April 21st is the day that Google threatens to reduce the visibility of your website or blog in search results if it is not "mobile-friendly."
Below is an image of an email that I received from Google Webmaster Tools. Sounds pretty scary to me.
I have been reading posts about this April 21st Google deadline for weeks, listening to podcasts, and knew this was coming, yet did nothing until last night jumping into a "beta" version of Typepad so that I could format all the colors and choices myself.
The issues surrounding mobile usability could have a profound affect on how your business will show up in Google search results. For example, Google says that 100% of my website pages have mobility issues. This is a nightmare!
In summary, the reason for this mandate is that more and more people are using their smart phones and tablets to access the web.
In the next few weeks, I will try to bring some of the pressing issues forward as topics.
During a recent series of posts about Fundraising Auctions, readers asked for clarification on some terms often associated with auctions and pricing practices. In addition, many of us enjoy watching Antiques Roadshow and listening to their "experts" who use various terminology for the items being appraised such as "at auction", "replacement value", and "insurance value". Yikes this is potentially confusing.... and when each of us is left to our own interpretation, the misunderstandings may lead to disappointment, frustration, and pricing disasters for artists, makers, and sponsors.
Part of being an advocate for the arts is trying to avoid confusion. As artists we want the pricing of our work to be consistent across all contexts (if possible). Consistent pricing is a worthy objective. Erratic or inconsistent prices may confuse potential customers, collectors, or clients -- or may cause them to question their own judgement if prices seem to vary arbitrarily. This is especially true when price comparisons can be made at a moments notice by looking at the internet on their phones.
Here are the most common and generally accepted pricing terms and definitions:
"RETAIL PRICE" is what the gallery/store/exhibition sponsor lists as the selling or retail purchase price in the catalog or on the “price list.”
The "WHOLESALE PRICE" is the cash amount that the artist expects to receive as payment. This is sometimes called the “artist price”, but I'd recommend never using the term "artist price" because it may imply different things to different people. The "wholesale price" might be calculated with a formula (such as 50% of the Retail Price or a 50/50 split with gallery, or 40/60 on consignment), but ultimately wholesale price is the payment that the artist expects to receive. If the gallery/store is purchasing your work at wholesale, then they may decide to mark up your work with a different formula all together.
Insurance value may change depending on the circumstances, so be sure to clarify precisely what is intended by both sides. If there is ever an actual a claim for damaged work the insurance company will demand proof or documentation to validate the amount of the insurance value. Documentation could be an invoice for selling similar items at a wholesale or retail price depending on the circumstances. A photocopy of a check or even a credit card invoice for a purchase can work. Another option is an appraisal.
Insurance Value is a term often used on Antiques Roadshow and in that context it is equivalent to what it would cost to replace the item. In that case, it is usually a high retail price because of the difficulty in finding a replacement for a rare or unusual item.
"At auction" is often heard on Antiques Roadshow when they are giving a value for an item. Most of the appraisers are talking about a competitive live auction scenario at an auction house specializing in that type of work. However, in practice, most winning bids at auction houses are often closer to wholesale (unless is it a rare item with a lot of competitive bidding).
Don't let Antiques Roadshow terminology or their references to rarified auctions mislead you as an artist participating in local area fundraising auctions. These are two different animals.
Antiques Roadshow has a whole page "Understanding Our Appraisals" that is worth reading. They also have a page How to Speak Auction. Keep in mind they are not talking about Fundraising Auctions, but the terms do sometimes overlap or they are confused. It is definitely worth taking time to understand the auction pricing terms in all contexts to be informed.
In the future, I would avoid use of the following terms because the definitions are vague or interpretations vary irrationally. If you are invited to a show or exhibition and see these terms in the prospectus, ask for clarification.
Given the many facets in the career of an artist and maker, there are always instances when reality diverges from expectations.
During 35+ years of experience, I have learned and witnessed the benefits of well written contracts with galleries and exhibition sponsors. Contracts certainly help to clarify anticipated circumstances, but alas, not every possible scenario can be or will be anticipated.
Most recentlya misunderstanding arose with a Fundraising Auction where the pricing format was far outside the usual parameters. I was deeply committed to participate and had already shipped my work, so it was a surprise (shock!) to learn that I would be negatively affected by an unexpected auction structure.
So the question arises...Should I speak up and risk alienating the auction sponsor, primary donor and staff? What are the perceived risks or actual risks for speaking up? Should social pressure cause me to just be quiet, conform and follow the status quo?
Honestly, at the time, the fear of perceived risks was stressful -- very stressful. All the possible risks seemed to outweigh the immediate benefits. But I did speak up -- and ultimately the outcome of my effort changed the pricing, not just for my work, but the pricing policy for everyone. Actually, by raising the issue in advance it gave the sponsor time to consider the merits and choose a different plan.
Was it easy? No. Did the other artists benefit? Yes. Did the sponsor benefit? Yes.
An upcoming fundraising auction informed me that they intend to use the term “Fair Market Value” as part of their auction pricing structure.
This term - "Fair Market Value" - was a huge surprise. Frankly, I had never heard of it in art auction, it confused me and gave me great cause for concern. I wondered why would they use the term "Fair Market Value" instead of the much more familiar "Retail Price?"
Has anyone ever heard the term “fair market value” when pricing art or craft?
Have you ever seen the term "Fair Market Value" used at a Fundraising Auction?
I’d like to hear your comments or opinions about the term "Fair Market Value" under the given circumstances.
Your comments and reply are most welcome.
Background surrounding the circumstances. I had never heard of the term "Fair Market Value" used instead of "retail price" in a art/craft retail context and it leaves me concerned that the use of this term sets an awkward and misleading precedent.
Then of greater concern, the sponsor also said that they intend to use an automatic formula to calculate "Fair Market Value." In the original invitation, artists were asked to state a specific price as the artist's "minimum price," however, the term "minimum price" was never defined, and the artists were not informed how the "minimum price" would be used as a factor to automatically calculate a "Fair Market Value" as 3 times the artist's "minimum price."
It is as if the auction sponsor believes that every artist is identical and the pricing of every work is reduced to a fixed formula -- with no prior knowledge of the artist's comparable prices for similar work.
Using the term "Fair Market Value" at an auction has further irony when you consider that most Fundraising Auction sell artwork at below normal retail prices potentially eroding the "Fair Market Value" for all work by the artist.
If you are not familiar with the term Fair Market Value, a description of this economic term is provided below.
"What does Fair Market Value mean?" For this question, I pursued some diligent research and asked a qualified, entrepreneurial, business expert, my husband, to provide further insight into the term.
To define the term "Fair Market Value" we need to differentiate between a liquid market and an illiquid market."
“Fair Market Value” is easily determined in a liquid market when there are multiple identical items sold repeatedly, such as gallons of gas or mass manufactured items. Thus the transaction price of multiple purchases indicates the Fair Market Value. Common examples include the real estate market, valuation of cars, and stocks.
“Fair Market Value” is not easy to determine when selling an item that has never sold before such as one-of-a-kind art or craft. When there is a very small, very limited market (i.e. with no previous retail sales of identical items), the situation can be described as an illiquid market. When selling art or craft, "Assets in illiquid markets still have value and, in many cases, very high value, but are simply difficult to sell." In such circumstances, an estimate of Fair Market Value may be reasonably determined by negotiation, or an impartial third party, a gallery that represents the artist/maker or a qualified appraiser.
It has happened again! Even after all my years of experience and advocacy for artists &makers, vague terminology has caused a rift and something akin to gut wrenching experience. My reputation is on the line. Months of work may vaporize. And all because of vague terminology.
While I can't reveal much about a volatile situation at this point, I have a question for everyone.
What does the term minimum price mean to you?
Here is an example text providing context:
"As in past years, the artist will keep 50% of the proceeds with the other 50% serving as a fundraiser. The artist is responsible for setting a minimum price for the artwork."
My question for today is what would you consider a "minimum price"?
Does minimum price mean:
What would be your assumption?
How do you define the term minimum price in this context? Please leave your response or opinion in the comments below.
More questions soon.
WARNING: Never accept an invitation, contract or agree to participate in a show/exhibition when all the terms are not clearly defined.
Recently I unpacked an old piece of work knowing it had never been photographed. Beautiful work that I loved -- and had shown in my own living room. But the work was never photographed ... and usually sat in it's box in a closet.
To my dismay and a wrenching insight, I realized that without photos, how would a collector, gallery, or exhibition ever know of their existence. In effect, outside my own memory, the work did not exist.
If an artwork isn't photographed nor documented, and no one sees it, does it exist in the age of information?
With no photos the work can't be shown on my website. I can't sell the work or tempt a collector without photos.
Without photos, if damaged, I can't even make an insurance claim. I am usually so cautious that even if work is being photographed for an exhibition, I have photos taken before it is shipped.
It turns my world upside down to think that for 11 years, these chocolate cups just sat in a box.
Then one step further. Professional quality photographs are necessary, if you want the photos to represent the quality of your work.
If you have not documented the work with your Inventory Record, then it is not part of your oeuvre. Yet, we want to be remembered for our work!
Documentation is everything in the age of information.
I wonder if people assume that finding one's own voice or signature style should be easy, but nothing is further from reality. The difference between developing a signature voice and being lost is . . . lots of practice. With practice and experience comes the confidence that with extended effort, the answer will be found.
My experience is that many tests and trials are thrown away to see what works and what doesn't, but with enough practice, a solution will be found and that special insight will be realized.
Each place setting consisted of a black plate that was either a square base, round or triangle plate. Then it was topped with a white square plus a tear drop shaped black bowl for our soup.
The flower arrangement was difficult to photography. They were very minimal.
Three flower arrangements decorated the centerline of the long table. Each flower arrangement included a curly willow branches (spray painted black), white tulips, and baby's breath.
Developing the overall theme and making the flower arrangements are my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving celebration, culminating with the very lively conversations during and after the meal.
All of the flower arrangement used the same components but, as you can see, each was completely different.
Menu cards were printed and placed on the table and at our buffet. As you can see, we had a real holiday feast with 16 close friends. Our "extended family" is getting larger.
The Desserts also followed our Black and White theme.
The Pumpkin Cheesecake was covered with black and white M&M's and jelly beans.
All decorations were artistically placed by Aryn and our guest assistant.
Our meal concluded with everyone sharing what they were thankful for. My daughter prompted us to be a specific as possible. Positive psychology has shown that we feel a greater sense of well being if we can identify specifc moments, actions and experiences in our lives that make us feel grateful.
This discussion brought us all back to the table for a wonderful conversation where we learned a little more about each person, a wonderful way to conclude our evening.
Philip Cohen has photographed my sculpture, jewelry, Judaica and installations for 26 years. Every time I leave my work in his photo studio, our focus discussion is about what Phil calls the "money shot."
The "money shot" is the one shot that captures the art work's best aspects. Why just one shot? Because so often you only get one image on a postcard, one image in a magazine, or one image on a website to capture the viewer's attention.
It may be surprising, but sometimes the "money shot" is an image that is not the full view of the art work. Sometimes, a special angle, close-up, or detail shot becomes the "money shot."
For this post photographer Philip Cohen offers his own words of experience for how he finds the money shot in the detail for a wide range of art work and media. ____________________________
Advice from photographer Philip Cohen:
When photographing artwork, I’m always looking for the “money shot” - the one angle that sums up the work most succinctly. However, quite often the only way to show what’s really happening is to shoot details, images from a different angle, or close-ups, even very close shots. Taking the detail is all about "sweating the details."
I never count on creating my detail image by cropping from the full view shot in Photoshop. This will not produce a quality image. You won’t be showing anything new, the image won't be large enough, and the focus will be off. So learn to shoot the details while you are photographing the overall shots.
When shooting details of 2-D work, select an interesting composition within the composition to reveal something about the artwork that the overall shot can’t show or doesn't reveal. Shoot these details “full frame” to maximize clarity; cropping in Photoshop later won’t work as well. Note: Getting close also reveals dust, cat hair or fuzz, so make sure the artwork is flawlessly clean.
Example One: “Two Cities 6”, oil on canvas by Maya Kabat. Seen as a whole, this painting has an abstract geometric composition. The detail photo reiterates the formal composition and.... ...the detail shot let’s us touch the paint. We can see the hand of the artist with the brush stroke, palette knife, drips, and texture of the canvas.
Example Two: “Life #1”, Clay Print on Wood Panel by Zahava Sherez. In the full view we can only focus on the movement of color. The detail points out woven objects on the printed surface, something that was easily missed in the overall picture. The objects embedded into the surface were also used to print color onto the piece, thus the matrix became part of the print.
Details of 3-D work can show an alternate mood, message, media or personality. The detail becomes the “money shot” and can completely re-define the work.
Example Three: “They Paved Paradise #1”, a found materials assemblage by Cynthia Jensen. The overall shot is dominated by the antlers and by default the empty space of the background. As a result, much of the photo lacks information.
Showing a detail of the “face” at a slight angle (shown below) points out the different bas-relief aspects of the found form, lifting it away from the background. The closer angle also makes the image more engaging. The rusty steel has a granular surface and the antlers have texture not visible in the full view.
Example Four: “Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin” a repurposed materials installation by Harriete Berman. The huge curtain is over 28 feet wide and represents a statistical graph in the shape of a bell curve. Some images need scale as an indication of size. This installation fills the room at 28' feet wide, but this is really hard to determine with the full view. The detail view from one side has a young girl to indicate scale. In addition, the angle shot reveals the thickness and ethereal qualities of a curtain.
But the close-up detail is a revelation: the whole installation is made of pencils!
Example Five: “Paper, Dreams…”, shadow box by Sandra Ortiz Taylor. Shadow boxes generally need to be shot from straight on so that nothing is hidden by the sides of the box. Lighting is tricky and objects in the box may obscure each other.
A detail shot (below) from another angle can isolate some of the objects showing them to a better advantage and pointing out some of the drama of the piece.
Shooting for a artist's website gives an opportunity to present a number of views of the product, both overall and detail shots, but essentially one image will be used to represent the work.
Example Six: “Moana Manna” by Nathalie Leseine. Below is one of Nathalie’s Tahitian carved black pearl pendants from her Moana Manna series. The photos were taken for her website. The overall shot is seen on a page with the whole collection. While this shot shows the entire necklace, the pendant occupies a small area in the overall shot. Too much background, not enough information is a common problem when photographing necklaces.
A closer view of the pendant fills the frame. Now we really understand much more about this pearl pendant, the most important element of the necklace.
A very close detail from behind reveals the structure of the pendant bail (below) and shows how the pendant attaches to the necklace.
The shot below the two-part clasp is a practical view revealing both form and function, important information that might sell this jewelry.
The basic problem in photographing artwork in any media, whether for reproduction or exhibition, is captuing the best representation in a single image. This is contrary to the visual impression from direct experience where the mind’s eye can assemble a number of viewpoints.
In person, you can walk around the sculpture. When viewing a painting one can see the whole thing from a distance, then walk closer to see the details clearly. The mind’s-eye impression is actually what the photographer is trying to capture in one image. Sweat the detail shots for photographic success.
The I.R.S. wants to know you are a business. That's it, plain and simple. One way to prove this is it to make a profit. But if you are generating enough revenue to overcome all your expenses, there are several other criteria used by the I.R.S. to establish that you are a business.
Please join us for this lunch time event - Wednesday, October 29, 2014. The talk will begin at 12:00pm, noon and end around 12:40pm. Then there will be about 20 minutes for the audience to ask questions.
The Magnes Collection: 2121 Allston Way Berkeley, CA 93704 510.643.2526