Some of the most common questions we receive in regards to the business side of selling glass art is; "How do I approach galleries and boutiques and what should I look for?"
Some artists choose to sell online, some at art shows, others in boutiques and galleries and others do all three! You can be successful at any and all of these approaches if you have the capacity to follow up and give each avenue the proper attention it deserves. For anyone just beginning their small business, I would suggest focusing on one area to begin with before spreading yourself thin. If you take on more than you can handle right from the beginning, you run the risk of being overwhelmed and not succeeding in any avenue.
If you are going to approach galleries and boutiques to sell your glass art, be sure you understand the process before your initial meeting with a buyer. While the price structure may differ from boutique to boutique, the general process will remain similar. Typically there are two structures when working with boutiques or galleries. You can sell them a quantity of pieces at a wholesale discount upfront and they resell for a profit in their store. This is always the structure I prefer because as far as you are concerned, the deal is done when you deliver the goods and get paid. Obviously you will want to follow up and make sure you are doing everything you can to help the boutique sell your pieces so they buy more, but you have the money in hand in one easy transaction. The second structure is typically consignment. This can be done by splitting the sales with the boutique owner when they sell. Depending on your location, I have seen splits anywhere from 50/50 to 70/30. While you may be able to structure the pricing on your end to make a slightly higher profit, the amount of work on the backend is much more than that small profit increase is worth. You have to take inventory of your stock each month, trust the owner is selling the pieces for what they say they are and wait until the pieces are actually sold retail, before getting paid, instead of getting paid up front all at once. I'm not saying it can't be profitable, but there is follow up work and several moving parts.
If you are just getting started and you are comfortable with the boutique buyer, I would not tell you to turn the account down if they only offer consignment. What I would tell you is to be prepared for the extra work involved when selling this way as well as the lag on receiving payment for your pieces if they don't sell right away. Always offer a wholesale option as a first resort though. I have found that if you offer the option for the buyer to swap out any pieces that haven't sold in a few months will make them more comfortable purchasing upfront. This really isn't a hard promise to keep as you will be able to take back any inventory that didn't sell and be able to offer it for sale at another boutique or show. It also gives you a chance to get in front of the buyer to let them know you have new and exciting inventory to offer.
If you are in an area with a high concentration of glass artists or boutiques, the buyer may ask you for an exclusive deal. Meaning you can't sell to any other boutiques within X miles. This is when your research into the boutique or gallery becomes very important. If you sign an exclusive in a hot area, it is in your best interest that you pair up with the biggest and best! You don't want to sign an exclusive with a lower tier boutique because if they can't bring in customers like the bigger boutiques in the same area, you will not have nearly the customer exposure you need to sell your pieces. Always research and be comfortable with the boutiques you do business with, especially in the beginning. A bad experience with one boutique can discourage you from pursuing other boutiques which might be very profitable.