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Monday, May 23, 2011

Remake Your Business Plan for your Art

Your business plan must continually be revisited and remade:
1) Different realities (personal and business) need to be addressed. Start a new plan.
2) You may have discovered a new market that you want to develop and enjoy.
3) The state or national economy or regulations may be changing and a different position is needed to legally avoid a development that is hurting your business.
4) You are not getting enough customers.
5) Your prices are too high or too low and you need to investigate what your competitors are charging.
6) You are tired of the medium you have invested a lot of effort into and you save acquired new skills.
7) Your advertising program is too expensive and you need to start advertising somewhere else.

More questions and solutions:
1) Find out who your competitors really are and copy them if possible.
2) What is your image and should you change or refine it?
3) What makes you different so that you will stand out?
4) Which competitors are better than you. Which ones are behind you in talent but still seem to be making money?
5) Make yourself competitive in some fashion. Even better phone skills when speaking with customers may be an issue and an easy fault to improve.
6) List the factors that you think that you can't control and find out how to control them.
7) List the factors that you can control.
8) Do you really have a good idea that is going to be around?
9) Who do you want to serve?
10) Are the customers you are attracting now enabling you to be successful?
11)Who should be your target market?
12) Do your existing customers fit into your target market?
13) Get jealous of your time and eliminate unnecessary duties. Family time is not unnecessary time.
14) Make good friends. Make good facebook contacts. Expand yourself through others.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Get Control Of Your Art Business

If you have a unprofitable business that is in truth a hobby, that is one thing. But if you are trying to make a living, that is an entirely different game. The problem with art, gunsmithing, engraving, stockmaking, and other artistic endeavors, is that men love the work and thus work for much less than necessary. This must be avoided. Artists deserve a profit.
Early on in the planning of your business and developing a market for your services you need to address the duties listed in this post with vigor.
In other words, work your arses off in getting this all done or keep your art as a hobby. Don't start a business. Move to whatever State is hiring. Get a job at the plant. Save yourself a lot of grief.
Assuming that you are already developing faceboook friends by taking the advice of the previous post, be sure you are continually following up and contacting new people on a daily basis. Building relationships for your business is in the follow up.
Ask yourself the following: Where do I want to be in one year? In 5 years? In 20 years. Your answers to these questions are your short and long term goals.
Since you can't do a goal but, can do an activity; list activities for each goal. You can do an activity. Constantly refine your activities culling out the ones that are not working and expanding the ones that do work.
Buy the book How To Control Your Time And Your Life by Larkin . Measure your progress. Keep your written goals so that you can relish your successes as you follow the book's advice.
Be aware that there is a difference between estimating a final price and giving a final cost. Setting a price in stone for the customer is not a good idea. What if an unknown arises that you as the artist, has no control over? State on the bottom of your estimate or final bill that all accounts past due are charged a fee of 1.5% per month.
Opening a donut shop in midtown Manhattan is a lot different than starting an art business. Do not write a business plan in order to borrow money from a bank so you can practice your art. If your art hobby or business will not support your business expenses from the beginning, you are not ready to take on a loan.
Warning: When Small Business Administration Loans are guaranteed by the government. Banks are savvy to shut your business down if 3 loan payments are missed. There is no negotiating on this issue from what I've seen and heard. In my opinion, some banks would rather cash in on the guarantee than negotiate with an art business with poor cash flow.
You do not need to buy or rent a building with several thousand square feet of work space. Rent or borrow space from a gunsmith that you can work with. He may have a space in the back of your shop. Trade engraving work for rent. Be an asset to the gunsmith and he will treat you well. Let it be known that if a situation is unworkable that other arrangements will need to made. After all, if you are a full time engraver you will need about the same amount of food and shelter as everyone else. Just because you are an artist, you do not need to be a starving artist.
Lynt MacKenzie related that engravers for Purdey were contractors who simply rented work tables at the factory. An engraver in the United States must approach the contractor issue carefully in order to not be considered an employee of the gunsmith if you rent a room or space from him. There are very specific rules set up by the IRS, and you will need to get a CPA or attorney's advice.
Everything taken in trade, bartered for, and paid in cash MUST be recorded for the IRS. Record all of your income. Know and follow the IRS rules. Be well within the law by reading and understanding the book How To Pay Zero Taxes: Your Guide To every Tax Break The IRS Allows by Jeff Schnepper
If you are have any business involved with firearms you must have a FFL License and in some cases a license in the State you are working in. Call your regional ATF office. The ATF staff will also direct you to the proper State office if necessary. You must also check with your local zoning board.

Promoting Yourself As An Artist

Imagine if there were simple truths in promoting yourself as an artist. Consider the following.
Be great at what you do and be visible. Be visible by becoming a leader in your field. Become a leader by speaking, writing, and teaching.
Ask yourself what skills are natural to you. Are your natural skills writing or teaching? What types of people, skill sets, and environment do you thrive in?
As an artist you must constantly think about expanding your skills, knowledge and networks.
You must have an unquieted lust for more skills and knowledge. Social networking and friendship are the driving force of a career.
The more people you know that can help you, and that you can help, solidifies your network. Social networking increases your ability to develop worthwhile networks of friends. Use facebook and all it's related networking resources to expand influence.
Social Networking on or off the internet is a way of developing trust and professional relationships. You must gather and supply resources, information and more new contacts. Listen to your friends within the network and help them in any way you can.
No excuses. Make the time to make facebook a part of your life. Watch how your friends work their pages and adapt their methods but, add your own preferences and personality.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Gibberish" and Earning A Living In The Arts.

I recently received a frustrated comment from a good engraver who uses a mechanically assisted device. It seems that he is always in a hurry to get his engraving done and concentrate on very narrow matters at hand. My references to William Morris and design were referred to as "gibberish". He is a good man I'm sure and he has some good work by any one's judgement but I riled him.
The frustrated response reminds me of a very well known and capable stockmaker. We both had the same medium format cameras at the time and we were on the phone for perhaps an hour comparing notes.
His business, like mine, is a difficult art form. The amount of frustration and he expressed was only surpassed by his resentment. It seems that there were not always enough men who would pay for the quality he was providing. The amount of money he was able to earn in years gone by seems to have been the major issue that he related to me as far as I could tell. In fact, he was very resentful of his trade.
When a premed student finally reaches his goal of attending a great medical school, he is only at the very beginnings of a very long journey as a resident, an intern, and then passing his state board examination. Many many years are spent in school with minimal sleep and money. Later, as a working doctor, he makes the money he deserves. But even doctors vary in their success in earning a great living.
One member of the medical community that treats me volunteered in the rain forest in Brazil treating patients who had never seen a doctor before. Today he works in a poverty stricken area in a low cost federal clinic. He could be working elsewhere but he works where he works out of choice. Another Md that I went to high school with is now a wealthy doctor in Los Angeles. Both men are happy and have the money they need.
When I was a sales manager for a large firm, the executives conducted an experiment. One district's salesmen were paid 10.00 more per each item sold. The other district's salesmen were paid the same. Surprisingly, both districts had the same sales dollar volume they had before. Apparently the district salesmen that were paid more per sale found the opportunity to work less for the same amount of money. The lesson was that salesmen need to set goals and adjust their work habits to succeed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Engraving at the Gunshop and Sailing in Oswego.

It is 12:37am. I started the day at 6:30am. I started work at 8:00. I took 3 hrs off from 5 to 8:00pm, also a 1/2 hour lunch. When you do what you love is it really work?
Looking back on the last entry on this blog it seems impossible that I last visited this blog in 2005.
I've been busy.
While my engraving studio is no longer in my home, I now live in Oswego NY. I rebuilt an old modular into a house and bought a small yacht for Lake Ontario, which is basicly across the Bridge Street. My wife and daughter started a small photography business in Oswego to help meet medical expenses for a family member. I'm the salesman but, most of my time is spent cutting steel at the Gunshop. Evenings are spent working on my book about Gun engraving.
It is many respects, the most extensive book about gun engraving that has yet to be written.
The issue at hand is that I keep adding to it. Thus the long wait for publication.
The blog is obviously a small part of the book and I will attempt to make it a little more presient.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Engraver's Workplace

Setting Up Shop.
For the gun engraver, the workplace consists of two environments:
1) the natural environment of the wild animals and foliage the engraver depicts
2) the studio or shop within 4 enclosed walls

1) The Natural Environment

After nearly 20 years in the same location in Mexico NY, I relocated my shop to near-by Oswego, NY. in 2007. I have always liked this small city as it reminds me of a resort town without the inflated expenses of living near a large body of water (in this case, Lake Ontario). Copying the art work of others is not ethical. If an engraver is not a hunter, or at least an astute observer of wild animals, why would he be a gun engraver? Some European engravers I have met are not hunters, don't particularly enjoy the woods, and are clueless as to how game reacts in the woods. I fail to understand why such engravers waste their time engraving guns. Engraving an animal copied from a book or stolen artwork is wrong. If a customer insists on engraving an animal from a copyrighted photo or drawing, the engraver should advise him of copyright law and at the very least, use his own drawings to substantially change the animal so that it is the engraver's own work.Drawing and engraving animals in a zoo will not produce a credible game scene. Animals in zoos do not have the same behavior as animals in the wild. My personal experience 20 years ago, of observing captured bears doing circus tricks for treats at the
Thompson Park Zoo in Watertown NY is but one extreme example. Relate yourself to wild animals. If you were taken as a small child and locked up in solitary confinement or locked up with others of your species who were insane (as zoo animals are), would your behavior be normal? Except to confirm physical details such as musculature or antlers, do not draw farm- like zoo animals.This engraver's opportunities to observe wildlife first hand are immense due to the major migratory flyway near Oswego.The Montezuma National Wildlife Refugeand warmer conditions heading south towards Ithaca NY offer many different opportunities for observing and drawing animals than the Adirondack Park. Cold can be a killer, and at age 56 the bitter Northern Winters and the occasional 12 TO 23 feet of snow will not be missed by this artist.I am advocating the notion that if an engraver wants to draw and engrave wildlife, he should visit where they live.
The gun engraver spends more time engraving foliage than he engraves animals. As the engraver observes animals, he can also observe foliage and how the lay of the land, time of day and food souses are determinant factors as to where animals are.The engraver's scroll is simply ornate foliage. As engravers, we are trying to make foliage more beautiful than it really is. New design ideas can evolve from walks in the woods and canoeing along rivers, ponds, and lakes.Scroll should be growing and flowing (just as in real life) and not stopping and traveling in weird directions. For example, scroll does not originate from a flower! Scroll has flowers towards it's termination; never from it's origin
.

2) The Studio
Unlike the natural environment, we control the four man made walls that we call our studio or shop.
Factors that make a good engraver's studio:

Lighting Natural light is the best light for avoiding eye strain. Light over the left shoulder should be employed together with other supplementary light from every possible angle. Avoid fluorescent light as it causes eye strain.
Comfort A back on a chair is the best way to avoid lower back pain. Use the back as you are drawing scroll on the steel or checking your work.
Space Cavernous spaces for the engraver is not necessary. if you are not sitting at the vise cutting steel, ask yourself "Why ?" .
Tools Use ergonomic tools that do not cramp the hand or cause spasms. Keep your wrist as straight a practicable to avoid tendinitis.
Efficiency Employ a potter's wheel vise it will save you time and money.
Compliance with regulations
Air quality
Safety
Flooring
Chemical hazards

Pattern Designing





















Selected Writings Of William Morris Abbreviated and Annotated
as Applicable to the Art of theTraditional Hand Engraving of Guns CONTINUED

By the word pattern-design, of which I have undertaken to speak to you to-night, I mean the ornamentation of a surface by work that is not imitative or historical... for the sake of beauty and richness, and not for the sake of imitation, or to tell a fact directly; so that people have called this art ornamental art, though indeed all real art is ornamental.
For I suppose the best art to be the pictured representation of men's imaginings; what they have thought has happened to the world before their time, or what they deem they have seen with the eyes of the body or the soul: and the imaginings thus represented are always beautiful indeed, but oftenest stirring to men's passions and aspirations, and not seldom sorrowful or even terrible.
Stories that tell of men's aspirations for more than material life can give them, their struggles for the future welfare of their race, their unselfish love, their unrequited service: things like this are the subjects for the best art; in such subjects there is hope surely, yet the aspect of them is likely to be sorrowful enough: defeat the seed of victory, and death the seed of life, will be shown on the face of most of them.
This is the best art; and who can deny that it is good for us all that it should be at hand to stir our emotions: yet its very greatness makes it a thing to be handled carefully...I say, with ornament that reminds us of these things, and sets our minds and memories at work easily creating them; because scientific representation of them would again involve us in the problems of hard fact and the troubles of life, and so once more destroy our rest for us. If this lesser art will really be enough to content us, it is a good thing; for as to the higher art there never can be very much of it going on, since but few people can be found to do it; also few can find money enough to possess themselves of any portion of it, and, if they could, it would be a piece of preposterous selfishness to shut it up from other people's eyes; while of the secondary art there ought to be abundance for all men, so much that you need but call in the neighbours, and not all the world, to see your pretty new wall when it is finished.
Of course you understand that it is impossible to imitate nature literally; the utmost realism of the most realistic painter falls a long way short of that; and as to the work which must be done by ordinary men not unskilled or dull to beauty, the attempt to attain to realism would be sure to result in obscuring their intelligence, and in starving you of all the beauty which you desire in your hearts...
You may be sure that any decoration is futile, and has fallen into at least the first stage of degradation, when it does not remind you of something beyond itself, of something of which it is but a visible symbol. Now, to sum up, what we want to clothe our walls with is (1) something that it is possible for us to get; (2) something that is beautiful; (3) something which will not drive us either into unrest or into callousness; (4) something which reminds us of life beyond itself, and which has the impress of human imagination strong on it; and (5) something which can be done by a great many people without too much difficulty and with pleasure. These conditions I believe to have been fulfilled by the pattern-designers in all times when art has been healthy, and to have been all more or less violated when art has been unhealthy and unreal. Ornamental pattern-work, to be raised above the contempt of reasonable men, must possess three qualities: beauty, imagination, and order. You will be drawing water with a sieve with a vengeance if you cannot manage to make ornamental work beautiful. As for the second quality, imagination: every work of man which has beauty in it must have some meaning in it also; that the presence of any beauty in a piece of handicraft implies that the mind of the man who made it was more or less excited at the time, was lifted somewhat above the commonplace; that he had something to communicate to his fellows which they did not know or feel before, and which they would never have known or felt if he had not been there to force them to it. I want you to think of this when you see, as, unfortunately, you are only too likely often to see, some lifeless imitation of a piece of bygone art, and are puzzled to know why it does not satisfy you. The reason is that the imitator has not entered into the soul of the dead artist; nay, has supposed that he had but a hand and no soul, and so has not known what he meant to do.Now as to the third of the essential qualities of our art: order. I have to say of it, that without it neither the beauty nor the imagination could be made visible.
These are limitations which are common to every form of the lesser arts; but, besides these, every material in which household goods are fashioned imposes certain special limitations within which the craftsman must work. Now, further, this working in materials, which is the raison d'ĂȘtre of all pattern-work, still further limits it in the direct imitation of nature, drives it still more decidedly to appeal to the imagination...Now, I have tried to point out to you that the nature of the craft of pattern-designing imposes certain limitations within which it has to work, and also that each branch of it has further limitations of its own.
...the subject of borders, which will apply somewhat to other kinds of wares. You may take it that there are two kinds of border: one that is merely a finish to a cloth, to keep it from looking frayed out, as it were, and which doesn't attract much notice. Such a border will not vary much from the colour of the cloth it bounds, and will have in its construction many of the elements of the construction of the filling-pattern; though it must be strongly marked enough to fix that filling in its place, so to say. The other kind of border is meant to draw the eye to it more or less, and is sometimes of more importance than the filling: so that it will be markedly different in colour, and as to pattern will rather help out that of the filling by opposing its lines than by running with them. Of these borders, the first, I think, is the fitter when you are using a broad border; the second does best for a narrow one. All borders should be made up of several members, even where they are narrow, or they will look bald and poor, and ruin the whole cloth. This is very important to remember. The turning the corner of a border is a difficult business, and will try your designing skill rudely; but I advise you to face it, and not to stop your border at the corner by a rosette or what not. As a rule, you should make it run on, whereby you will at least earn the praise of trying to do your best. As to the relative proportion of filling and border: if your filling be important in subject, and your cloth large, especially if it be long, your border is best to be narrow, but bright and sparkling, harder and sharper than the filling, but smaller in its members; if, on the contrary, the filling be broken in colour and small in subject, then have a wide border, important in subject, clear and well defined in drawing, but by no means hard in relief. Remember on this head, once more, that the bigger your cloth is the narrower in comparison should be your border; a wide border has a most curious tendency towards making the whole cloth look small.