Monday, June 23, 2008

Marketing My Art

I've suffered a lot of disappointment lately in my efforts to market my art locally. This really doesn't come as any surprise to me, nevertheless it is a drag when so many people genuinely love your art but they don't or won't buy it. It's not that we don't have art patrons in Humboldt County, but my feeling is that they support the already-established local artists -- probably 95% of those being painters -- rather than spreading their money around more equitably to the numerous artists in the area.

For years Eureka-Arcata has been in the very top few "Best Small Art Towns in America," according to author John Villani, and that may be so for the folks visiting art towns or choosing to move to one. For artists, however, my area is fairly overrun. Don't get me wrong -- there is absolutely amazing art being made on California's North Coast. There are just too many artists here for many of us to make our living marketing to the non-artists in the area, or the relatively few art patrons (AKA local wealthy folks).

I think there might also be an element in the mix here of making art that is different from what other artists make. Without a doubt, it is the wisest thing to make your own art, do your own work. But I suspect there are a lot of buyers who'd rather buy what other people buy -- the followers of trends or hot artists -- than experience new work and support less-well-known artists.

I experienced this phenomenon A LOT when I was making and selling beaded jewelry. People loved my work -- it was unique, well crafted, evoked images from early artistic and cultural movements, was well presented, and not really overpriced. But it WASN'T precious metal, gold or silver, and most people who could afford my art preferred precious metal because everyone else was wearing it! Also, wearing my jewelry would have been a bit of a fashion risk for some women, because it was different, and few people really wanted to be different even if they said they did!

I know the economy these days isn't good, and areas like Humboldt County, being rural and heavily dependent on industries that are largely dying, can be considered to be in pretty bad shape. But I prefer to focus on the fact that there are more rich people in the world than ever before and THEY are who I want for my market anyway. Plus the fact that technology is making art more available and accessible to a younger, "still up and coming despite the economy in general" buying public.

So I'm taking my marbles and going to play elsewhere, by and large. I will still focus on local shows and exhibits, when I can set them up or when (and if) I am invited to have one. But I'm not doing Open Studios here any longer, not sending out vast numbers of expensive postcards to would-be buyers who never show up to invitational events.

I will apply to national exhibits and shows, regional or national galleries, market my website more heavily, post other textile pieces at my Etsy shop, and continue looking for new venues and opportunities to show my work to a much larger audience...the buying audience.

1 comment:

Meg in Nelson said...

You can swap the name "Eureka" in this post to "Nelson" and it'd still be true. We have too many painters, plus potters, and now jewelers coming out of the proverbial.

You also reminded me of one time when my gallery and I were trying to gauge the right price for my tiny cashmere scarves. We settled on a price that was not cheap, but considering they are handwoven and 100% cashmere, and nobody else has/had them in Nelson, she thought that was adequate. Then I happened upon this cosmetics/negligee/bag/jewelry store, and found, ON SALE, European resin jewelry. The designs were run of the mill, colors and resin just huge bold geometric shapes, 60% off, and still heaps more expensive than the cashmeres.

I thought it came around to simply what's in fashion. No, wait, those necklaces weren't even in fashion then...