More than 70 Tamarack artisans gathered July 27 for a combination business seminar, awards ceremony and luncheon.
Held at Tamarack, the seminar focused on savvy business practices shared by a panel of experts, most of whom are artisans themselves.
Matt Thomas, wood worker from Gilmer County, shared his story about how his broken back as a contractor led to his full-time livelihood as a successful artisan. Laid up from his injury with no income to support his family, Matt described how he felt when Sally Barton, executive director of the Tamarack Foundation, walked into his hospital room.
“We’re going to help you, Matt,” said Barton. That help came from both TARP (Tamarack Artisan Relief Program) and a West Virginia Commerce Department sponsored trip to the Buyers’ Market of Philadelphia.
“The first time I came back with no orders,” Thomas stated. “But the second time I returned with orders to keep me busy for a year.”
He encouraged artisans to always supply their best work to buyers, wholesalers and retailers, and to keep current with trends.
“A buyer suggested I make more chopsticks, which I thought was a crazy idea, but I did it, and now chopsticks are among my biggest sellers,” said Thomas, whose wooden sushi servers are popular with Tamarack visitors.
Kanawha County attorney and professional photographer Deborah Herndon called herself one of the unusual people who operates both left brain and right brain.
“I have an analytical, detailed oriented side, but photography feeds my art side,” she said.
She suggested artists copyright their work, build relationships and seek out feedback.
“And, don’t ask someone who you know is going to say something nice because she’s a friend,” she said. “Seek out honest feedback.”
Her framed and matted works and note cards are sold at Tamarack and many other galleries in West Virginia.
Beaded jewelry artist Christy Nicholas, an accountant by trade, advised listeners to “know the rudimentary things about bookkeeping, and learn when you need an expert. Keep thorough records, and know which sales are considered true income and what might not be.”
Tamarack professional development manager Stephen Cassle, offered tips for sales success and booth display integrity. He encouraged artisans to think like consumers as they sell, and to step out from behind any physical barriers.
Tamarack General Manager Cheryl Hartley greeted the group with remarks about the current trend of misusing the terms “artisan” and “craft” to apply to mass produced objects. She shared a short video entitled “Take Back Craft,” and emphasized that Tamarack does this for artisans 364 days a year.
Top producer awards were announced for 23 media categories of products sold at Tamarack. Tamarack’s top producers represented 28 counties for sales in apparel, furniture, dried goods, fine art, glass, candles, jewelry, leather, printed paper, pottery, bath and body, music/spoken word, literary arts, seasonal, textiles, souvenir, souvenir apparel, baskets, specialty foods, toys, books and wood.
The No. 1 and No. 2 producers of dried goods, Frances Boone and Sharon Hypes respectively, are both from Summers County.
DeVona Robinson from Nicholas County was the No. 2 producer of candles.
Summers County’s Judy Winsett was No. 1 in jewelry production.
Debbie Rapp Cestaric of Greenbrier was No. 2 in textiles, while fellow Greenbrier Countian Becky Hanna was No. 1 in souvenirs.
Monroe’s Judy & Mike McDade of Monroe were tops in baskets and Kevin Yoder second in food.
Wine’s No. 2 producer was Shirley Morris of Nicholas County.