Shifting gears from “artist” to “artist who sells stuff” reminds me of the day I got tired of losing at Scrabble and decided to play for points instead of poetry. Up until then, if I’d been given the choice of playing “qi” on a triple word score for 33 points or “quince” for a plain, old 17 points, I would have chosen “quince” because it was prettier and more exotic.* Seriously. I compared it to seeing a rare bird in the wild. “Oh, look! A whooping crane! Cool!” A moment to be commemorated and celebrated. Points be damned.
Being intent on winning seemed a bit distasteful too, as so many of the world’s problems—greed, aggression, ruthlessness—can be boiled down to “playing for points.” And so with art. Focusing on the money rather than the art seems unsavory—kind of soulless and sellout-y—but I either need to up my game or find a soul-sucking, back-aching desk job. Surely I can find a way to be congenially competitive at art and Scrabble.
Making art for art’s sake is a wonderful thing, but it hasn’t gotten me very far. Like the rare bird, novelty has been something I’ve sought in the studio: “What can I make that doesn’t look like anything else even though it might end up being weird and ugly?” And—surprise!—even though I found the work fun and quirky, others found it strange. I once heard my quilts described as something from “outer space.” Few people were beating down the studio door to take any of them home.
So, I need to change tactics, and looking at my work through a lens of greater appeal and sale potential has helped crystalize the issue. Some ideas get pushed immediately to the periphery while others come whizzing into the forefront, and I see them falling into three categories:
- Items that are made and sold and that’s it. A one time deal. Let’s call it, “Art.”
- Items that are made and sold and can be remade and sold again, which sounds a lot like “craft.”
- Items that I design but are made by someone else as often as demand dictates. Mmmmm . . . “Royalties!”
- Art—galleries, exhibits, juried shows, Etsy, Instagram, interior designers, a 2nd blog
- Craft—Etsy, craft fairs, a 2nd blog
- Royalties—Spoonflower, Society6, RedBubble, Blurb
So, now that I have too many ideas, where do I start??
Putting on my pragmatist’s hat, it seems like “royalties” are my best bet. If I can create a library of digital designs that can be printed and delivered by third parties, that would create an income stream that would give me time and space to focus on the more labor-intensive, riskier, higher overhead arts and crafts.
* I know “qi” isn’t all that ordinary in real life, but in Scrabble whenever you draw a “q,” you can almost always find an “i” to give it a home.)