I remember when I first began to consider selling my art. There were a few factors that led to this decision. I wanted to be recognized for the work that I had accomplished, I wanted other folks to like it enough to put it in their homes, and hey, I could use some extra cash! That began a thought process that has taken me on an interesting journey. I’m going to talk about these in some order, though the process was anything but orderly!
First there were practical considerations. Where would I sell the art? Who would want to display it? Where did my art “fit”? How much should I ask for each piece? How much would I actually make and how many of those dollars would I have to share with the venue? How would I get the word out? How much time will this take? How do I balance art making and marketing my work — not to mention the other aspects of life?
Second, there were the emotions. Was I confident that people would like my art enough to buy it? How would I measure up to more experienced artists? How would I feel about rejection? How far will this go–could I possibly make a living making my art?
Third, there was the resistance to actually parting with my work. Related to the emotional aspects of deciding to sell my art, I called the resistance “this hump I have to get over”. These were my precious creations, and like babies growing up and going off to foreign lands, I knew I’d never see most of them ever again! I know this is not unique to me.
Here’s a bit of background. For about 20 years I was a costumer and a costume designer, so I had almost always used my creativity for something that I didn’t keep in my possession. The costumes stayed with the theater, put into storage after the run of a show was over. But these pieces I was now contemplating selling were things that I made without someone else’s direction, not theater collaborations. I had not made them with the idea that they would become “products”, in fact, by it’s very nature this work is much more personal to me. It speaks of my thoughts, humor and ideas. So on the one hand I was used to letting go of my work, and on the other, this new non-theater work, the paintings, collages and assemblages were all made solely from my own creativity.
To be honest though, after awhile I didn’t have enough room for it all!
The first thing I had to find was the willingness to part with the art. So how did I get over “this hump I have to get over”? For me it was a conscious decision to let go of the art. That sounds simple, and it really was like crossing over an emotional bridge. It was a shift in my thinking about art as a precious thing to keep close to myself as opposed to a product to sell. (Truth is, it’s actually something in between.)
I also had to find the confidence to put myself out there in the public eye. Sometimes a lack of confidence will creep in, but overall, I LIKE my art, and others seemed to like it as well. It really takes both for success in selling art. And the good news is, one can find acceptance even in tiny niche markets. My and your art don’t have to be universally liked to succeed, it just needs to appeal to enough folks so that the effort of selling the art one makes is a sensible proposition.
In addition, focusing on the practicalities of getting ready to sell my art helped to allay the fears and resistance that I had. Taking action helps! So does inviting company along for the journey. In order to boost my own confidence, I applied to my first show with two other local Seattle area artists, Maggie Yowell and Amy Peacock. I studied up on what needed to be included in an application, we all set up a day with a friend to shoot professional photos of our work, labeled everything, and together we put together a proposal. Submitted with slides and cover sheets and clever artistic packaging for the submission, that carefully worked out application got us the group show, though it was scheduled for 1.5 years into the future. I wasn’t going to wait around, so I submitted applications in several other places. Many were even accepted.
It may be cliche’ but it’s true: success breeds success.
My first art show was actually a solo exhibit, way before the group show, and I lucked out. I entered and was accepted into the Greenwood ArtWalk, and placed into a dress shop that was about to close permanently, Moki Dugway. The proprietors were extremely welcoming, and allowed my work to stay up all month. As their inventory dwindled, so did mine. I had decided that as a beginner exhibiting artist, I should price my art reasonably. I really wanted folks to take it home. And take it home they did.
By this time I was hooked and the issues I listed at the start of this article were nearly all moot points. This decision to sell my art launched a highly creative time in my life. I’ve since learned so much about marketing my art that I’d like to share with you. There are lots of practical things I can share, and there are things I’d love to talk over as well. I’m far from expert on the art process–I’m definitely still learning so so much!
To close off this post I’d like to share one more thing. One of my fears was that I’d be selling out in order to sell my art. But I found as time went on and I spent time talking with people that took my work home, this is far from true. It surprised me to discover that people sort of fall in love with the art they choose to take home which is a charming and humbling side benefit to sharing my art in public this way. Relationships like these are unique to artists and artisans. I get to make personal connections in a way that most people don’t.
We’ll be talkin’.