header_1_museumofflightkjones

PRO-File – MSA Vendor Member

January 8, 2018

Name: Kelly Jones

Job Title: Owner / Designer / Maker

Business Name: Wraptillion

Location: near Seattle, Washington

Interviewed by: Blue Anderson of the Columbia River Maritime Museum

Where did you grow up?

I grew up north of San Francisco, in the small town of Fairfax (which got its first traffic light after I moved away for college.) And yes, I’ve spent a lot of time in Bay Area museums, botanical gardens, and other amazingly cool places!

What does your company do? How long has your company been in existence?

Wraptillion started in 2009, when I began to sell the modern industrial jewelry I was making.

As an artist, I see the beauty in everyday things you might never have noticed, especially hardware. My jewelry appeals to others who see things a little differently, and who value the intersections of art and science, engineering and design.

To show off that beauty, I take stainless steel hardware that’s used in car transmissions, airplane hydraulics, motorcycle wheel hubs, and lots of other engineering applications, and I link it together into articulated, wearable patterns, using chainmaille techniques. These materials are what make space shuttles strong and lightweight, and they’re easy to care for (like your stainless silverware.) My titanium ear wires are as hypoallergenic as titanium hip replacements, so most people with metal allergies won’t have a reaction to them. And the same flexibility that makes chainmaille great for armor joints makes my jewelry comfortable to wear (and a little edgy, too.)

What is your role within your company? Have you changed positions within the company? Worked for another company?

Wraptillion is my one-woman show, and always has been. I manage my workload by keeping my focus on my line of art jewelry, plus a little custom work, and by focusing on wholesale sales. It’s much more efficient for me to fill one order for a store than to try to sell, make, and ship many pieces to many individual customers. I’ve never worked for another jewelry company, but I grew up working in my mother and grandmother’s stores, which both sold jewelry, and attending trade shows with them, so I’ve spent some time on the other side of the counter.

Describe the life journey that brought you to this career (i.e. tell our readers about your interesting life so far …)

I’m the daughter of a calligrapher/gift shop owner and an engineer/musician, both very creative people who see beauty everywhere; my brother is a printmaker and tattoo artist. I was lucky to have role models early on for business as well as art. I grew up making jewelry out of macaroni and everything else I could find, and I kept stretching and growing that hobby as I went to school and became a librarian. I’ve picked up techniques here and there, and incorporated them into my work, but since no one else really does what I do, experimentation and sheer stubbornness have been my best teachers. When I finally pulled my hardware ideas together and decided the result was too cool to keep to myself, I began selling my work. It was discovered by some local nonprofit galleries, and then was a finalist in the NICHE awards. Eventually I found my way to museum stores and the MSA.

Tell us about the first sale you ever made to a museum or non-profit institution… what was it?  Who did you sell it to?

The FriendShop in Seattle’s Central Library (a Rem Koolhaas building and architectural destination) was my first non-profit wholesale sale, and I’ve been working with them ever since. They sell book-related products but also design and architecture-focused work from a very small shop whose walls slide on tracks in the library’s floor. (Talk about seeing things differently!) I’ve done custom designs for them featuring an engraved portion of the library’s exterior, as well as my standard lines. To our surprise and delight, the custom pieces were incredibly popular with library staff and locals, who appreciated high-quality work that they could wear every day without feeling like a tourist.

Did you feel like a partner in that process?  Are you still?

Absolutely! My job is to connect what I know about my work, and the custom work I can do, to what buyers know about their customers. I’m the expert in my work, but they’re the expert in theirs; the intersections are where the magic happens.

For the FriendShop’s custom example above, we went back and forth together to get a design and colors that really spoke to their audience, to get the signage right, and to make sure everyone knew why these pieces were special. And it paid off for both of us: when they put the designs in the case, their local customers weren’t deciding whether to buy, they were deciding which color they wanted, because they’d heard what was coming, they’d weighed in on decisions, and they felt like partners too.

What is unique about your product or production technique or design or other aspect?  What would the MSA Membership really want to know about you?

My jewelry comes out of a true intersection between art and engineering, and it celebrates that intersection in a way I don’t see very often. Engineers, mechanics, and pilots immediately recognize my materials, and appreciate the engineering it takes to create a design whose structure comes from tension and aspect ratios, not welding or glue. The pieces in my Heat Patina collection are heated until the surface of my metals oxidizes, bringing out unexpected colors that are a little different every time. Modern art and design lovers appreciate my focus on unadorned hardware: nothing’s extraneous, the materials are industrial and utilitarian, and yet the designs feel classic, wearable, and truly beautiful.

This means that my work fits into a wide range of missions. I’ve worked with transportation museums who want to grow into the artisan jewelry market, as well as art museums known for their armor collections who want to add a different take on chainmail to their cases. Both science and art museums are looking to add STEAM-inspired designs and repurposed materials done well. And engineered jewelry can be part of what welcomes women to your technology exhibit or career day.

There is a lot of turmoil currently in the retail world.  Can you tell us one exciting trend that you’ve noticed? Are you taking advantage of it?

What I see dominating the retail world is the focus on the race to the bottom: more broadly available products, with competition on who can sell them for the lowest price. But what I see customers currently responding to is high-quality products that speak to them in a unique way. When they know it’s perfect for them, the decision isn’t about price. It’s about how to make that purchase happen.

There’s no way I can compete with big box stores on jewelry prices – and I don’t want to! I’m more interested in the markets they aren’t serving, the ones that know my work is perfect for them, and who value it. Around a third of the customers for my work are men buying gifts, who recognize my materials; that connection makes their gift special. Another third is women who don’t buy or wear other jewelry, because it’s too fussy, too feminine, makes their ears itch, or just doesn’t feel like them. Others respond to my particular aesthetic, and tell me there’s nothing else like it.

You know what the big box stores can’t compete with? A particular artist’s vision. Filling that particular niche for someone who never found their perfect pair of earrings before. It’s a great time to be an artist, and not just another commodity. I want my work to be in the company of other art, so my work will never be as broadly available, and it will never be part of that race to the bottom. It’s more efficient for me to sell fewer pieces of higher-quality, higher-priced jewelry than a higher volume of lower-quality, lower-priced jewelry. Yes, it can take a customer a little longer to make that first purchase – but they’ll come back again and again, because there’s nothing else like it.

There is a lot of turmoil currently in the retail world.  Can you tell us one thing that keeps you up at night? What steps will you take in light of that?

Supply chain disruption is my big fear. The hardware I use is still produced in the US by one company, but I worry about global trends, so I keep tabs on my options too. There are fewer than you’d expect, but it isn’t keeping me up at night.

What are some concrete goals for your next three years working with members of the Museum Store Association? How do you see MSA helping you achieve that?

As a Vendor Advisor for the Pacific Northwest Chapter, I’m committed to bring the vendor perspective to my chapter’s board, as well as being a resource for all members. I enjoy finding ways vendors and buyers can help each other out, learn from each other, and have fun working together. We have so much in common, including many of the same struggles, that it seems a waste not to share our experiences with each other.

Beyond that, I’d love to dig deep and discover more specifically what working artists and artisans like me can bring to MSA, and vice versa, beyond creating and selling great products. I feel like that’s a relatively unexplored connection in two communities with a lot in common. For instance, I’d love to do a talk for high school students on the business side of art, or a STEAM demonstration. And I think it would be wonderful for MSA to create a basic tip sheet and/or resource list for artists who’d like to approach museum stores. I imagine we all get the same questions, so why not share the work of answering them?

Inspired by MSA Next, I’d also like to help think about what the next generation of vendor members will bring, how they’ll find MSA, and what they’ll value in this partnership. I’ve been part of some interesting mentorship models with the American Craft Council, among others. Someone once told me my superpower was connecting people, and with great power comes great responsibility, so if you have ideas on this too (or are already working on efforts I haven’t heard about yet,) let’s chat!

Have you ever attended an MSA Chapter meeting? Tell us about that experience.

Yes, lots! For my first few, it was hard for me to see where I fit in and where I could be useful, as a non-voting member. But over the years the Pacific Northwest Chapter has come up with more natural connection points, including the very popular product share, where every member brings one product from their store or their line to tell other members about. It’s a fun way to learn and share in a non-sales setting.

How long have you been a MSA vendor member? How did you connect with the MSA?

I’ve been a MSA vendor member since 2015. I’d heard about the association before that when researching trade shows, but at that point the general consensus among the artisan and maker communities I was part of was that most MSA Expo buyers were looking for lower-priced work with very broad appeal, and that wasn’t my niche. Still, I kept the organization on my radar, and as I began to work with more museum stores and to do more custom work, I asked Mary Christensen at the Museum of Flight about it. She invited me to a PNW Chapter networking event, so I could get a better feel for it before deciding for myself. And, here I am!

Which museums do you currently work with?

I’m currently working with MSA buyer members at the Museum of Flight, the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, the Currier Museum of Art, the National Czech and Slovak Heritage Museum and Library, the Pittock Mansion, and (as you know!), the Columbia River Maritime Museum.

Why did you agree to be a MSA Vendor Advisor for your regional chapter? Are you working on specific projects right now?

I agreed to be a MSA Vendor Advisor because I saw ways that buyer and vendor members could work even better together, and to help give other vendor members something I didn’t have when I joined: a friendly resource for private questions at the chapter level, so that chapter meetings and public forums aren’t the only place a new vendor member can ask questions. (Yes, please feel free to email me that question you’ve always wanted to ask to me, even if you’re in a different chapter — but know that your chapter probably has a Vendor Advisor now too!) Also, I’m not shy about speaking up.

Most vendor members come into MSA with buyer connections, but those are business relationships too. Yes, we find out the answers to our questions eventually, but I worry that there are missed opportunities when members have to take the long way around to learn things. It’s nice to be able to ask a fellow vendor instead, but vendor members might not already know each other.

Right now, I’m involved in two PNW Chapter projects:

The first is co-teaching an education session at the PNW Chapter’s January meeting with Beth Shafer of the Museum of Flight on quick social media tips, focusing on using Instagram at events, pop-ups, and on the sales floor. We felt it would be useful for buyers and for vendors, and is an area where we can help each other out.

The second is proposing a volunteer booth sitter role for MSA Forward in DC, and helping to coordinate it if the chapter is interested in trying it. The idea is to give our chapter’s buyer and non-exhibiting vendor members a simple way to offer assistance to our chapter’s exhibiting vendor members by covering a quick break. As a vendor who usually exhibits alone, I think this would be a really friendly gesture, as well as a fun way for buyers and vendors to connect in a non-sales situation.

Do you have a hobby?

I have something better than a hobby: monthly exploration days! As a self-taught, constantly evolving artist, I push myself to think differently and stay out of ruts by exploring techniques and activities I’ll never bring to my day to daheadshot_1_museumofflightkjonesy work. Most recently, I took a blacksmithing workshop and learned to hammer red-hot steel from a woman my height (I’m 5’1”), in a working studio that looks nothing like the magazines. I love seeing what happens when I take the time to try something, and I love discovering what I can learn to do. Let me know if you have suggestions for what I should try next!

Kelly Jones handcrafts Wraptillion jewelry to celebrate the beauty of everyday industrial objects. By linking American-manufactured steel hardware with titanium, she creates lightweight, striking jewelry that never needs polishing. Every piece made in her studio near Seattle, Washington is designed to show your edge and fit your life. She has been a member of MSA since 2015.

Photo credits: Kelly Jones, guest artist in the Museum of Flight’s booth at Geek Girl Con; Clustered Circles necklace at the Museum of Flight; Banister earrings at the Pittcock Mansion; Architecture earrings at the FriendShop Seattle Central Library and Boeing 727 hydraulics at The Museum of Flight’s Restoration Center. Photographer: Susan Brown.

 

museumofflightguestartist_geekgirlcon_previewproduct_clusteredcircleskjonesearringkjones

 

product_custom_friendshop_seattle_library_architecture_preview

leadimage_freud-5-2

Museum Shop Sunday – Success Across the Pond

December 18, 2017

By Joanne Whitworth

Here at the Association for Cultural Enterprises (ACE), we were delighted to work with the MSA and Museum Shops Association of Australia & New Zealand (MSAANZ) to help make the very first Museum Store Sunday (or Museum Shop Sunday as it’s known to us Brits!) a truly global event. We’re even more pleased to tell you that it was a huge success over here, not just in the UK but elsewhere in Europe too. Over 125 cultural venues in the UK, Ireland and even Hungary put on special events and promotions on the day, attracting new customers to enjoy shopping for unique and special Christmas gifts in the relaxing and inspiring surroundings of their local museum or gallery.

Our hashtag #museumshopsunday was trending on Twitter all day (alongside such events as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!) and there was some fantastic press coverage in high profile titles such as Metro, a free paper distributed nationwide, and The Londonist, an online title which has over 1.3m followers on Twitter, so it was fantastic to see Museum Shop Sunday featured in their ‘Top Things to Do This Week’ column.

Many venues saw a significant uplift in sales and footfall as a result of Museum Shop Sunday. Paul Griffiths, Head of Operations at the Mary Rose Museum, couldn’t have been happier with how the day went – “Our spend per visitor was up 81% on the average Sunday for the last two months, which is truly amazing. The retail team loved taking part as well!” At Yorkshire Museum sales were up by an incredible 185% and at Castle Museum, York, by 74%. Ginny Leadley, Buying & Merchandising Manager at York Museums Trust, said the numbers were amazing, adding, “This was the first weekend of Christmas activities so visitor numbers were high, however retail sales increased by significantly more.”

Museum Shop Sunday was a great opportunity to engage with new customers, and it was particularly pleasing to see the impact on smaller venues, many of whom seized the opportunity to draw in new visitors. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter gave away festive nibbles and offered a discount, resulting in a 30% increase in footfall and 38% increase in sales versus the same day last year. The Freud Museum in north London gave out free Freud cookies, which captured the imagination of the local press and public alike. Local paper Ham & High ran a feature, and the museum welcomed 55% more visitors than the same day last year. Shop Manager Iveta Rozlapa told us, “Museum Shop Sunday really helped us to connect with our local audience and spread the word about our gift shop. We had lots of smiles from visitors on the day!”

Museum Shop Sunday saw all sorts of events and activities, as well as tasty treats, festive fun and giveaways! Events included craft fairs, book signings, product launches and kids’ activities. The RAF Museum gave away their iconic pilot teddy bear with purchases over £30, while other venues treated their customers to mulled wine and mince pies. The Hungarian National Gallery Museum shop ran craft workshops in which customers were invited to create their own gifts relating to the museum’s collection. There was dinosaur story telling at the Natural History Museum, soap making at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and glass blowing at Ulster Museum. Catherine McGoldrick, Retail Manager at National Museums Northern Ireland, said it had been a really positive experience – “It was well worth doing and gives us something to build on for next year. All the visitors enjoyed the activities and learned a bit more about our makers.”

Browse our Photo Gallery to see some of the fun Museum Shop Sunday events from around the UK – from Freudian cookies to dinosaur story telling!

As you can tell, the enthusiasm for Museum Shop Sunday has been phenomenal, and our members are already thinking oheadshot_jo-whitworth-2f ways to make next year’s event on Sunday 25 November 2018 even bigger and better! It’s been a fantastic global collaboration and we are all looking forward to continuing to work together to introduce even more new customers to the amazing and unique world of cultural retail.

Joanne Whitworth is the Communications & Media Manager for the Association for Cultural Enterprises (ACE). Promoting excellence in cultural trading is at the heart of the business of ACE. ACE is an association of Members and Associate members who are passionate about their work in the cultural and heritage sector. Follow ACE on Twitter @acenterprises

 

saroyan_lead-image_mss

Museum Store Sunday: A Message from the MSA Board of Directors

December 11, 2017

By Ione Saroyan and the 2017-18 MSA Board of Directors

Museum Store Sunday. It is a reality. We did it – we all did it. I’m just going to put that right there and invite you all to bask in it for a moment. We announced it in late April at the MSA Forward 2017 in Pittsburgh. And in less than seven months, it launched in a spectacular way. This bright, creative, diligent, resourceful community of Museum Store Association members and partners succeeded in launching a global initiative. We succeeded in putting a spotlight on Museum Stores right smack in the middle of the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Congratulations to all of us!

For me, Museum Store Sunday (MSS) existed on multiple plains. First and foremost, as one of the pillars of MSA’s strategic plan: advocacy. “To communicate to the world the value and importance of non-profit retail with its curated products and unique experiences.” Within my own institution, this was a struggle at times. For example, I had to persuade my museum’s brand guardians to allow my promotions to go forward without changing the color of the MSS brand. Second, as a volunteer on the MSS Outreach Committee – I wrote letters and made phone calls, and experienced the thrill of the success of my efforts each time the MSS store locator was updated. Finally, as a museum store retailer, I offered special discounts to museum members and the general public, a free gift with purchase, and raffled off prizes including a museum membership. I am delighted to say that we had a fantastic day, with a 212% increase over the previous Sunday, and a 334% increase over the Sunday of the 2016 Thanksgiving weekend. And it was so exciting to read and watch the great press that came in from all over!

Read more

mss-image

Museum Store Sunday is Famous!

December 4, 2017

By Erin Brown

The inaugural year of Museum Store Sunday was a huge success on the digital side thanks to the communal efforts of participating institutions, their marketing departments and our vendor partners. By utilizing the directives we provided and by engaging your consumers and artisans locally, the Museum Store Sunday social media accounts were able to reach thousands of people only a couple of months prior to November 26.

On Facebook, between promoted and organic reach, the Museum Store Sunday page generated more than 200,000 impressions with people across the US. As we head into 2018, a great foundation has been set with more than 2,400 people following the page. More than 20 institutions created Facebook event pages, tagging Museum Store Sunday as a co-host to the event, which allowed us to easily broadcast that event to the MSS consumer audience. These Facebook events cumulatively resulted in more than 13,000 responses from people saying they either were attending or wanted to attend.

Nearly 100 events tagged Museum Store Sunday’s page in their posts promoting local events, which also helped to grow our account. In terms of audience, a majority of the MSS Facebook audience is made up of women (ages 35-54) from New York, Florida, Los Angeles-area, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC and St. Louis. Another great win from Facebook was the number of posts shared. The community of institutions, museum store representatives and vendor partners who liked, shared and commented on the posts generated from the Museum Store Sunday account really contributed to an outstanding year one. In only two months, our posts received 4,269 engagements (likes, shares, comments), which is outstanding.

The most popular Facebook post over October and November was the post sharing the USA Today article about Museum Store Sunday!

On Instagram, the account currently has 285 followers and is growing daily. Everyone did a great job contributing to the online conversation by using the hashtags created to promote Museum Store Sunday. More than 750 posts were tagged #MuseumStoreSunday! And more than 425 posts tagged #BeAPatron! Instagram followers generally responded very well to the images that institutions created using the MSS logo, showing signage, buttons, bags, etc. We were inspired by and excited to share the creative ways that everyone chose to promote Museum Store Sunday locally.

With such amazing support from members of the Museum Store Association, we’re in excellent shape as we head into the New Year with Museum Store Sunday 2018 on the horizon. Thank you for being such an active part of the community and don’t forget to save the date for November 25, 2018!

Click the link below for the Hello PR social media recap.

museum-store-sunday-social-media-recap

erin-brown_headshot

Erin Brown is a Social Media Consultant and part of the Hello PR Team responsible for Museum Store Sunday press and Social. She studied Art History in college and began her career in the marketing department of a museum in Los Angeles. From there, she lived in San Francisco and New York, working as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Design Within Reach, where she brought the stories of emerging and established designers and their products to life through print and online media. In 2014, Erin returned to the LA-area to live and work, starting a social media consultancy for retail brands, designers and more.

clock-tower-shop-2

Bold Steps Bring New Rewards

November 20, 2017

By Raymond McKenzie

 

Interviewing for a new position can bring anxiety and dread. Far too often the fear of change keeps us from finding a new job that is more rewarding or even advancing inside your institution. Interviewing doesn’t have to be so dreadful with a little preparation, practice, and boldness.

A year ago I was ready for a change in my career. The intent was to take a few months off to paint, complete some house renovations, travel, and decide what I wanted for my next steps. Then eventually I would look for a new position that engaged my passions. It didn’t take long before something interesting came across my email….. a historic house and garden was looking for a new retail manager. Retail plus Edwardian living!

It sounded interesting but I knew nothing about gardens, nothing about this historic home, or even where the town was. I did a few Google searches to find out some general information  — such as the history of the home, where it was located, some of their programming, etc.  I found it interesting enough to apply knowing that I didn’t have any background in gardens or historic homes and not knowing if it would meet my needs. But hey, you have to be bold and try something new. A few weeks later I got the call, “Would you be interested in an interview for the position?” Well, yeah I was interested. Read more

herman_lead-image

My Life as the Store Guy

November 13, 2017

By Chacho Herman

The Director sat across his desk from me. I’d just become the new Store Manager and was feeling pretty good about the job I had been doing. He looked at me and said bluntly, “You’re too passive. You need to be more assertive. Stop being so weak. You need to toughen up.” You’d think that I would have been stunned to hear that, but I wasn’t. This is something I needed to hear. I needed something like this said to me to push me to be better. I felt like I had been doing a good job for him and the museum, but his words pushed me to do much more.

Read more

higgenbotham_leadimage

PRO-File MSA Institutional Member

November 6, 2017

Name: Colleen Higginbotham

Job Title: Director of Visitor Services

Institution: Chrysler Museum

Location: Norfolk, VA

Interviewed by: David Duddy, DDO, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA

Questions:

What does your position encompass at your institution? What is your favorite part of the job?

I oversee the Visitor Experience – which covers the Shop, Special Events, Visitor Research, and the Gallery Hosts. Also, I oversee the Restaurant and Catering Contract. Our entire VS team is meant to Welcome, Protect, and Engage – also in the Shop. We began our program of cross-training in 2007 – re-training our security officers as Gallery Hosts to protect the collection – but in a welcoming manner that explains why they should not be touching the art! We are ONE TEAM.

My favorite part of my job is that every day, every event is different – and I get to learn about art while directing my team.

 Did you choose the non-profit world deliberately?

I have always loved museums, even though I did not study art or art history. I think I kind of found my natural home here.

Read more

uchin_lead-image

Sales Reps and the Art of Bookselling: Some Questions to Consider

October 30, 2017

By Andrew Uchin

Which books are the right ones for my store and speak to my institution’s audience and mission. How do I develop a unique retail culture that makes my store different from other local or online booksellers? What are the sales trends at other similar businesses in my region? What type of books are selling and at what price points?

The answers to these questions and many other critical issues related to book selling can be summed up in the phrase: Contact your sales representative.

Read more

headerimage2adjusted

PRO-File – MSA Vendor Member

October 23, 2017

Name: Donald Burns

Job Title: Director of Sales, Discoveries and Museum Reproductions

Business Name: Discoveries Egyptian Imports and Museum Reproductions

Location: Longmont, Colorado

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and moved to San Diego, California about 12 years ago. I now reside in Napa.

What does your company do? How long has your company been in existence?

I consider myself to be so incredibly lucky to work for two different companies that have each been in existence for approximately thirty years. Discoveries Egyptian Imports is a company that imports high quality products from Egypt: glassware, figurines, children’s educational products and much, much more. All of the products and their packaging are authentic and made in Cairo or Luxor. Museum Reproductions is a jewelry company that reproduces jewelry under license from museum collections throughout the world.

What is your role within your company? Have you changed positions within the company? Worked for another company?

I have done sales and product development for Discoveries for almost 15 years. I started out as a sales representative but then both my role and the company morphed into what it has become today. I went to Egypt and was able to learn more about the products we were developing. At the same time, I visited more museums and learned what products, especially custom ones, that buyers were searching for and so my role and the company evolved tremendously.

As many buyers know, Museum Reproductions was originally founded by Lars Messler who recently passed away. Lars and the owner of Discoveries, Steve Collins, were great friends for many years and when Lars passed it seemed like a great partnership for Steve to assume the role of leadership at Museum Reproductions. Working with Jessica Audet, she and I can now continue to expand the role of Museum Reproductions by collaborating, not just with American museums, but with collections around the world. It’s so awesome that I get to work with such talented people in all these different museums and their incredible collections. I love what I do!

Describe the life journey that brought you to this career (i.e. tell our readers about your interesting life so far…) what drove you to this?

I’m so thankful to my parents for how they raised me! As an only child, they were determined to expose me to all of the cultural institutions in and around the Philadelphia area. It instilled in me a life-long wish to be close to the art, the history, and culture of all of these great places. Additionally, I have to thank Steve Collins, the owner of Discoveries. He is one of the kindest people I know and he really values taking care of his customers. We work very well together and a lot of our clients feel like family.

Tell us about the first sale you ever made to a museum or non-profit institution… what was it? Who did you sell it to?

I started out in picture framing and the very first customer I had was Judy Luther at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Judy taught me so much about museums and how to work with a collection. She knew museum retail was special and different from regular retail and how to translate an artifact or a painting into a great product.

Did you feel like a partner in that process? Are you still?

The framing industry has changed so much but, yes, I still do framing with NGA. Translating art into merchandise is our main goal with Museum Reproductions. Lately, we have been working with the Barnes to produce a Renoir bangle and have finished a beautiful line of Cherry Blossom jewelry with the Huntington Library and Gardens — just to name a few projects. Last year, Discoveries won the MSA Education Product of the Year for our Hieroglyphic Stencil rulers. We are also working with The Royal British Columbia museum on their latest Egyptian exhibit to fulfill their request for custom products.

What is unique about your product or production technique or design or other aspect? What would the MSA Membership really want to know about you (this is your time to boast and brag so please, wax lyrical)?

I think with both companies, there is real effort to give our museum buyers quality merchandise. e.g. with Museum Reproductions, the jewelry is made with lead-free metals, natural stones, no stones are dyed and everything ships with a detailed provenance card with as much information about the piece as possible.

There is a lot of turmoil currently in the retail world. Can you tell us one exciting trend that you’ve noticed? Are you taking advantage of it?

The use of the internet and social media are streamlining and expanding a lot of our business. We find the bulk of our orders now are made on are website and buyers use our digital catalogues much more frequently.

There is a lot of turmoil currently in the retail world. Can you tell us one thing that keeps you up at night? What steps will you take in light of that?

Amazon is always a concern in the retail world. However, we feel the personal service, our attention to quality and detail and the ability to customize products to a museum’s collection is something extremely important for us to continue to offer.

What are some concrete goals for your next three years working with members of the Museum Store Association? How do you see MSA helping you achieve that?

I believe Shoptalk has always been an awesome tool and it helps us understand what buyers are looking for. In addition, MSA seems to be forging in a great new direction to develop more opportunities for its members including their vendor members. I would like to learn more about Product Pitch which is beginning on Fridays — and Museum Store Sunday is a fantastic way to highlight our industry. Overall, the MSA Board and staff are more open to new ideas and changes that will position our association for the future.

Have you ever attended an MSA Chapter meeting? Tell us about that experience.
I have attended two so far and, unfortunately, some personal things have prevented me from attending some recently. My goal for next year is to attend all of them.

What is the best vacation you’ve ever had?

headshot_burns_egypt

The best vacation was Italy about three years ago.…we went to Florence, Venice and Pisa. It was a trip where everything went perfectly-hotels were great and the food was awesome..! I love to travel and really like to plan a trip ahead of time: to research unique hotels and restaurants and search the map for places that look interesting and then book it all! Venice was especially cool-we did a lot of the typical touristy things but there were definite highlights like the Guggenheim Museum and this remarkable dinner we had by the Rialto Bridge under a sky full of stars. We also went to Murano and in one glass gallery which was particularly beautiful, the owner was so welcoming. He told us all about his family, the history of his studio and their glass blowing. It was really memorable!

Do you have a hobby? Collection? Unusual talent?

I love photography and have been collecting Russell Wright dinnerware for years. It was designed in the 30’s and 40’s. I have a very unusual talent but it’s a secret!

It’s been so much fun doing this interview…Again, I love what I do and I’m so grateful to work with such great people around the industry. Thank you for the opportunity to tell you about myself.

Donald Burns has been a member of MSA for many years, and in 2016 he became MSA’s very first Sales Representative Member. Discoveries Egyptian Imports was the winner of the 2017 MSA Buyer’s Choice Award for Education and Games for their Wooden Stencil Ruler.

be-a-patron-final-blogleadimage

‘Be A Patron’: How MSA Defined the ‘Why’ of MSS

October 16, 2017

By Paul Stewart-Stand

Born out of a three month process, our Museum Store Sunday (MSS) call to action is:  Be A Patron.

The brand identity introduced on September 26 is the visual expression of the Advocacy Committee’s work over the past months.  Five committees of volunteers, tasked with different facets of MSS, contributed innumerable ideas and notions.  As this process moved forward, MSS evolved from concept to an international event, an annual celebration, and an opportunity to energize our community. We wish to communicate “to the world” the value and importance of non-profit retail.

Sounds easy, no sweat!

Read more