Startup Diaries: the Art of the Personal Touch

Maddi and I met working in an art gallery in Brighton two years ago. Fawn Art consultancy was born 6 months later following our frustration working in an environment where we thought we could create so much more. We knew there was a gap in the market for our service and felt at the time there was nothing to lose in taking the leap, with the attitude ‘let’s see how far we can take it’.

Initially we threw ourselves into every opportunity, gaining sponsorship to hold exhibitions in unusual settings like vineyards and architectural practices. This was useful, as it gave us an opening to build relationships with their contacts whilst they benefited from the attractive artwork on their walls. It was also good practice for us to see which artists’ work sold well and has been enormously valuable in getting to know our target market. 

We also pulled strings editorially to build awareness and came up with inventive marketing ideas to get peoples attention. A great example of this was spending days posting invites which we had carefully designed through doors. Often we wrote something on the front of the envelope about what we liked about their house or we sealed the envelope with metallic wax so it stood out. Although it felt like a lot of effort at the time, people appreciated the personal touch and to our amazement they turned up to our exhibitions.

We were so anxious for the first private view night that no one would turn up, but when we looked back over the photos, it was so crowded that people were out on the street.

Maddi and I had made a plan to talk to as many people as possible about the artwork, so we stuck post-it notes with key points on the wall of a private side room for us to refer to during the evening. You soon realise the skill involved in being able to move on from a conversation, which is something we are still working on today.

We started to get noticed quickly and were so thrilled to be recommended to clients that we still work with on a regular basis today. For example, we are currently providing artwork to King’s College London, having completed our fifth large-scale project with them recently.

We feel passionate about sharing our artists’ work with everyone but it can be hard to carve a path out for yourself in the art industry.

You have to be able to take the knocks and to be confident in your ability to put artwork proposals together. Learning not to hide behind your computer, but to try and meet people face to face, which can be daunting when you start out.

We have found ourselves in situations where we have had to pinch ourselves; once, in a boardroom of a private equity company in central London pitching artwork to the directors, we were conscious the clock was ticking, knowing our van driver was parked in a loading bay outside and trying hard not to think of the artists that were anxiously waiting to hear if they have been successful. It definitely helps that there are two of us. Maddi and I have been lucky because we bounce off one another, picking each other up when we need help. On this particular occasion, we were negotiating on prices for over an hour, all the time hearing our phones vibrating under the table. We must have had about ten pieces of paper with sums scribbled all over them. It was all worth it though, and I’m glad we stuck with it.

We not only sold the client artwork for every room but we also made private sales to the directors at a price we felt was fair. The feeling of getting in the lift afterwards was priceless!

Our intention has always been to brighten up surroundings with artwork and to break down the impression that all original artwork costs the earth. Artwork has a massive benefit in the sectors we work in; it can bring comfort and escapism to people in need of it and can transform a dull working environment into a motivational space to be.

We are still finding out how far we can take our business and we’re thoroughly enjoying the experience along the way.

Guest post by Lydia Swinton, co- founder of Fawn Art Consultancy, a company that advise on and sell contemporary artwork for the home, workplace, healthcare & educational environments. Hand-picked directly from the artist’s studio.

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