Metal crafters show how to make money along with art


Louise and Don Coulson offer suggestions to help local artists succeed from a business and financial standpoint.




Metal artists Don and Louise Coulson of Aberdeen presented a program for the Tallahatchie Arts Council Tuesday but instead of showing how to make jewelry, they showed how to make money.

While TAC programs usually focus on the artistic aspect of guest speakers, the Coulson provided information on marketing and business management for the local independent artist or craftsman.

“We don’t know why we do what we do, but we can’t stop,” Don Coulson said.

That may be true of most artists, but artists can’t continue long if they are not making money to support their art, he said.

First, he said, an artist needs a business plan. “A business plan is a goal. You need to do it but only to whatever length is comfortable.” That means it can be five or six pages or perhaps only a few paragraphs, but whatever the length you need to stick with it.

“The easiest part is keeping up with revenue,” he said. “And the tax man wants to know about this, too.”

Some artists go to a show, put their sales money in their pocket and consider the trip a success if they bring in anything, according to Coulson. “But you have to figure revenue versus cost,” he pointed out. There are food, travel, hotel, credit card fees and other expenses that sometimes don’t get included for a new artist. Also, there is the time away from the studio that is lost, which many artists overlook.

“It is nothing to spend $1,500 to $2,000 to go to a show,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a gamble, like fishing…You just throw your hook out.”

The Coulsons don’t generally recommend an artist’s taking his or her work to sell at a first-time show. “People just don’t come,” he said. The show may be well-organized but it takes a while to build up an audience.

They do recommend setting a travel limit for shows, and trying to cull less productive trips. In fact, their goal is to replace going to a couple of shows each year with getting their work in new galleries instead. The increasing cost of gas, food and travel is hurting the popularity of shows more every day, they said.

That brings up the issue of consignment sales.

“You have to keep up with it,” he said. And she added, “There often is a deficiency in the inventory.” The galleries may not be stealing money but they may not be keeping the best records and the difference can amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars owed to the artist.

They try to visit galleries on a regular basis to freshen up displays, remove what is not selling well and try new things. Sometimes, they will think, based on the inventory, that a type of item is not selling only to discover it may be nearly sold out but the dealer has just not kept up.

Coulson, who has been a business planner as well as an engineer, provided those at the program with a variety of simple and relatively simple spreadsheets that can help with an artist’s inventory, calculating business expenses, creating a plan, and even predicting what sales should be at various galleries or shows.

“In order to grow, you have to know where you have been, where you are and where you want to go,” he said.

The Coulsons have Kingfisher Designs Metals studio, have won many juried awards for their work that is shown throughout the country and they are members of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi.

For information about the raised hollowware, repousse’ jewelry and enameled hollowware they create and where it is available, go to their website,