For my last gallery show I was searching for a secondary market item for my art. I like to offer a few ways that patrons can purchase my art. I have printed note cards for a long time, but the profit margin is minimal and writing cards is “old school”. Few people send hand written cards any more and many gift shops won’t carry blank note cards because they no longer have a market for them. I also offer signed limited edition Gicleé prints of my art, but I like to have another price point that is affordable to patrons who want an image of my art. Also, some patrons just don’t have any more wall space. So I decided to try pillows.
My idea was to print several art images on pillows through an online site. I found a site that offered the product I wanted in several sizes. So I ordered a few test pillows. I also had some nice cardboard tags made with some info about myself and my art. I attached each tag with twine using a small brass safety pin. Finally I hand signed each pillow in gold acrylic paint on the back to make them extra special. I offered them through the gallery at my last show and at my studio tour. They were a hit and flew out of the gallery! I sold a lot at my studio tour too. Patrons found them fun, different and affordable. I plan to continue printing a selection of images for each show.
Here are a few tips if you plan to try it with your art:
- Do a test sample first to make sure the product is what you want.
- You will need a very high quality photo so that the pillow image looks good. I only had one side printed and the back was a plain matching color. I kept the backing the same color on all my pillows for continuity.
- I added my signature to my pillows with metallic acrylic paint. I tested lots of fabric paint and markers, but didn’t find any that were truly metallic or opaque. I finally found Golden Irridescent Copper Light (fine) acrylic paint to be the best to use for my signature. It is #2452-1/Series 7.
- Once you make an order online most sites offer specials so you will use them again, so wait for discounts and coupons to place larger orders. I found that Cyber Monday (after Thanksgiving) offers good discounts, some sites up to 60%.
- Some sites have a free shipping plan if you sign up and pay a one time fee. It’s worth it if you plan to make a lot of orders.
- Many sites will offer additional discounts if you rate your order satisfaction. Take advantage of this.
- Some sites allow you to post your image publicly in your own store or collection so others can buy the product and you get a commission. The site takes care of the order and shipping.
- Make some nice tags to make the pillows retail ready and suitable as gifts. I included a photo and some info about my self with my website info.
Be aware that even with a test order quality control isn’t always consistent. I started with Zazzle, but found their quality control very poor. In several orders, half of my pillows came with the zippers sewn in upside down or on the side. They had to be sent back and reordered. It was a hassle to send them all back and they said they couldn’t guarentee that the zipper would be on a particular side (bottom). I missed a few shows/sales because of this issue. Also, they sewed some seam allowances crooked, showing the white edges. Other pillows were returned because the print was washed out or the fabric was inferior. I did order my tags from them and was very satisfied with those.
Due to the above reasons I am searching for another source, but plan to continue marketing this product. The other source I found is Spoonflower. They offer over 16 different fabric choices. You can upload your image and have fabric, wallpaper or wrapping paper printed. Its possible to have a repetitive pattern with your images or to make a mirror kaleidoscope image. This is really fantastic if your work is more abstract. The site program lets you try it out and you can have a 5″ X 5″ sample printed. You can also scale the image down so it repeats in a smaller pattern or do a brick/alternating pattern. You are given a 10% discount when you order your own fabric designs. There seems to be better quality control and more options, but the downside is you would either need to make the pillows yourself or find someone to do that for you. (I’d rather be painting than sewing pillows!) Spoonflower also offers fabric that would be perfect for scarves. Abstract art would be beautiful as a scarf! I know an artist that does this and they are very unique.
I recently discovered another site – Society6. There are many other sites out there, but I caution you to do a test run and only choose one or two items so that you don’t over market or devalue your original art. There are many other product options besides pillows and scarves. There are skateboards, phone covers, serving trays, bedspreads, blankets, playing cards, T-shirts, and more!
So have fun and try a secondary art market! Let me know how it works out or share the sites and products that have worked for you.