TITLE: Indian Art Lessons
DATE: 9/22/2004 07:33:00 PM
You know, I had a perfectly good post prepared for today but then I had to go and have a fabulous day in DC where I jotted down three pages of notes about artists and their varied approaches to business.
Why was I in DC? For the opening festivities of the new National Museum of the American Indian, which is a gorgeous new space in which the Smithsonian plans to highlight native culture. Outside was a festival atmosphere with music on the mall, lots of people waiting to enter the museum, and some absolutely fantastic native artwork. After leaving the festival area we continued to a small hotel show featuring more native artwork of even higher caliber (and higher price). Overall, I walked away with joy and sadness.
Joy came like it does anytime I'm surrounded by great things to look at, touch, and learn about. Sweet grass baskets, scrimshaw work, leather coats, silver inlay, bone and gourd carving, jewelry made from 2mm wide shells... How could you not be swayed by this?
Sadness came when I spoke to an appaling number of artists who were struggling to make ends meet, refusing to give up old conventions that an artist's life is about stuggling, and resistant to considering working models that other artists use that not only help them grow a business but thrive.
One artist asked me how they could ever sell wholesale to galleries if they barely make money now at retail.
Several more openly said they couldn't sell their work between January and April.
More artists than I could count didn't bother to display prices on their work.
Oi vey! I was overwhelmed with the desire to stand up on a rock and scream, "What in the world are you all saying? Who taught you to run your businesses like garage sales? Wake up and use the resources around you. You have beautiful work but you're killing yourselves!"
For the record...
If you aren't making money at retail, the problem can only be with one of two things: your pricing or your work.
If you can't sell between January and April, the problem lies in three possible things: in your line, in your method of marketing, or in your head.
And, if you didn't have prices on your work today you failed to make an easy sale. I was in a buying mood and you put a wall in front of my being able to quickly buy and fly.
In the coming months I will address many of the questions artists asked me today. I can't give you an arts business blueprint because there is no such thing. So, if you see the book on the shelf—don't buy it! Trust me. There are no cookie cutter plans.
I will, however, try to lay things out in the clearest terms I possibly can... adding a dose of inspiration every now and then.