Wednesday, April 29, 2009
A few months ago, I was asked to write an article for the Independent Artist. The IA is a publication put out by the National Association of Independent Artists, (NAIA). My husband Jon and I have been life long members of this great organization. I chose to write the following article about my experience with Etsy.com. Our paper is mailed to our national membership and will be freely handed out to artists at art fairs.
If you are a working artist and interested in joining a fabulous group of fellow artists who share your energy and concerns, please go to our website and join. We are the collective voice for art fair artists! Your $65.00 membership provides a voice, a forum for that voice, the newspaper, discounts for travel to shows, hotels, services and goods, truck rentals and updates on what the NAIA is doing for you!
One day, a few years ago, I was in my studio playing. Some of my best ideas have begun this way! Over the years I seem to have acquired an 'addiction' to rubber stamps.....This 'play' led to me stamping mahogany cigar boxes with black paint. I love rubber stamps and before long, I was hooked! The black paint on wood looked like tattoo's. I loved the look and was not sure where this creative energy and box fetish would take me. A few friends who lost pets wanted boxes to hold the ashes of their deceased furry loved ones. I created keepsake boxes for them. This added an artistic signature to a painful closure and began a body of work that was somewhat alternative.
Not certain if this body of work would fit into mainstream juried shows and wanting it to continue, I needed to find other venues to sell what I was having such fun making. I was calling this work TattooDreams. By this point my boxes had taken on themes other than commemorative urns and had a playful yet artsy old world look to them. I became aware of a site called Etsy.com.
Etsy.com is an on-line site that allows the user to set up a 'shop' and sell handmade work, supplies and vintage items (20 + years old). The site is driven by artists of every type and quality of work. Every age and genre of discipline from all over the world are represented. A listing costs 20 cents and is up for 4 months. With a 3.5 % fee taken out of the final sale, this grand exposure is affordable. Unlike the auction format of e-bay, here you set your own price.
I watched the site for a while and continued my fascination with black paint emblazoned onto wood. I was mesmerized by this. This body of work held a huge departure from my very colorful mixed media work I juried to shows with. It may have been this absence of color and emphasis on pattern and message that had me intrigued. My blackened fingernails were proof the trade was entering my body!
Whatever it was, I knew it was here to stay and needed to find a venue for it to sell.
In December of 2007 I set about posting my first boxes to the Etsy site we set up. Within 2 weeks I made my first sale! Into my email came the message from Pay Pal " You have cash"..........what wonderful words!! The excitement of that first sale and amazement that this on line shopping venue was working, I will never forget. I'd sold stuff on e-bay before, but never garnered this type of thrill. I was now selling art stuff!!
To further accommodate the needs of required sizes and add a more artistic flair to the process, Jon began building boxes for me. The cherry boxes he's building are the remnants of the wood we use for the frames from my other body of work. These handcrafted shapely boxes are a wonderful addition. Nothing wasted here!
Before I knew it, my TattooDreams were selling to people in Germany, Canada, Australia and across the US! Appreciative notes and feedback accompanied sales as buyers received their purchases, sent friends to my site and bought more. None of this hurts one's self esteem in a flailing art market!
These sales and comments from fellow artists led me to believe that this creative endeavor had found it's own niche market. I applied and got into a few holiday shows, have taken it to our local Farmers Market and had a solo exhibit with this work. I've learned a great deal from this experience. To have faith in your instincts, your work and yourself!
Last winter I began writing a blog. A blog is an on-line diary, if you will. Mine began shortly after I set up my Etsy shop. I began this as an avenue for creative writing. What it's become is a portal to advertise both bodies of work, chronicle our travels to shows, share recipes and open a window into the life of our artistic endeavors. I've come to learn collectors read my blog. They love peering into this window. With well over 14,000 visits to my site, I have 48 followers who have subscribed to this journal from all over the world.
What began as a creative release, has turned into another body of work I can sell in the right market. I've met some amazing collectors who have embraced my work and allowed me to create custom tables, mirrors and boxes for them. The global marketplace has it's arms wide open to artists. As the dollar twists and turns, overseas spending can add to on line sales. There are other on-line sites available to artists. I have tried a few other sites and have come to love the ease and exposure of Etsy.com.
In January Jon and I presented a 90 minute workshop class on the finer points of using Etsy at our local art center. This presentation was made to 77 local artists who felt it was a hit! This positive response fueled us to plan more and has grown into yet another money stream as we've given 4 workshops since this initial one. We charge $20.00 for each participant. The classes fill quickly and we're planning more workshops throughout the year. We utilize art centers and craigslist.com for gathering an audience. So a small stream overflows forging additional streams along the way. In this ripple effect, we move forward and are open to the possibilities of new ideas and how they can spring forth. We're grateful for these unexpected income opportunities!
In a difficult economy I hope you'll find the time to explore alternate methods of showing your work. Never could I have driven the wide array of traffic to a personal web site or garnered the global sales I've had, had it not been for exploring this site. I feed the site daily by utilizing their forums which helps generate exposure. Without that effort, little would sell. Etsy success is fed by exposure. As well we know, it's all about getting people to see your work, be it in your art fair booth or on line!
So my addiction continues with rubber stamps and my boxes find homes around the world. I'm not getting financially rich using Etsy, however 186 sales, the good will it generates and exposure make me feel there is hope. I know that sales will get stronger as the economy does and I will be ready with an on line market presence. I have 2 bodies of work fueling my need to keep my hands and mind busy!
Feeding the fire of creativity with a bit of fuel,
My etsy site: http://tattoodreams.etsy.com
On the right hand side of my blog is the red and white NAIA logo. Feel free to click on it and explore our website. Please, show your passion and dedication to your work by joining with other like minded individuals who, together, form a collective voice!!!
My article is being reprinted here by me from the newest IA issue with their permission.