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President's Corner

Is Art Any Of Your Business?

None of us really like to think about the word “business” when talking about our art.  After all, we got into our art because it fulfills a basic need for passion, expression, creativity, and freedom.  Add to that the myth of the “starving artist” and it just feels somehow wrong to attach “business” to it.

 Many artists (particularly emerging artists and those doing art in addition to a full time job) feel that spending energy on business decisions makes them less creative or a “sell out” and takes them away from what they want to be doing.  Determining things like pricing, which pieces to give priority to, what markets to address, and similar activities can feel constraining and artificial when you are in that wonderful Jackson Pollock “throw the paint around” frame of mind.

 In reality, though, whether you approach your art as a hobby or as a full-time lifestyle, there are ways to build business-y things into your work without feeling constrained or artificial.  The keys are to find the joy in every aspect of what you do and to not view business as separate or antagonistic to inspiration and artistry.  Here are a couple of easy examples:

  • You know those customers who just “light up” when they see your work?  That’s your target demographic.  Spend a little time chatting with them at your next show about some ideas you might have (or that THEY might have) for new pieces.  Find out whether they saw your ad in a local publication or how they found you.  Find out what you can about them: what they read or watch and where they go for fun.  That’s pure-gold market research and it can be fun and amazingly energizing. 
  • Just for kicks, line up ALL of your on-hand inventory, in stacks grouped by price, and take a picture of the whole mess.  Where is your biggest stack?  Your smallest?  Where are your oldest pieces… and your youngest?  Does that balance feel right to you?  Think about where you are putting your time – is it in the stack that results in things that sit for a really loooooong time?  Or in the items that you just can’t make enough of because they sell so fast?  And are there items that you truly can’t stand making any more, but that sell really well for you?  Are there entire stacks that you just don’t love any more?

 It is vital to make things that sell well.  After all, selling our work helps fund our addiction for making it, right?  But if we spend a ton of energy making and selling items that we don’t really like, just because they sell well, it can sap the joy out of the act of making.  It can also cause us to avoid making other items that might sell just as well.  Likewise, spending too much time making “passion-pieces” that only sell infrequently builds up frustration and can even cause doubt and despair...  Also makes for a bit of a cash crunch, and that’s not fun.

 As in anything worthwhile, success in art – no matter how you define success -- is all about finding balance.  And like any balance, it’s impossible unless we can clearly see what we’re standing on and the world around it.   So take a few minutes to survey your world and your art.  Reconnect with the joy that brought you to it.  Then stride confidently forward and make those little balance adjustments that will keep you going along happily and steadily! 












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