Marketing Woodworking: How I Started

I received this question in episode 2 of the Ask Brian Boggs Show:

How did you market yourself when you were starting out, and how would you do it differently if you were starting out today?

When I was starting out, I told my neighbor I was making chairs and that pretty much took care of the first year of production. He happened to be the owner of a small gallery in Berea, Kentucky. The guy’s name was Joe Osolnik and that was pretty easy. Also, it so happened to be that Joe was one of the directors of a local craft show, which made that an easy in for me, and so craft shows were my first marketing … And initially my only marketing effort. This was back in the early ’80s when there weren’t nearly as many craft shows, and craft shows were not as sophisticated, nor was the work as sophisticated. It was much easier to market there because there weren’t nearly as many other venues through which people could find fine craft. There were fewer galleries. There were fewer open artist studios around the country, so it was much much easier times.

Today, obviously things are very different and it’s a digital world and so that would be an obvious starting place. That is where it seems younger artists are starting out their marketing. There are a number of venues like Etsy, and CustomMade is trying to revive their efforts at marketing craft. So those have some success, but I think that if you’re going to be making very much and selling much stuff, you’re going to have to have a lot of different ways of letting the world know what you’re doing. Even though there are more ways of marketing, I still think the most important thing about getting yourself known is to be doing something that’s relevant, and I think that there’s a lot of groping and searching and it seems like sometimes aimless efforts at trying to find oneself place in the world of craft when there’s so much going on and there’s a lot of cool stuff going on, but it seems like what’s missing in my opinion, is a sense of groundedness in one’s craft and that comes from a real mastery.

I think that with a sense of mastery in your craft … which takes a lot of time, and you’ve got to market yourself in the meantime, but with that, I think it will be easier to relate what you’re doing to the people that might be interested in buying it, through whatever venue or media you want to market yourself. For me, how we market has a whole lot to do with why we do what we do, and having a clear sense of that, having a clear sense of what your contribution to the craft is, why people should bother buying from you, I think is the most important place to start, so that when you do start talking at a craft show to a potential client or you do start writing copy for your website, or you do start throwing things up on “Instagram,” there is something there that people would be interested in listening to, reading or seeing. Something that they feel they relate to.