From school to market

UW-Stout Studio Art majors participated in the American Craft Council’s Craft Show’s School-to-Market program at St. Paul’s RiverCentre in April.  
May 3, 2019
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American Craft Council’s School-to-Market program provides university students with insight and exposure to other professional artists and their works. They experience what it’s like to be in a craft show, what it’s like to market themselves and to sell their art. Ten members from Stout’s Fine Arts Association had a booth at the show. Five ceramics artists and five metals and contemporary art jewelry artists ran the booth.

Preparing for the Show

Studio Art-Ceramics major Carter Pasma is in his Ceramics Thesis, preparing to graduate this spring. This was his second year in the Craft Show’s School-to-Market program at St. Paul’s RiverCentre. He took the opportunity to market himself, push his art, and try to reach a new audience. But knowing what will sell is unpredictable. 

“The cornerstone of ceramics is cups and mugs, but bigger pieces draw people in and helps set price points. Last year, teapots were the big seller. This year, it was cups and couple of large jars,” Pasma said. “It’s a shot in the dark to know what to bring or what will sell. You make a little of everything and hope you sell something.”

Students also needed to consider how they would display their artwork once they were at the show. This planning took place months before the show. 

“A team of Industrial Design majors drafted three concepts for our booth,” Pasma explained. “We voted as a collective which booth design we liked best. The design students created our displays and tables.”

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Carter Pasma and Kris Hedge at the American Craft Council’s Craft Show’s School-to-Market exhibit. / Contributed Photo

At Their Booth

More than 230 artists and craftspeople from around the country participated in the show. Students were invited to attend the Emerging Artists Party opening night and speak with other artists. 

At the show, the ten students worked together to cover their booth in shifts. This meant they needed to not only speak for their art, but for their peers’ as well. 

“It’s hard to know another’s work process or describe their work to a customer,” Pasma said. “We had an overwhelming amount of art.”

Pasma also thought it was interesting to see the difference in sales between jewelry and ceramics. He felt the jewelry sold more easily.

“With jewelry, you can wear and use it immediately,” he said. “But with ceramics, you have to carry it around.”

He recalled a customer showing interest in one of his peer’s large vases. But the customer walked away, not wanting to carry the vase around while shopping at the show. They finally returned at the end of the day to buy the vase.

This was all part of the School-to-Market experience. Learning about others’ artwork, speaking with professional studio artists about their businesses, and interacting with customers.

“My biggest takeaway was to see what actually goes into having a booth,” Pasma explained. “There is a lot to consider in setting up your space: shelves, lighting, how you want to display your art.”

“We got a lot of compliments on our booth,” he added.

Our Students are Artists

In their Fine Arts Association meetings, Studio Art majors discussed the American Craft Council and their participation in the Craft Show. They talked about the stigma that often surrounds the meaning of the terms of arts and crafts. 

“We are artists, not craftspeople,” Pasma emphasized. “We are making art as a living. That’s the distinction.”

Pasma felt a second distinction needed to be made at the show. He and his classmates are artists. 

“Many times, throughout the show, we felt dismissed because people would turn the conversation to focus on us being students from Stout, not us as artists,” he said. “But we are professional artists who make quality art.”


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