selling art

Since July 8th, I have sold a handful of small works on etsy.  The majority are blog readers, (many of whom are friends now) some new ~ some old.  Some are 'collectors' of mine while others are newbies.  A few sales were to complete strangers, one was a purchase through an amazon wedding registry that was linked to my etsy shop and the other a man in Dallas of all places who went to etsy looking specifically for metal vases for his wife's birthday.  He found my work by using the keywords ' metal vases' on Etsy.  I have to say that thrills me. Etsy once again comes through in ways I hadn't expected.  He saw those yellow tube vases of mine and got the last set.  By the way etsy has a new feature whereby you can get a 'tag report' on your shops' items, I find it useful.

I've also sold a clock on my auction that was destined for dismantling with another auction going on in the post below; I plan on auctioning one more clock that I feel I need to find a home for and after that I might start doing an auction once a month on pieces I feel I've had long enough. In giving this a lot of thought I realize that for me, at this point in my life and art career it behooves me to do whatever it takes to sell art and move it.  I am not one of those artists who cannot let go of something, while my work means much to me, I have no desire to keep it.  I make it and want it to find a home. That doesn't mean I can afford to make art and just give it all away.  To me, that does not feel healthy.  Sometimes I have been known to give something to someone but for the most part, giving away art feels like working a 40 hour week for your boss and saying 'thats okay you don't have to pay me'.  Art is a job and we all know it. If you can't make it at some  point you have to give up and move on. [even if i didn't need the income i think i would feel this way, i just dont want i piling up!]  I was making it and I believe I can make it again.  This is how I want to make my living and it is also how I keep the creative juices flowing.  I get blocked up when everything starts to pile up on itself.  Now that my living and art situation has changed I no longer feel [at least right now] that I should be holding on to work for some 'future show' or gallery representation.  I think once the last two pieces in Vermont sell (god forbid they dont as I dont even have the extra to have it shipped back) it's safe to say I probably wont be exhibiting there again.  They loved my photo mixed media pieces but weren't so keen on puzzle works ~though they sold when they exhibited there, nor my furniture or smaller functional work. 

This week I also contacted a woman I barely know who bought art from me here in Huntsville and informed her of my inventory overload and let her know I have a piece that I believe she will like and I would love to bring it by for her to keep in her home should she want to live with it awhile and decide if she likes it.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little unsure and nervous about emailing her with this suggestion and I'd be lying if I didn't feel relief when she wrote back saying she was very pleased to hear from me and loved that I am an artist who wants to share my art with her.  She was intrigued by the attached photos I included in the email and she wants to see the piece in person.  This is good. I feel encouraged to keep making my work available and not be as stuck on price.  What is most important is surviving right now.  I don't see myself selling out and selling everything for peanuts.  I'm not sure what I will do with those larger works that really are, to me, worth the $1 - $2000 I'm asking.  Keeping in mind in the 'real art world' anything under 5K is still a joke.  All of this stuff fucks with my head and I have to keep adapting to new situations as they appear.

So.  I made enough money with these 'little things' to pay for rent. The little shits I used to call them.  I don't anymore.  Those little things have been my bread and butter and I feel that a $20 piece on Etsy is just as worthy as not.  Sell five of them and thats 1/4 of my rent.  I make money but more importantly I move product.  Art is like a product.  It is inventory.  It sits there and doesn't go anywhere unless you find a way to get it going.  I cannot tell you how much better I feel this week as compared to last week.  I was certain I was done with the whole art world.  Really, it's sometimes too much.  When day in and day out you live and breathe art and nothing is happening it is enough to create a thunderous desperation.  Having just 5+ years of selling and making art I know things come in cycles.  I know that.  But this has been the driest season yet in terms of selling art and since I am still determined to make it as an artist, THAT is not acceptable.  Supplementing my income with little shit jobs at min. wage give or take, is not something I want to do but I am.  And even then I'm not making it.  I throw myself into art whole heartedly and taking time to do things that drain me and piss me off dont bode well but I'm doing it because I feel I have to and have no other choices or options.  That in turn leads to hopelessness and lots of anger.  There is a lot to sort out about doing whatever it takes to take care of yourself vs losing your sanity and soul to work that leaves you so empty you cannot create even a pile of crap.

Hence the breakdown last week.  And the auction of that clock for .99.  It felt good to just decide to do something.  We cannot control anything.  Ever.  Sometimes you think you can, sometimes like a lab rat, you hit the bar and something you like happens so you hit it again and if it happens again you start to think THAT WORKS.  Well, it might not keep working then what are you going to do to feel good?  What if my next auction no one bids.  What if I stop selling the little things, will I blame myself for doing something wrong as if I can control anything?

Honestly the fear about making it has so many layers it's crazy.  There is actually a fear of  people thinking you are OKAY.  While I do not want to manipulate anyone or make anyone feel guilty or sad or sorry for me because I'm basically penniless right now, I can't help but worry sometimes that people are only buying to help out. What if I seem to be okay for the moment, what about next month?  And the month after that?  Are people really buying because they want it or feel bad? Then you can get all weird because who are you to decide what someone does with their money?  Who am I to decide who and why someone should buy my art.  Guess I have a lot of learning and growth to do about this.  I've had some big discussions on this topic with my mentor.  It's a tricky thing.  What if you are doing great?  Why does that scare me almost as much?  I wonder about truly successful artists...do they have more fear and anxiety about having to keep up with it all?  As it is I have shared with you all my concern about inundating the blog or facebook or twitter with little 'just posted on etsy' or just made this and buy this and look at that.  I dont want to foist myself onto anyone.  Yet I want to get it out there. It takes a certain amount of courage and fortitude just to do what little I do to 'get my work out there' right now.  I get it why many artists who can just hole up and never really push to sell their art.  It isn't always comfortable and it is usually very time consuming and not what many would choose to do if they had a choice. I have to admit that lately I have been enjoying meeting so many people, I have enjoyed this PUSH I'm making, granted it is online, but it has fed my soul as much as the selling.  At least I am getting out there and getting feedback.  People on etsy in other countries write to me and they assume I am doing very well here.  Thats good to hear.  That I can find an appreciative audience for my rusty crusty self taught work is priceless.  Unfortunately my work is expensive to ship across the ocean.  Even a 3 lb little pipe vase is too much for many.

So. Thats what is going on.  If you go to my facebook fan page you will see the latest photos of my studio space.  It is ridiculous.  I'm still clogged with too much stuff.  Nothing in that space is even ready to sell art.  It is supplies for MORE art that I've yet to make.  Which is why I imploded....running dry in the bank, having no space to think or work let alone a place to store new art drove me mad.

At least now, having sold 11 things in as many days, I feel like I can begin to work on more 'little things'.  To feel motivated and excited again to work is what keeps me alive and sane.  Now all I need to do is keep working on how I can have more constant flow instead of letting things get so desperate.  It feels like Christmas in July with all these sales.  It was last Christmas I sold so much online.  And just in time, Etsy is having a Christmas in July sale from July 15th through the 25th.  I will probably participate in some way, be it more discounts on mixed media pieces or free shipping on others.  Keep in mind I try to be as fair as I can when it comes to recognizing so and so just bought something at this price and I can't suddenly charge this much less.  I try hard to find items that are unique enough that no one is going to be looking at me with their mouth open saying WTF I just bought that for full price and full shipping.  Believe me, I don't want to screw anyone.  and if you are still reading this longest of long post....mention that and I will give you a discount just for wasting so much time. (just kidding)

So thank you.  For whatever reason you felt compelled to buy art in the last week, know that you have been a blessing to me and not just monetarily.  I really appreciate that you are there, that you dig what I do enough to buy it...that many of you stay in touch with me outside of this blog and are sources of inspiration and growth.  Starting a blog still has been the best decision I've made since becoming an artist.  It is how I am able to share who I am and meet others who have similar passions and experiences.  Those few of you who pop out of the woodwork after months or years of following my blog as well as my faithful followers are what keep me going. ♥


Anonymous said...

I hear you loud and clear. I could have written those words- maybe common feelings amoung artists? Yes, it is a struggle but we will survive (and prosper?!) If we lose faith, we lose everything. Soldier on.

Kendra Zvonik said...

Awesome post, Paula! Like Don above- I could have written so many of those same words and I understand so fully and completely what you are talking about! Thanks for expressing all of it... even the anger. Sometimes I am so pissed off by all the frustrations of selling/not selling my art! It is such a huge comfort to me to know you and also to see you take the bull by the horns and get a little of what you need when you need it! Hell yeah!
What is REALLY inspiring is how honest you are with us, your fortunate readers. You are brave in your willingness to share the pains of artmaking/selling. I swear I just had this whole conversation with my husband earlier today and am coming to so many of the same conclusions. But, it's so wonderful that you generated some sales and that you feel encouraged again after feeling so down. You deserve to make a real living from your work and giving it away is def. not an option! Just like you said, art is a job and you deserve to get paid! Congrats on getting paid this week. We will worry about next week, next week. Until then, keep the faith sister! xo kz

paula said...

i like knowing you get it don...soldier on indeed. or throw yourself in the line of fire and be done with it.

kendra. see. you are the perfect example of the blog being so important. just like that i meet you and we click and i get to be part of your world and be happy for you too with your huge new happening. kindred spirits so many of us and you were the brave one to just out of the blue leave a kick ass comment a few weeks ago. i feel like i've known you forever. you get it. you get me and that is very nutritious . thanks for your comment on this one..you REALLY READ ALL THAT CRAP???? ;)

Michelle said...

I adore your as you call it,
small works!
Love the way they are raw and sometimes like rough in combination for example with natural Flowers are exact the combination I love so much,
rawness with the Beauty of Life,
congrats on those Sales Paula!!!

Kim Hambric said...

Make it. Sell it. Don't let anyone tell you that's not how "real" artist do it. It's what is working for you right now so keep on.

Who are those successful artists of which you speak? Those who work 14 or 16 hour days on their art and marketing. They are probably making a living. Are you talking about those big names who are in the art magazines and whose work is sold through Sotheby's? Perhaps they work hard or perhaps they just know the right rich people and those with marketing connections. Those folks are rare. And, no doubt, insufferable.

I'm thinking you are becoming quite brave and knowledgeable about marketing your work.

ArtPropelled said...

Speaking out about the difficulties we artists have to face is indeed courageous. You do what you have to do to continue making and selling art and if making bread and butter lines keeps the cash flowing then that's what we do until the right gallery pounces on the big pieces. As Kim commented, you are becoming quite knowledgeable about promoting yourself and I really admire that.

paula said...

yeah you are probably right kim. i still feel like i know little to nothing but when i stop and think about it i guess i have learned something even if i dont know specifically what that is.

its good to hear you (kim and robyn) get it too about doing what you have to do. talk about standing on the fence, you learn what you should do and shouldn't do in the art world and then you just have to adapt to whatever and wherever your situation has you be.

thanks for commenting, as usual it helps me.

Ellen said...

i'm so happy you've gotten this much needed boost with sales lately. Your small pieces are great. I don't think you have anything to justify. There is nothing wrong with selling affordable smaller pieces. It's realistic. You still have larger more expensive pieces available. I think it's sad to see an artist who overvalues their work, and sells nothing ever because their too egotistical and too stubborn to realize the world doesn't works that way. Your a good example of not living that way, you're busting your ass to get yourself out there and that's what starts things moving forward. Small things lead to bigger things. Do what you have to do.