The Art of Business....

by Jude
(Childers, Qld)

Wacky Oz Xmas glass

Wacky Oz Xmas glass


Or should I say “The Business of Art”? Essentially, we all know what art is, creating objects & images that reflect how we as artists perceive the world & try to portray this vision to anyone with sensibilities to appreciate it. Realistically though there are far more “artists” or craftspeople than there are recipients for those creations, hence we come to “The Art of Business”. Not everybody creates to make an income, but those that do need to be aware of principles pertaining to creating an income & likewise the ethical, & honourable issues involved with art.

As an update on life in the slow lane & from a different perspective now that I am semi- retired, I wanted to touch upon this subject of the business side of being an artist as I have had many years experiencing the contrivances of art. I won’t be going into the specifics of running a business- pricing, marketing etc., as there are many fine tomes out there telling how to conduct that side of things. I suppose I am investigating the moral side of art, which still impacts upon the financial, but also covers relationships with other artists in a formal or informal situations.

Throughout the later years of my active career, I have mentored & advised dozens if not hundreds of artists; offering free advise, suggestions & encouragement towards their goals.
After 35 years as a professional artist I feel the need to perpetuate disappearing skills of creating by hand (those that are being replaced by digital & computerised art that are removed from the human touch). As such, I have both informally & formally mentored a lot of artists both emerging and mid career. I didn’t become a professional full time artist until my thirties, so had a lot of “life” experience in the real world before concentrating on art.

After my undergraduate degree from Canberra School of Art, ANU, I established Studio 8 Glass in Cairns and the business thrived. In the development of my studio, I worked closely with various Govt. & corporate organisations, which resulted in valuable networks within the business sector. That in itself is a good lesson for success, but I diverge from my theme. Through these contacts I was offered the opportunity of undertaking a 6 month training course in mentoring, to assist emerging businesses of all diversities, not just art. This was purely a voluntary association with an emerging business owner, a shoulder to cry on & an offer of advice when needed. At the same time I was conducting my own full time art business.

That experience enabled me to focus on emerging artists that needed a little help from time to time or just students from my workshops that required pointing in the right direction. Mentoring can seemingly be a thankless task, but in my experience I rarely felt that the effort was not worthwhile. You gain a huge amount of satisfaction from viewing the progress of those mentored & become very proud of their successes, large or small.
Sometimes though, not everything in life goes exactly as you planned it; some times the wheels fall off. This is a little heads up - every artist IS a business, just like a mechanic, baker or lawyer. So, from personal experience as a mentor, when things do not go the way it was planned, I would like to pass on a few tips on how to conduct a mentoring experience to protect yourself from the disappointing possibility of duplicity.

The case may be that your mentoring may lead to financial rewards for both parties and If you do not have a CONTRACT in place to quantify the outcomes, the results may be very disappointing & one sided. For example, if you extend your experience to an emerging artist and the big “deal” results from this mentoring representing a lot of money, there are protocols that need to be put in place to protect both parties. Boheme, trust, friendship & ethics can go out the door when financial & career gains are involved. Contingencies need to be put in place in the case of successful resulting grant applications, exhibitions, ownership of art, selling rights & continuing collaborations. I can pursue these issues at greater depth, but for now the old saying of “Buyer (mentor) beware” is very appropriate.

On a brighter note, I recently hosted a senior’s mystery bus tour at the studio. This is something any arts studio could participate in to promote their business as well as the arts in general.
This is how it happened: I was contacted by Bundaberg Coaches to be a destination on a mystery tour for a group of 30 elderly & disabled people that were to enjoy a day out. The visit would take an hour which included them having morning tea at Xanadoo, as we have lovely gardens. I supplied a collapsible table, chairs etc. & the bus people set up their urn & snacks for morning tea. It had been agreed that I would give my guests a tour of the studio, a small demonstration of making glass & a short talk on art & my particular work. We finished in my small gallery area where everyone admired the finished works. This was conducted in 2 groups so it was not too crowded; one was having morning tea whilst the 2nd group was doing the tour.

This can be a great free promotion option for artists- customers or potential customers at your studio door. As long as you have no formal agreement with a gallery that promotes your work, you can even sell from the studio. Even if you do, you can direct potential customers to your outlets so they will also benefit. It costs you nothing but time and the personal experience of meeting the artist, stays with people who are much more likely to purchase your work over an unknown artist.

In a way this is an extension of mentoring, volunteering & my philosophy of “giving back”, but there are a few considerations to be aware of again. Things like health & safety regulations, disabled access, toilets, any obstacles that may result in an accident (rough ground, steps & in my case a wet dog!, etc.) parking for a bus & access to your property & from there to your studio. Luckily I have a huge area outside the gates & could even accommodate a large bus in my driveway with the capacity to do a turn around.

With my other hat on, farm life is seasonal; we now have 2 lambs & half a pig in the freezer. I took advantage of the pig to do 2 drop-dead tasty smoked hams for Xmas- they are both in freezer so we will actually have some left for Xmas. On that note, I wish everyone seasonal greeting until 2019 which is approaching at an astronomical rate.


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