Thomas & Patricia Hooper- ASL Pewter

by admins on June 2, 2009

Artisans: Thomas and Patricia Hooper

Company Name: ASL Pewter

Address: 123 S Third St Ste. 200

Louisiana, MO 63353

Phone: 573-754-3435 

Fax: 573-754-3461

Web Address: www.aslpewter.com

 

Q&W:

Do you sell to shop owners? 

 

Tom & Pat:

YES!

 

Q&W:
Please explain why you chose to sell wholesale.

 

Tom & Pat:

In the three mediums Tom has worked in (for 30 years now) he’s always set prices at wholesale, so that is where we start, and we work to retail from there.  It was the initial decision and what we’ve stayed with.

 

Q&W:

Can you offer any advice to other artists on working with shop owners?

 

Tom & Pat:

Offer good quality at a good price, stress American made, be available to answer questions.  Provide sales aides – tags, literature, displays, signs, explanations – whatever works for you and your product.  Make sure your work is unique, and tell the store WHY and HOW you are unique – don’t duplicate what is already available.  Be patient – the store owners don’t know your product like you do.

 

Q&W:

Is it important to forge a relationship with shop owners?

 

Tom & Pat:

YES!  Everyone wants to be ‘special’ and any time you can show a shop owner that that person (responsible for a portion of your income) is, indeed, special to you, you increase the potential for both of you!

 

Q&W:

Do you educate buyers on your product?

 

Tom & Pat:

YES!!!  The more a store owner knows about you and your product, the better that person will be able to sell your work.  That’s one of the rules of selling!  We educate by writing info tags on many of our pieces, and including them when the pieces are bought by a store.  We also have general info tags, for instance, on why Polished Pewter is historically accurate and on our antique molds and how pieces cast in them will be different from other pieces.  We talk to the stores, by phone or at shows, and are available to answer questions.  We suggest items that have good ‘track records’ for sales in specific types of stores or locations.  We invite store owners and buyers to see us at a retail show and purchase from us there, where they have a chance to ‘cherry pick’ and to see and choose from one-of-a-kind items or new things that aren’t in the catalogue.

 

Q&W:

Have you ever participated in a trade show?  What was your experience?

 

Tom & Pat:

Our first traditional wholesale show was The Gallery of American Craftsmen with Bob Goodrich.  That was in 2000 and it literally changed the course of our business, setting us firmly on the path of Early American reproduction.  We credit The Gallery with a large part of the current success of our business.  To have a promoter provide a space for artisans to sell unique, traditional, American handcrafted items (as opposed to the big trade gift shows that are mostly imports) was, and is, a revelation!  We had, once, participated in the Buyer’s Market of American Craft, in Philadelphia.  It is a beautiful show, featuring American made (both North and South continents) but it was not our market, as it is very contemporary. It is a terrific venue for contemporary artists, and those who can cross over.

    

Q&W:

Can you offer any advice on how to prepare for a show?

 

Tom & Pat:

First – ask the right questions to understand your venue.  Is it Cash and Carry, Order writing, both?  Is it traditional, contemporary, handcrafted, factory made in America, imports.  If you are new to wholesale, visit a market first to see what is being offered and at what prices.  Can you fit in those price structures?  Feel free to exhibit and sell ONLY those items you want to produce at wholesale prices.  Feel free to set whatever delivery schedule you want to set – BUT STICK TO IT! 

 

Q&W:

In your opinion, what are the benefits of wholesale?

 

Tom & Pat:

Many artists who retail only are dependent on shows, so the biggest benefit of selling wholesale is that you don’t have to travel, you are not away from your shop, you don’t have road expenses and booth fees and you don’t have time away from your production schedule.

   

Q&W:

Would you pick and choose who you sell to?

 

Tom & Pat:

We ‘discriminate’ only in that we try not to have the same product in the same zip code.  We sell to fine gift stores, country and Americana stores, reproduction stores and museum shops and physical locations as well as internet stores.  We do retail as well as wholesale, we do shows and we sell from our own gallery.  Every once in a great while, a store (or potential customer) will complain about us selling our product.  It usually takes the form of “I can’t sell that for what you sell it for and make any money”.  Twice, I have had someone actually tell me he or she won’t order from me because I do my own retail.  That is a decision each store owner gets to make for him or herself, and I don’t let it affect my business decisions.

 

Q&W:

Do you have any advice for shop owners and artisans on weathering a poor economy?

 

Tom & Pat:

First, for the artist, we would say be creative.  Every time you show yourself at a show, whether retail or wholesale, have something new.  If customers have requested something, see if you can make it!  For us, there is no option to ‘weathering the storm’.  We are in this for the long haul.  We may not have as much inventory on hand, we may make things to order.  We are more judicious with ordering raw materials and other supplies.  Save where you can, but don’t skimp on quality as that is what will sell.  For shops, my advice is similar.  Listen to your customers; make sure you have what they are looking for.  Offer new items, maintain your quality but perhaps limit the quantity of each piece you have in stock.

 

Q&W:

Please tell us about your Advertising.

 

Tom & Pat:

We advertise a lot.  Advertising seems to be something that goes by the wayside when times are tight and that is when advertising is most important.  One of the cheapest ways to make sure people can find you is an active and up to date website.  Also, include additional information – ‘news flashes’ about you, upcoming shows, new product info, etc – in every box you ship.

 

Q&W:

Is it true for you that handcrafted goods are still selling strong?

 

Tom & Pat:

We give this a resounding, qualified YES!  The qualification is that AMERICAN MADE handcrafted is selling remarkably well.  There are still lots of people with significant disposable income and they are still willing to dispose of it.  They are being much more discriminating with it, though.  We are seeing, both in our shop and at shows that people are looking for things to enhance their homes and bring comfort and beauty to their lives.  People are willing to pay the price as long as they receive value for the dollar spent, quality and American Made.  They also are often looking to take home a piece of the artist (rather than the art) if the artist has made a positive impression on the customer.

 

Q&W:

Is it important to love what you do?

 

Tom & Pat:

YES!  It’s way too damn much work otherwise.  Additionally, potential customers know if you really care about what you have made and or offering them or not and it makes a HUGE difference.

 

Q&W:

Where do you find inspiration for new designs?

 

Tom & Pat:

We have research books to see what has historically been done with pewter (our medium).  We look to history a lot, but also to what was done with other metals, and can we replicate some of that.  We listen to what customers ask for.  Some ideas are just figments of our own warped minds.

 

Q&W:

Do you ever think outside the box?

 

Tom & Pat:

Often!  Historically, pewter was always a functional metal, not decorative.  We make pieces that are more like what was done with silver than with pewter.  Sometimes, we make a piece because someone told us we couldn’t, or we have happy accidents. 

 

Q&W:

What makes an artist stand out in your mind?

 

Tom & Pat:

Quality and uniqueness of work and personality of the artist.

 

Q&W:

What is your philosophy on Keystoning?

 

Tom & Pat:

Frankly, what I charge wholesale for any piece is what I need to get for that piece.  Whatever a store charges is entirely their business.  My wholesale price is always 40-50% off what I charge retail in my store or at a show.

 

Q&W:

Do you have a favorite quote?

 

Tom & Pat:

“American Crafts Should Be made By American Craftsmen”!

 

Q&W:

What do you think American artisans/vendors can do to make themselves more marketable/sellable?

 

Tom & Pat:

Make sure your customers – whether the public or a store – ALWAYS know you’re American made, or that you carry American made.  Be diligent and consistent in getting that word out!  Artists – ALWAYS sign or mark your work. No one is willing to buy something that you don’t take pride in and if you are proud of your work, sign it!   

          

In our foundry we create and offer traditional and original pewter tableware and household items.  Tom and Pat share a fascination with European and American history which translates to our work. 

 

We sculpt our own originals, which we use to cast pieces unique to ASL Pewter.  Using traditional metal spinning techniques, we create our own mugs, basins and goblets.  That process includes chiseling our own wooden forms to each desired shape and then moving the metal over the form with wooden sticks, while the form is turning on the lathe.  We also have a collection of antique bronze, aluminum and steel molds, from which we cast historic replicas and reproductions.  Many of those molds were made between 1780 and 1840 for what was then known as Bucks County Pewter in Pennsylvania.  The result is an inclusive line of exceptional and totally unique pewterware that is functional, beautifully decorative and historically accurate.

 

In September, 2002, we instituted a formal apprenticeship program.  It is important to us to pass along our knowledge and skill, and to help to keep alive a craft that is rapidly becoming lost.  In 2003 Pat started decorating some of our pieces with an historic form of engraving called wrigglework, so we are preserving another element of fine folk art.  Some of Pat’s wrigglework has been acquired by the American Folk Art Museum in New York, New York for their store.  

 

Our work has been featured in St Louis Homes and Lifestyles, Early American Life, Country Living and Missouri Life Magazines and is shown in galleries and museum shops around the country.  We have been selected by Early American Life Magazine as among the top 200 Traditional Crafters in America for every year since 2002.  In 2002, we were honored to have made an ornament for the White House Christmas tree and in 2002 and 2003 for the Christmas tree at the Missouri Governor’s Mansion.  We have participated in juried shows across the country including Kentucky Crafted, The Market, The Country Folk Art Festivals in Illinois, the 18th Century Craft Fair at Mt. Vernon, and fine Americana and folk art shows in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, Missouri, Indiana and Connecticut.  We are founding officers of Traditional Handcrafters of America, an organization dedicated to the preservation and teaching of fine crafts.  Tom is past president and Pat is past treasurer of Missouri Artisan’s Association, the largest independent art organization in the state.  Pat has also served as treasurer of the Great River Road Guild of Professional Artisans and is past president of the Clarksville Area Chamber of Commerce.                

                                 

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