Thursday, May 28, 2015

Everyone has an answer, but is the answer right for you?

Me and Hubs 5/21/15

Since graduation (last Thursday--unbelievable!), I've been thinking more about what artists need to market themselves successfully. Over the past 7 days, I've received three separate emails, tweets, and Facebook updates from art marketers who specialize in selling their services. I won't pay for someone's advice, no matter how many testimonials they have from their successful clients or what their reputation is. Why? Because that looks like snake oil to me. We all have a hard time figuring out how to live as an artist and everyone is going to go about it differently. There is no magic bullet and as an artist, you don't have the extra money to give to someone who is trying to do THE SAME THING.

So why do I care? Because in all of the 14 years I spent in the professional artist community here in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area of NC, I never met an artist who was 1) lazy or 2) dumb. Contrast that with the 10 years I spent in a corporate job where I met both types of people frequently. I totally respect the effort and talent of my friends and associates, and it is my most sincere hope that you all make a living doing the work that means so much to you.

Now that I know what I want to do, the question that I have been struggling with is "How?" I wanted to pick through this in a linear, point-by-point way, but I don't think that is possible. What I'm going to do is to take different topics, business models and marketing ideas (putting that master's degree to use!), sift through them and offer ways for artists to use them. And I will strive to make sure that the resources are free or low cost. I would be so happy if any and all who take the time to follow along would leave comments and start open conversations about your own experiences. I think we all have something to offer.

For this post, I'm going to share a blog post that I read just the other day. It's a perspective from Melissa Bergstom and her experiences as a theater professional who also has a "day" job (Creative Contingencies: Making Peace with my Day Job(s)). This should be VERY familiar to us all. When I was first getting started, a seasoned artist told me that there is no one way to make money with your work--it's a combination of efforts and everyone finds what works for them. So I did commissions, tried a co-op, got a grant, applied for public art projects, taught, did shows, worked with galleries and shops, had work published in multiple publications, was on several television programs, and I still had the "day" job. I found myself getting older and more tired, hitting my head against a ceiling that I just couldn't break though. Every success held the promise of "making it," but didn't quite deliver.

That's when I went back to school, but I know not everyone can or even should go back to school. I plan to continue to create art--it's part of who I am. Taking the stress of having to make the art pay the bills will be a relief, though.

One resource I want to make sure everyone knows about and uses is the NC Arts Council's Artists Opportunities webpage. It lists sources for writers, visual artists, musicians, theater/actors, multimedia artists and crafts. It is updated regularly and you can sign up for email updates--and it's free.

I'm turning the conversation to you now. How do you feel about managing your career and the realities of making money? What works? What doesn't?

May all of your scores run true!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Goodbye? No! Hello!

Heart for Barbara, by Paula MacLeod

I created The Score on February 6 of this year. It was a requirement for a class I took this semester called Social Media and SEO Optimization. I chose the topic, and over the past several months, I have grown more and more interested in exploring different subjects for the blog and excited about tracking traffic to my blog.  So I've decided that even though it is not "necessary" to continue The Score and my professor won't be critiquing my posts, I am going to keep blogging here.

That said, I will diverge a little off of the topic of art glass and widen the topic to the business of art. This is something that I feel like every artist struggles with because, well, we want to make art and selling it is hard. I picked the Interactive Media Master's of Art program because I needed a skill set update for the workplace, but I also had a agenda to learn as much as I can about marketing to bring support back to the artists and community that I love.

I see a very complex market that in some ways works against the independent artist. I try not to be too negative, but with cheap, attractive manufactured "art" in Home Goods and Target, how can an artist, who has honed their skills over years and at their own expense, compete? I am going to find out.

So I'm going to start off on a side project/mission to sell art. Not mine. Yours.

Follow me.

May all of your scores run true!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Money Saving Framing Ideas

Face it. Framing is expensive. REALLY expensive. But there are ways to get a good looking framed finish without breaking the bank. For this post, I'm going to focus on a three different approaches.

Me, with a piece that I framed with a re-used frame.

First, it pays to scour second-hand and thrift stores, as well as yard sales and flea markets. You'll find both empty frames and framed work. Depending on what you want to frame, you will be evaluating the usefulness of a frame. You want to make sure that it is sturdy first. Some frames have been beat up and the dove tails in the corners may be loose. Check the surface for scratches and dings. Then check the hanging wire (if there is any) on the back. It's easy to replace hanging wire, so that's not a problem. Whatever your purpose, you'll want to be sure that the frame is the right weight and has the correct inside edge measurement. For instance, if you have a print that you will be using with a double mat and glass, you'll want to make sure that it will all fit inside the edge of the frame. If the frame has glass but you don't need it, keep it. You may want it later. If it doesn't and you want glass, you can get glass cut at a frame shop or glass supplier. If you don't have mat cutting tools, most frame shops will custom cut mat board.

Here's a really good step-by-step tutorial of re-using a frame by Emil Evans.

Frame kits are also a good way to save on framing. They are very customizable (lots of options of materials, colors, and sizes), sturdy and easy to use. The best products are carried by art supply companies like Jerry's Artarama, Cheap Joe's, or Dick Blick. All of these suppliers carry good quality frame kits. You order them by the pair (buy two pairs, length and width), and they come in a wide variety of sizes.

I found a way to create my own frames for working on plywood. Wall-hanging mosaic art work needs a sturdy "canvas," such as plywood. It is possible to have a plywood surface framed, but a really cheap and attractive alternative is to create you own with screen or decorative molding. All you need is the molding, a miter box and saw, heavy-duty adhesive (E6000, LocTite, or the like), sandpaper, and clamps.

My work, "Prayer" with decorative molding frame

I start by measuring the length of molding for each side and marking where the miter cut should be. Miter boxes are marked with angle cuts in both directions and also straight cuts. I clamp the miter box to a sturdy table, line up the cut, and saw through. I like to match the corners as I go to make sure the cuts line up, and I sand the cut edge after each cut so the edges are smooth. Once all four lengths are cut, I apply a line of adhesive on each length one at a time and put the pieces in place. After everything is in place, I clamp each side and leave it over night. The next day I just sand any areas that need touch ups and paint or stain.

The variety of decorative molding offers lots of possibilities to get creative, so don't feel like you HAVE to use a frame shop and pay big bucks for nice framing!

May all of your scores run true!