CORTEZ - In a competitive market where shoppers are targeted at every turn, finding unique ways to stand out and
attract buyers can make the difference in landing a sale - or not. Especially after the holidays.
For artists like chain-saw carver Ken Braun, it means changing up where or how they sell their items, while for others,like Kristi Marcille-Smith, it translates into creating a new, enticing product to lure customers.
Although Dolores-based Marcille-Smith usually offers gemstone silver jewelry through galleries, art fairs and online
through Etsy.com, a new product, a $48 hand-stamped, inscribed silver guitar pick caught the attention of Etsy buyers
and created a storm of sales.
I made one for my husband for his birthday, and I just thought it might be something other people might like," she
said. I started selling them on Etsy, and Etsy loved them and promoted them like crazy."
Marcille-Smith said since she offered the picks stamped with lyrics, names or words, imitators stepped in to sell the
exact same product, copying even the description of the picks. Still, she said the boost in sales was helpful.
There were several people who made plain silver guitar picks, but I was the first one who was stamping custom lyrics,"
she said. I sold more than 200 in November and December of 2008 alone. This season, I've sold about 100, probably
because now they're all over the place."
Braun decided to literally put his inventory along Main Street in Cortez to generate more business.
This time of year I usually don't do too much around Cortez," he said. Usually I sit at home in the winter and carve
inventory for the next carving season."
But then his friend, Ted Holgate, offered him a spot on his lot right off Main Street.
We put our heads together," Braun said. Now I can show the community the art and what happens in chain-saw carving. I
can sit out here and carve and demonstrate."
Braun said he has seen business pick up because of the exposure and often carves made-to-order requests, such as a $60
kestrel he did last week for a woman who shopped while he worked.
She watched for about 15 minutes and was just flabbergasted she could see the form of the bird in that amount of
time," he said.
Braun said business is good enough that in March he will put in a showroom next to
his spot at Holgate's Tools
It's wintertime, and I'm able to scrape a living," he said. If I can scrape a living in the wintertime, I'll probably
be able to do even better this summer."
For others, like Jan Wright, just keeping overhead costs down helped make a profit.
Wright, who lives between Dolores and Mancos, primarily sells her Southwest watercolors at Artisans of Mancos
Because we're an artists' cooperative, we each work three to four times a month," she said.
The only expense we have is to pay rent here, so consequently we keep our prices much lower than if we were going to a
regular gallery that charges 40 to 50 percent."
Wright said she has found that cards and low-price items provide the bread and butter" at the gallery, which offers
items from 20 other Montezuma County artists.
Wright said she has expanded to other low-cost or free venues to show her work. Those venues include the Cortez
Cultural Center and Mesa Verde National Park.
Another Artisans of Mancos member, gemstone jewelry maker Patty Russell, decided to volunteer to extend hours over the
holiday making an extra $200 alone in sales on some days.
I hear after the Christmas season it gets pretty slow for the next couple of months, so I figured I may as well help
keep the gallery open as much as possible before Christmas," she said.