Heart Song Arts
Love adding touches of nature to my work.
values small but beautiful art, both in painting and in clay work. Small is an ambiguous term so by that I mean I keep my newest paintings to not more than 12 inches by 12 inches. In clay, and as a tile maker this means either 4 or 6 inch tiles, often standing separately but when in installation, 4 inches or smaller per tile. Standard coffee cups, bowls and plates are okay too.
Small just doesn’t pertain to size. It also pertains to production. I have never understood the philosophy of making ten of anything. While I know making a large number of the same item serves to create some art installations, how many of us are actually installation artists? If you are, size reduction can be a good thing.
It is not my intent however to tell you how to do your art. I would not be so bold. What I can tell you about myself is, I am a pragmatist as well as an artist. This desire to keep things small(er) did not come overnight. Indeed, when I started, I had what I call, ‘gallery dreams’. If I was going to get accepted into galleries, shouldn’t I go big? It took me awhile to realize that big not only took up too much room at home but was perilously difficult to transport and if I wanted to sell online, well, forget it. The shipping charges could be nearly as expensive as my work. To top it off, many galleries were turning to displays of small art. Big art meant big expense and galleries survive on their sales.
So here are a few things we’ve learned over the years. I have hope as an artist, you might make some heart felt decisions in not only what type of art you do, but will find ways to make it sustainable.
From the beginning, as artists we must consider the types and amounts of materials we need for our creations. If you are a painter, these costs entail paint and perhaps other materials, brushes and canvas. If you use some other support besides canvas, (I paint on wood), those costs have to be considered as well. If you are a potter, you will have to consider the cost of your clay, glazes and the energy it takes to fire a piece; be it wood fired, electric or gas.
Other considerations may include gas if you choose to travel, costs for food and perhaps lodging both in the creation aspect and, as sales of your product. Few of us think about it but the time we spend planning, making, and selling our products are also a consideration. These factors have to be considered before you ever contemplate a sale and each expense raises the price of your work.
When we start putting all these factors in the equation, you might suddenly realize that there is no way to sell your creations for what they are actually worth. You have to look at supply and demand and whether or not your art is sustainable in the current economic environment. This alone can be discouraging. When that happens, it’s time to ask yourself “Why did I do art to begin with?” If your answer is love for your art form, then you’ll prepare your product competitively for the market and realize we do a lot of ‘give-aways’ to maintain our obsession.
The next question I had to ask was: how can I make my art sustainable? and; How can I decrease my carbon footprint in the making of my art? These are not easy questions to answer. It took us a bit of planning, reality checks about our market and we also took a hard look at our audience.
Our audience we believe are people who love art but probably can’t afford it in today’s world. We wanted our Joe and Mary ‘Worker Bee’ to be able to purchase nice things at a cost that they didn’t have to get a second mortgage to afford. This tenet stemmed from my own lack of purchasing power of professional art but still desiring to have beauty all around me.
So how did we eventually answer all these questions? Here’s a spoiler. This answer is forever changing. With the economy shifting and turning like a small boat in a storm, there is a constant need to innovate and reassess our business practices. We do build small but we also access our material and energy needs with the market.
More than once, I’ve heard a baby boomer say “I love your work but I have to be careful about my purchases. My husband and I have downsized since the kids moved out.” Baby Boomers have the most expendable income but many are limited in funds and living spaces. The face of work has changed over the years from “I’ve been here for 20 years working for the same business” to “I keep my suitcase packed. I like to move around and do life.” The focus has therefore shifted from “I’m a material girl” to “I’m a minimalist.”
I used to paint pictures 18 inches by 24 inches. That size of painting needs a wall. Today, the demands are for a meaningful piece of art that is mobile. You can put it on the side table by the bed and when you move you toss it in the suitcase. For that to happen, my paintings are getting smaller, a maximum of 12 inches by 12 inches. My clay art is represented through decorative planters of succulents (particularly cacti) which are easily maintained and no so easy to kill. I make decorative tiles. They used to be six by six inches. Some still are but I’m going to four by four inches, which is a big deal. In painting and pottery, my materials and required creative energies have an extended life, I have space for my art pieces at home and people can pick up something they like and take it with them.
The changing face of art and the collector’s market is changing how artists consider doing their work. Due to an unstable and unpredictable market, being flexible and mindful about materials used, manner of production, and market value all need to be considered before producing art for sale.