You’ve probably been hearing a lot about how Instagram is helping artists build a following of collectors and fans. It’s been great at driving traffic to artist websites and even making sales, sometimes big ones.
So today I’m sharing how MONDAYS has done just that. MONDAYS, the ceramics duo of Jennifer Fiore and Nina Lalli, embrace an amazing handmade aesthetic. Although both are long-time creatives, they started making ceramics after meeting in a Monday night ceramics class. They’ve been connecting with like-minded people through social media ever since they decided to turn their art into a business. I spoke with MONDAYS artist, Jennifer Fiore who shared with us how Instagram is helping them build a community of fans and peers, and make some amazing sales.
This includes a great relationship with Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a celebrated farm, restaurant and online market that now carries MONDAYS creations. Blue Hill at Stone Barns has the farm-to-fork movement at its core and it’s leading a huge locavore movement.
It also includes how MONDAYS connected with Little Paper Planes, an online company and San Francisco shop that builds connections and conversations between artists, collectors, and designers. It’s an amazing space where contemporary artists can present and sell their work while being a part of a larger arts dialog.
Thank you Jennifer Fiore for sharing how Instagram is working for MONDAYS!
Interview with MONDAYS Artist, Jennifer Fiore
KF: How did Blue Hill at Stone Barns find you on Instagram? Were you following them?
JF: We aren't really sure! We didn't yet follow each other, but one day we commented on an image that a designer in the mid-west posted. She tagged us in her response and pinned a few of our images to her Pinterest boards, and we had a crazy spike in traffic after that. Very soon after, we received an email from the house manager at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. When we asked how they found us, he couldn't remember exactly, but we've always attributed it to the community on Instagram, and Pinterest.
KF: How many pieces did they order?
JF: Initially they tried to order 12 of one specific style, but we didn't work at such a big scale—everything was one of a kind or made to order. We sent about five pieces total, and weeks later they invited us to dinner. They served one of the courses on my plates and I felt like Cinderella—it was magical and so inspiring.
KF: So the first order was for five samples that they paid for, not free samples?
JF: Yes! They basically ordered from the website.
KF: How long did it take from first contact to getting them their order?
JF: The very first order was at the end of January 2013, dinner was mid-February (we brought extra samples to that dinner), the decision to work together was about two weeks after that, and they wanted more samples right away. We insisted that we needed 6 weeks, and met again in early May. The official order happened soon after.
We all still had day jobs and were working in a communal studio. We were totally unprepared for that kind of growth, and our slow deliveries made them insane, but we started working together again on a new series of tableware, and are finally in a studio of our own, producing more, more quickly.
KF: How many pieces were in the official first order?
JF: About 100. Since then we’ve worked on several large orders for them, usually in 50-100 piece increments.
KF: Did Blue Hill at Stone Barns use your pottery, sell it from their shop or both?
JF: They use it in the restaurant and started selling it too.
KF: How has it helped or hindered your business?
JF: It's been amazing. We learned so much from scaling up so quickly, and made A LOT of mistakes of all kinds, but having such a prestigious client so soon after our launch has been invaluable.
KF: About how many Instagram followers did you have at that time? Now?
JF: Maybe 800-1,000 then and almost 3,000 now.
KF: Did Little Paper Planes find you through Instagram, too? I loved the custom pieces you made for them!
JF: Yes! We started following Kelly of Little Paper Planes and she followed us back and the dialog started soon after. It was all very easy and spontaneous.
KF: What has been the feedback you've received from being with Blue Hill at Stone Barnes and Little Paper Planes?
JF: People are impressed. It gives us credibility.
KF: Was your work with Little Paper Planes more of a consignment, commission or was it a wholesale deal?
JF: It was interesting. We were talking about doing some kind of limited edition for them before they even had a store, when it was all web-based. Because Kelly was getting ready to open the store, we decided to wait, and make something for the holidays. She asked if we could make a coffee cup and filter set.
We decided that it would be more fun if it was a true collaboration between the (then) three of us, we each made cups and pitchers and cones, then assembled sets from all the pieces we had, and one person glazed each set. It was so different from how we normally work so it was liberating and fun. Kelly was so supportive all along.
KF: How much time a day do you usually spend on social media? Do you jump in once per day, then ignore it?
JF: It varies. I try to log into the business account every day or so.
KF: Anything else that might be of interest to artists wanting to sell and make connections on Instagram?
JF: Instagram is a very warm and welcoming world. People are supportive of each other in a way that seems really unique compared to other forms of social media. Find people doing work you like and start following them.
Follow the people they follow. Post great images and they will follow you back. The sales and connections will happen organically from there.
KF: Other sales of note via Instagram?
JF: Almost all of our new wholesale orders have come through Instagram. It's an easy way for people to get a sense of what you are doing and who you are.
- Designers, collectors and buyers are online, looking and finding hand crafted artworks that they love.
- There can be cross-over between social media platforms since they inform each other. Here Instagram informed Pinterest which in turned brought more activity to MONDAYS website and Instagram account.
- You don’t need a gigantic 15,000 person following on Instagram for it to make an impact on your fine art sales, you just need the right followers, ones that love and support what you do. Focusing on making genuine connections is most important verses following a gazillion random people in hopes that they’ll follow you back.
MONDAYS: Jennifer Fiore and Nina Lalli, two artists who met in a Monday night ceramics class and shared an immediate obsession with clay.
Every MONDAYS product is made by hand in their Brooklyn studio, and no two are exactly identical. There might be slight "imperfections" that one would not find in machine-made ceramics and that’s part of their allure.
MONDAYS' ceramics can be found at the New York City boutiques Homecoming, The Primary Essentials, Rosanne Pugliese Shop, and Stillhouse, as well as Shop Leap in Houston, and online at BRIKA. They have made custom plates and cups for the dining room at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, custom coffee makers for Little Paper Planes, and custom platters for caterer, Great Performances. www.mondaysprojects.com, @m_o_n_d_a_y_s
*All photos are courtesy of MONDAYS.