Continuing on with our discussion on Wednesday~~
I went to a museum opening this past weekend. There were works on canvas, and many of them involved sequins, and the sequins were all glued in place–not a bit of thread anywhere. This was OK–obviously, because these pieces were selling for several thousand dollars each–but I was unimpressed, and others I talked to wondered aloud about the glue (the glue was really obvious on many of the pieces, and not in an intentional-oh-isn’t–this-ironic way). I think there was rather a lot of two-part epoxy used in a really careless manner, as well.
In short, the work was sloppy. It looked hastily thrown together, and it made me think the artist didn’t care enough about it–or about her viewers and potential buyers and collectors–to take time to do it carefully.
I looked at some work online this morning, work that could have been really cool but stopped just short of getting there. The materials were cheap, and the connections were hasty and poorly executed. It got me thinking about the kinds of things I notice, which, it turns out, are the kinds of things you need to think about if you’re trying to move to the next level with your work. Here are just a few things to consider–take them as a starting point for ways to look at your work. If you’re making things for yourself and your friends and family, you can ignore these suggestions, but if you want people to put your work in print or give you money so they can own what you make, you might want to think about these. Most people won’t buy things they believe they can make themselves, not unless they are people who love you and are buying it to make you feel good. Most people will buy things they can’t imagine creating. If your work is made of materials anyone can buy at the local craft store and is held together with glue and staples, people are going to look at it and say, “I can make that.” And they probably can. Your job, when you create something, is to bring to it not only your vision but your technical skills, the techniques you’ve learned and perfected and use so skillfully that people look at what you’ve created and go, “Wow. I could never do that.”
~~Use the best materials you can afford. If you want someone to buy your beads strung on a ribbon, don’t string them on the cheap stuff that you get on sale at your local craft store for $1 a spool. If you can’t afford silk or leather cord, perhaps you’d be better off offering the beads loose or attached to a card.
~~If you must use glue, make sure it will 1) hold securely for a LONG time (there’s nothing worse than selling something and having the buyer contact you a week later to tell you pieces are falling off) and 2) be invisible. I can’t even begin to tell you how often I see work with globs of glue or–worse yet!–strings of hot glue visible on the surface. And I’m not talking intentionally visible glue; I’m talking “I don’t care enough about this work to take time to clean it up” glue. If you’re making jewelry and using glue, see below.
~~You want the hand of the artist to show. Text from your computer printed out and attached to your work looks as if you didn’t want to take the time to do it by hand.
~~Think about quotes. People will argue with me, but I’m going to suggest that featuring other people’s quotes–especially ones we’ve all read a bazillion times–is getting kind of old. For me, personally? Very, very old. It’s like slang: by the time you hear a word on the nightly news, it’s not hip any more.
~~You know those family album quilts you used to see at quilt shows, where dozens of family photos were printed onto fabric and sewn together? Those were big in the first days of everyone being so excited about being able to print on fabric, but now? If you’re just printing out un-altered images on fabric or paper, it’s more about the technology than it is about your art.
~~Think about things like connections. Avoid the hot glue gun. The only application I can think of for a hot glue gun in artwork you plan to sell is to hold something in place temporarily while you work on it. If you’re making jewelry, you need to take some workshops and learn various kinds of connections, from soldering to rivets. People seldom want to buy things they can make themselves, and if you’re making jewelry that relies on glue and staples, are people really going to want to spend money for that?
Your job, as an artist, is to make art. But your job, if you want to get your work out there, to show and sell your work, is to make the very best art you can, learning the skills and spending the time it takes to do it right. What is that, you ask? What exactly is “doing it right”? When you create something and know you didn’t skimp on materials, you didn’t take shortcuts with techniques, you didn’t use the hot glue gun when stitching was what was needed–then you know you’ve done it right.
Go. Practice. Enjoy!
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