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Etsy doesn’t cost that much to use and has lots of viewers.
For twenty cents per listing and a small percentage of each sale, you can reach a fairly large audience. My favorite shops right now are The Silvered Eye Studio (sells original tintypes, salt prints and other images made using a vintage process), The Bellus Vanitas (sells all sorts of fun, victorian oddities. They are deliciously dark). There is also Patrick Andrew Patrick, a photographer. His images are crafted, witty, and playful. I like the ideas he’s approaching. I like that he doesn’t take himself too seriously but his work is still well made. I wouldn’t find these people and stores any other way than through Etsy.
It sharpens my thinking towards all my artwork and business.
I have portfolios I’ll never show on Etsy, and I have images that will only be found on Etsy. What separates the two? Thinking about this has helped draw clear distinctions between the boxes of pretty and the portfolios of beautiful. In short, you date one and marry the other. Images on my Etsy store are made for fun and general decoration. They lovely to look at but I’m not trying to answer the same questions the more formal work presents.
I can also track what images are being looked at and build my inventory around that. Some claim that it’s tacky to think of commerce and trends when it comes to making art, but that is how the world moves. Remember, at its heart, Etsy is not about lofty ideals but making sales. It forces you, the creative artist, to think like a gallery owner and make decisions regarding your art with that in mind. This simple tracking feature brings greater focus and a reality (something artists hate to contend with) to the creative business.
It forces you to produce high quality, salable work.
I have always had extremely high standards for the work that leaves my studio.The quality of the prints communicates my level of passion for the work. The stores I’ve seen on Etsy take pride in high production and presentation values. In order to stay competitive, I have to maintain ever higher presentation standards for every aspect of my business. Etsy gives me a solid foundation to build the rest of my business. My other work benefits from the values I’m forced to uphold on Etsy.
Many social networks allow the public to “like” or “retweet” something you said or did. Etsy is no different except that people can also buy what you did. That is the best kind of feedback! Any artist who wants to make a living with their art needs to be savvy about their online presence. It doesn’t replace actual face to face meetings, but provides a starting point for future conversations. The best way to get your message and artwork in front of the right audience is to be where they like to goof around. That’s why Instagram is so popular too (and why I’m on that platform as well). The less it feels like work on their part, the more chance of reaching the people you want to meet. Etsy, like any other social media platform, works better when you connect with other people who share your interests and tastes. The point of networking is to connect the dots in from talking to conversation to sale.
Art is Work!
I get frustrated when I hear very talented artists talk about not being able to make a living with their art. Personally, I think there has to be a way to do that. Thinking about and creating my images is a full time job. The projects I’m working on are expensive to produce. Is it such a bourgeois concept to actually produce work that people can afford in order to create art that would be more valuable? In the fashion world there is Haute Couture — custom made works of art that celebrate the highest level of craft and creation. There is also pret-a-porter, or “ready to wear” goods. There is a huge difference in price between the two. One highlights the creative power of the studio, and the other pays for it. Why should visual artists not embrace that model too?
Etsy Is Fun
None of the images on my Etsy store will be seen in my gallery portfolios or my professional website. I’m making and selling prints in open editions from a variety of sources. I’m not looking for a place to sell my bodies of work that are currently seen in retail galleries. Etsy is where I go to have some fun. I love educating people about the processes I use want to provide an opportunity to collect something I made using that process. This is not a museum or gallery, it is a store!
My friend and colleague Jefferson Hayman pointed out that we are in the middle of a sea-change regarding how artwork is seen, experienced and purchased. The Internet is now the first point of contact an artist has with any collector, art director, curator. That trend is only going to grow. There will always be a need for personal contact, but rarely will that come first in the relationship. As these platforms get more sophisticated, the connection between artist and audience will grow stronger because the barriers of communication will diminish.
Etsy doesn’t do all the work for you. It does take an investment of time. However, unlike other social networking sites, Etsy can provide a financial return on that investment. That beats the heck out of any Facebook “like.”