Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Historic Sites Association

I delivered one of my biggest wholesale orders of the year yesterday. It was for the Historic Sites Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and is primarily for their store in Port au Choix.

The Historic Sites Association is a provinicial organization that operates the Heritage Shops that are found in all of the National Historic Sites in Newfoundland and Labrador. Of all the stores that carry my product, the Heritage Shops are probably the best fit. The museum in Port au Choix is practically an infomercial for the sort of archaeological reproductions and jewelry that I make. Many of the Palaeoeskimo and Maritime Archaic Indian reproductions that I make are based on the decades of archaeological research that has been done at Port au Choix.

I owe a lot to the HSA. I can remember meeting Carol Ann Tobin in their old offices in Pleasantville when I was just starting out. She spent time explaining to me the differences between wholesale and consignment and how to price and present my product. She impressed on me how important consistency in pricing is. As a craftsperson selling directly to the public, its important that my prices match the prices in the stores that I sell wholesale to.

One of the most important lessons I learned from the HSA was to view Elfshot as a business with a long lifespan. When I started Elfshot I was a graduate student at Memorial University living with other students. It was an interesting place to live because we were all experimenting with craft and selling our product at craft fairs around town. One of the people I lived with would work for days and days on one piece and then sell it for $20-$30 at a fair. It seemed crazy to me, she was paying herself less than $10 a day just for the sake of a sale. My philosophy was the opposite. I would rather not make the sale than sell something for less than what it costs me to make it and pay me for my time. If the product you sell doesn't pay for the time it takes you to make it and give you a little extra to pay your bills and eat, then how are you going to be able to continue making it? Working with the Historic Sites Association showed me that there are reliable, long term customers out there who will place orders with you year after year if you have fairly priced product. By fairly priced, I mean fair to the customer and fair to the producer - if its too expensive then the customer won't buy it and if its priced too low then the craftsperson can't afford to produce it.

The HSA also publish a series of archaeology themed books about Newfoundland and Labrador. I carry several of their titles. This is a good one about Port au Choix by Priscilla Renouf who, along with Trevor Bell, was my MA supervisor.

Photo Credits:
Top:Historic Sites Association of Newfoundland and Labrador website
Middle and Bottom: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
Top: HSA Logo
Middle: Groswater Palaeoeskimo earrings inspired by artifacts found at archaeological sites around the province, including Port au Choix
Bottom: Ancient Cultures, Bountiful Seas, MAP Renouf, 1999

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