Well, HERE’S an awkward subject to talk about. Please don’t hate me for bringing it up. You can hate me for bringing up other issues, and plenty of you do, but this one is an artistic problem, so I think it’s a legitimate subject for this venue.
I was talking to several artist friends of mine and we were all commiserating about the business we have chosen. Some are on Etsy selling their wares, some are licensed artists like me, and a few only sell through galleries. We LOVE it and wouldn’t do anything else unless forced to by circumstances beyond our control. One of those circumstances is this: while we appreciate SO MUCH that people like our work and often tell us so, we can’t continue to create said work unless people actually BUY it occasionally. There. I said it. I know— crass commercialism. But there it is.
In the case of my “fine artist” friends, they realize their art is expensive and will only sell to a handful of particular buyers. They have come to terms with this, and have developed relationships with buyers and galleries, and they do pretty well, all things considered.
The artists who sell on Etsy usually have other things to keep them afloat, and they also try to only make a few things at a time or make things to order, so they’re not drowning in unsold product.
Oddly enough, the artists that are most affected seem to be the licensed artists. People see the things in stores and think, “Hey, these are cute. Maybe I’ll get one later.” Of course I do this myself; it’s called “shopping”. Unfortunately for an artist, if this happens too often, the company producing the item, who paid the artist a licensing fee, doesn’t make their money back and they very quickly stop production. When there is no artist involved, and therefore no extra licensing fee, they’re not so quick to stop production. To me, it seems this process should be completely reversed! Give the thing you spent more money on more time to get out there and find an audience! But not only that—- if they pull a product because it’s not selling fast enough, they just assume that artist is a dud and they won’t produce anything else, either.
The other problem is that companies that have already spent money on a licensing fee are reluctant to spend any more money on publicizing the product. It’s a vicious circle! How can you buy it if you don’t know it’s out there?? How are people supposed to find out about it if its only out there for 10 minutes??
So it seems that the first two groups of artists, who are more in control of how they sell their art, are able to be a little more relaxed about things. Licensed artists (and their customers!) are at the mercy of both manufacturers and retailers. We are not relaxed about anything. Ever.
I know no one can afford to buy everything they want. But if you really, really like an artist’s work, and you have a little extra spending money, show your support, not just by liking it, but by putting your money where your like is!