Potters & Sculptors - Making Rock from Mud
I collect art. That is to say I own more art then I have space to display. I would guess some of you have purchased art as well. I don’t mean the prints or the bird houses, I mean the stuff that requires some serious thought because the price demands it. To those out there who buy art I would ask you if you have ever purchased art on line? Anything from Etsy? If you have you are a rarity. I would never buy art online unless I already knew the artist. Period. Online sales is a way for collectors (of your art) to connect to you when they have no other choice. Most collectors will drive hundreds of miles to buy in person rather then buy on line. Never forget that making art is personal, and buying art is even more so. The emotional bond is what makes it art!
Get over this obsession of online sales. If you have a gadget, gimmick or do-dad then go ahead, after all, people buy rings on the home shopping network. But if art is what you do, then get good at it.
The next big step is figuring out what you are after, do you think of yourself as an artist? Are you trying to pay any bills with your art? Why are you even doing this?. More on that later.
I understand exactly what you are saying. I could always tell when someone was going to buy one of my pots when they picked it up and "fondled" it! The sensation one gets from touch makes a huge difference!
I tried selling my handmade handbags on ETSY and it was a dismal failure! I have BEAUTIFUL handbags but I believe that people want to see, touch, feel, sense things...
Yes, I need to sell my art to survive.
Check the numbers and/or feedback for the following etsy artists/craftspeople. They are selling online in considerable quantities.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/LesperanceTile?ref=seller_info - 1613 sales, 5059 admirers
http://www.etsy.com/shop/kimwestad?ref=seller_info - 1936 sales, 14337 admirers
http://www.etsy.com/shop/chARiTyelise?ref=seller_info - 1431 sales, 5680 admirers
http://www.etsy.com/shop/JustMare - 1040 sales, 6305 admirers
http://www.etsy.com/shop/LaPellaPottery - 1087 sales, 3442 admirers
http://www.etsy.com/shop/Mudgoddess - 325 sales, 3004 admirers
http://www.etsy.com/shop/BlueFireStudio - 270 sales, 2091 admirers
http://www.etsy.com/shop/JanFairhurstPottery - 379 sales, 949 admirers
Anyone who ignores the internet capability of having high quality images of their work view-able, and/or salable 24/7/365, does so to their own detriment. As our own etsy artists will tell you, it isn't as simple as posting pictures, prices, and descriptions, and voila! The money starts rolling in. But you would be wise to consider the online approach as just one of your marketing tools. People buy art in all kinds of ways, including bidding on auctions over the telephone to an auction site half-way around the world. Face to face selling is undoubtedly more fulfilling than packing and shipping off to an unknown buyer, but sell however works for you. Your etsy site may not sell anything, but its a great way to tell someone where they can go to easily see 40 or more examples of your work, and when your next open house or art fair will be happening.
George, the numbers look good until you do the math. True, there are a few exceptions, but most of those you list sell less then 20 pieces a month on line. As for bidding at action over the phone, this only happens in extraordinary circumstances. I am not trying to ditz the internet as an outlet to sell, it does happen. You can always find that unique form that lends itself to such sales. But at this time it isn't a serious venue for someone trying to make a living with their art.
I never imagined how much I would enjoy selling. Someone would touch one of my bowls, study it. You could see the connection being made as they held it to the light. Quietly I would ask if they recognize the wood, or did they have a family member who was a wood worker? Yes? A story of a father or teacher would follow and we would smile together in understanding. Sometimes they were new to my art and I would enjoy teaching them so they could appreciate all the care I took. Art is all about the emotional connection, this is why we make it, and that is why people buy it.
Interesting post. I do try to sell on etsy and Ebay also, but my success rate is pathetically low. I can see how buying anything for big bucks, art included, it would be advantageous to do it personal and up close.
As you have said, making art is a very personal act, but I can think of many historical examples of artist who would loved to have sold their work to anyone in anyway just so they could continue to prostrate themselves before their private muse and allow their passion for creating to flow out of their life. It seems to me the emotional bond is between the artist and his creation and the collector is more of a blessed witness than a participant.
I enjoyed reading your thoughts and found them most engaging and thought provoking. It caused me to consider myself and my work in an realistic fashion and for that I say thank you. I am not an artist, I am a hobbyist trying to sell a few items in any means possible to buy more clay and glaze so I can do it; because I love doing it and it gives me joy.
The wonderful thing about etsy is that it provides an inexpensive online venue for not just new (to my work) buyers, but a way for those who have bought from me in person to continue to collect at later times without having to attend shows or visit a gallery.
While I do not have many of my art pieces listed on etsy right now (because they are set aside for shows), I have sold a decent number of those pieces online and those that bought them were thrilled to have found them on etsy. Even a bead can be considered a work of art. Not everyone who collects or would like to collect pottery is able to travel or refuses to buy without touching, I think that is being quite short sighted, and in my opinion is limiting sales by excluding the option of selling online. I welcome all opportunity, and while I am not using the money to pay bills, I could if I needed to. www.earthnelements.com my etsy shop
I see Etsy as one of the galleries on my list. It helps to supplement my income and isn't the only outlet for my work. It's just another tool. And it's a great tool for getting your work worldwide. I don't think I'd ever have had the opportunity to sell to people all over the world any other way. It also provides a great way for you to develop collectors. People buy the first and then come back again and again. Etsy has led to some pretty substantial custom work that I wouldn't have received any other way. Plus, it's been a way for local folks to connect with me. I was shocked and thrilled when I sold my first teapot on Etsy, I never imagined that people would pay for higher priced items online. It seems like a huge risk, but the reality is people are more comfortable with shopping online and with the ability to read feedback on the artist, getting a high comfort level that they're not going to get ripped off, people ARE buying. Etsy has made a name for itself and has gained some pretty respectable names, like Kristen Kieffer:
I think as artists we have to keep our minds open to new ways of getting our work out there if we want to evolve past the hobbyist.
Just my humble opinion.
WOW. That was astonishingly insulting to online ARTISTS. Art buying is no longer limited to proximity. People all over the world purchase my pieces. And return for more. And spread my work by word of mouth. New ways of being come with time. I can fall in love with a piece before I touch it. An artists SOUL shines through his/her work and it most certainly can be represented online.
As one of the artists listed in George's post, I have to say, the numbers are misleading. One sale for me can be 12 place settings of dinnerware - hardly a sale to take for granted. And 20 sales at $50 each... that's $1000 a month on top of gallery sales and show sales.
Etsy is just another venue or gallery for me. I wouldn't shun a gallery that sent me a check for $1000 each month, so why would I shun Etsy for the same or more? Just like I can't depend on one gallery alone to build a career, I can't expect Etsy or a web store alone to support my family.
I would like to interject that the online experience is very personal and honing customer service skills online can give the buyer a very personal experience and many online features mirror the in person experience.
The online version of fondling an item would be adding them as favorites in your lists. Your shipping profiles, terms of service etc can tell a lot about a seller. Timely communicating, prompt shipping, all add up to the "personal" aspect of selling online. When the item arrives, it is just icing on the cake to hear that it is even "better" in person. And in my shop I have many return customers.
Our "gimmick" is a lifetime career spent potting and marketing, and producing the finest quality wares that our skills make us capable of doing, and still being able to follow our own creative hearts.
"Get over this obsession of online sales"
For me it's more time with my family and I get to keep most of my retail. I still do some big shows, but selling online allows my work to be held by people all over the world. I recently sold a vessel to a woman in Denmark. I think that's pretty dang cool.
I say jump in and give it a try (not that you are asking). You might just like it! I started with etsy which works really well for me, tried a few duds and just added a personal website which is starting to generate sales.
Not everyone needs to take themselves so deadly seriously.
That being said, if someone asked me seriously today if they should sell their work on Etsy, I would say, probably not. It takes a heap of effort and I've had to become accomplished at so much. I would have been overwhelmed if I knew from the start what it takes. In addition, there are thousands of others competing. I find, as with most things in life it takes a lot of perseverance to do anything well and most people don't have it in them.
I'm glad I did it, when I did, however. I'm no spring chicken and lugging product around is just too hard for me now. I have had a wonderful experience selling on Etsy and I will continue to do so until, as it is with all good things, it comes to an end.
Best to all,