The beauty of our industry is in the connections we make. Oftentimes shop owners and staff are uniquely situated to connect with niche communities and play a part in sustaining local art scenes. Annette Wichmann of Kensington Art Supply & Instruction in Calgary, AB Canada has done just that. Her close ties with a local calligraphy guild and her rapport with customers, instructors and staff strengthens the tightly knit and growing calligraphy community in Calgary – and her fearless exploration of POSCA paint markers and Art Alternatives Creative Surfaces has given us serious food for thought!
Inspired by Assistant Brand Manager Tucker Russell’s POSCA demo at Dealer Workshop and intrigued by the Art Alternatives Creative Surfaces, Annette had an idea – and she knew her calligraphy instructor Kerri Forster would be game.
Using the POSCA markers and the Art Alternatives Creative Surfaces, Kerri created several works of art. She used a chisel tip and the PC-17K with amazing results and utilized smaller tips for embellishments and details. MacPherson’s Account Manager Jackie Hangebrauck brought different creative surfaces for people to try: burlap, denim, wooden slats. Calligraphy Guild members attended, new and repeat customers tried it out, instructors took what they learned at the demo back to their classes. Annette ran a 20% off sale on POSCA and the Art Alternatives Creative Surfaces during the demo and the following weekend; sales were positively impacted, people were curious and everyone got to try all eight POSCA tips.
Right: A quote on both the back and front of the glass of an empty frame. Kerri loved being able to work on glass, a difficult task without POSCA on hand!
Kerri (left) outlined why POSCA markers are delightful for calligraphers:
- Versatile surfaces. “Paper is fine, but you always want to put your calligraphy somewhere else. Glass and boxes and walls and furniture… a brush and paint might do it, but not always. Having a POSCA marker with all those different tricks is kind of like, wow, this is fun.”
- The Nibs. “One of the nibs has bristles and calligraphers love that, because we need the bristles to move with angles and speed and pressure. The PC-17K is like a brick with a slight bevel. I took an X-Acto knife and cut that bevel off to make a square, so I was able to get my thin strokes even thinner.”
- Layering. “Some markers are stinky, or transparent, or dry too fast, you can’t build color up unless you are on a white surface. POSCA is super helpful for learning, also for doing backgrounds, adding embellishments, doodling or going back into the serifs.”
- Coverage & Finish. “It sure has nice coverage and is really nice opaque with a flat finish. These markers were so fun to play with and it was a real treat being able to blend.” Cassie Brehmer, Macpherson’s Account Manager, took it upon herself to create a demo of how blendable POSCA markers are! Check out the video below to see how they blend on a non-porous surface like YUPO paper.
The result? Boosted sales, additional interest in calligraphy classes, and a happy, inspired instructor.
Sales Tip: Novelty Experiences & Instruction
Our conversations with Kerri and Annette got us thinking about savvy ways to incorporate staff talents and pique customer interest in products and classes. If calligraphy is a poetic, intense, lifelong love, hand-lettering is the enthusiastic younger sibling. By cultivating calligraphy in your store, you are tapping into the powerful trend of hand-lettering and deepening what might have been a one time purchase into a lifelong artistic practice.
Novelty Experience: Unlikely Demos
Combine two products that don’t usually get put together and see what happens. “Using different tools help people explore and get more comfortable / excited,” Kerri explains. See below for a holiday demo idea.
Face to Face Instruction
“People buy a calligraphy kit and say, think, Well this doesn’t work. That is like buying a piano and saying This doesn’t make music!” We need instruction in real time: face-to-face connection is crucial. If someone runs into issues with a pen at home, they put it down and move on. With workshops, demos or in-store conversation, there is space for encouragement. “I teach people to understand the basic tools and help them understand the journey,” Kerry says. “Calligraphy is exciting and difficult and fun and terrible at the same time. You need encouragement and reflection.”
Irresistible and Cost-Effective Freebies
Customize the cover of a journal your customer has just purchased!
“I noticed the Calligraphy Guild next to me at a pop up event and I had the Moleskine Cahier notebooks with me. Someone thought it would be cool to write someone’s name on it. Then we started doing quotes. From then on there was a constant line of customers. So now Kerri comes into the store for Christmas or Valentine’s Day: the first customization is free, then I ask for a nominal fee for additional ones. It gets people interested in the products Kerri is using and gets them to try classes.”
Combining unlikely products? Close with a niche art community in your town or city? Let us know – email us at artdogblog (@) macphersonart.com. We’d love to learn more and share your story with the greater industry community.