Eight years ago when I decided to start a small creative business there was one regular craft show that happened a couple of times a year. If you wanted to get your wares into stores through either consigning or wholesale accounts you had to do all the leg work yourself. First, you researched which stores might be a good fit for your product, pounded the pavement, set up appointments, hoped the store owner was available and best of all, they would want to carry your work.
That is why last night’s I Heart Art Mixer Match was so incredibly cool. Think speed dating for artists, except instead of trying to get a date the artists were attempting to woo wholesale accounts with local store owners.
Artist (left) receiving feedback from local business owner Nicole Prevost, owner of Union Rose (right).
The event was put on by I Heart Art, which is a group devoted to advocacy, education and support for Portland’s vibrant community of makers. This is a collaborative group between Etsy, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Museum of Contemporary Craft, and the Portland Etsy Team.
Store owner (left) meeting with Lea of LeaK Arts (right)
One thing that I thought was really interesting about this event was that there was a wide assortment of artists all looking to pitch their products to stores. There were many new faces and many people who have been making and selling their product in stores for years.
New faces that are unknown to me.
Ordinarily pitching your work to anyone, especially a stranger, is a nerve-wracking experience. As you can see this was practically a party. I’m sure there were butterflies in the stomachs of some of the artists and yet this was an incredible opportunity for artists to connect with store owners, practice their pitch and grow their businesses. This is one of the things I LOVE about Portland’s Crafty/DIY community – unique ideas and collaborations turning potentially painful situations into a good time.
More new faces. I liked this shot because you can see the frenzy of store owners digging through this artist’s product.
In a perfect world artist walked away from this event with new stores to sell their wares, but in many cases it was just an initial contact. A great way for stores to see what new locally handmade products are out there and for artist to have the opportunity to receive feedback about their work, their pitch and their overall presentation.
Not every artist had product that was a fit for every store owner. In some cases when the store owner wasn’t interested in the product offered by the artist, so store owners gave constructive criticism with the goal of helping artists land that next wholesale account. You could think of this as an opportunity for artists to have many informational interviews and brush up on their pitching skills.
Devi (standing) makes necklaces with bread tabs for charms, which are made of gold and silver.
In case you are wondering why the atmosphere is so unbelievably cool at this event, it was held at the Design Within Reach, which has some incredibly cool furniture.
Owner of Moxie , (left) a local boutique in Portland, meeting with an artist looking to find some wholesale account love.