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artists' co-ops

updated fri 31 may 96


JJ Adams on sun 5 may 96

I am interested in hearing how different artists' co-ops work.
Currently our artists pay a fee + 30% commission + 4 hours work
per month in the gallery.

Our problem is we are having a hard time getting new artists
because of the fee and commission. Our gallery sales are growing, but we
aren't going to do much better, I'm afraid, unless we can attract more

I would like to be able to tell our Board what other co-ops have
found to be workable and successful in supporting their galleries and
keeping 2D and 3D artists happy.

I know this is not strictly "clay", but would really appreciate
any responses. You can contact me privately if you would prefer.
Thanks. Jan email:

Lynne Crumpacker on mon 6 may 96

Hi ! I'm new to this disussion but can't get over how fast information can be
passed around! It's really exciting .
I'm responding to the question about co-ops: Jan didn't say what the "fee"
amounted to but on top of that was a 30% commission + 4 hours work a month in
the galley.
A group of us started a co-operative shop just over 6 years ago and we've work
out many aspects of this way of marketing. We now have a core of 6 people...5
artisans and 1 person with antiques. Things are set up so that the 6 of us cove
expenses: rent, utilities, office supplies and promotion, all averaged out into
monthly payments. Then we each work approx. 1 day per week (very flexible)
covering daily shop hours. We carry the work of other people (including 2D )
and our markup on these things starts at 20% for consignment to 50% on things
purchased. We try to keep this % low...these things fill out the shops empty
spaces. Paper supplies and incidentals are paid for by the sale of gift packagi
and handmade tags.
This core group guarantees that the basic expenses of the shop are covered thru
bad times. We tell people when they join that they need to commit themselves
for a year. Not just for "the lease" but because of the natural flow of sales.
year starts out slow and builds to a peak in sales thru the last quarter. Our
customers need to see their things in the shop early in the year...then they com
back to buy. (Of course, we have enticements to get them in THRUOUTthe
Once you establish a thriving business you won't have so much difficulty
finding artists. Until then, the problem is keeping up standards thru desperate
times. We've found that staying true to our standards along with promotion and
especially GOODWILL (friendly service) are very important.
Hope this helps...We all HAVE to be involved in selling at some point so it's a
interesting subject. (One of my partners is also on-line and she might have some
other insights to add.)
From the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia,
Lynne on mon 6 may 96

Hi Jan,
Here is a copy of a description of our coop that I wrote for Jean awhile
back. Email w/ specific questions if you have any.

Hi Jean: here's a thumbnail: Our gallery has been around for 15 years and has
gone thru alot of stages on the way. Our baby stage was selling all
consignment. We had 17 exhibitors and each month everyone clerked the number
of times required to keep the store open. 25 dollars was deducted from each
person's check for rent and 15 percent was deducted for operating expenses.
We did our own bookkeeping. No hired staff. We soon found we needed a manager
since there was no continuity, so we hired one of our own part time and
increased the percentage to cover it. We now have a manager, 3 part time
clerks, a bookkeeper, amd an accountant for taxes. We have 100 exhibitors and
4 catagories of participation: 20 percenters are the board of directors who
run the store and get 80 percent of their sales. They clerk 2 times(4.5
hoursa slot) a month and attend a board meeting monthly. They each have a
committee job, such as promotion, jury, display, scheduling, etc. 30
percenters clerk at the store once a month. We've found that these folks
enjoy their clerking day and keep their displays filled better than the 40
percenters who have a standard 60/40 relationship with the store. We also buy
cards wholesale as well as 4-5 lines we can't get on consignment but really
need. Your concern about the equity issue is valid. We've found that our
group is like any group of people: there are varying ranges of commitment and
expertise. Certain people are reliable and do a good job. They are always
relied on for the important stuff. Others just don't have the same skills or
commitment and there is definitely a feeling within our group that not
everyone pulls their weight. We started in a very loose way with anyone who
wanted to starting the store. We needed every body. We reluctantly drag the
dead wood along. The issue of how to get rid of someone is not one of our
more thought out ones. Clerking time equity is easy. You most certainly need
a scheduler to handle the clerking schedule so that person can keep a record
of how even the work load is. But committe jobs are harder, since if someone
is running a committee that person is more important to the whole than the
worker bee types who do what they are told. We haven't resolved it, being an
egalitarian type org.. Another aspect of equity is the fact that if you are
taking a percentage of a person's sales and using variations in that
percentage to define different kinds of work commitment unfairness can arise
since some people's work will sell better than other's. So a good seller will
make out better than a slow seller, since they bring home more money each
month. 80 percent of 10,000 a year sales gives the maker 8,000. The same
10,000 at 60/40 represents 6,000. So the maker is getting 2,000 for her
commitment to work as a board member. But a maker who sells 3,000 gets 2,400
at 80 percent as opposed to 1,800 at 60/40, so their pay for board work is
600. We have established a tier system based on sales of the previous year,
so slow sellers aren't expected to work as hard. Imperfect at best. But the
most equitable way would be to pay the board members for actual time worked
and then you're back where you started: paid staff. One more thing: the board
get big displays. We sell more than most other exhibitors because of it, but
the good sales motivate us to run the place well. It's been a long haul and
we experience alot of burnout, since the interpersonal stuff within the board
gets to be a drag , but that will happen with any group of people. We sell
325,000 a year more or less and are open 7 days a week. Our space is 1900 sq
ft w/ 1600 of retail space. We have a computer point of sales system. We have
an automated charge sale system. This is a start- let me know if you have
some area of interest I haven't addressed. Jennifer in Vermont