This is the biggest sales push of the year for artists, when the greatest monetary outlay will be made on gifts, artisanal goods and small works of art. If you are a maker, you get in on it while you can, cuz it’s a free-for-all as far as pop-up events and holiday markets go. Artists will beef-up production in the months preceding the fourth quarter, creating smaller versions of larger work for distribution at lowered price points (and quality) than they would typically make. The up side is that you can be like a sea anemone in the ocean, just putting your feelers out there and wrapping your tentacles around whatever opportunities happen by. The down-side is that your work can be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of product offered, which tends to devalue your efforts.

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Testing the saleability of 3-4″ wide brooches during the holiday buying frenzy.

Personally, I like the spirit of giving, but dislike the shameless consumerism involved. I’m kind of more about creating an experience around the gift than the object itself. How to do this when you are a maker of things? Tell a story, your story, and sell that instead. Make sure that there are broad strokes that intersect with your audience in accessible ways, don’t over-intellectualize, don’t make people guess what it’s about, tell them. If your angle is obscure, find a way to humanize it and enable the buyer to tell their own story through the piece. Then your work has the potential to become, like the Velveteen Rabbit, real.

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A few takers, but people are largely too timid to wear my wares in this state.

There are lots of ways to allow the viewer to participate in what you do, even if they don’t play a hand in physical production. I try to keep Brian Eno‘s famous quote; “Art is not an object, but a trigger for experience” as my mantra as I try to crack the code of how ‘art as experience’ applies to what I do. I know I want to use my hands to evoke forms from rough materials, I know that I want to invoke a feeling or idea through those forms, how to package and deliver on those two goals is another thing altogether.

What I’m getting at in this entry is that I don’t want to sell stocking suffers, I want to sell experiences that change perceptions, change the way we think about ourselves and how we relate to each other. That’s no small challenge and won’t be solved this year, but it’s good to keep in mind going into the season. Overly ambitious, you say? Perhaps, but a girl can have dreams, can’t she?

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

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