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gallery commissions (the long of it)

updated thu 25 jul 02


Charlie Cummings on tue 23 jul 02

>If there is an 'entry fee' involved in this exhibition, I feel the same way I
> feel about paying a booth fee and being forced to demonstrate. That the
> promoters are taking advantage of us!

Entry fees and commissions vary drastically by venue. Many not for profit
galleries get money from local arts umbrella organizations to help cover
the cost of keeping the place running. Do they have group shows out of the
kindness of their hearts, charging no entry fee and no
commission? Rarely. Why not? Because having exhibitions is expensive!

I can't speak from the perspective of a not for profit gallery. Besides
being a potter, I try to make a living selling other people's pots
too. Before opening this gallery I felt like I was being taken advantage
of every time I sent pots to a show or a gallery. Now I realize what it
costs to run a gallery.

Exhibitions don't magically appear in my gallery overnight. It takes about
a year of work to organize one. Here is an example of the expenses
incurred for a juried show.
Research and concept development 10hours
Prospectus design time 2hrs
Prospectus printing $150
Putting prospectus online 1/2hr
Stuffing and returning SASEs 2hrs
Answering email
questions about show 2hrs
Organizing slides for viewing
by juror 3hrs
coordinating with juror this
includes phone calls and emails 5hours

Juror's fee: You can hardly expect a well respected potter to take time
out of the studio, look at slides for hours on end, maul over the choices,
choose work that creates a cohesive showing of the wonderful clay objects
we potters make, choose what pots are the best of the show, and attend the
opening reception for less than several hundred dollars. If you want a
really big name hit the multiply button on your calculator.

Notifying accepted artists and
returning slides of work not accepted. 3hours
Receiving and unpacking pots 5hours
Setting up the show 8hours
Prize money $600
Turning the pottery studio
into a reception area 5hours
1000 postcards
Deluxe w/4 photos $390
1000 postcard stamps $230
Putting labels on postcards 2hrs
Ad in local arts mag. $150
The reception:
Food for 150-200 people
Make it yourself $150 5hrs
(Have it catered $400+)
Live music $150 (He is quite a deal at that)
Returning the studio
to working condition 2hours
The work spends a month in my gallery 1 month-850sqft of
commercial space
Packing and returning
unsold work 4hrs (ideally it would be zero!)
Writing checks for sold work
and sending them out 2hours

Lets see, I'll leave out electricity, water, Insurance, and the mortgage
and time spent guiding people through the show.

Totals: $1820 + juror's fee & 60+hours

Ideally as a craftsman I believe I should get $20/hour for my time, but I
get paid mostly in my love for what I do.

Ok, now for the part where I'm supposed to be gouging my fellow artists.

Entry fees. $15/ for 3 entries. Lets say 100 people enter. (I've heard
that really well known shows like SFPN get 300 entries.) 100 X$15= $1500

Lets say 150 cups get in the show. The juror's statement was intentionally
open to interpretation so we have a few higher priced sculptural cups. The
total value of the show is lets say 150 x $25= $3750. If everything sold
that would be wonderful. (How often do we leave craft fairs with nothing
but money and empty boxes?) Lets say 40% sells. $3750 x .4=$1500 I take
50% as commission or $750.

Now to balance my books.
Money in $2250
Money out $1820 + juror's fee
Profit $430 - juror's fee (The juror's fee puts us in the
Don't forget the 60 hours!

How do I do it? I also teach classes and make pots. People do
occasionally buy my pots at openings. They also get interested in
classes. After taking classes they have a more profound understanding of
what it takes to make pots, some want to be potters, others become educated

Why bother entering shows? If you feel like you are getting ripped off,
stay home. If your goal is to be a local potter and you know where you
stand in the pottery community, spend that money on something you really want.

Do you want to have your work compared to and seen with current work by
nationally recognized clay artists? Do you want to build the exhibition
section of your resume? Do you want the gallery owner to see your work in
the hope that he/she will invite you to have a solo show? Want publicity?

As an artist I know entering shows is a good way to invest my money. It
pays off in ways other than sales. Solo shows, invitations, connections,
commissions, job opportunities, who knows what might come of it? Its like
playing the lottery, only we don't have to compete with most of the people
on the street.
As a gallery owner I know that if I continue to show great works of clay
people will notice and think of this as the place to come for clay pots and
clay art. It is also a great way for me to find new and interesting
artists for shows.

This is my perspective from who I am and where I am,

P.S. Walking into the gallery every morning is a wonderful
experience. Who else gets to live with a single artists whole body of
work, or works by such a diverse group of artists? And it changes every
month or two!!!

Charlie Cummings Clay Studio
4130 South Clinton Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46806