Monday, January 07, 2008

Art, Business, and Marketing (the place where they meet)

I have been working a lot lately, hunkering down and shoveling out old messes, while also trying to strike a balance in my life between work and, well, anything else at all. Over New Year's I went camping in a place called Slab City; it wasn't really like anywhere I've ever been before.

Craft Con, the business networking conference for the craft community that I am hosting here in SF this april, is making slow but steady progress. We have a venue and that means we have dates... working on getting the money. I recently read this article in the new york times about the conference that happened last year, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that one of the unattributed quotes was me! I found a friend blogging about the article and left her the following response which, on further reflection, i thought was content-worthy enough for you, dear starved readers of this sporadic publication.

I have been making a living as an artist and craftsperson for two years now. There are some people who are able to simply click with their audience and the work that they produce sells like hotcakes regardless of price or setting - these people are mostly i think making work whose target demographic is themselves. There are people like me and (i suspect) your mom who aren't necessarily making work for themselves as a target customer - and then it becomes a little harder to a)find your audience b) gauge their price range c) make a community connection with them. The idea of building community works to sell any kind of art, as a great deal of the art- and craft-buying public really loves to feel a connection with the person who has made the work - this humanity, after all, is a lot of what they are paying that 'handmade' premium for.

The business sense of how to market your work, how to identify and find your audience, and how to become a sustainable commercial enterprise is usually not discussed in the craft circles of our generation - except for the internet! Everyone loves to market on the internet! Craft Con, the conference I am throwing here in SF this april, seeks to address these issues. Last year 50 crafters got together in pittsburgh and *didn't* talk about knitting - we talked about marketing and health insurance. It's hard to make a living making things outside of a factory setting, because that is not the prevailing mode of our culture. It's not impossible though, it just means there are fewer total opportunities. I sold two paintings out of my store just this weekend. I think success is about a)quality of goods b)access to market. Representation just means that you don't have to do any of that pesky marketing stuff.

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