27 February 2009

Money Talk


There's been a discussion on the Baren Forum recently about money, selling work, what people buy and whether or not it's possible to earn a living as an artist...especially in These Economic Times.

All the while I've been putting together a self-sponsored show for the gallery at my local library (see previous post) and watching the costs mount. At this point, including all the framing and publicity but not yet including snacks and drinks for the opening, I've spent $670. That's a lot of money. Especially in These Economic Times. Obviously I hope to sell a few prints and break even, but breaking even is certainly not a given. So lest I be disappointed about losing money on the thing, I've been thinking of this event also as a sort of party I'm hosting, where I've invited a bunch of friends, and hopefully their friends too, to come by and enjoy printmaking with me.

One thing that caught my attention in the Forum discussion was a point made by Andrew Stone that people are more inclined to buy a piece of art if they have a relationship with the artist, or if the artist can "infect" the viewer with interest in the art by showing where the work came from and how it was made. That's one of the things I hope this blog does, and educating people about moku hanga will be a part of the library show as well. The poster above will hang at the beginning of the exhibit. My hope is that the photos will ignite some curiosity about the moku hanga process. Then further along there will be a couple of glass cases showing the tools and a simple three-block build along with the blocks to demonstrate how a multi-block print is created. I wish I could just be there all through the month and do my work there, but that's not possible. Wouldn't it be cool, though? People could come by and watch and ask questions and try it themselves...

Also on the topic of These Economic Times, the other day I heard a funny little essay on NPR about art in hard times by poet Andrei Codrescu, who says that one of the best conditions for the production of good art is when "there's a general depression and a whole lot of free time." You can read it or listen to it by clicking here.

10 comments:

d. moll, l.ac. said...

It seems like the General Public has such little appreciation of how Moku Hangs is created that a little education can really go a long way. The other day one of my 12th graders (actually brand new to the school, otherwise she would have known) asked me what a print was........

mizu designs said...

I like they way you're seeing your show as a party. That's the view I took when I had my last show in Kyoto. If it helps to know, I had enormous costs for that one and on top of that the gallery took a 30% commission but I still broke even :) Just enjoy showing your work and hanging out with nice art-loving people and I'm sure it will be ok.

Maria said...

Hey Annie, if it makes you feel any better, twice yearly I pay $1200 for a double booth at Tempe Festival of the Arts in Arizona. Plus travel gas, pulling a trailer, plus 4 nights hotel, plus food; in toto the show usually costs me around $1800. Yikes!
Most years I've made pretty good money; it is very well attended. But there are those years when I wonder why on earth would I embark on such an expensive adventure for a few hundred bucks profit.
Ahhh, the mysteries of art selling!

Amanda said...

Good luck with the show Annie. I think the comment about people buying when they already have a connection with the artist or the work is really true. Maybe you could do a few demos on the week-ends...people love that sort of thing, even more than talks, I think.

Denise said...

The cost of putting on an exhibition is prohibitive but if you look here http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/feb/18/slack-space-vacant-shops
There is an interesting way of showing your work (cheaply?) which some artists in Britain have been trying. We also have something called pop up shops where designers take over a vacant shop for a few days, sell their stuff and move on.This has all happened recently since the economic down turn. Good luck with the show, I'm really enjoying watching you work and love the final result.

Leslie Moore said...

My niece recently wrote, "Sigh for the days when artists had generous patrons, who would happily fund you for a lifetime of contented art-making! Nowadays we all have to be our own marketing agency!" Where are the Medicis when we need them!

I agree with Amanda. Your idea of setting up shop in the library isn't so far-fetched. Moku Hanga seems custom made for that. Go for it! At least on the weekends, as Amanda suggests.

Annie B said...

Thanks for all the input, everyone. It's great to hear all of your experiences. I think I'll check with the library and see if they would let me do some demos during the month. Maria, I was thinking of you and how much it must cost to do the festival circuit. Interesting to hear your numbers. And Denise, I love the artists-taking-over-closed-storefronts movement. There's a storefront here in my little town that has started to invite artists to work in the window for a week at a time. I think it's a great idea.
Thanks to you all for the well wishes!

Grenouille said...

I hope this works well for you - both the show, the sales, and your "party" attitude.

Just as I was coming out again as an artist, I helped found a co-op art gallery where I live. I wrote it's by-laws, was the corporation's first president, negotiated with the landlord and others, and spent a lot of time and money on the venture. I sold only a few pieces over the year I was a member, and lost money overall, but it was a powerful and formative experience, both for my art, and as an entrepreneurial adventure. I'd never created a business before. This one still flourishes in our little village center, and I'm warmed every time I see it, though I seldom go in. I will never know all the things we set in motion, even in just my own life, much less other people's, by establishing that place for art.

And the same is true for your moku hanga party. Who knows how many will walk away with a new appreciation for print making, for Japan, for the subjects in your prints (all things worthy of time and thought, especially the prints about religions and immigration), or with one of your pieces? I hope to find out some of the results, on your blog at the end of the show.

Good luck to you and your partner artists in this show. I hope you feel deeply satisfied with the results, and that your opening is a warm rewarding gathering.

Steve Emery said...

Grenouille speaks well for me in his comment! Good luck!

Annie B said...

Thanks for the wonderful wishes Steve. And Grenouille too :)