If you want to have a successful creative business, you will need work that sells well and consistently. But to do this, the work needs to be compelling, it needs to grab people’s attention and make them feel something.
Having developed a variety of truly compelling items over the years, I can tell you that even though all the items were very different from each other in design and function, they had one thing in common Novelty, as in new and innovative.
Novelty is very compelling and when applied in both overt and subtle ways can turn your sales around.
How To Make Them Want It
I recall referring to this quality as a “hook” to a friend, “everything has to have a hook” I told him, otherwise they don’t get excited about it.
Some examples….a hanging wall vase, what’s the hook? It’s small and it hangs….it’s not a regular vase, it has a 2nd function. Take a used wool sweater and fashion it into various items such as hats, gloves and handbags, what’s the hook….it used to be something else. If I am trying to sell a cereal bowl, a bit blah, not going to sell many, cut it so that it is now a rice, yarn or ikebana (flower arranging bowl)…..what’s the hook…..altering traditional forms to function in a new way. These are all examples of small innovations or novelty.
You don’t need to be the inventor or creative genius behind an innovation to reap the benefits.
Take the craze in knitted fingerless gauntlet gloves. They function differently than regular gloves and are currently a better fashion statement. They were made by ladies in Victorian times and probably well before. They went out of fashion. Now they are innovative somehow and so compelling in fact, that the trend started in the 90’s and is still going strong!
The customer will always gravitate to this newness, especially if it is something that they are seeing in the culture at large. It may take some time for them to buy one, they might not even be sold on the item until they see your version!
Clever innovations to the function and the use of materials is probably the most compelling feature to alter to make craft work sell better. However, there are more subtle uses, namely in the design elements and processes that you use.
The novelty of my current pottery is that I create sepia-toned decals and fire them onto the pots.
People are very intrigued by this interesting process. What attracts them in the first place is the nature of the image itself, say an elk or a bird, then they start to question how I do it.
Usually, this will be their first encounter with this technique and the typical reaction is of being totally charmed and surprised.
Such fascinating processes (especially where you invented it yourself), gives you an opportunity to engage with your customer and share all the great features of your creations.
Short of inventing the next big trend, doing research on currently trending and novel objects and design trends may be your best bet in pulling this off.
Always consider that even though it is being done out there, don’t discount the innovation and impact that you can bring to the market with your particular version or perspective.
Consider Trending Markets
Back in the 90’s my first pots that I started selling were terracotta planters to boutique garden shops.The trend in yard and garden was really just starting to warm up at this point.
One day I just saw it….make all my pottery garden related.
This was a fantastic decision as it allowed me to sell at handmade events, as well as a host of yard and garden shows taking place in the west. But the key to the terrific sales that I had at these events was the novelty and innovation I had crafted into each of my products for the specific marketplace.
Examine Your Own Work for Novelty and Innovation
Start by examining just one of the items you make that is not selling as well as you would like, or is under-developed at this point.
Consider…..the function, design, process, materials, and color (which can make or break any object).
Write these down with any immediate impressions you have for innovating in each of these areas. Just having one compelling innovative feature is enough, but the more the merrier.
Take an honest look at the item and just plant a seed in your mind. A seed that says, “I am looking to innovate this, what needs to happen next”?
Then just keep an eye open. Keep working on it, make many multiples and mess around with it….let it get ruined…..sacrifice it in the name of experimentation if it calls for that.
If you work with your object every-which-way, you’re bound to make a discovery. A discovery that transforms the object from something that is getting minimal love to something that is truly compelling in the heart and mind of the potential buyer.
Starting From Scratch and Up-cycling
I often don’t have an idea, sometimes I just have the material or a new tool, and start trying to build something compelling from this perspective.
Right now, I have this intention to spot materials that I can up-cycle into jewelry. If I am on the look-out…..something will always seem to present itself. I just let it happen like this, it creates some opening and receptivity for something interesting to come, something surprising and unexpected, this is how I start.
The reason upcycled products are so popular is not only the environmental good-vibe but everything about it is innovation. You cannot help yourself but to be innovative when upcycling! If you are a craftsperson that has not settled into a line of work yet….upcycling is worth your time to explore.
Allow for some epic fails!
I got to tell you, my process involves a lot of failures. I have more unworkable craft and product fails than anyone I know. I call them my dabbles, I tinker and explore, I get hot on something and really try to see if I can make a go of it.
I keep all this stuff, some times resurrecting ideas and objects years later and resolving the problems.
My main criteria is actually not sale-ability but how much I enjoy making an object. If the idea of going into production with the item feels like drudgery …..on the heap it goes!
If I really enjoy making a product and clearly it is not getting any love in my crafts booth. I will just keep tweaking it, trying to make it more compelling, adding small signage, changing the display. This sounds like a lot of effort, but when I really like and believe in something, I want to give it every chance in the world to be part of my regular stock of items that I make.
Being Clever Is The Bomb!
Many of my innovations have been on the production end, as in finding cost savings and better ways to produce an item. Always be looking to discover these when you’re working because it goes directly to your bottom line (time & materials) making your item even more profitable.
Turning a fantastic but non-lucrative item into a money maker through production processes alone, is a realistic goal.
Sharing with the customer how cleverly you made it is also a compelling selling point.
Experiencing other work that artists made or even manufactured wares can give a lot of clues to your direction. Visit galleries, shops, or look at what’s happening in a totally unrelated industry.
And always….always seek advice from seasoned professional friends and acquaintances, or your mentor if you have one. This is the fastest and most direct route for getting a good handle on what your next move should be.
A few action items that have helped me online to keep track of trends are: set up a Pinterest account (you can follow me if you like), Sign-up for the Etsy Newsletter, Sign-up for the Shopify Newsletter (a ton of good stuff to grow your business).
Good luck and if you would like to share some of your triumphs and struggles below, I would love to hear from you and help if I can.
Kind Regards, Holly
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