Should you cut out the middleman for artist direct sales?
Many reasons come to mind when buyers want to forgo the middleman and have artist direct sales. First, it is natural to want to hear directly from the artist his inspiration for the piece and the meaning of the work. Second, we are all communicative creatures and naturally like to add names to our list of friends, especially those that we find creative and interesting. Third, many times it is about the wallet, thinking that you have to be able to get it at a better price directly from the artist than through a store. Last, you just might want something custom made that is not available anywhere. These are all the reasons for going to craft shows and markets. Buyers pay a premium in travel and time hunting while the craftsman receives a higher price for the art. However, it is my opinion that many artists just don’t want to deal directly for almost as many reasons.
Its a lot easier to sell to a gallery
The biggest reason is one of practicality: the Navajo & Zuni Reservations surround this arts town. Thus, Gallup, New Mexico is the mecca for Navajo & Zuni art. It is home to many supply houses that provide for and support the creation of handmade art specifically because this is where they can sell the most supply. Turquoise dealers make this town their definite stop if they want to move any quantity of stones. Dealers in town are always buying and artists whose time is focused on creating art are just not very interested in driving the several hundred mile round trips to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Sedona, Durango, or Scottsdale. The galleries that make a living selling Native American art in those tourists’ destinations usually make frequent buying trips to Gallup. Its easy for an artist to sell his craft in Gallup, because more businesses than you can count cater to the Navajo & Zuni arts trade.
Most craftsmen have no desire to be in retail
Then there is the nature of the artists life. Many buyers just don’t understand the way it works. When they meet up with an artist they want to see a variety of pieces for sale. Usually, unless it is a very simple mass produced piece, an artist is only going to have a few pieces to sell if you're lucky enough to catch them when they have just finished making some pieces. Materials are expensive and once something is made the idea is to sell it and start the next piece. Most of us can’t go weeks without paychecks while performing our jobs, and that is very true for the Navajo and Zuni artists who have the same monetary needs we all have. Also, many buyers think dealers beat down artists for cheap prices and take that approach when pursuing artist direct sales. Artists and experienced dealers know the cost of materials, the time required to make a piece, they have an understanding of the complexity of work, and reach prices that make sense for both parties. Of course each wants a negotiation in their favor, but the prices are not random, and the relationship an artist develops with a trader will often last a lifetime. To the artist this is typically simpler than opening a retail presence on top of creating the art. Take a moment and read this forum post if interested in educating yourself on how to value Native American art, Techniques to self-determine value of your art
You know you love the wide selection
You visit one of the many Trading Posts or galleries in Gallup, New Mexico because of expertise and assortment. Plus, when you take the time to research the reputable dealers, ask the Gallup Chamber of Commerce, you can count on seeing fantastic, authentic handmade (not the imported fakes) art at very reasonable prices.
Depending on the day, you might even be able to stand at the counter with the artist to discuss his or her work.