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Beyond Staging; Modeling  RSS feed

 
Travis Johnson
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My wife and I are full-time farmers, and one of the resources that we have is plenty of wood. We use some of that wood to create furnishings that we sell. Sometimes things go well, a furniture flip goes pretty quick and we get some money for it...other times they linger. We got a pretty good eye for what is tasteful, and since the rotary sawmill used to saw the lumber has those old swirl marks people love for barnwood items that are all the rage right now, what we make is in style. But yet some pieces linger longer than we like.

But here is the thing, my wife is very pretty.

Now I don't want to give people the wrong impression here, that I am expecting her to look like a Victoria Secret commercial and tastelessly sprawl herself across a barn wood table, but since she is pretty and has done modeling before, would it be worth while to try and use her as a model to help generate a little interest in the items that aren't selling so fast? We have talked about this and she says it is not the right thing to do, but I think that it is. My point is that her good looks are a resource of the farm, that by modeling...and not merely staging a piece of furniture, it is going to make the piece stand out form the others that other people have. She feels it will chase people away?

I just know the mantra of the advertising world, and while I would never expect too much of her, I cannot help but think that it could not hurt on the pieces that are not selling well.

Here is a table in point. I am not trying to sell this to anyone on Permies, just showing you what I mean by being "staged" and the quality of the furniture. Now try to envision a model with the table...would that help sell it you think?

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Regan Dixon
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Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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Short answer, if your wife isn't comfortable with it, then it's the wrong thing to do.   

However, she might be okay with simply sitting at the table doing table things; sewing, having a snack while reading the paper, etc., rather than simpering or wearing a cheesy grin while staring at the camera.  Just being there, populating the table, not drawing attention to herself as such.  Somebody honestly demonstrating the product for its true purpose, I find acceptable, but I personally find young ladies gratuitously stuck in sales photos to be annoying.  Maybe guys respond to that better.  Do you?  If so, do you become interested in the product, or just the woman?  If your wife feels she is being made an object, I hardly blame her for refusing.

Who is likely to buy the table?  Would it sell better with a hunky guy, just asking?  And, not knowing your hunk status, would it sell better with a photo of the craftsman painstakingly building it?  I kind of think that might have broader appeal. 
 
Travis Johnson
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Wow, how the tables have turned on me (cheesy pun intended), and I never saw it coming! I added a smiley there because in the written word it is often hard to differentiate between joking and nasty sarcasm, though I assure you it was NOT the latter. I just never thought I would hear my name and "hunk status" in the same sentence. You made me laugh...thank you!

Honestly, I don't know the answer to your question, my wife says I am, but I am not so sure. She is biased for sure, and most of the time I am trying to figure out what she sees in me as she could have a whole lot better. For now I will refrain from posting a picture of myself as I do not want people to think I am self-centered, but I also want people to know that if they really want to see, I am not above doing so. I guess I am just saying I have nothing to brag about, but nothing to hide either. I am a farmer and not a GQ model, but then some people prefer that!

You did bring up a great point though, and that is of a photo of me working on the project. I never thought of that. It might be better that way. As for a market, it is hard to say. We get responses from both men and women. It is just hard when there is a list of ads for ten tables and we would like to be a little different and draw attention. Maybe a better idea would be to have my 3 year old daughter doodling in a coloring book to generate interest without offending.

As for my wife, she is unique in photo shoots. We have done quite a few, and at first she is reserved and is put off on doing them, but after we do some, she relaxes a little and really has fun. This was one we did just for fun, dressing up like the 1940's...



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Judith Browning
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I think most craftspeople  find marketing their work a serious challenge and professional photography is key.  I think if I were looking at that beautiful table as  a consumer I wouldn't see it's specialness and impact in the context of that picture.   I think some simple photos without  a lot of background would help and ones with closeups of detail in the woodworking, and either handmade chairs or none, not the homey mix that most of us have.

I don't think a model, beautiful or hunky, is going to help sell handcrafted work in general....customers need to see the uniqueness of the piece and understand how it was made...as craftspeople, part of our responsibility is to educate the public...and that is what I think works!

....and I wholeheartedly agree with this.....
Short answer, if your wife isn't comfortable with it, then it's the wrong thing to do.   


I do think, if there is the opportunity to show several pictures, someone actually working on the table would be helpful....or a set of photos showing the process from "tree to table"......

 
Regan Dixon
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Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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What Judith Browning said.
With handcrafted items, people care about it being handcrafted, by a person they could actually meet and recognize and know the name of.  They like knowing the table isn't some rickety veneer contraption, cranked out of an overseas sweatshop.  They care about care, competence, and quality, not studliness.  If you look at marketing photos for handcrafted items, they usually show the crafter at work--often a grandpa with decades of experience--always in work clothes--not looking at the camera at all, but focussed on the work at hand.  People see that attention, and it gives credibility to the product and to the producer, as much as photo advertising can.
And if you yourself are not comfortable with being so linked to your own product, do you understand why your wife--without that direct link--might say it's not right for her to be a model in the photo?
Not pickin' on ya.  Trying to be constructive. 
 
Travis Johnson
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Oh no, no, no...I know that and I did not take it that way. I appreciate your comments and am not in the least dissuaded by them. I cannot tell you thanks enough for being honest and in a very kind way.

I think the part that we are missing is we are not telling our "story". The greatest thing we have here is our farms's story, our farms history, we started here in 1746 when the King of England granted us this land for a Great-Grandfather who dies in the French and Indian War. This wood, a lot of it barn wood, and grown, sawn on our sawmill, nailed on the barns, or have been stored here for years. Its that link back that makes it different, and failing to do so makes it just another table.

Like yesterday, a guy was interested in that table, but said they measured and it would not fit. Perhaps that is true, and nothing can be done about it, but he had no idea that it is true Black Cherry barn wood that we grew, harvested, sawed and worked into a table. I think if he knew that he would have been more inclined to buy it.

We are going to put our story on our website first and then really take good photos. We can actually take nice ones, it is just a lot of work. At some point we want a store front here, partly to sell some of these furnishings, but also for some of our sheep products.

Ladies I am just sick of the wood moving off this farm and getting NOTHING for it. I cut about 100 cords per month, and while I need to get rid of it, the sawmills look it all over, shrug their shoulders, nick-pick about this or that, and then pay me $900 a load....for a TRUCK LOAD of wood. I am just tired of being the start of the wholesale chain. I got a truckload going out today and if the check is not a bit bigger than it has been, then I'll saw teh stuff on my own sawmill. I am sick of giving it away. (Technically $900 is not GIVING it away, but you know what I mean).
 
Regan Dixon
Posts: 133
Location: Zone 4b at 1000m, post glacial soil...British Columbia
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I think you're onto something, there, with your farm's story.  Putting the effort into good photos on your website is worth the trouble, and you can always make improvements as you go along. 
And I totally get the "giving wood away" thing, at a provincial level, no less....  You're getting to the meat of the matter here.  Giving resources away is a global issue, and you're experiencing it on a personal level.
 
wayne fajkus
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It wouldn't take 2 minutes per item to type out a story /history of each piece. Think of Mr Peterman from seinfeld.  All his items had a story.

Those that don't want to buy will tell you anything but the truth. The guy that said it won't fit... Don't take that as fact. It may have been too much $ for him and that was his polite way of saying no.
 
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