While I’m exploring my own voice and materials in the studio, I’m also supplementing my income through freelancing and side jobs (no, I’m not above material security). What I’ve got going at the moment is a triumvirate of semi-regular employment between a retail art gallery, assembling work for a wholesaler of fine Scandinavian handicrafts, and an e-commerce business that works with artists to produce memorial products. Sounds like a lot of unrelated hoo-ha, right? Not to me!
On a brooch kick – though nobody seems to wear them anymore.
What I see are the three most commonly used sales channels for artists and crafters, and a lot to learn. Retail gallery representation is highly sought-after, highly competitive, and has a lot of overhead, but provides invaluable local exposure, street-cred and a community of artists, art-collectors and art-enthusiasts to draw from. Wholesaling is seemingly where everyone wants to make it to, with national exposure, producing large orders and attending trade-shows and conferences as part of a larger art-business schema. It comes with a higher profile and ‘you’ve arrived’ kind of status, right?
But it’s the e-commerce that seems to be eclipsing both of the above, with the advent of Etsy, Shopify and readily-accessible web-editing tools for the layperson. The internet has given us access to so much information about what’s out there that our tastes have been made more specific to a new order of magnitude that we couldn’t have dreampt of previously. I don’t need to rely on a local retailer or catalog to show me what I want, I can spend as much time as I please researching my options and every conceivable variation on Pinterest, connecting me to a universe of things I never knew I could lust after.
Forms based on the shape of plankton in Earnst Haeckel’s ‘Art Forms in Nature‘.
All of these sales channels appear necessary to flesh-out the business of bringing art to market. It seems that, as an emerging artist, you can’t afford to overlook any of them, because buyers are so sophisticated and competition with automated manufacturing methods so intense, that every available option must be tapped to make the business fly. That’s a lot of expertise to gain! A lot of frustration to overcome, and nuance to pick up on for not a lot of income. That’s why we can’t do it for profit alone, it has to be rooted in some other motivating force, because the money alone isn’t worth it, but the glory sure is!