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Tiggbears Tigg Bears
Dorset, England
Posts: 16

Hi all,

Happy New Year to you  :lol:

Just wanted to ask other bear artists how they first started promoting their work?  Did you advertise in magazines, did you go to shows?

I have been making bears of all sizes for about 4 years, but am now so excited to be designing and making my own creations from my own patterns.  My bears are mohair miniatures, and I attach a picture of Simon who I finished last week (would love to know what you think!)...

1357732797_simon.jpg

I am thinking of starting by going to a local show, and just getting some feedback and introducing myself as a new artist.  I may also get my website up and running too.

Thanks in advance,

Laura x

karenaus Melbourne
Posts: 694
Website

I've never had a whole lot of success with magazine ads, personally, but I know others do. When it comes to getting yourself out there, it's worth a go!
   Shows are a good way of getting yourself known, though sadly shows are a bit hit and miss these day- I'd highly reccomend you give some a try. Something you may find at a show, as a new exhibitor, is that a lot of collectors will go to the show with buying a certain artists pieces in mind, and scout new artists to buy from next time. Of course this isn't everyone, but It's worth keeping in mind that successful shows can take some perseverance. Not wanting to be discouraging, more 'forewarned is forearmed' bear_grin
    Another avenue for getting yourself out there is Bearpile- it's not expensive and you can go month to month, so no big outlay. It's an excellent addition to having your own website, in my opinion.

dangerbears Dangerbears
Wisconsin
Posts: 6,016
Website

Hi Laura, The one thing I'll add is that everything about bear-making takes loads of time--even getting your name out there. And it is important. After all, we're asking people to trust us to make a bear they won't be disappointed in. Customers have more confidence in an artist they "know," and one who has been around for awhile--making quality bears, winning competitions, selling at shows, and doing all the hard work those things entail.

So my advice is to think in terms of what is sustainable for you for the next few years - not just months. With a website (perhaps even a free one), a Facebook fan page (free), a banner ad on Teddy Talk (very reasonable cost!), a Bearpile gallery, and maybe ebay and etsy, you wouldn't be laying out a huge amount on advertising each year.

Since you're in the UK, you can consider doing a show or two as well, or at least attending one so that you can get a feel for what's out there and what sells. (Here in the US, shows are few and very far away, so I'm envious bear_original )

Becky

karenaus Melbourne
Posts: 694
Website

And don't forget a blog too, which can also be free, and very simple to update ( says she who hasn't updated hers in way too long lol)

nettie scotland
Posts: 2,160
Website

its a tough business these days.Ive been a full time bear artist for 17 years now and its never been harder.You have to work hard at making your work stand out and be very unique.I have never found adverts to be of any use.They are so expensive and unless you pay for a large one you will be in a sea of other artists.Try all the free routes but most of your energy should go on perfecting your work as there are so many thousands of people making work to sell these days.I wish you the best of luck.Sadly the hey days are long gone and anyone making a luxury item has a hard time selling these days.
Dont be put off but be prepared to have to wait for a following.
Diane xxx

customteddys Custom Teddys
Juneau, Alaska
Posts: 1,550

Hi Laura, There is lots of good advice here and since we are all speaking from experience, it is good advice. I can tell you are excited about your bear business and that will see you through. I agree, start with some of the free stuff or the less expensive venues for selling your bears. A Facebook page, blog (yes, start a blog and describe your experiences with your bears). One thing that has really helped me develop my skill in bearmaking is getting a few good bearmaking books and using them. I still think one of the best books is "101 Bears to Make" by Nancy Tillberg. I'm currently using Ted Menten as my bearmaking mentor by reading his book "Teddy Bear Studio" and following some of his suggestions. I love him because to me he just is a real teddy bear person! Best of luck to you. Stick around here and you will find lots of help, too!  bear_thumb Vicki

jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413
Website

I agree with what has been said..and I also think it's a tough climate to start a business because like Diane has said there are so many people all trying to sell bears now. I have been making bears since 2002 and even in the relatively short time I have see it go from being very busy to now having to work extremely hard to make bears that sell.
Getting a following is key to selling and that means creating bears that stand out from the crowd...so my suggestion is to work as hard as you can to find a style that you love making and that you can feel confident with, and that you can make beautifully. That is the most important aspect of bear making...that whatever you make, if you are going to sell it needs to be expertly made. So my advice would be to hone your skills until you feel that compared to other bears available they are as good or better. Selling will naturally follow as then you can send pictures to magazines and get them printed...maybe do a show or two to test the water. Learning the art and craft of bear making is the key to the whole thing though...
It isn't easy though...making a living out of teddy bears is hard work and not everyone will succeed. Like many other artists I work at least a 12 hour day pretty much 7 days a week..but I am not complaining ...I do love it.

Tiggbears Tigg Bears
Dorset, England
Posts: 16

Thankyou very much for your replies - you've given me some really good advice and information to think about and I've already started having a look at Bearpile and Etsy.
Your tips about shows being slow to begin with is really helpful should I decide to give some a go - I understand what you mean about collectors wanting to get to know your work and see if you're serious before they buy something.  I'm not in any hurry and am not looking at it to make money - bear making is my hobby and if it becomes a hobby which was to pay for itself one day through the bears I sell then that would be enough for me, I'd be happy with that bear_original

Veen-Bears:  thanks for your feedback on Simon - I haven't done any face sculpting since I started making minatures - I'd never thought to try it on miniatures but I'll certainly give it a go!

I think what I'll do is carry on perfecting my style, build up a little collection and then start with a website and possibly a show or two.  Someone I know also suggested I try some local craft fairs as we tend to have quite a lot of that sort of thing in Dorset.  Will keep you posted!

Thanks again,

Laura bear_original

jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413
Website

Hate to be a dampener on the craft fairs idea....I think...and someone please tell me I am wrong if I am..I think that being at a craft fair might be disheartening because most of the visitors wont be bear collectors and your chances of selling at a reasonable price will be small.So I would try a small bear fair..at least almost everyone who pays to come will be a collector..and at least you will get people who understand teddy bears. Even if the fair is slow you might have more chance of selling there.

Tiggbears Tigg Bears
Dorset, England
Posts: 16

Well I did wonder about this Jenny - when I show my bears to friends who aren't familiar with hand made bears they love them but don't expect me to charge the price for them as they don't understand what's involved in making them. So I may encounter the same thing at these local craft fairs. Perhaps better off focusing on the specialist bear fairs.

Laura bear_original

jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413
Website

Yes you are right about that.Most people , those who are not collectors, don't realise just how long they take to make. They see bears for £10 in cheap shops and think that pricing applies to our work. I just made a little dog and he took me about 5 days working about 14 hours a day. That's about 70 hours. I won't selling him for £10!!!
That's why the most important thing is to make your bears the absolute best that they can be ...that way no-one can argue over the price. Well they can argue ...but you know in your heart that its justified. Good collectors do understand and they go to bear fairs. That's why I would stick to bear fairs.

Us Bears Pennsylvania
Posts: 1,479
jenny wrote:

Hate to be a dampener on the craft fairs idea....I think...and someone please tell me I am wrong if I am..I think that being at a craft fair might be disheartening because most of the visitors wont be bear collectors and your chances of selling at a reasonable price will be small.So I would try a small bear fair..at least almost everyone who pays to come will be a collector..and at least you will get people who understand teddy bears. Even if the fair is slow you might have more chance of selling there.

What about getting a partner to split the cost of a booth with?  Not only will you save on expenses, you've got somebody for moral support.  Plus, if the two people have merchandise that complements each other, they can act as a draw for each other.

I don't know...  Just an idea...

Judi Luxembears
Luxemburg, Wisconsin
Posts: 7,379

Welcome Laura, to the wonderful world of teddy bears.  This is a super place to start.  Make sure you post your creations and best of luck to you. bear_wub

desertmountainbear desertmountainbear
Bloomsburg, PA
Posts: 5,399

About craft shows.  When I began selling bears in the 1980's I never sold at a bear show.  I sold at high end juried craft shows, next to the potters and weavers.  I sold at shows where very traditional crafts were being sold.  I sold both mohair and faux fur bears.  I got good money especially for the mohair bears.

People who come to these fine juried shows know that the craftsman are good, and their work is not cheap.  I sold and still sell bears to people who are not bear collectors, but collectors of fine handmade items.  There are lots of collectors out there like that, me included. 

I would be choosy about where you sell, I never had luck with the small shows that were say at a strip mall.  I went into the larger well attended shows, that had a proven record.

jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413
Website

The trouble is that here in the UK there are very few proper craft shows. They tend to be poorly attended and usually not very high end. It might be different in other countries but here unless you pay enormous stall fees it will be pretty dismal....there aren't many juried bear shows here,  let alone craft shows so its hard.  If it isn't juried it won't be high end. So the custom then is not  usually looking for great quality...but just a bargain.
They also frown upon sharing a stand. I remember I was going to share one once years ago and they wanted double money....

Us Bears Pennsylvania
Posts: 1,479
jenny wrote:

They also frown upon sharing a stand. I remember I was going to share one once years ago and they wanted double money....

I was shopping my photos out to a gallery, one time, when I asked them what their commission was.  The woman said it was 50%.

First, most galleries in this town charge 30% and the higher end galleries charge 40%.  Second, the market in this town can't support that kind of commission structure.  If they charge more, I have to increase the price to compensate.  If I want to get $120 (double my materials cost) for a framed photo, at 40%, the price has to be $200.  At 50%, the price has to be $240 or $250.  Art won't sell in this town at those prices.

I told the owner that the gallery down the street which was much nicer, one of the swankiest galleries in town, only charges 40%.  She stood firm.

I didn't even say, "No."  I just quietly packed up my photos, said, "Thank you," and walked out.

That gallery went out of business over six months ago.

If the organizers of that craft show aren't going to play fair, don't play with them at all.  Unless they have something really special going on or unless they are the only game in town, they won't be very long for this world, either.

Besides, who's to say you couldn't sign up for the stall and quietly invite a friend or colleague to split it?
If they give you fluff about that, to heck with them!

Boogaloo Bears Boogaloo Bears
united kingdom
Posts: 1,096

Hi Laura

Welcome to Teddy Talk!

You will find a wealth of knowledge, tips and techniques from this site and some AMAZING creations from all the wonderful friends you will meet here :thumbsup:

I am very slow at bear making, but really enjoy exhibiting at the Teddy Bear show at the Motorcycle Museum, Birmingham as it is very friendly and a nice atmosphere.  It is hard work though as I am on my own at the show and I feel exhausted at the end of the day!
I think you need to look at as many ways of reaching people as possible. I have a website but also have a very loyal customer who does not have internet, so relies on me attending the shows.

Good luck and look forward to seeing all of your bears

Hugs

Lisa xx

Tiggbears Tigg Bears
Dorset, England
Posts: 16

Hi Lisa,

Thankyou for your message and I'm familiar with your bears as I recognise the name and style - they are really lovely.  I am a subscriber of Teddy Bear Times, have you appeared in there?

I too am very slow at making my bears, I work on them a little bit at a time and it takes me ages to finish one.

I would give the motorcycle museam a try if I was closer, but I notice there is a Devon bear fair which is more my area so I might look at that.

Enjoying being on the site and looking through the various article!  Think it's going to be a great help to me.

Laura bear_original

Laura Lynn Teddies by Laura Lynn
Lexington, KY
Posts: 3,649
Website

Laura Lynn Banner Sponsor

Hi Laura,

I'm a bit late chiming in here but have been absent for the last couple of years.
I know that things are not quite the same on eBay as they used to be - but that is where I got my start...

Have fun!
Laura Lynn

LittleButtonMeadow Button Meadow Bears
Devon
Posts: 610
Website

Hi Laura, I'm doing the Devon bear show, so if you do give it a go, come and say "hello!". Shows are are great way to get out and meet other bear makers and collectors
Xx

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