Saturday, September 22, 2012

The iQuilt – smart art, or not?

I’m involved in two art and craft shows this Fall and it has set me to thinking very seriously about the whole notion of sales.  I want my art out there!  I know many people are quite happy to make work entirely for themselves, but I hate finishing a piece and then wrapping it up and putting it away in a cupboard!  It may be shallow of me, but part of the pleasure of being able to make work is the pleasure those pieces give  to other people.  While entering shows is a good substitute, it has become very expensive with shipping prices doubling and everyone requiring to and from shipping plus increasing their entry fees.  So that leaves sales, or rather the lack thereof! And there are several reasons, I think, why sales are few are far between.   

Fewer and fewer people outside the “quilt world” buy wall hangings as decoration for their homes.  I always look around whenever I’m in someone’s home and see what’s on the walls!  (be careful if you invite me in!)  and what I see these days are mainly things like giant flat screen tvs and electronic photo “albums” where the picture keeps changing. Everyone has a smart phone and an iPad, but few have original art on their walls.  $400 for the iPad or $1000 for the tv is, it seems, easily affordable but not the same amount for art.

While quiltmakers are  very good about buying art quilts (thank you!),  the supply of items is increasing exponentially every year.  There are lots more venues and websites from which one can buy excellent work.     SAQA does a very good job at promoting their auction which I know many support – but, alas, those SAQA buyers tend to use up their “art collection” budget for the year on their purchases.

There is also much less institutional support for art and what is bought is the very slick “designer” art that doesn’t challenge the public too much.  Our local community has just voted $10,000 to obtain such a piece for a local facility.  Brightly colored plastic panels.   The “mark of the hand” that we, as art quilters, all love is not “in fashion”.  Offices and institutions that used to buy “real” art no longer do so, every penny is necessary for survival or profit.  A commission I looked into required one spend almost one’s whole remuneration on insurance!

Retired folk are moving into smaller houses and condos – less room for art and they already have enough!  In fact many are looking to get rid of things rather than accumulate more.   Young people have it very hard these days and most are struggling to pay 0ff college debt and/or update their smart phones! 

While certainly as  artists our main goals are to improve our art, it is lovely to see one’s creations happily sailing away into the sunset!  Hmm, now there’s a thought…it has been tried:

Or maybe  I could attach an “i”  and things might improve?. 

Or perhaps I should  rethink my marketing campaign?

bathtubs What d’you think?


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Pop-Up Art Gallery

Have you heard about pop-up shops?  Shops that just appear in an empty space overnight, exist two or three days and then disappear?   Well, a couple of  friends and I thought it would be a lot of fun to organize our very own Pop-Up Art Gallery!  Instead of paying entry fees and standing an (often high) chance of being rejected, why not step over to the other side of the fence and do the whole thing ourselves?

So, first, we rented an empty space, then sat down and thought about all the good art and craft we had seen around town in the last year or so and came up with a list of amazing artists and craftspeople we knew.   Then we emailed, or phoned, or sent a small boy with a note in a cleft stick (some artists are primitive!) to ask if they would be interested.

And some were delighted to be asked, others a little suspicious – ? as the kids say - “go figure”!!   Some obviously felt that they were coming down a bit to our level, others were leaping up…but it has been so much fun!  Makes me realise just how much power the Galleries actually have – getting chosen by a gallery is a pretty big deal for most of us.  In fact, though, I think we were more thrilled when people accepted us, than when we have ourselves been accepted to a show!

So when is it?  It’s the first weekend after Thanksgiving: Nov 30-DEc 2…but I’ll write more nearer the time and give directions and names and so on.  

Organizing a show like this has lead to several questions coming up? We know publicity is important…but what kind of publicity really works?  One-off advertisements in newspapers and on the radio really seem to have little impact.  The impression is that people choose what is familiar and what is personal.  If they’ve never heard of you before and there’s this one tiny little notice in a newspaper – with all those millions of other notices – who is going to race across town to see that?  Especially at $4 a gallon!  We’re going to reach out much more personally: friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, acquaintances and neighbours – people who already know our names.  We’re going to ask all the artists to write personal notes to their friends, hand out postcards to people they meet, and put up fliers in their own neighbourhood watering holes.  Also in doing so we can keep our overheads really low.  Spending money on advertising these days has reached such obscene levels that the little guy with one ad simply can’t compete.

A question of pricing came up with the first artists we talked to – they’re used to selling through shops who charge a commission and have little sense of what their work is really worth.  This is especially true of craft people who get their materials cheaply (from garage sales, or thrift stores, junk etc) and who don’t really value their time.  It’s going to be difficult getting them to put an appropriate price on their pieces.

But also – as gallery owners! – we must look at it from the buyer’s point of view: if you can get a painting from a discount store, framed, for $50, why should you pay $50 for an unframed watercolor?  (even if it is an original).  We have to be realistic and find the price point that is high enough to indicate the real value and quality of original work but at the same time be low enough that people can afford it and know how to advise our stable (however temporary!) of artists.

Has any of you ever organized anything like this?  If so, I’d love to have any suggestions you might have to offer…and I do hope y’all come to the show!! More information at the end of November!! 

Next week I’m teaching “Working in Series” in Portland Oregon – having never been to Oregon I’m excited to see a new state.  I hear the group has some dauntingly wonderful artists in it, so I’m hoping I have one or two new ideas for them!!   

If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth (part owner of the Athens Pop Up Art Gallery!)