skyforgemetalworks

I've got no work for the foreseeable future.

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I've been promoting, and I've been marketing. No business except for selling a few hammers on Ebay. I have been forging full time for 2 1/2 years and still have yet to find a bread and butter product to keep the studio rolling when things are slow. Does anyone have any ideas on how to get more traffic to my website, a bread and butter item, or marketing in general? I really love making hammers and tools, and I would really like to get into that market. It seems that the market for forged hammers and tools is pretty good, one just has to get in. 

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I checked out your website and thought it looked good. You've got a nice mix of basic tooling to the artistic creations. Layout and photography looks professional.

If you want to get into the tool market, I'd suggest using this slow period to build up some inventory and schedule a trip out to SOFA this year. Could be a good venue to get your name out there and make a few sales, as well as a chance to get some ideas from others trying to do the same thing.

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Do you use social media?  Something besides you website.  Instagram would be great.  Takes time to build a following though.

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11 hours ago, No.4shot said:

Do you use social media?  Something besides you website.  Instagram would be great.  Takes time to build a following though.

Social media is a must these days, and the icon links on my website will take you straight there.

11 hours ago, JME1149 said:

I checked out your website and thought it looked good. You've got a nice mix of basic tooling to the artistic creations. Layout and photography looks professional.

If you want to get into the tool market, I'd suggest using this slow period to build up some inventory and schedule a trip out to SOFA this year. Could be a good venue to get your name out there and make a few sales, as well as a chance to get some ideas from others trying to do the same thing.

I will have to look into a trip to SOFA. I hadn't thought of that so thanks for the tip! I definitely love making tools, and I'm currently thinking on offering some classes around here as there is not much in WV for classes where I'm at.

 

13 hours ago, John McPherson said:

Are you asking for marketing ideas, a new line of merchandise, or general business advise? A link to your website would be a good first step.

I'm asking for opinions on it all and what has worked for people in the past. My website is posted in my profile.

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Skyforge,

I agree with JME about your website, it looks good and the photo's are well done. 

I've helped with a business campaign where we tracked everything we could.  Huge investments in time and advertising money will get you more page views, shares, and "likes" on the internet.  You can really pound away on search engine optimization to get yourself ranking higher on google searches as well.

We're headed into our second year of this and we can absolutely show improvement on every metric except customers.  Most of the advice about using social media for business overlooks the economy.  When things are booming, people are inclined to assume their success is driven by some action they took.  When things are slow, people tend to assume it's just a matter of getting your name out there.  If that were true, advertising agencies would guarantee results.

I think the economy is much worse than reported.  Here's an article that says 47% of adults can't scrape together $400 for an emergency

We're facing the third consecutive quarter of productivity decline.  Last year the global market tanked so hard in 4th quarter that global shipping came to a halt.  It was actually cheaper to rent a 1,100ft shipping vessel per day than a Ferrari.  From my desk, I see things sizing up to be worse than last year. 

My point is that very few people can afford to spend money right now.  I would guess that it's going to be a long time until they can.  Window shoppers may not pay your bills right now, but it might lead to sales in the future. 

The way I see it, you can either hunker down and focus on subsistence through these hard times, or you can go big-game hunting for wealthy clients.  If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.  It's my suspicion that truly wealthy clients aren't won via social media or common advertising.  If you were rich, would you spend your time reading facebook advertisements?

There is a lot of high-end trade conducted on a personal networking level.  It's not enough to email a ritzy interior decorator to the stars, you've got to know them personally to gain traction. 

Good luck.

 

 

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23 minutes ago, ThomasPowers said:

Any chance of getting your stuff in at Tamarack Crafts Center?

Yes, I went to a jury session for my sculptures and I was told that they wanted me but my sculptures weren't kid friendly. I can understand that, but when they said that my sculptures would be placed on the floor, I decided the fine art section wasn't a go. My juror told me to make hooks and he would jury me in. However, they have new rules that were brought to our attention only after we showed up for the session. These rules include only purchasing a maximum of $250 dollars worth of product, and they want a strict 50$ off your retail. They want items such as bottle openers and hooks, and that is fine, but they don't order enough of them because every blacksmith that is in the Tamarack sells hooks and bottle openers to them. It also seems like a seniority type thing too.

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Well done video--in the marketing sense.  Slow, methodical, minimalist while getting the point across.  Most people try and cram too much into things like that.

The one thing that seems to be missing from your site is architectural pieces...although I might have just missed them.  If it's a market you want to dip your toes into, you might add a page showing a gate, rail bits & pieces, maybe hinges, maybe latches--that kind of thing.  Most people immediately think architectural or horseshoes when the topic of smithing hits their head--because that is where they most commonly see items they identify as being done by a blacksmith.  Not everyone wants to do gates or rails--just pointing out that segment of the biz is what I didn't see (or maybe just didn't remember seeing) when I flipped through your site.

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Thanks for the compliments! I have done gates and railings, but that is not really my thing. I do that stuff for people located close to me, but not for Pittsburgh or any major populated area around. When I did try to compete, I get blown out by custom railing companies around the greater metropolis area. Basically, some blacksmiths got together with some welders a while back and pretty much have a lock on the railing market because they set their shop up to do just that and only that. I mean, I've only been in business for 2 years. I don't feel like that is enough time to be established in any of the areas, especially one less common like blacksmithing. From the responses that I've gotten so far, it looks like I'm doing the right stuff, but I just need to give it more time all the way around. How much time is what I'm wondering.

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Tried to send you an e-mail through your website a few minutes ago.

Not sure if it went or not. Check for it and get back to me.

 

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OK, been to your website and also appreciate your work.  What rockstar mentioned earlier about the economy is an important point and one worth understanding and preparing for.  Not sure how to pivot to be able to make a living in harsh times like these.  I myself got out of the fine craft world and back into engineering during just such a time as I couldn't take the uncertainty.

Going to give you a bit of what I hope will come across as constructive criticism now, and not just trying to be harsh (remember this is just my opinion, you are welcome to disregard):

  1. In tough economic times the general populace buys necessities, not indulgences.  Craft these days is seen as the latter.
  2. Your high end work is capable, you have the "art speak" narrative to attract potential collectors, but that is a tough market to get into.  In my experience you have to either be validated by being carried by an important gallery, or appeal viscerally to an art appreciator who can afford your prices.  I suggest that you, at minimum, enter your work in as many quality juried shows (art shows in galleries, not retail craft shows) as you can to try to get your name out there.  They used to be advertised in magazines.  I hope you are already a member of ABANA.
  3. Also you need to work a bit harder on developing a visual language for your sculpture.  Currently you are going in a number of different directions.  In my experience galleries are looking for a more cohesive body of work, especially from an unknown artist.
  4. A sense of scale for your sculpture is needed on the website (at least in the descriptive passages).  Typically an artist would put something like the following on their page: Momentous (forged and fabricated steel and copper (?), 11" x 16" H (unless it is really 3' x 5' high). 
  5. Some of this sculptural work does look like maquettes for larger pieces (check out some of AL Paley's, Henry Moore's or David Smith's for example).  You might try to go big for one of those juried shows.
  6. The low end craft pieces don't have any relationship to the sculptures other than material and to some extent process.  They look so dissimilar that I would recommend that you don't feature them on the same site at all (possibly even two different sites with different studio names).  Fine art collectors don't really want to know that the artist they are trying to patronize also makes $7 bottle openers, unless there is a direct relationship between the work (i.e. corkscrews they can give their friends that replicate a portion of the massive sculpture they have just purchased to show off in their foyer.)
  7. Your hammers look cool.  Its a good business to be in these days, but there are others going that route because of that.  Go to places where there are a lot of blacksmiths (SOFA, ABANA...) and try to sell them directly to build clientele and find what sells.  Just be aware that you have competition at the same price point from established hammer makers (so you need to find something that sets you apart).

Oh, and as far as time, it took me 3 years of attending a high end ACE Wholesale show before the galleries started to take my sculptural work seriously.

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Latticino makes a lot of good points in his response.

It takes a long time to become an overnight success. I have known a few knifemakers who bought tables at the Blade Show every year just to keep their brand in front of the public until they were taken seriously; there are a lot of flash in the pans in every industry. A lot of those guys sold 'smalls', key fobs, bottle openers, etc. to pay the table fee whilst the $1000 stuff languished.

These same folks made gates, candle holders, etc. on the side, but never offered them on the blade site.

Having a separate web page, and even a separate (DBA) business name for art vs everything else is a good suggestion. Very different clienteles, with very different expectations.  An artist is someone you invite to your stately manor for an evening soiree' to have drinks with your society friends, tradesmen enter by the back door during the day, and are not allowed to use the toilet. Artists get zoning exemptions, tradesmen do not. No, its not fair. Get over it.

 

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Thank you all so much for your help! I greatly appreciate it. I am looking into my site, prices, and markets a lot deeper and with more precision. I am taking all of your opinions into account and making adjustments where they need to be made! Thank you all!

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Sorry I have no business advice but I just wanted to compliment you on your work.

I really like the look of your Cross Peen Hammer. Might have to order one if I'm ever looking for a gift for myself ;)

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Your website is spot on! I always like seeing your stuff on instagram. I'm dealing with all the same things but am a couple years behind you, so I sympathize. It's tricky finding what pays the bills consistently. I think Latticino hit the nail on the head, and that advice rings loud in my ears. Casting a wide net seems like a good option since the craft is so versatile, yet as a business you HAVE to specialize it seems. At least that's what people tend to tell me. Then the long arduous task of finding out "What is my specialty?". If you have any new insight into that feel free to share!

I hope your year has been productive.

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Just as a small update.  I was lucky enough to run into Andrew at SOFA this year (purely by accident).  Purchased one of his Czech/Hofi style cross peen hammers.  Really enjoy using it.  A great hammer and becoming my go-to general forging hammer in that weight range.  Look him up.

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