Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shaken Not Stirred

This week I worked on a couple of fun commissions for friends. Nancy wanted a leaves and vine piece for her new privacy gate. Her house is so lovely and she has grown the most incredible Hostas! I was happy to design and weld some artful leaves that fit into a panel at the top as well as ornamental leaves for a gate topper. In both pieces I welded the sculptures to “L” brackets and will get wood screwed to the 2x4 

frame. She hasn’t decided if she will let the steel patina to a natural rust or next year spray it a flat black. I think both would work. Several artist friends have confided in me that they are “rethinking” their careers as artists or how they sell (or don’t) their work. Even the

 Blogs I like to read have eluded to artists rethinking their artmaking. Whitney is one such artist who is considering major changes in her artmaking by not doing wholesale any longer. The artists I spoke with on the open studio tour echoed similar sentiments. As Gallery 

commissions and material expenses increase, I admit, I have also been rethinking how I sell my art, who I sell my art to and what will my “strategy” be for next year? More shows, less shows, to wholesale or not to wholesale, metal or clay or explore even more mediums (ha!). Mixing things up a bit is a good thing to keep art fresh, or at least its good to reexamine old ways of creating. For continued sales, I like to keep my art fresh for my loyal customers and sometimes that is easier said than done. I’d like to know the recipe or formula for what inspires me or gives me that jolt or spark that can kic

k out the art! After all these years as an artist, I don’t have a recipe written down anywhere, wish I knew what it was to write down and share. Keeping the faith that the inspiration will continue to flow takes a lot of dedication to my artmaking and for me, artmaking is emotional. I can’t have the incredible ups of creating without the downs or “creative blocks.” Thankfully, I have an extremely supportive family and customer base (*good to know for #’s 6 and 10 below!). I think it’s these emotions that artists have to slog through to persevere. I have been mentally stirring things up a bit but not sure how it will all shake out which is OK for now -the Fireweed hasn't gone to seed yet.

In the July/August issue of Art Calendar on page 16 there is a great article; Art Entrepreneur:
12 Ways to Survive the Recession
By Ligaya Figueras and Kim Hall

  1. Stay positive.
  2. Manage your budget.
  3. Shop smart. (watch your expenses, especially on art supplies)
  4. Focus your marketing. (don’t panic and spend loads on new marketing initiatives that won’t work)
  5. Maintain and strengthen your brand. (your “brand” is the way people perceive you and your art)
  6. Identify your best prospects. (reexamine where your focus has been, the best prospects are usually past customers/collectors)
  7. Adjust your sales strategy. (pricing during these times is tricky, but don’t CUT prices, consider smaller pieces, or innovative ways to encourage sales)
  8. Help your gallery. (keep those on their mailing lists informed, promote yourself)
  9. Identify areas where there is a need. (offer classes, creative uses for your studio space)
  10. Think local. (I love this one. Instead of taking that expensive cross country trip for a show, seek opportunities more locally, reconsider expensive shipping)
  11. Seek alternative funding sources. (anything from grants, teaching art classes, scholarships to go back to school)
  12. Manage your time. (if your trimming your budget, better define the way you spend your time to be the most productive at all you do)
I thought these were all GREAT tips, though artist Rae Dunn is probably saying it best!


Anji Gallanos said...

These are great tips to remember from a seasoned artist! I have only been selling my jewelry for a couple years. This year was the biggest push by putting items in our local coop. The response has been great but I started to feel a panic to create more and more..which is sort of taking the fun out of it. I resolved to just do what I could do and realize there is time to step at a time.

Managing your time is huge..esp with kids, house, other involvements...I really need to wrap my brain around just studio time.

thanks for the post


cindy shake said...

Hi Anji! Thank you for the comment. I sooo agree with you! The article was so timely. When our artmaking becomes a job (which is necessary for me!) it seems there are a whole other set of "rules." What's frustrating for me is just when I think I have a great "plan" changes need to made and the big commitments such as family and kids come first and artmaking second or third or fourth... :o)

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

my BRAND....hmmmmmmmmmm....

cindy shake said...

Hi Gary- I think you have a strong "brnad." Also, you have an active Blog with a lot of people leaving good comments -maybe ask your readers/followers, that would be fun! I'd be interested to see what they say...

cindy shake said...


Linda Starr said...

What a timely post, this type of re-evaluation seems to be cropping up all over the place. What a nice addition to the gate your sculpture will be. Love the tips, if only I had a brand, but I feel I am working towards that. Maybe I'll have two or three. I recently decided to break away from school and go full speed ahead, but feel like I'm in limbo because I want to move to a more active artist community, so I've hesitated to apply for grants, reorganize space, schedule classes I would have to stop abruptly or invest in any more equipment I would have to move. We'd almost resigned ourselves we wouldn't be selling and now the market is picking up. Unfortunately for me I spend so much time taking care of this place (mostly in summer) and keeping everything spotlessly clean I have little time for what I want (or need) to do for my art, so I'm "keeping calm and carrying on" (thanks Ray) with as much as I can sanely do, waiting to sell or for fall whichever comes first. I think I might cut and paste the list though and work from it, I am sure there are things I could be doing more efficiently. Thanks for a great post.

cookingwithgas said...

here I was just reading post with the thougts of not posting any comments, but again, you give such food for thought.
Times are hard, money is tight and I plan to copy and keep these tips for my self. I may even post them near my wheel.
I do find when times are hard artist become very creative. Because- you might not be selling your usual line of work so your mind turns to things you have not tried, Maybe set in the back of your brain for later. Let those things come forward and it might take you somewhere else. It will at least keep you from being bored!
Again I love your work and wish one day to come see some of it in person.

Cynthia said...

Fantastic commission piece! Your friend is very lucky. I'm not sure I'd let it rust, or paint it black. Hard choice....

In regards to re-evaluating sales/career path, I admit, it's one of the reasons I decided to go back to school this year. I have found being an independent artist incredibly difficult and a bit frustrating - if not a bit lonely. Last year was probably my most successful one and the closest I came to creating a salary that I could live on - but still half of my former salary at UAL before I resigned.

I suppose in some ways, wise artists turn that frustration around into a positive and creative way. I was just tired and maybe not cut out (or wise enough) to be a full time artist. But, I think that's okay - it's a good thing that there are an amazing amount of talented artists out there, like yourself, who persevere so that the world is a more beautiful place. And, when I become gainfully employed post graduation in a few years, I will be an eager patron of the arts - knowing what it is like to be on the other side....

cindy shake said...

Hi Meredith & Cynthia- Thank you for the posts and kind words. Most of all thank you for READING my Blog :o) It is always affirming to know how others feel and we can learn so much from one an other when we support and share.

Linda Starr said...

Hi Cindy, I forgot to add, I recently discovered this blog with great tips for artist's, thought you might enjoy. I'm learning a lot there as well as on your blog, thanks again for a great post.

cindy shake said...

Hi Linda-
thanks for the lead! Aren't Blogs great for learning and sharing! I still think potters and clay people are the best for sharing :o)