructors.  At one venue, we will learn oil painting, at the next it will be watercolours and so on.  Anyone who would like to be part of such a group, or who might be interested in being included as one of the instructors on the tour, should contact me at the email above so that I can start putting together a database for this idea.

Products

There are a handful of products that I would like to bring to your attention.  The first of these is the packages with art supplies that we have put together with specific purposes in mind.  Each of these packages has a special reduced price that has been worked out so that you can have those dream sets at a much more affordable price.  Follow the link to see the detail of these offers:
Another product that has me very excited is the BG Canvasses.  This is the ideal surface to paint on.  This surface is made of 330 gsm pre-stretched primed canvas that has been cold-pressed onto a masonite board backing, which is mounted onto a 35 mm deep frame.  This is a marriage of the best of all worlds.  You still have a thick canvas surface to paint on, but with the steadier backing of a wooden panel.  This means that you no longer struggle with a soft canvas that keeps on giving way under the pressure of your hand.  But it is even better than that.  Because the whole thing is then mounted onto a 3 mm deep frame, it means that it will no longer wobble or bend, like board has a tendency to do, especially when working with bigger sizes.  The canvas is less likely to tear or get damaged and, being pre-stretched, won't make bubbles or shrink or stretch, as some canvasses tend to do.  Best of all, galleries will accept your work, because it is done on canvas.  Alternatively, you can buy the canvas, as described above, pre-framed in white-washed vintage wood.
Follow this link to see the details on this product:
One more product that I am personally very excited about, is the Marie Theron Birthday Calendar.  Marie Theron is an exceptional artist who is skilful across a variety of mediums and styles.  She has now compiled a selection of her favourite works into a birthday calendar.  This means that you can now have a large collection of her works in your house at the fraction of the cost it would have cost you to buy the originals.
Follow the link to see the calendar:

We will be right here to see you through the holidays, but if you are going away, we wish you a safe journey.  May your Christmas be a blessed one and may you and your family be blessed with all the goodness that can be found in God.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Marietjie

Visit the shop at: www.aprettytalent.com