I had a question about selling one of a kind artwork on a wholesale basis several weeks ago. When I first heard the question, I thought “No”. But I’ve given it some thought and I think the answer is different depending on what you categorize as “one of a kind”.
“One of a kind” means different things to different people. Perhaps you make small felted snowmen ornaments. They are each different because they have varying facial expressions, different embellishments and colors. These could be classified as “one of a kind” but could easily be sold on a wholesale basis. You could figure out the time it takes to make one and price accordingly. Then these ornaments could be sold by the dozen or whatever worked for you.
Now consider “one of a kind” felted scarves. If the same methods were used to make all the scarves but they perhaps used differing fibers or colorways, each would be unique. You could make multiple scarves at once and perhaps use a rolling machine to decrease your time spent to make them be affordable enough that they would sell at wholesale.
But what if you make wool “paintings” or complex fiber art sculptures? As these types of work usually take an extended time to make and there isn’t a way to produce them in multiples, it will be much more difficult selling them on a wholesale basis. For example, an oil painter doesn’t usually sell his/her artwork on a wholesale basis. Paintings or fine art are usually sold on consignment in galleries. I have seen a few artists that make production work and sell on a wholesale basis try to sell their “one of a kind” sculptural pieces as well. It just doesn’t seem to work very well. Stores and fine craft galleries are looking for items they can buy in multiples.
If you want to sell your work on a wholesale basis, you need to be able to produce enough work to sell in multiples and fill large orders. If you aren’t able to do this with your work, then you need to develop relationships with galleries and sell your work on consignment. Even though you don’t get paid up front for your work, you will generally receive more money for your work on a consignment basis. As long as you work with reputable galleries, selling complex one of a kind artwork on consignment is the better option.