Jar Tonita Roybal 1925

Tonita Roybal’s jar, circa 1925, photo Addison Doty, courtesy School for Advanced Research, Cat. No. IAF.2068  

There’s an art to selling art. There’s also an art in looking good on the iPhone. Native artists, unable to show their wares in person, will have to master both. Roxanne Best, a member of the Colville Tribe and a photographer and yoga instructor, offered some suggestions during a virtual continuing education session hosted by Indian Dispute Resolution Services and the Institute of American Indian Arts on Jul. 17.

Selling online, though, can make it difficult to establish a personal connection with potential customers. “Art sales are about our personalities,” Best says. There are, however, “ways to continue personalization in online space.” Artists can use social media and online markets to tell their personal stories, which will connect them to their work and legacies.

Best says that artists don’t need expensive digital cameras, because cell phones and tablets will work just fine. Quality images are essential. Some artists with great work and poor images can lose potential sales. She also recommends adjusting lighting to accentuate both the art and the artist. If necessary, tripods or a helper to hold the camera can be useful. “We don’t want anyone to get motion sickness if cameras are bouncing up and down,” she says.

Best also emphasized the importance of a pre-market checklist. Artists should have some sort of database to track their sales on hand. They should also gather, measure, write descriptions, and photograph their inventory and set prices. “Be confident in what you’re charging for your items.” When possible, Best recommends sorting out logistics for shipping including cost and timing. Many customers expect free shipping so incorporating the cost of postage into the price of art could be wise.

Maybe the most important activity prior to setting up for an online market is to get a dependable internet connection. Those who don’t have at home might consider asking to broadcast from a friend’s house or office. When possible, setting up the virtual market in an artist’s studio is usually a good idea. “People love to see behind the scenes where we’re creating our art,” says Best. 

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