In This Issue
In November Studio Potter ran the first half of a report summarizing a series of conversations between galleries and artists. The impetus for the conversation was to consider the existing relationship between the two entities. Not a new conversation and certainly not a conclusive conversation. However, the hope was that the discussions, four in total, between gallery directors and artists would open the door to a unilateral frankness we aren’t used to. “An open-ended conversation with no definitive conclusion to be drawn,” as Osa Atoe put it.
Everyone who participated in the conversations accepted that fluidity existed in terms like gallery, artist, and career. From there we could address the, “Why does the gallery-artist relationship exist as it does and where is there room for it to change?” The question was forced into a tidy, if compound, inquiry. The Zoom conversations could have gone on for hours. It was not a perfect system.
It seems we want to default to explaining our position sometimes and that can impede listening. But on the whole, the moments of transparency far outweighed the moments of, “This is how it has always been done.”
In this imperfect-yet-well-intentioned way, information was exchanged. The most beautiful moments of transparency revealed the range of solutions people employ to define and navigate their marketplace. Within the variations a familiar through-line arose: identify your goals first, find a good fit by understanding the options available to you as they relate to your goals, negotiate contracts and re-negotiate as needed, and always track expenses, income, and trends.
Figuring out how to make a living as a studio artist and reimagining what the relationship between an artist and a distributor can look like are both versions of the Gordian knot legend. A prophecy deemed anyone who could undo the knot would rule Asia. Alexander the Great realized the integrity of the rope need not be preserved to undo the knot and cut it through with his sword. Artists like Sue Tirrell, Donté K. Hayes, and Virgil Ortiz are among those who have already drawn their swords to cut the knot.
In 2020 COVID-19 acted as the sword, delivering a blow to the status quo whether we wanted it or not. Call it nostalgia or call it fear, but we seem to grip more tightly to known comforts when forces beyond our control mandate a paradigm shift. Cutting a Gordian knot requires an ability to abandon common wisdom and get really honest about the desired outcome. Alexander the Great realized that prophecy required the knot to be loosed. It did not mandate how the loosing take place. The ability to honestly assess the desired outcome is much easier when one is proactive. Trying to think innovatively about your business model in a time of crisis tends to leave you focused on retaining the integrity of the rope.
This month we hear directly from artists who have, in big and little ways, cut through the knot. Our interview with Virgil Ortiz’s manager, Tish Agoyo is available for FREE. Please share it with someone who might enjoy it and find some benefit in reading a story about the business of art, the rewards (and hazards) of letting your authentic voice shine, the need to be honest and disciplined in order to find freedom, and the importance of a strong foundation.
I hope you find some useful concepts to help you navigate your marketplace in this issue, however you are defining it. The decision to work with your hands is a commitment to a lifestyle that embodies ideals of independence, ingenuity, and liberty.
Be well everyone and thanks for reading,
Jill Foote-Hutton, Editor
In the spirit of redefining what a successful ceramics business can be I’d like to point you toward a few resources below.
Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts
Organizations that provide a broad range of free and low-cost legal services and educational programs addressing the needs of artists, small arts-related businesses and cultural organizations. Most are nonprofit organizations, while others are housed with arts councils, arts services organizations, bar associations or business for the arts programs.
Eleven Business Podcasts for Artists
Podcasts on money and wealth to art podcasts discussing theory or offering practical advice, you may find something to inform your future aspirations while you listen in your studio.
From free online and mobile options to more expensive desktop platforms, there are many different kinds of accounting apps to choose from. The Balance’s Eric Rosenberg helps sort out some options.
Logging hours, tracking mileage, and staying in touch with galleries are all your responsibilities. Bloom is a customer relationship management platform and their blog has a lot of useful information for business minded creatives.