Larry Pile, The Kessler Craftsman, has exercised a lot of different creative muscles to hit upon his niche in fused glass and woodworking. He is a full-time artist with a straightforward approach to remaining self-supporting by producing quality work at reasonable prices.
He recently took part in a Q&A session with Liz Day.
Liz: When did you start creating?
Larry: I’ve been creative all my life. First musically. Then painting. Then photography. Then music again. Then furniture, stained glass and, of late, fused glass and sterling silver.
Liz: What brought you to glass and furniture making?
Larry: I took a stained glass class so as to build windows for my 1926 Tudor home. It blossomed from there. I needed frames for my stained glass pieces and so bought some small woodworking tools. Then I tried to make a piece of furniture. First a pair of crude Adirondack chairs, which I still have and still love, and then a fine Mission-style sofa table, which I sold for $600 at my very first art show of all time.
Liz: When did you start calling yourself an artist?
Larry: Last week? Who knows? Calling oneself an artist takes courage and confidence; both of which have evolved over time.
Liz: Was it a defining moment?
Larry: My defining moment was during an interview with a newspaper reporter, in advance of ArtFest, 2009 or 2010. She asked me about my evolving fused glass work and I realized at that very moment that I’d moved from stained-glass-style geometric pieces with defined shaped to a much more free-form, interpretive, evocative and courageous style – something that happened so slowly that even I didn’t see it!
Liz: What would you tell an artist starting out?
Larry: Listen to your inner voice. Don’t underprice your work. Don’t think you can’t be an artist until you do it full time and make a living at it. I know very, very few artists who make their sole living (and without support from a spouse, etc) at art. It’s always been that way!
Liz: A discouraged artist?
Larry: Get objective advice from people who will tell you the truth. Listen to that advice and heed it. If you thoroughly enjoy your work but it won’t sell, try to cease defining yourself by sales. Many successful, starving artists didn’t sell well during their lifetime. However you define yourself as an artist, YOU are responsible for pulling yourself out of discouragement. Don’t expect anyone else to do this for you. In fact, no one else can do this for you. This is true for all aspects of life.
Liz: What is your best marketing advice?
Larry: Simple: Market your work. Most folks love to create, but they don’t like to market. Figure out how you’re going to market and do it more than is comfortable. Stretch your boundaries in marketing. Be okay with “no thanks.” Ask gallery owners, shop owners, other successful Etsy sellers what works for selling from their perspective. And then try it. If your work is decent and fairly priced, if it is not selling, you’re not marketing it the right way. If you ever expect to sell to galleries, gift shops, etc, you have to price ALL of your work so that you can give wholesale (30-50 percent discounts) on your work. You can’t raise the price just for gift shop/galleries. Owners watch for that and will not work with you if you do this. This comes down to valuing and measuring your time, materials and, ultimately, your worth.