Thank you to everyone who commented on my post about consignments. I received some great feedback at Facebook and some insightful emails, too. This is apparently an area that needs some attention.
I promised Beth Wheeling I would look at the Small Business Administration website to see if any tips or seminars are available for artists who might be contemplating putting their art on consignment in brick and mortar galleries or gift shops, and post my findings here.
I spent an hour on the website and didn't find much. I had to resort to looking for tips for freelancers, since there wasn't anything in the search engine for "consignment agreement," but still didn't find anything really helpful.
I also looked at South Carolina's Secretary of State's website and the SC Consumer Affairs website, and didn't find anything. I actually found the most helpful information at at about.com. I should have thought of them first!
Here is a list of several helpful articles on consigning jewelry. Here is a jewelry consignment checklist put together by Rena Klingenberg for about.com. These articles are copyrighted, so I won't cut and paste any of the info here without permission. Here is a link to a sample Consignment Agreement that I liked, which was created by Charles Lewton-Brain for about.com. He also holds the copyright, but does state in the article the template is for information purposes only but may be used.
As with any contract, depending on who prepares it, a consignment agreement may be slanted in favor of one party or the other, so you might want to consult an attorney in your area if you are serious about shopping your art to consignment venues. He or she can prepare one that you could take with you to potential consignment shops and whip out if the opportunity presents itself.
At any rate, the above-referenced links will hopefully educate you a little about the process, and give you an idea of what a basic agreement should include.
If they have nothing to hide, reputable shop owners should also allow you to talk to other artists who have things on consignment with them so you can find out how they have been treated.
Thanks again for your feedback. I hope this helps!