February 9

How to Make Success Selling Art to Interior Designers

How to Make Success Selling Art to Interior Designers

Don’t Let the Old Man In

My good friend and muse, Dick Harrison, is a remarkable person in so many ways. He is humble, honest, humorous and inspiring to me and many others. He’s an amazing young 87-year-old who continues to live a creative and productive life. Clint Eastwood inspired Toby Keith to write his touching, Don’t Let Old Man In” song in the same way Dick lights a path for me on how to live a fulsome life no matter your age.

At the tender age of 83, Dick became the co-author with me of How to Sell Art to Interior Designers: Learn New Ways to Get Your Work into the Interior Design Market and Sell More Art. Without his valuable contributions, which came from his 20 years as an art rep calling on interior designers, the book was not possible.

Dick is also a writer of other sales books for artists.  He’s also a published fiction writer, and more. Get details here on his For Those Who Love to Read website. His How to Sell Art To Interior Designers guest post here remains one of the most popular on this blog.

How to Launch a Rep Career Selling Art to Interior Designers

The notion of launching a successful career selling art to designers came to Dick as an idea born of necessity. He will give you five useful takeaways for selling to designers below. My big takeaway from his story is it would not have happened without courage and action.

You already know this but learning a life lesson on someone else’s experience helps drive the point home. Dick didn’t have a grand plan to make a career marketing art in the interior design field. He needed to generate some income. He found a resource in the form of a catalog with beautiful posters he thought interior designers would buy if they saw them.

 Selling Art to Interior Designers AudibleListen to the How to Sell Art to Interior Designers free!

It’s available from Audible. Get the details at bdavey.co/designbook. You’ll find the soothing narration by professional voice artist, Rebekah Nemethy adds a new dimension to learning this topic.

Here is what an Amazon reviewer had to say: “This was a fascinating book that took me from the mystery of not even knowing that one can sell to the interior design market, to how to do this. I found myself quite naturally applying the concepts in this book to further the career of a very talented artist that I’m helping to bring up to the next level. This book and its information were quite invaluable for me. 

Don’t Think About It. Just Do It!

Dick made a deal with the catalog publisher where he would make a commission from every sale he made. With nothing more than courage, a catalog, and the Yellow Pages, (It was during the pre-internet days), he started what would become a lengthy, rewarding and successful career as an art rep. To begin, he wrote a short script, found the phone numbers of local designers, screwed up his courage and acted to call them. I’ll let him take it from here.

 My First Presentation as an Art Salesman

By sheer chance, the third interior designer I called on happened to be the president of the local ASID chapter. I barely knew ASID stood for American Society of Interior Designers. When she had looked at what I was selling, and placed an order, she explained that in two days, the chapter would be holding its monthly get-together. After the business meeting for the many designers attending, they invited two vendors to give a fifteen-minute presentation about their products – and would I like to be one of the two?

Now, What Do I Do?

I accepted but hadn’t the vaguest idea of what to say or do. When the evening came, I was number two of the pair to give my presentation. The first vendor was an older, distinguished-looking gentleman representing a well-known wallpaper company. If you’ve ever been in an interior designer’s studio, you know a wall rack is often jammed with hundreds of wallpaper sample books.

His presentation went something like this: “I’m John Smith, and almost all of you know me. I’ve been a rep for more than fifteen years, and my company has been in business for over a quarter-century. I’m here to show you the new catalog for our fall line of papers. Because you’ve often used what we carry, you know the quality and that we go out of our way to give good service to our customers.”

At that point he held up the new catalog, leafed through it pointing out and describing some of the special papers, adding, “You know we carry a huge selection and you can choose from more than 1,000 designs. If you have any questions about any of the many papers we carry, feel free to ask, and you’ll learn how much we know about the business all of us here are in.”

And So It Began

When he finished there was polite applause, and it was my turn.

I had watched and listened to what he did and what he said. My presentation went something like this: “I’m Dick Harrison, and I don’t think any of you know me, except Gloria, who invited me here. I’ve been in this business a little over six days now, but my company has been around for almost two years. What I have is this catalog of fine-art posters (holding up the loose-leaf with the word AMDURART in bold letter on the spine).

“I don’t think any of you have seen or used anything like it.  It’s filled with photographs of almost 150 of the most beautiful and unique fine-art posters your clients will ever see.”

Sell Art to Designers
Listen to How to Sell Art to Interior Designers as you work. Go to bdavey.co/designbook to discover how to get it free!

Proving You Have to Show Art to Sell Art

I flipped through the catalog and pointed out a few of the images, and then held up the framed sample of one of the posters.

“The owner of the company, David Amdur, has collected and photographed these from printers all over the world. He and his wife put each catalog together by hand on their dining room table. I’m their first outside sales rep. David is always looking for new designs, and he has a great eye for good art. As he finds new posters, he pastes together additional pages and sends them to every customer who owns a catalog.”

“Every poster you purchase is framed with a metal #11 profile Neilsen frame and quality acrylic facing, which means it’s ready to hang on the wall. There’s even a picture hook attached to the wire on the back. You do have a choice of frame – silver or gold – but it complements, and never detracts from most any decor. Anyway, who’ll be looking at 3/8” frame when the art is so striking? Not only that, we’ll ship it out fast by UPS.”

Never Be Afraid to Ask for Money

“Putting the catalog together takes a lot of work. If you want one, it will cost you $50, but we’ll refund $10 on each of the first five orders you place, so it ends up costing nothing.”

“You won’t learn much about the interior design business from me, but I expect to learn plenty from you. You already know what you’re looking for – a whole lot more than I do.”

“If you’d like to leaf through the catalog, page by page, to see if this unique art will give you an edge when it comes to selling wall decor to your customers, I’ll be happy to come to your studio at a time that’s convenient for you.”

As you might expect, my presentation was interrupted by laughter many times. Even my fellow vendor was laughing.

When I finished, the designers crowded around me handing me their business cards saying: “Call me.” I was busy setting appointments and selling catalogs and art for days. My new business had been launched by laughter and being honest!

Here’s are my “Five Takeaways” for you as an artist selling to designers:

  1. Interior designers are always looking for good art of all kinds. They want to see what you create. On most jobs, they must buy art to complete the project and get paid.
  2. You don’t need a “name” or a string of awards to sell your art if it fits the project they are working on.
  3. You don’t have to be an “expert” to make a successful presentation. When IDs are choosing art to buy, they already know what they’re looking for.
  4. You need to be willing to show up at a time convenient for them.
  5. It pays to be honest.

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About the Author

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

Barney Davey

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  1. Mr. Harrison – The Interior Design business and my fine art Landscape/Nature Photography seems to be a Very good fit. Your insights and suggestions would be greatly appreciated by this 68 year old (amateur) photographer who loves being ‘out there’ as much as possible.

    I’m not sure I want to venture into the business of photography at this stage of my life. If the web site could handle sales & delivery of Originals, limited editions, and open editions then perhaps.

    Your advise would be most appreciated.

    1. Hi Timothy, I forwarded your comment to Dick Harrison. I’m sure he will reply when he can. It’s not clear to me what you mean when you mention “if the website could handle it.” Knowing what website is it you refer to will help get you a better answer.
      All the best! Barney

    2. Hi Timothy, I apologise for the tardy response. Nature photos are often used by IDs as long as the image fits the project they are working on. That last is the same response I’d make for any artwork regardless of medium.
      There’s no reason not to start a new business at age 78, particularly because you want to be out and about. From my perspective at 87, you’re still a kid.
      I think the only Internet sites that handle everything from printing to fulfilling a finished product are ones like Fine Art America, CafePress and Zazzle. Barney may know others. Keep in mind that you must drive traffic to your “storefont” if you want to sell anything. Also, once there, your potential buyer can see similar art by hundreds of others with the click of a mouse.
      You may also want to submit images to Stock Photo sites. There are many. Just Google Stock Photos.
      When I had an Ad Agency we bought the rights to use photos in some of our ads. Right to use is what you are selling. You can put the same image on all of the above unless a “seller” demands exclusive use and you agree.
      If you’d like a more in depth answer, please consider the new audio edition of How To Sell Art To. Interior Designers.

  2. Hello Barney Davey, I am an artist looking for an art rep. Do you have any suggestions as to where I can find someone who will get out there for me to show my work and contact designers? I am currently in a gallery and selling sporadically. I want to up my sales. Thank you, Bonnie

    1. Hi Bonnie, Art reps are hard to find. Most reps find they can sell higher ticket items with quicker turnover than fine art is why. Ask gallery owners for the names of reps who they know. The same for picture framers. Many picture frame molding company reps also carry some art. The same might be true of independent furniture reps. You have to get creative and hunt down your prospects Good luck with your search.

  3. Ciao a tutti grazie per questo articolo. Da tempo ho molta voglia di vendere la mia arte come arte per il design e l’ arredamento. Ho provato la strada di grandi piattaforme che da anni esistenti hanno avviato un sistema che consente in teoria di avere riscontro. In realtà la vastità e la difficoltà oggettiva di essere visibili rende il piano troppo arduo.
    Forse proverò a raccogliere se possibile indirizzi di aziende potenzialmente interessate al mio lavoro veramente versatile nonostante il fatto che sia una artista di ricerca.Grazie

  4. Hi Barney,

    I don’t speak or read Italian either, but a quick Google search let me copy Alessandra’s
    comment into a translate box, click, and here’s the translation:

    Hello everyone thanks for this article. I have long wanted to sell my art as an art for design and furniture. I tried the road of large platforms that for years have started a system that allows in theory to have feedback. In reality, the vastness and objective difficulty of being visible makes the plan too difficult.
    Perhaps I will try to collect, if possible, addresses of companies potentially interested in my work, truly versatile despite the fact that it is a research artist.

    Artists: Even if you don’t speak the language, you can communicate around the world and sell your work to ID’s from Argentina to Zimbabwe, if you have a website ID’s can quickly flip through samples of your work.

    Alessandra, by all means collect email address for Interior Design Firms. Just Google the City and Interior Designers.
    I just Searched for Designers in Dubai, UAE. A full page of listings with web addresses. Plenty of dollars to buy art there I’d guess.

    Timothy, Barney passed on your query. I be in touch soon. Just a little rushed right now.

  5. Dear Sir,

    thank you fr writing and sharing this article with other artists like me that don’t have a clue on how to sell my art.
    it sure is informative and gives hope that even myself with enough courage and boldness could sell my art work.
    thanks again,

    marty

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