Christine Malek is the curator and owner of Gallery Boom, an Olympia art shop featuring work of 130+ local artists. She and illustrator P. Calavera co-founded the gallery in Tumwater in 2014 as a way to sell stuffed animals and books from their project, the Island of Harmony Boom, and she later expanded the business to include works from other South Sound artists. In 2016, Gallery Boom relocated to its current 5,200 square foot home in Olympia.
As part of her own artistic practice, Christine makes stuffed creatures from recycled clothing. She has sold her work in art shows, galleries, and shops across the country and uses the lessons she’s learned to coach the basics of retailing and selling their artwork to over 130 local artists featured at Gallery Boom .
On Wednesday, October 10, Christine will be sharing insights from her experiences in Pricing Your Artwork, a webinar covering the basics of selling artwork. I recently caught up with her to learn more about her experiences coaching artists at Gallery Boom and selling her own work.
What inspired you to lead this webinar on pricing artwork?
I was talking to Katy, Artist Trust’s Program Manager, about what I do at the gallery and pricing came up as a big part of the job. Most artists find it as the hardest part of selling their work. I talk many artists though it. She asked if I wanted to talk about it with a few more. I said sure!
What are some of your favorite things about working with artists at Gallery Boom?
I love seeing all of the different types of art and how people talk about their art. Every level of skill and confidence. It’s a fascinating intersection of artistic and business knowledge. I enjoy seeing all of the artists meet and talk with another in the gallery. Some start out very shy and open up when asked about what they do.
What are some of the most common things you’ve seen artists struggle with when it comes to pricing their work?
Self worth and confidence. To a point that is the crux on which pricing stands for artists. Art is so personal and so it’s hard to not make the monetary part personal. I try to talk out some of the practical parts to balance pricing out like who is buying the art and where it is being sold. I think most artists are relived to talk to someone who isn’t freaked out about pricing.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned while creating and selling your own work?
To be flexible. Pricing is weird. Retail is weird. There is a global multi-million dollar industry around trying to figure out how to sell things to people. There is no one way in one place. I found that the more I sold my art in different places, the more confident I became in navigating pricing. Pricing is the kind of thing that needs to be revisited every so often. I’ve also learned that pricing and business in general does not have to be devoid of my thoughts, feelings, and ethics. I can choose who has access to my work though my pricing choices. Getting the highest price possible is not always the right answer and it’s my answer to give.
What advice do you have for artists who are thinking about selling their work but aren’t sure where to start?
Most artists do many different types/mediums of art. So pick the type/medium that you love to do most. Start out selling in a place that seems the most comfortable. I started out doing the local Arts Walk. It was very successful for me so I continued with other local art shows. That might not be the environment for everyone, some people are very comfortable online, or working directly with stores wholesale or with galleries and gift shops though consignment. Try them out. Be kind to yourself if one doesn’t work out. I didn’t do too well online. I was selling so good at shows that I decided that it was ok to not sell online. It stung for a bit and I might try again in future, but for now I’m happy selling in my gallery and doing the odd show. Find your comfort zone then push it gently.
Interested in learning more about how to price your artwork? Join Christine for Pricing Your Artwork on Wednesday, October 10. Sign-up here.
Visit Gallery Boom on Facebook.
Megan Gallagher is a writer from Redmond, Washington. She has been writing for the Artist Trust blog since July 2017 and loves learning more about Washington State’s arts communities.