Wednesday, December 07, 2011
During the past few years many of us have seen a huge surge in interest and production of handmade items. Some of it due to disgust and revolt of the rampant, mass-produced hysteria of consumerism and some of it is simply due to unemployed people trying to make a living the best way they can. As someone who has made a living with their hands for most of my life, there are several false notions out there that I would like to address so that if there are others out there considering crafts or such as an income source, that they would not be discouraged by people who have no idea what they're talking about spouting a bunch of crappola.
1. You can't make a living with art/ crafts in a bad economy. Well, I tell you, going by the number of orders I'm getting for my work right now, I'd never know things were not good in this country if I didn't read the news. Yes, I understand that it is the holiday season and people are buying more and it will drop off after the first of the year but.....people are buying. If you make a good quality product and market it in the correct area, people will buy it. You might have to make smaller items, as I have had to do, but you will sell lots of these. My big, expensive casseroles are not moving, at all, but I am overrun with orders for small dessert bowls, soup bowls, mugs etc. and am bringing in a substantial amount of money from that. People are fed up, for the most part, with cheap crap from China and are looking for an alternative. These are the people you want to focus on and find. Forget about the rest. They wouldn't appreciate your work if they had a million dollars because some people just do not get handmade.
2. I'd never be able to make enough money off it to pay for my time. Now, if somebody is using this excuse simply because they don't really want to try to market their stuff, then fine. However, if anybody really believes this, then I'd have to call bulls**t on ya. It all comes down to where and to whom you market your work. Yeah, if you go to flea markets and crap trying to sell handmade sweaters for what they are actually worth then people are going to laugh you out of the place. BUT, if you market your work through high-end consignment shops, galleries or other alternative markets you are likely to find many customers. There are still lots of people out there with money and who usually appreciate hand made. Now, it must be of very good quality. Lots of people nag me about how picky I am on my work. I cull my work and a defect means I have more stuff to make mosaics out of, if you get my drift. Bring out the ol' hammer! You must be ruthless in judging your work. You may also have to go cities 100 miles (or more) away but if you can find a place or places who will accept a large enough inventory then it can be worth the drive. If you choose to do craft shows, only do the ones that insist on jurying the work and I personally never do one if the entry fee is below $75. This insures most all the entries are going to be from serious artists and craftspeople and you are not going to have to deal with somebody next door selling foam lizards on a stick. (been there, done that.)
I know a number of successful craftspeople who make their living solely from their art, so it is possible. One fellow, who lives not far from me, makes furniture and has for most of his life. Now, one chair or small table can go for $2,000- 8,000, so it is art, not just any ol' stick chair. But he makes his living with it. Yes, he has to travel and be very selective about where he shows but once you make a bit of a name people will begin to seek you out.
The thing is, even if you just make quilted potholders or clay jewelry; if your craftsmanship is good and it is a quality product, there are places and people who would love to carry your work. Think big, forget the flea markets. The environment in which works are shown determines their value. That doesn't seem right but it is so, I guarantee you. Don't sell yourself short. Don't be shy. Most shop owners are happy to look at stuff because they are always looking for that great new product or artist. I will say one thing though; don't lug a giant box into their store or gallery without asking first. Many galleries ask that you submit your work electronically these days but you can walk in and ask about their submission policies.
And of course, online is okay too but I find that most people still want to hold the object in their hand before purchasing when it comes to craft. I do sell some work online but for the most part, in person is the way to go.