Posts Tagged ‘by hand books’
It’s great to spend time with my artist website design clients – I enjoy seeing how their work is developing (as I hope my own is too).
I love hearing them talk about the techniques, the experiments, and the new customers they’re gaining. That tells me their art is developing just fine.
But do we as artists have to grow our business skills too?
Answer – of course!
I wrote a post recently expanding on my mantra – you can’t change the market, but you can change HOW you market.
You can read the post here…
Growing your business skills is a vital part of this, and well up on the list is developing your awareness of who your customers are, and what they want to buy. That’s one of the hardest aspects of being an artist – partly because it requires us to step outside the traditional artist mentality – I make what I want to make – I don’t care if other people like it!
That’s great – unless you want to make a living! I do, so I need to know what people want to buy from me!
In this vein, I’ve enjoyed seeing how Jeremy White and Godfrey Thorpe
(aka www.jeremywhiteceramics.co.uk) have experimented with new techniques, broadened their range of pieces at a spread of price points, uncovered new ways of glazing their ceramics and explored interesting new directions. When these resonate with customers they pursue. When they don’t, they move on to a new style, colour or glaze. Brilliant!
Jeremy and Godfrey have both had to learn to photograph their work. I can sympathise – photographing one’s own art work is not easy, and image quality for websites, promotions, posters and press releases is important.
I’ve also taken great pleasure in working with sculptor and painter May Ayres – www.mayayres.com. Her work is provocative in the truest sense – it provokes a reaction and makes one stop and think. Her work is highly politically charged, and backed with a profound sense of justice.
I’ve been working with May since she decided she needed to be ‘on the internet’ and it’s clear her belief in the power of her work to raise difficult subjects and provide narrative to some of our political leaders’ worst decisions has grown in that time. May demonstrates an unwillingness to compromise in her stance that is easy to admire and hard to overlook.
I think of May as an example of how artists really can create a story around what they do; that makes it much easier to communicate the power and desirability of her work to collectors. So the moral of this example is – get a strong story about your work and communicate it to art lovers!
Thinking of identifying what your customers want, I’m currently working with Julie Lue (http://www.julielue-artdesign.co.uk) to help her build a programme of art tuition. She’s ideally placed to provide stimulating classes for artists both experienced and starting out. She has long track record of teaching art as well as being an accomplished artist.
She has also successfully developed a genuinely interactive way of working with clients commissioning bespoke art. This results in unique pieces that reflect the tastes and furnishings of the client and involves them in the process – increasing the pleasure the client gets each time they admire the work.
I love the process of sketchbook ideas generation Julie uses in this and have borrowed some of her techniques in my own work.
So the lessons I’ve learned from Julie are: gain from observing how other artists have solved problems you might have, and identify what other aspects of art you can offer as income – teaching and running ideas generation sessions in Julie’s case.
And I’ve been encouraged to think in-depth about search engine optimisation
while working with Ros Long of By Hand Books (www.byhandbooks.co.uk).
This is very much work in progress at the moment, but it’s been a stimulating ride – figuring out how to get BHB indexable for the right kinds of book binding and making, without gathering traffic looking for other kinds of books and factory-made notebooks. I don’t claim to have many answers on this one yet, but Ros and I are both learning at a rapid pace. I’ve also enjoyed see how Ros has got to grips with some of the web technology we use. Any process that encourages an artist to think about what they do from the outside – how others might see their work – is a great way to develop one’s skills and perspectives.
So my conclusions are:
If you spot that customers are gravitating towards a particular kind of art, be prepared to expand that aspect of your work to captitalise on the demand.
And equally, be prepared to drop a particular line if it doesn’t ‘hit’ with customers.
Draw from other artists if you can – share business ideas and ways to market your work, without treading on each others’ toes or nakedly stealing ideas!
Think about who buys your work, and why – it helps to direct your efforts to expand your customer base
Be prepared to consider doing things other than only creating: teaching, speaking, demonstrating , providing course training materials are all ways to communicate what you do to others in ways that help you earn a living from your art.
Try hard to think about what you do in terms that others do, so that your marketing and particularly your search engine optimisation can synchronise with the people looking for what you make.
I’d love to hear about the ways your art or your business skills have developed – leave a comment and let me know.
Happy creating and selling!
In reverse order – a coincidence
I’d never come across the concept of an altered book before I started working on Ros Long’s By Hand Books website. In those circumstances I’m always prepared to own up to ignorance.
While working on Ros’ website (www.byhandbooks.co.uk) we took photographs of Ros’ ‘No to HS2′ exhibition piece, GotHS2 Country?, from the original book Special Trees and Woods of the Chilterns for No HS2 – A Green & Pleasant Land?, showing the art of book alteration as campaign/protest.
And then just as Ros’ website was due to go live, I heard tell of a BBC2 Culture Show Special featuring the work of Alexander Korzer-Robinson as part of a review of this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.
This I believe is the first such to include altered books (he calls them ‘Cut Books’) alongside more conventional art.
Next – a new client and an elevator pitch
During the process of interviewing Ros about who buys her books, and why, we alighted on a handy encapsulation of the idea of a hand-bound notebook – her books are bought by people who value the thoughts they record in them, and consider themselves rather more individual than the Rymans or Staples customer who uses a factory-made notebook.
Sometimes this sort of clarity pops out, and sometimes it’s a struggle to get to. Either way, a neat way of describing who buys what you do, and why, is a very important concept to arrive at. Being able to succinctly describe who buys your work and why makes the job of marketing your work so much easier.
And the thought process required to create this 1 minute pitch will often help to crystallize the thinking necessary to build a website, or formulate a marketing plan. I wholeheartedly recommend spending a few quiet moments coming up with your own elevator pitch!
Do take the time to have a look at Ros’ work on her new website.
She makes hand-made journals, portfolios and notebooks, all in distinctive materials.
Lastly – Altered Books
I’ve heard it said that to alter or cut or otherwise molest a good book is to do it harm. I’m not so sure. I like the idea of making art out of something mass-made. Unless it’s a priceless example of the only copy of a book by a great master, I’d say it’s giving a new life to something whose utility has diminished.
In Ros’ case, the books she’s ‘re-animated’ were old copies of books that had been read by as many people as were ever going to, and which in any case could be easily found in a charity shop or online.
I’m always attracted to art or craft work that’s clearly the result of skill, time and imagination. Having been introduced to the idea of Altered Books I’m going to be seeking more out!
Do leave a comment and let me know which art forms have surprised you.
Or get in touch if you need help focusing on who buys your work and why!