Posts Tagged ‘Art Education’

Building Your Kits Program, Step By Step

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018
Cassie Brehmer, MacPherson’s Account Manager

liana Martinez assembles a beginning drawing kit. She is the main kit builder in our Reno distribution center, and also works to pick everyday orders.

In my time as a buyer and retail manager, before I came to MacPherson’s, a dedicated member of our retail team actively worked on building and maintaining kit business for at least five months out of every year. From reaching out to teachers and following-up, and following-up…and following-up, to picking brands and price points for professors unfamiliar with the options available, to ordering and finding appropriate replacement items, to assembling, spot checking and labeling kits, to distributing them to students and their parents unfamiliar with the uses or costs of materials…it’s tough work. With every kit success comes many (many) failed attempts at cultivating that business. Based on my experience, I have compiled a list of best practices for building and maintaining your kit business.

Your Value As An Expert

First, remember that you are a valuable resource. Your staff is knowledgeable, you have access to a breadth of materials, a familiarity with the pros and cons of different brands and a store full of inspiration and opportunity. Approach your conversations with confidence: you are an expert who can provide a professor’s students with the tools for success, not just for a semester but for their entire college careers, and after graduation as well.

Pitching The Kit

You’ve given yourself a pep talk, identified a target and you are ready to dive in. Now what?

Establish A Connection

  • In the store. If a professor is in store, have a generic completed kit handy by the register that you can pull out and show off, or have displayed behind the register. Gauge their interest and follow up right away, when their interest is piqued.
  • Reach out to every professor you can on an infrequent but consistent basis. A simple message or “friendly hello” explaining that you’d like to help them ensure their students have what they need in class can mean success down the road. Be sure to avoid busy academic times like midterms or finals while communicating.
  • On their turf. Connect with the art department chair and ask to attend an upcoming staff meeting to introduce yourself. Bring samples, goodie bags, your business card and recent sales flyer. Send a heartfelt thank you note for the invitation and follow up on a consistent yet appropriate basis. If you are unable to make a connection, consider a mailing to each professor’s physical inbox. Be careful to avoid spamming email inboxes, as a lot of university e-mail systems have a spam block in place, you can blacklist yourself without even realizing it.
    • Tip: Share our kit flyer with your professors!
    • Don’t be discouraged: Some universities have established connections and required resources to get their students supplies—this information is a gift. You can put your energy elsewhere.
  • Create your own opportunity. A professor who has never heard of your store has no reason to entrust their students to you. Consider hosting an in-store “teacher appreciation event” with goodie bags, try-it stations of the most common kit items, and even wine. Attend school fairs and create a “class-list database” in store by requesting course materials lists from local schools. Collecting class lists prior to the semester is not only a great way to ensure you are properly stocked, it will add value to students shopping with you for the first time; you already know what they need, and this knowledge allows you to provide an exact kit quote to that professor for an upcoming semester.
    • Curious about the most common kit items? We’ve compiled the top kit items coming out of our DCs on this list.

Keep The Conversation Going

  • Authentic and personalized. It is very easy to identify mass-emails—which can be a turn-off. Be sure to personalize your communications, do your homework; check for course lists and materials lists on the school’s website, remember what materials they’ve used in previous semesters or send them a “new product” list relevant to their classes.
    • Foster a sense of community throughout the year by going to, or sending your staff to, student and professor art shows at your local universities—artists supporting artists!
  • Short, sweet and to the point: make the process as easy as possible. In my experience art professors hate their email. They neglect it and sometimes ignore it completely. Providing a two- or three-step solution from expressing interest, in person or online, to ordering a kit will make everyone’s lives easier.
    • If the professor knows what courses they are teaching, tell them “All we need is your course materials list, and we’ll get back to you with a quote.” If they don’t yet have their courses set or their materials list, provide them with a generic Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, etc kit worksheet—digital or hard copy—and ask them to indicate brands or items they’d like to add or remove.
    • Send a quote with suggested replacement items to either drive up the quality or drive down the cost. Because this conversation is often COST motivated, keep your willingness to support their students’ financial needs at the forefront of this conversation.
    • Confirm the date that materials are needed by, the number of students, and provide the professor with a handout that directs their students to your store with a clearly labeled materials list complete with pricing and total cost.
      • Tip: When ordering your kits, allow yourself a week long window before classes begin to account for any last minute changes from your professor or an adjunct suddenly assigned to this course.
  • Timely. In today’s world of instant gratification, it is inappropriate to have more than 24 hours go by without a response to an inquiry. Always return a quote within 24 hours of receiving a list; no exceptions. Same goes for delivering kits. Stay in communication with the professor or department chair on any and all delays. If you have a smaller staff, consider assigning a senior staff member this task as a priority before the BTS season begins.

It is easy to get a quote of your cost and kit MSRP through the Kit Center on If you have questions on using this tool, reach out to your account manager.

Forward-Thinking Sales Strategies

  • Be cost friendly. Consider adding a blanket discount to all kit items—even 30-40% off MSRP. You may not turn a huge profit on all items in the kit, but gaining the business and getting students in your store should be a goal. There is always the opportunity for impulse buys or add-on items along with the kit purchase.
  • Expand your community. Be sure to include any relevant marketing material, upcoming sales or classes, a coupon, or a freebie into your kits—you’re creating a customer for possibly years to come, so start off on the right foot.

Questions? Reach out to your account manager, and we’ll be happy to help you come up with a gameplan.

Venerable Vintages: The Compass

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018
Catherine Monahon, MacPherson’s Copywriter

Venerable Vintages is a chance to indulge in the art supply nerd in all of us. To submit a special item connect with us at artdogblog (@)

This month’s Venerable Vintages is a collection of drawing instrument ephemera from MacPherson’s Emeryville office. The collection features a compass set beside various patented compass, divider and ruling pen designs from an Alteneder & Son’s pricing booklet published in 1871. The compass has a long interdisciplinary history, with science and art at the heart of its purpose. A tool for mathematics, architecture, engineering, geography and the arts, the compass (or “divider”) dates back to ancient civilizations3. We investigated how the compass came to be, who it was invented for and who uses it now. Art supply nerds, read on.

What Is It, Exactly?

Though the terms compass and divider are often used interchangeably, there is a difference. A compass is a hinged drafting instrument with two ends, one that comes to a point for positioning on a surface and the other that clasps onto a pencil, lead or piece of chalk to draw a precise circle or arc. A divider has two sharp points and is designed to measure distance or to score a circle/arc into a surface with one of the points2.

Origin Story

It’s likely that the compass—or a tool similar to it—was utilized by many ancient cultures; the earliest proof we have, however, is from Roman and Greek ruins2, 5.Throughout history inventors have claimed ownership of the tool; it has been through so many iterations that the notion of one sole inventor is less interesting than the capabilities of the tool itself. It has evolved over time, perfected and customized by the needs of artists and inventors like Galileo, Da Vinci and Durer. Their improvement included a knuckle-joint hinge which made the tool easier to use, and the adjustable proportional divider with a screw adjustment for large radii. Da Vinci’s additions also resulted in the concept of the interchangeable point—the clamp that allows for various media to be used to draw (graphite, chalk, etc.)2. During the second half of the 16th century, Galileo designed a tool for use in mathematical instruction in 1597 that resembles an early version of the bow compass. His iterations allowed users to do an array of things, from calculating interest, expressing square roots, calculating areas of volumes, surveying a territory, measuring gauges and architectural layouts4. The importance of customization, specialization and innovation when it comes to designing art supplies is not news to our community; neither is the knowledge that often the best innovators and inventors are the artists themselves.

Backsights, Surveyors Historical Society

The “American Pattern”

The compass, over two thousand years old, is an excellent example of how a traditional tool needs constant reworking and innovation to remain relevant. While this drawing instrument has been used for thousands of years and has been manufactured by many companies throughout Europe in the 19th century, the shadow box hanging in our Emeryville office pays homage to the contributions of Theodore Alteneder, another maker who sought to improve the drawing compass. An American machinist, draftsman and owner of Alteneder and Son’s in Philadelphia, Alteneder was the only manufacturer of drawing instruments in the states at the turn of the 20th century1, 6. He patented a new joint design in 1850, “…which made [the joint] dust-proof and free from wear and friction”1. This design became known as the “American pattern” of the instrument.

On the bottom, what drawing a circle looks like now to most people in design and architecture fields, on the top, an “old-school” drafting table

The Digital Age

For some, CAD programs and other graphic design tools have made the drawing compass obsolete. But there is no denying that for geometry students, draftspeople and designers with illustration backgrounds, the compass is still a crucial tool. Anyone putting pen to paper and in need of precise measurements and accurate scaling will need to keep a physical, real-life drawing compass on hand. As we delved into the nuts and bolts of drawing compasses we discovered a jazzy homage to old school drafting techniques. While this video doesn’t actually feature a compass, if you are more of a paper and pencil person, take a break from tech, relax and unwind to this tribute to the precise, mesmerizing discipline of drafting!

Interested in or passionate about the history of an art supply? Have a collectible item you’d like to share with us? Email us at artdogblog (@)



  1. Beeks, Dale. “Theodore Alteneder’s American-Pattern Drawing Instruments.” Backsights, Surveyors Historical Society.  Accessed November 8, 2018.
  2. Bud, R. and Warner, D. “Instruments of Science.” London: Science Museum, 1998. Accessed November 5, 2018.
  3. “Dividers & Compasses.” National Museum of American History, 2008, Accessed November 5, 2018.
  4. “Galileo’s Compass—History of an Invention.” Istituto e Museo de Storia delle Scienza. Accessed November 8, 2018.
  5. Hartenberg, Richard S. Joseph A. McGeough.”Hand Tool.” Encyclopædia Britannica, December 2015. Accessed November 5, 2018.
  6. Railway Locomotives and Cars, Volume 73 Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation, 1899. P. 405. Accessed November 8, 2018.

MacPherson’s Dealer Workshop – A GOLDEN Success!

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018
By Bill Hartman Director of Sales at Golden Artist Colors, Inc.

Thank you to MacPherson’s personnel for hosting an incredible workshop in Las Vegas. Their detailed organization and preparation led to a very valuable event. The demonstrations were interesting and informative for all. The team at GOLDEN was pleased to see so many retailers in attendance. Having such commitment and enthusiasm from our retail partners in support of all three GOLDEN brands is appreciated tremendously!

New GOLDEN Staff in Customer Service & Sales Departments

I am pleased to announce the addition of 3 new employees joining the Customer Service and Sales staff here at GOLDEN.

Taralyn Loewenguth has joined us as our new Customer Service Supervisor. Tara comes to us from Hartwick College, where she served as the Dean of Student Life and Chief Conduct Officer. Tara has an extensive background in academia, with a strong foundation of both interpersonal, training and leadership competencies matched with systems, processes and procedures.

Joining Tara in Customer Service is Megan Smith as a Customer Service Representative. Megan has been promoted from within GOLDEN where she recently served in the Label painting department of Marketing Production. Megan is currently working towards a degree at Empire State College and is due to graduate this calendar year.

We also welcome Drew Hartman as a sales representative for the Mid-Atlantic region including the states of NY, NJ, PA, MD, DE, VA and Washington, DC. Drew comes to us from the Grimstad, Comerford Group where he has served as a field merchandiser for the last 3 years supporting Blick locations in Boston, Philadelphia, and the greater Metro NYC area. Drew studied at SUNY Buffalo and has spent two summers with us at GOLDEN during his summer breaks.

Drew will be reporting to Seth Golden, as Seth will be expanding his responsibilities and developing management experience while also maintaining his current responsibilities in California, Hawaii, and Nevada.

Tara Loewenguth 800-959-6543
Megan Smith 800-959-6543
Drew Hartman 607-437-4175
Please join me in welcoming our new team members!