This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. Luann also writes a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...."
You, too, can deeply connect people to your art.
In my last Fine Art Views article from April 7, 2016, “The Biggest Question of Them All”, I talked about how to uncover what the true ‘objection’ is to a prospective customer who wants your work. In response, one reader said:
“As I read the article I was struck by how your questions to people (and trying to figure out what their objections may be) really reflect a deeply sensitive way of viewing things. Particularly the bit about how we feel about our bodies and why we choose to wear certain things. My working theory so far has to do with the work that you make. It’s so personal to begin with and carries quite a bit of meaning with it already. I suspect you are automatically set up from the get go with a deeper (and different) way of needing to connect to buyers. (And I am not suggesting that a different media such as a beautiful and traditional painting isn’t deep but only that it perhaps needs another type of connection.) Hope this makes a little sense!”
YES, the comment makes perfect sense! BUT -
Recognize that this push-back (“Great idea, but it won’t work for me!”) is a natural reaction to being introduced to a different way of doing things.
We immediately believe the strategy is unique to the presenter, that it can’t be transferred to our situation. (I’ve done it, we’ve all done it, you may be doing it right now!)
BUT though not all of my solutions and thoughts will relate to your unique situation, there are always interesting parallels you can explore, experiment with, and eventually apply to yours.
And so YES, jewelry can be an ‘easier’ sell - BUT not always. Let’s explore some the pushback claiming my work is ‘too different’ to mine for ideas:
BUT 2D artists have these options, too. Cards and prints (lower price points), smaller work, unframed work, older work.
Conversely, jewelers who work with gold and precious gems certainly have a higher overhead than most 2D artists (not just materials, but overhead and insurance.) And yet many have built a thriving audience for their work.
BUT If you think YOUR chosen medium has lots of competition, let me tell you: In my world, jewelry is the single most competitive category, in stores, at fairs, and online. My aesthetic, and my work, actually appeal to a much smaller audience than most other jewelers. (I’m not even gonna go there with my 2D work and 3D work! Its audience is EVEN SMALLER.)
Comfort level: YES, People may feel more at ease buying home décor, decorative objects, and jewelry rather than art.
BUT 2D artists can create a comfort level, too. Painting/drawing, throughout history and our culture, is a readily-accepted and popular way to decorate and personalize our spaces, both personal and professional, public and private. When you say “art”, 2D work is the near-automatic response. It’s what we all think of as ‘real art’. Your reputation precedes you!
AND, one of our roles, as artists, is to advocate for the power that art has in our lives, over mass-produced tchotchkes and mass-produced reproductions. To stress why real art is important, especially with new collectors. To share how timeless it is, not only through our history, but is long-lasting appeal. Much more cost effective than that popular little whatzit that will be off-trend in a few years. How it speaks to us on a deeper level, how integral it is to our human nature, because it speaks to us in a way that actually bypasses our ‘thinking brain’, going directly to the ‘feeling brain’—just like music, like dance, like stories and books and movies, and other creative acts.
Connection: YES, how I make my work, how I display my work, how I interact with potential customers, etc. is very personal.
BUT 2D artists also have that potential for connection. Your potential customer will pre-select themselves for connection to YOUR work, too. It starts with initial attraction: They see something they like and come into your booth. If you are at an opening reception, or your work is in a gallery, they gazed at YOUR work longer than anyone else’s. That’s an opening, a place for you to start that conversation.
AND though I’ve worked hard to create powerful emotional connections between my work and my audience, it wasn’t always that way, it wasn’t easy, and it took time.
I have almost two more articles included here, on how to connect, and how not to DISCONNECT. (I see it all the time.) But I’ll save those for now.
In the meantime, let’s assume the world is a big place, and there’s a big enough audience for ALL of us:
Will you share some of the connecting strategies that have worked for YOU?