Today's guest author is artist,Gayle Faucette Wibson. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. Find out how you can become a guest author.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to sign a consignment agreement with a local frame shop here in Albuquerque. This shop had a beautiful frame that complemented my acrylic paintings on canvas. The owners, a husband and wife team, offered to frame my work at their cost while taking a 50% commission. We had a positive working relationship for the two years I had worked with them.
Then, suddenly, the couple separated and the wife was forced to sell the frame shop. We met to discuss my options. Either I could take the paintings out of the shop that day, or I could leave them and sign a new agreement with the new owner. She said that if I decided to take them, that I could keep the frames that were already on them.
The new owner was a professional with a large well-known company. He bought the shop for his daughter to operate as her own business. Because my previous relationship with this shop had been positive, I decided to keep my work there. The owner told me she would be in the shop for a couple of weeks, training the new owner and his daughter. She planned on calling me during that time to introduce me to the new owner and sign a new consignment agreement.
Being preoccupied with other things at that time, I sort of put it out of my mind and waited for her call. A few weeks later, I did receive a call. The new owner and the previous owner had a huge argument over the sale of the shop, and he had kicked her out. She advised me to take my paintings out of the shop because he was proving to be untrustworthy.
So then I called the new owner and introduced myself. I could tell that he was not an easy person to deal with. He did acknowledge that I had a consignment agreement with the previous owner, but he became angry when I told him that the she had given me the frames.
After a couple of telephone conversations, he claimed that he had bought all my paintings as part of the shop inventory. I knew the previous owner would never have sold my work. This new owner was extremely rude to me on the phone. I had never even met this man and he was threatening me! I contacted an attorney for advice and was instructed to write the shop owner a letter, giving him ten days to return my paintings. I did and he never responded. So, I proceeded with a small claims lawsuit against him. The previous owner provided me with all the documentation, proving beyond a doubt that my work was not part of this sale. She also put into writing, the fact that she had given me the frames as a thank you for our past successful relationship.
In the meantime, the two parties were involved in some kind of legal dispute about the sale of this shop, which had nothing to do with me. When I appeared in court, the judge would not even look at my documents, because he did not have the details of this other pending case. So, I waited it out for a year and a half, while these two parties battled it out in court. I visited the courthouse a few times and made copies of documents to prove that my paintings should not have been involved in this dispute.
Finally, I discovered through one of the attorneys involved, that the matter had been settled. I was about to refile my case, when a co-worker asked me if I knew that the frame shop had closed. She said it was open and operating one day and the next, it was completely empty! No sign on the door - nothing.
This man had stolen my paintings, and I had to come to the realization that I will never get them back. If I had to do it over again, I would have taken my paintings out of the shop when it sold. At the very least, I should have been in that shop on the first day that the new owner took over, introducing myself and signing the proper documents.
So, I hope others will learn from my hard lesson. Sometimes, I get so excited about the prospect of sales or exposure that I forget to treat this like a business. I hope my story will help someone else realize that we, as artists, need to treat our profession just like any other business: making sure everything is in writing, being assertive, and not relying on the words or opinions of others.