16: Leaning into the Local Community Gallery with Michael and Fritz of The Werk

16: Leaning into the Local Community Gallery with Michael and Fritz of The Werk

Posted by Nicholas Ribera on

Michael and Fritz Faulhaber of The Werk grant us an inside look into finding a space and building it into more than just a Gallery, but a space for 


You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:

 

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A Conversation with The Werk Gallery

Chain Assembly: Today I'm lucky enough to have both Matthew and Fritz Fahlhaubert joining me on the podcast. They are the owners of the werk, which is an art gallery, antique store, and object lab. Fritz and Matthew, I have run into probably half a dozen times at different events, markets around town, dim sum, but I don't think we've ever actually sat down and had a conversation. So I've been looking forward to this and I appreciate you both for giving me some of your time.

The Werk: Thanks for having us. 

CA: So I think a good place to start would be if you could please just explain what The Werk is. 

TW: Well, I had worked in antiques for a number of years, and I had kind of built up a collection of stuff, and I was intending to open a small, normal antique store to some degree. And then over time, we kind of developed an idea in local art of having a gallery along with it. So we would have a shop and a gallery so that we would have two income streams. So hopefully the two wings of the bird would make the thing fly. That was kind of the idea. We finally found a space, kind of through a friend actually, and have since been experimenting to see what works. It's our first year in. Sometimes it's been better than others, but we're making it so far. So that's where we're at. 

CA: So I saw when you filled out the form before this meeting, you mentioned in it that the werk was a business entity in 2014. Can you let me know how it started and how it's changed into what it is now?

TW: Yeah, that was because I had kind of created a corporate shell. in order to sell things, have a business account, have a little bit of legal protection, not that I need that much, and to have a little bit of contract stuff in case I wanted to make prints from artists, which I didn't end up doing for 10 years, but that's what it was. So originally it was just kind of me and having me and a bunch of art in my closet. And yeah, that was...I was sufficient for quite some time.

CA: Okay, so the werk started then as an outlet for your own art specifically, and then it kind of ballooned into this different... 

TW: My own art collection. Oh, okay. Because I had been, right, because I had kind of been haunting auctions and antique stores and things like that. So I had the opportunity to find things. 

CA:Interesting. 

TW: So that's what I did. I found some neat stuff. 

CA: Cool, so...Are you able to, this is just a general question, if you buy a piece from an artist, are you able to make prints of it and sell those prints? 

TW: Usually I wouldn't because I would need to get, I would assume, I don't know the exact legality, but the morality of the thing would be, is I would always wanna secure the rights for any image I used from the artist. 

CA: Okay, yeah. 

TW: So for example, we're working with an artist right now, Michael Erickson. We just did a really limited run of prints from him, two sizes, 10 each, I think five pieces. But I don't have the rights to make any more than that. I just have this one run for right now. 

CA: So how much did you have planned and prepared before you opened the doors of the physical structure?

TW: I had enough money for about two years to make it run, I thought. 

CA: Okay.

TW:  And you know, fingers and toes crossed and everything. And then I had a body of, I shouldn't call it a body of work. I had a collection enough to fill a shop, let's say. And then my husband went through and curated, basically at other boutiques worth of things, like greeting cards and stickers and that sort of stuff. The idea being that unlike most art galleries, we would never really miss a sale. Anybody who walks in can buy something even if it's for a dollar. Let me amend that, four dollars I think is the lowest. So we have things from, you know, four dollars to 15,000 right now. And I have a few things in the back that are pretty expensive as well. 

CA: Well, what about the scheduling of your events and your shows? How much of that was planned out before you opened the doors?

TW: We're still feeling that out a little bit. We had planned on doing a show every month, which is about right, we think, actually. You really want to be pulling people in with events. So that schedule has proven to be a little hectic, not necessarily on us, although it is a little bit of work, but for the clients. People tend to want to see things on the walls and come back. So we've since extended the shows for two months but we have multiple spaces, so we're going to try and stagger it so we still have an opening every month. 

CA: Do you try and flow that with the schedule of ArtCrawl? Or, not ArtCrawl, sorry, ArtWalk

TW: Yeah, yeah, yeah, ArtCrawl, that's fine, they're drunk, it's cool. So, yeah, well, we tend to have openings on Fridays. So kind of first Friday in the month will tend to be the opening. It's not always, but. But yes, we do our walk on second Saturday. But second Saturday is Art Walk. So we'll have kind of an event every month or every week. Excuse me. 

CA: So I'm I'm always curious about what type of relationship you have with Art Walk, because as someone who I rarely participate in Art Walk, I know I should. But that's you know, if every artist had a list of the things that they should do, they wouldn't get any art done. Um, so like I know I need to be more involved with Artwalk as an entity, as an organization, as a community building process, I have vended at events that are tangential to Artwalk and I have never done well sales wise at anything that is related to Artwalk, but as an entity that is a physical structure, that is an anchor point of like, you know, People know you're there, people expect you to be there, and people want to see what you're doing on Art Walk. What type of relationship do you have with that as an organized monthly recurring event? 

TW: We do have a lot of regulars that come back every single Art Walk. And you know, they occasionally buy a few small items here and there. The boutique side helps on that. But yeah, a lot of people regularly come in once a month to see what show is rotating in and out.So it's nice to see some familiar faces do that. And it exposes some people because they find they're like, what do I do in St. Pete tonight? And they see that there's an art walk. And so it's a good way to expose some of the people that aren't really aware of what's going on in the area with some of the art scene here. Also we're right on the, not a trolley stop, what is it? What's the name of it? Oh, we're like right across the street from one of the Sunrunner stops. So that helps with Art Walk. So I think we get a little extra. And we're right next to a brewery, which also helps with Art Walk. They stopped the trolley. They had a contract with this trolley company and the Art Walk trolley was kind of in trial for a year and then they just stopped doing it. I guess there was not enough funding or something. 

CA: So all in all, you would say that your attendance improves during an Art Walk event. 

TW: Yeah. 

CA: What hours do you have your doors open generally? 

TW: We're open Thursday through Sunday from noon to five. And then for special events, we'll stay open until nine, unless something really cool happens, and then we'll stay open as late as we like.

CA: So have you noticed that those hours have changed since you first opened, or have you pretty much stuck to that same schedule? 

TW: We've stuck to the schedule, but sometimes if there's an event in the neighborhood, I'll stay open another hour or two. If Coastal Creative is having a big event, it'll draw people in. When they had their big Banksy show a few months back, I stayed open the nights they had that just because there was so many people wandering around the block that we had lots of people coming in the shop that you know those few days. So you know whenever there's other events going on in a neighborhood, that helps. 

CA: Have you struggled with, this is just something that I imagine I would struggle with, struggle with the want to be involved in those events, but feeling like I gotta stay back at the shop? 

TW: Oh, actually, because there's the two of us, we take turns.

CA: Okay, good.

TW:  So that works pretty well.

CA: Good. I'm happy to hear that. 

TW: Yeah, but because we do think it's important to try and see shows and try and go to events and stuff and still get some networking done. And also it's fun, you know, you're in this for have a good time as well. 

CA: So yeah, I get that So when you first started, I guess since you've been open a year It's kind of helpful to try and compare, you know when you began from where you are have you seen maybe the percentages of gallery art versus antique sell selling versus smaller artsy merchandise. Have you seen those percentages change and evolve over the year?

TW: It's because it's been a little bit hit and miss generally. It wasn't a great summer. It's hard to tell because we've had a couple of really big art sales, original art sales that that really tip the balance in for profit wise in terms of the original art. But the thing that's been keeping the light bill on a lot of months is like sticker sales. So I would give it up. I wouldn't give anything up at this point, that's for sure. I'm really anticipating kind of the holiday season and what's going to come about from that. So I think we'll have a little bit more information coming up. And also we want to try and do some, we have a back lot in back of our building that we have access to. So we're discussing doing markets out there to bring some people in and some events and stuff like that. 

CA: Have you found that the other similar businesses in the local area have been welcoming to you or have they been ignoring you or have they been antagonizing you? I'm just wondering what kind of the- 

TW: Everybody that I've talked to that were, we mentioned, oh, we have a gallery over here. They're pretty welcoming. There's a lot of individual artists and they like to, they would want to use this as a place to sell through. I haven't, I don't know, we haven't talked much at many of the other galleries in the area, but we do a pretty different thing. You know, we're really community oriented, we have a boutique attached, we aren't...Oh, I don't know. We aren't.We aren't a standard gallery in the sense that we have a roster of artists that we show in small shows constantly. We're much more interested in kind of taking advantage of the cool culture that St. Petersburg has.

CA:So yeah, I wouldn't imagine that like the galleries would ever antagonize you, but in my mind, antique dealers are temperamentaL and territorial. 

TW: Yeah, but I know them all. Yeah, I think we've known a lot of people in the neighborhood for the last 10 or 15 years. So I'll make up a name, but if Marty comes in and yells at me for 20 minutes, it's fine. I've done that before. It's cool. A lot of business owners have even offered to, they're like, oh, if you need any help, hang in the show. I've run a gallery. I've had a gallerist offer that help. I've had other business owners, local business owners, kind of unrelated but similar businesses say if you need help with your, you know, figuring out your QuickBooks or whatever you're doing, give us a call. So that's been really nice.

CA: That is sweet. When you were putting this business plan together, was there any type of a guess like outreach or education did beforehand, like with the greenhouse or score or any type of entrepreneur programs to help sort it out? 

TW: Not really. I kinda did a little bit of market research in terms of what other galleries were doing, but we ended up with such a wildly different situation than most other people have. That's, it's a little bit like they say about the swan, it's all grace on top and mad underneath. You know, our model is really still evolving to a large degree. Like I was saying, now that the weather is getting cooler, thinking about doing some markets and things. And we're having a lot more shows going out once than we had anticipated coming up. So, there's those two things that I think are going to change the model a little bit more. 

CA: Can you elaborate a little bit more shows going at once than you anticipated? 

TW: We have multiple gallery spaces. We have a front gallery and a small back gallery. And we're also gonna be opening up a private viewing area. So we just had a big show for Jack Ellis, who passed last year. And he was a pretty well-established local artist that was reasonably well-collected. He was kind of in the private Raymond James collection and a bunch of other things. So his widow has asked us to continue working with her. So we're gonna try and represent him in a more traditional sense. Where we have the stuff, we're gonna try and get it into institutions, we're gonna try and get it shown, and we're gonna try and get it sold. Over time though, not as a single show. So we're gonna use that kind of a private viewing area for artists like that more traditional gallery sets. And then we're going to alternate a show in the front and the back gallery. And then we might do small, smaller shows in what we call the boutique, what we call the object lab as well. So that's the reason is that the more events you do, the more kind of bodies you get in there, the more sales you can make.

CA: I like that. I like 

TW: That's that's the calculation we're making is more bodies in the door.

CA: I like that structure of kind of the overlapping cyclical nature of those events so that it's not everything launching at once. It allows people who come to one opening to also enjoy art that's already been up from a different event that they haven't been able to see. 

TW: Yep. And it makes, you know, yeah, exactly. Exactly that. 

CA: So are there any other surprises that you came across when putting all this together?

TW: I was surprised how many artists came out of the woodwork when I put out a call. The first show, I was really nervous. I was like, you know, I hope we get enough stuff to fill this gallery. You know, there's a lot of good artists here, but are they going to want to put their art here? And the first show was just like swamped with, you know. With good stuff. With amazing work. It's kind of been the same thing every show and this one that's coming up. We're really going to have to turn a lot more people away. This one, I might have to turn the most people away, which is not something I really like to do. But well.

CA: Yeah, I do see that your website has a big button on the top right that says submit your art here. I think that's pretty ballsy for a gallery. 

TW: Yeah, you always want to see, man. You know, and I always suggest to an artist that, you know, they can submit something even if they just want to send me the pictures of the stickers they sell to see if we want to have them in the shop or we have a small wall of local art in the object lab, you know, smaller pieces that are easy to kind of hang. And, you know, so I always tell people to send us pictures of your work. The worst thing I can say is no, not right now. And there's an advantage in here too that I think traditional galleries tend to have things on the wall. Gosh, and either they've paid for them upfront with the artist in the case of really high end galleries, or in the case of really low end galleries, they're getting the artist to rent the space there, which is not what we want to do. But for us, because we have like kind of the free wall space. We have gotten a lot of really high quality nice things for free for a long time Which is I think been a pretty wonderful advantage, you know, like we have a series of really fantastic oil paintings Up in the object lab and we've had them up for months and they I didn't have to pay for them So That's all they're on consignment for the artist. That's exactly what I mean, buT you know if I was, because I worked in jewelry for a long time, you don't necessarily get things for free to put in your case, you know? Right. So that's been very helpful. The amount of people who have been willing to do consignment and the amount of work they've been willing to send to us. It's been really wonderful. I've also been surprised talking to artists how many galleries charge to hang stuff. Oh yeah. So I think that people are surprised sometimes that we do that. Yeah. So I don't know what your experience is in galleries, but... 

CA: I've never been charged to hang stuff. I've always been charged to submit pieces, which is... 

TW: Oh, yeah. Yeah. 

CA: Like, I don't mind that, because I know it's time consuming for someone to look at a piece. But what I don't like, if you're just curious about, you know, my opinion on this, I don't like when the only options are X amount of money to submit 10 pieces. I would much rather spend less money to submit one piece because like, maybe I don't have 10 pieces and I'm like, I've only got four that fit that theme. So I'm not even going to bother because I'll feel like I'm wasting money. You know? But it's just kind of my own preference in that regard. But I definitely don't have a problem with submitting a piece if it's going to be something reputable. And one thing I've talked about to with some other artists is like, I've always like my biggest source of income is Kickstarter, like crowdfunding my projects, which then leads to more sales to my website. I'm always struggling with whether or not I feel like I need the validation of being in a gallery.I love the emotional and social connections developed from being in a gallery and being at an opening, but it's such a small percentage of my income. It always ends up, I have to kind of value in my own mind, how much time do I need to allocate to submitting a piece, then getting that piece framed and then dropping it off and then going to the opening and then picking it back up because it didn't sell. If it's something local, I'm way more likely to do that. If it's something in Orlando, I don't want to be driving to Orlando three times because a piece didn't sell. 

TW: Oh, yeah. Yeah. 

CA: So that's just my own internal struggle with the gallery structure. But again, it's just. I understand. Yeah. So how do you kind of, or do you have a preference or a favor towards maybe themed shows with multiple artists solo shows. 

TW: Both have their place. A theme show with multiple artists is going to get a lot of people in the door, which is kind of fun. It's going to get you a lot of connections, which is more fun. Single artist shows are going to get you more sales. I think that's been the experience so far. It's usually the artist that's doing a solo show is somebody who has a body of work that you can fill a gallery with. You can fill a gallery and you're getting people of like taste in these, I think, part of it too. So you're just going to get more bites at the apple. So yeah, I think all have their place, for sure. 

CA: Do you have like a general number in mind about this is the max amount of pieces I can fit in this space? 

TW: Well, for example, I was going to do a show on nail art. So I was gonna give a bunch of submissions fingernails and have them put them up on the wall. So I think I can get a good 700 in. So it depends, it depends radically. Like for this upcoming show we have, we're really balancing a lot of space issues. We have a lot of submissions and a lot of big ones. It is a few big ones. Yeah, so that's gonna be pretty tricky. But it's a balancing act every show. 

CA: How tall are the ceilings in your space? 

TW: Not tall enough. No. Miserably short. Yeah. They're like 8 and 1 half feet. Yeah. It's a big issue.

CA: So then I guess you probably tend to try and stay away from stacking pieces, if possible. 

TW: Unless they're really small. Sure. Yeah. I've had a photographer submit six pieces to a show. So I did two stacked, two stacked, and two stacked. Just trying to think of what else. Or like, if they're like long paintings and they're not too big, we can stack those, but that's only if we really have space issue for a show. Yeah.

CA: Now with the gallery shows that you're doing. Has it always been the same kind of remuneration deal with the artist or has it changed from show to show?

TW: We had one structure at the beginning, we do a different structure now. 

CA: Okay, tell me about that. 

TW: We thought, well, we weren't doing a bunch of fees. So we figured we would do 50-50 splits and that was easy. But everybody wanted 60-40 more. So kind of the artist made that pretty clear to us. And we said, Okay, I guess so. 

CA: So I know 5050 is traditional in the US. But I feel like around St. Pete, it's more 6040. 

TW: Yeah, no, people told us real quick. You know, like they submitted the stuff, everybody was perfectly happy. And then we would just hear kind of, you know, out of the whisper gallery a little bit, you know, most people do this. So I figured I picked that up pretty quick and just did it. You know, following the culture. Fine. 

CA: What type of marketing do you do for your events? 

TW: Should I name names, I guess? But we do like I do a lot of I use email. I do Instagram, Instagram, Facebook, you know, the usual all that stuff. So social media stuff. And then that's been very effective. We had I loved what Berg was doing.

 I feel like I've seen you on TikTok too, right?

TW:  Yes. OK. Yeah. Yeah, I was using that one because they had some video making things you could do on there that I liked better. So I'd make it on TikTok and then share it across the platforms because I liked some sort of element of that.

CA: Have you noticed any being stronger than others as far as getting people in the door? 

TW: We just had a... The Tampa Bay Times wrote an article like a few weekends ago. And that was a big deal. And that helped a lot. We had a lot of people that were like, I don't read or I don't have a computer at home. I don't read emails and things. So I only read the paper. So that got those sorts of folks in.

CA: OK. Are those folks weird? Or are you just happy to have them? 

TW: They're either older folks who just never wanted to learn how to do that. Or some people just read, regularly read the newspaper. So that was real press. Anything where they actually take a second and show what we have is really useful for us. 

CA: Sure. Yeah, I can see that. And then I imagine you also count on all the artists you have to help promote too, because it's a win-win on both sides. 

TW: Yeah, that's been a big deal. Yeah.

CA: Do you provide anything specific for them to use, like use this frame for graphics or use these hashtags? 

TW: No, I haven't. But, you know, that's all stuff I need to start doing. That's good. Our logo is pretty graphic and that gets around pretty well. Anytime I show people, they're like, oh, you have a gallery and I say the word. They're like, oh, I drive by that every day. I've been meaning to stop in. So the word's getting out. It's just getting those like bodies actually in there. Yeah, and I think that the name sounding like a normal word, the werk, but being spelled W-E-R-K has been useful because it's really, it's common and memorable. That's been, that's gotten around pretty well. 

CA: Yeah, it's a great name and I do like the logo. Is that supposed to be like electrical tape that the letters are made out of? Yeah, right? No, right? It looks kind of like it, right? So the idea was that kind of punk rock aesthetic, yeah. Like you could kind of make a stencil of it. Oh, it was fat sharpies. It's like kind of square where you just. Yeah, yeah. 

CA: Oh yeah, I like that. 

TW: It's also based on a Chinese chop. That's why there's that border. 

CA: So can you tell me a bit about some of the shows you have coming up? Like the theme for So the Jack Ellis one, that one's ending on the 29th. And you have a Touched by a Lobster coming up next. That is a surrealism theme show.

TW:  Yep. Yes. Then we have a solo show. Should we, has he mentioned that yet? It's on your website. Oh, yeah, yeah, totally. Yeah, good, with John Gasco. Sorry, I hadn't checked in well. I've been running around. So that's coming up next. Then we're going to try and open the Gabonetto Segreto. So that's kind of erotic and scandalous things. So, and then after that, depending on how those go, we might try to do a Christmasy show. And then after that, I think it's, oh gosh. I don't remember, but that's through the rest of the year. That's through the rest of the year. So the last one is called Keep the Sole, S-O-L-E in solstice. So S-O-U-L, gosh, my brain is not working today.

CA: I thought it was like the werk thing where you spelled it wrong on purpose. But OK. 

TW: No, yeah, no, my mouth got ahead and I spelled it wrong. Yeah, no, that's the one we got. We weren't we aren't doing that. Yeah. Well, that's the one we're debating that. We'll see. 

CA: So OK. So Touched by a Lobster, that one's different artists all doing surrealism, right?

TW: Yes.

CA: And so how did you specifically go about collecting art for that show that's coming up?

TW:  That was open submissions that came into the website and threw word of mouth.

CA: OK. Did you have how many submissions did you get and how many did you end up deciding on? 

TW: Oh, we're actually debate. We're doing the final cut tonight. Because yesterday was the cut off. So I've been like going through all the pictures and kind of making like cuts and some people submitted multiple pieces. Some people, you know, so sometimes it's like, well, this guy, I like all three of his, but this person, I'm only going to take one of theirs. And that's a hard decision to make too. It kind of depends on how well they match the theme. There's a lot of artists that went way out of their way to make something special for the show Because I gave them two three months in advance So there was a lot of people that got excited about it There's gonna be some really cool lobster themed art Lot of lobsters flying through the sky a lot of lobsters on cell phones It's a lobster frenzy. It's great

CA: Do you try to favor pieces that were made more recently? Or does the date not really factor into your selection process? 

TW: There's been some pieces people have submitted that nailed the description perfectly even though it's a two year old piece. That's fine. That being said, sometimes they'll submit a piece and I'm like, oh yeah I saw that at that show last year. But whatever, that's fine. You know, we'll put it up, it works. So yeah, I don't really care about the age of the piece.

CA: If a piece is made specifically for the event, well actually, let me wind it back. What is the submission process? Is it just through that Submit Your Art Here button on the top right of your website? 

TW: Yeah, so that takes you to another page that has a button. It used to have a series of buttons for all the different shows coming up. So you'd pick whichever show you wanted. And the only one I have on there still is Touched by a Lobster, because now we're doing John's show in December. So I got rid of that button. But I need to start putting buttons up for next year's shows too. And we use Google Forms, kind of like what you did. Right. Where they go to a Google Form and they fill out all the information about the piece and can submit photos. And then we have the whole show in one file. And it makes it easy to kind of go through. There was a couple of people who got ahold of us on Instagram or through the phone and stuff and said, hey, is it OK if I send pictures and stuff? We kind of took their stuff manually. But it's all basically the same. It's very simple. It's name, some way of getting a hold of you, images of the pieces, how much you want for them, et cetera. 

CA: When you do the selections, is that blinded? Or are you kind of taking at the whole holistic artist's bio, all that information with your selection?

TW: I tend to want the concept. And I tend to look at the artist's bio and everything all at once. I try to do a pretty large breadth of things in every show. So that hopefully, I don't know, takes out a little bit of my own taste to some degree. Part of my philosophy at the gallery is I'm not trying to dictate them the taste of my viewer, but kind of supply a breadth of things so that people will have a response, you know, that it isn't necessarily just one aesthetic all the time.

CA: And when you're creating labels for the shows that you're hanging, what information are you putting on the labels for each piece or about each artist?

TW: It depends on the show and it depends on... Because some people write me a whole novel. Right? 

CA: Yeah. 

TW: And sometimes I just put up the whole novel. It really adds something. Because people will stand there for 10 minutes a lot of times and read the whole description. Read the whole thing. The more information you can give me, the more I will put up. And the more someone connects to a piece, maybe the more interested they'll be in it. So... But I've had people... We had one guy, he submitted stuff and all of his bio was, I make art because I like it. There's no meaning in this don't look for it. And then there was another person who had a whole thing about like where they were in high school when this image happened and what the music was like and had some of the lyrics from the song and all that. We put that up too.

CA: I'm glad to know that you get value out of those longer form descriptions because I hate writing about my art. But it kind of shows me that I really need to spend more time thinking about why I spent 30 hours on a single thing rather than just saying it looks pretty to me.

TW: And it can be a short description. It doesn't have to be like what the room smelled like. You know, and some people just say, you know, like I wrote a description recently for a thing that I put up that was something like, this is something I did, I hope you enjoy it. You can notice how thick the paint is because it was the end of a long process, done. 

CA: Okay. 

TW: You know, it was something like that. 

CA:So when you're...When you're taking or making sales at the gallery, might be silly, but are you using Square or like a PayPal card reader? What's what's your actual point of sale look like? 

TW: QuickBooks. 

CA: OK, 

TW: We have QuickBooks and we have an iPad and we have a card reader.

CA: Oh, interesting. I didn't even know QuickBooks had like a point of sale system. 

TW: Yep. 

CA:Oh, OK. 

TW: Yeah. So I have like Everything in the object, most of the like all the stickers are listed individually so I can keep track of them That's how we handle inventory. Sure and that and then I can keep track of like oh wow I have to read like obviously you have Gianna Pergamo She's one of our you know top sellers in the in the sticker and print realm. Yeah So we just have everything in the QuickBooks. We make a sales receipt you hit me hit the button. It goes to the card reader Does it? It's fine. 

CA: Does it also generate reports for each artist or I guess make it easy for you to generate reports when you do have to go back and pay your artists for other sales? 

TW: So far we haven't been doing it through reports. You just kind of look up sales receipts, find out how much the sales were in total, and then do a percentage from there. It's very simple. Usually what I do is one of our piece sells, if it's on consign, if I hadn't purchased it, like the prints I purchased because they're $15 retail. Like merch and things like that we tend to buy outright. It's simple. So stickers and stuff we buy. But the expensive pieces that are consigned whenever I make a sale I print out the receipt I put it in a binder and there's a section for artists to be paid and then once they get paid I move it into the artists have been paid and write the dates, you know.

CA: Oh wow, so you're printing physical receipts and tracking it that way. 

TW: Uh, I just like having a binder with, with physical stuff in it. It helps my brain, I guess.

CA: No shade, no shade.Cool. 

TW: It's long as it, you know, as long as it gets done. 

CA: But you are using the same point of sale system for no matter where in the store or in the gallery, the sale occurs.

TW: Right. Yeah. And I can make on QuickBooks too. I can make an invoice. So I've had people on days were closed say, hey, I wanted that piece I saw. And I say, okay, what's your email address? And they'll send me their email address and I will email them an invoice and they can pay it. And then when I get to shop next, I will hold that piece for them. So.

CA: Great.

TW: Yeah, that's been useful.

CA: So when you initially formed the LLC back in 2014, and you decided now that it's gonna be this physical gallery antique consignment-based shop, did you have to change the structure of the LLC at all, or was the original way it was built still adequate for what you needed?

TW: Well, mostly it was mostly antique art and ephemera. We didn't have antique like furniture or...Objects and stuff. And it's still a single owner LLC. 

CA:Okay. 

TW: So it's nothing, you know, it was broad enough to do stuff with. You know, the only other thing I had to do was get insurance for having the space, you know.

CA: Oh yeah, what does that look like?

TW: I bet it's not pretty. It's not terrible. It's not terrible.

CA: Okay.

TW: It's under a hundred bucks a month. I'd have to look at it again. It's not the worst.

CA: So with the space that you're rating, you're renting, What is rolled into that? Like if someone was just curious to open up their own gallery space, I guess taking it back. How many locations did you look at before you decided on this one?

TW: Oh gosh, we'd be like buckets. We were looking at retail spots 10 years ago. There was one location even like downtown, what is it, right behind Beach Drive. Yeah, there was some little tiny shops that were you know, 10 years ago were only 100 grand to buy. And in hindsight, you go, oh yeah, that would have been, that would have been a good choice. But they were really small, that was the problem. And this space is big, there's several spaces in it. And the area has developed enough that we're getting a little walking traffic.

CA: Yeah. Yeah. 

TW: So that's pretty, That's been pretty spectacular.

CA: And you're within walking distance of what five like you were within five blocks of four breweries, I believe. 

TW: Yeah, so like we're right next door to if I brewed the world right across the street, it's the steep station. I don't know if that's actually a brewery, but they've, you know, a bar behind us kind of caddy corner is three daughters. So, yeah, we're just like surrounded by. Yeah,

CA: That is an absolutely great space.

TW: In between days, isn't it? It's just hard to lure the people walking, because I'll go outside and look, and I see people walking straight from central down to the breweries, and I need to lure them up. Yeah. We have cool art, lots of local artists. Yeah, people are intimidated by art galleries, it seems, sometimes. So we have to try and keep it approachable and friendly and gracious as well. 

CA: Sure. I know there were a couple spaces in Miami years ago that would lure people in, like in the Wynwood area, by having home brew competitions. And that way people just like pay a ticket for a bunch of free beer samples and then they vote on which beer they like. So if you're- 

TW: On it.

CA: If you've got people who are already looking for beer, that seems like a great reason to pull them in even more. 

TW: I keep on wanting to do something really dumb, like-Something where you spatter people with paint or something. So maybe a super soaker filled with beer and you like host the gallery for 20 bucks or something. Oh my gosh, the gallery would be ruined. Yeah, let's not do that. Maybe we'll get the brewery next door to host it. Yeah, do it in the parking lot. We've actually talked to them about hosting events together. So we're working with our neighbors and stuff, trying to come up with ideas to share business. Why not?

CA: So the place you are in now, you are renting that, right?

TW: Yes. 

CA: Is that like six months at a time, one year at a time, one month at a time? How does a lease like the place you're in look? 

TW: Our lease, I think, is three year. I'd have to look again. I think I can break it at any time without too much trouble. And then, yeah, we pay month to month. 

CA: Does that include property taxes and? I guess you wouldn't have to pay property taxes. You're not the owner. 

TW: That's the owner. 

CA: Yeah, 

TW: We pay water, power, internet, insurance. 

CA: OK, so that's not rolled in. 

TW: That's not rolled in. That's all paid separately.

CA: OK. 

TW: Yeah. 

CA: Seems exhausting, but I mean, if you own a house, it's not anything new. 

TW: So yeah, it's there. We have good landlords. Every time we've had an issue, they're in there fixing stuff. Fixing stuff.

CA: How much prep in the space did you have to do, and how long did that take before you were ready to roll? 

TW: About a month and quite a bit. So we had to kind of clean everything out, paint it all white, put in new lighting. We spent a lot of money on lighting that was color accurate and doesn't fade anything. That was our main issues. So that went up. Then we had to kind of, then we furnished the space. We did a lot of, we have a friend who does murals, so she muraled out a space in what we call the lounge. So it took about a month and maybe six weeks, all told. 

CA: Wow, wow. I mean, it's a beautiful space, so I see all the werk that went into it. 

TW: Yeah, thank you, yeah. Also, you know, I work slowly, so you know. Probably somebody else could have done it in three, but I, you know, I had fun.

CA: Well, it definitely helps knowing you have those like two years of money saved up. You can really take your time and make it something good. And you only get that one first impression. 

TW: Yeah, that's the, and we're trying to kind of hoe a very difficult row in the sense that we're trying to get something that is both funky and sophisticated. So...Gosh, yeah, it's a little bit like high end kindergarten teacher. Very approachable, very open, but very... Oh, gosh, sophisticated. I can't think of a better word. Elevated? Yeah, elevated is a good word. 

CA: So, well, looking at the, I guess, the more... I don't know if you have a...Yeah, you do call it the object lab. Looking at the object lab side of the business, about how many artists are you representing currently through materials being sold in that area? 

TW: We are, I represent, represent is a big word, so we aren't like doing anybody's advertising, nobody's had to sign a contract with us, we're not doing that kind of thing. We have a wall of local artists, and we have about...10? Yeah, 15. Something like that. People represent it there. We have a few more artists that we've brought in. If I count, because we also have two local jewelers that cut their own gems, lapidary artists, that's two more. Concepcion who makes the scar, she's a weaver. So there's probably like 15 to 20 people in there. Right. We have one guy who makes high-end bags, we have an artist out of West Virginia, etc. 

CA: So you had mentioned that you have some that you're purchasing through wholesale and some that you're doing through consignment. Is there like a specific cutoff or rules you go with that define how you're going to be dealing with each person who presents items to you for sale? 

TW: I think it's going to it depends on the individual artist. For example, like you're gonna have Gianna Pergamo on, she's got a really good sticker and card and print business. And so we can just order online like anybody else from her. No problem. Just like anybody else. Yeah. Any shop can order wholesale on, you know, through her website or through another website that she sells on. But her originals, because we have a personal relationship with her, she can bring in and put up on our wall. We're more likely to consign that. So for example her and John Gascot who share that studio space up there in Pinellas Park, they are both putting a piece into our next show as well. So those will be on consignment, whereas the stickers and prints that we bought from them, we just bought.

CA: Do you have like a scheduled timeline in which you pay the artists the consignment sales? Like is that every quarter, every month?

TW: End of the show. 

CA: Well, I'm sorry, I'm referring specifically to the object lab. Those are probably not really time dependent, are they?

TW: Oh, yeah, no, we try to pay them as quick as possible. I paid them the same day the thing sold. Yeah, if somebody has to pay for something like that, we just get it done. 

CA: Interesting, gotcha. So you're still collecting the funds and then probably by the end of the day, if you sold a couple pieces, you'll send that right off to the artist. And it's easy for you to track because you're just moving that receipt to the other side of the book. 

TW: Yeah. Right. You know, I write paid through...PayPal or pay through Venmo or Zelle or whatever the artist prefers. Yeah, we just or a check if they're in the building. You put them in as a vendor. Yeah, make a bill for them. It's done. 

CA: Okay, cool. Yeah, I've got stuff that I've done through consignment in a few different places. One of them pays monthly via cash app with a nice like spreadsheet of all the things that sold. And then one of them would just mail me a check like three months late.

TW:  Yeah,

CA: And then they just send that check every six months like covering different random sales So, you know, I've seen it in many different ways you have a You have like a lot of different things that sell though. 

TW: You've got hats and stickers and Fabulous coloring books games and all sorts of stuff Yeah, so like if I was I wouldn't consign all of that because I pull my hair out keeping track of it I would buy that from you. 

CA: Sure. Well, we can talk afterwards about that because I do have a lot of wholesale options so. So, what do you have, aside from the upcoming shows, what kind of plans do you have for the werkspace? I know you mentioned about wanting to have some classes or like maybe lectures and things like that. What are you envisioning in like the next few months?

TW: Classes, talks with the artist, maybe some markets in the back like I was saying, maybe some micro shows, maybe...Oh, God, some kind of painting events and then maybe a smidge of performance art if I can find the right person for it. So, you know, anything I can pull out of a hat. 

CA: Sure. Sure. And anything that'll get people in the door, for sure. Before I kind of close it out and list all of your connection stuff, is there anything that you think I might have missed that you might want to bring up?

TW: Um, there's like I was saying before, there's only one week left if people want to see the Jack Gallow show.I don't know when you're posting this. Oh, yeah, sorry. This is going to be on the 4th, October 4th. Oh, so the show will come. The show will be down by then. So don't worry about that. You can still see his work by appointment. Yeah, we'll still have his work in the back of the gallery. People can request to see some of his pieces. But I guess the big neck. The next big show is The Touched by a Lobster, October 6th. From five to nine is the opening reception. If people want to come early, they can just come from noon to five. But I won't have Prosecco ready until after five. Right. There will be no snacks. 

CA: Well, that does actually make me think of another question. Do you plan on having like online galleries of the physical shows that you have represented on your website?

TW:  I try to upload them. I've been pretty bad at that lately. So we had some personal stuff go through. So there was a few plans that got backburnered for a hot minute. 

CA: Gotcha.

TW: But yeah, exactly that's coming up.

CA: OK, so that will be an eventuality. Do you plan on expanding that at some point to sales through your website, or is it still everything's focused on the physical space?

TW: I've sold stuff people have seen on the website or on Instagram, but like they get a hold of me and then I just send them an invoice through QuickBooks and do it that way. I haven't, I don't know if, yeah, I'm not quite to that point yet though. And I don't know if we're going to get to the point where there's going to be a pay now button. It'll probably always be something like get a hold of us and we'll...will facilitate the transaction.

CA: Sure. I mean, that does add an air of validity to everything, too. Not having it as an online thing and like, you know, like there's a reason you want a physical gallery. Sure, so you might as well lean into that.

TW: And then you don't have to worry about selling something in the gallery and then realizing it had already just sold online.

CA: I've done that a bunch. I'll sell something at a market and then like a few days later, it'll get sold on my website and I'll be like, oh crap, I never updated that.

TW: Yeah, I've heard that story a few times from different people. So that's one of the reasons I'm apprehensive to do it. So we'll end up with a contact gallerist button. Yeah, that's good.

CA: I like that. I like that. All right. So October 6 is going to be the Touched by Lobster show. And people will be able to see the work in person at the werk gallery. That is on 2210 First Avenue South in St. Petersburg. Also while you're there, wait till five o'clock to get the Prosecco, was it? Yes. But before that, you can get some beer over there if I brewed the world right next door. So you pregame over there. They can also follow the website at www.thewerk. That's spelled T-H-E-W-E-R-K dot gallery. There's an option there to submit art for any upcoming shows or just to get feedback from Fritz and Matthew. On Instagram, you are at the werk Gallery. Again, T-H-E-W-E-R-K Gallery. And facebook.com slash the werk Gallery. Anything I missed?

TW: That's great. Great. 

CA: Well, thank you both so much for taking the time to talk to me. I'm fascinated about how you guys have made this dream happen. And I imagine you probably walk into that space and just feel an overwhelming amount of love and pride knowing that you put that together.

TW: It's a good time, I gotta say. Yeah. 

CA: I'm jealous of you both. We have a good community. Yeah. All right, well, thank you all again so much and I hope you enjoy your weekend and I hope that show goes great for you. 

TW: Thank you. Hope to see you in there soon. Yeah. 

CA: Oh yeah, I will be, I promise. Alrighty.

Outro

Chain Assembly: Art for profit sake is recorded through Riverside FM, distributed through Spotify for podcasters, and edited on Adobe Audition. The music is provided by Old Romans. If you learned anything useful or found this podcast helpful, please rate and review us five stars. If you want to learn more about me or my art, head over to ChainAssembly.com.

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