etsy and me

I've had an Etsy store for about 9 months now. In that time, I've sold one piece and traded two. This week, about half of my listings expire. In another month, the rest expire.

At least for now, I'm not going to renew the listings. It just hasn't worked like I wanted it to. Someone suggested that my prices were too high, but I see plenty of other stuff on there that's priced similarly. And I'm not going to lower my prices for a particular venue, that's not fair to the other places I have my work, or to me.

It seems to me like Etsy is a great idea that has run amok. There are stores with genuine original pieces of art, but there are many more selling crafty stuff made in an almost mass produced style and priced dirt cheap. I cringe at the thought of using 'bargain' in the same context at 'buying art'.

Pricing art is one of the hardest parts of the business side of art for me. I have increased my prices over time, as I got into more national shows, and as I progressed in my art. But I never undervalued my time--and like it or not, art takes time. Some of that time is spent thinking, problem solving. Some in spent in the mundane, like finishing edges and attaching hanging devices. And materials aren't cheap.

So what's the answer? Fewer sales, I guess. But that's ok. The purchase of art that you live with should involve thought and consideration, and recognition of its value by the price you pay. I'm not saying here that art must be expensive--but it must be valued, both by the artist and by the new owner.

Soon I will be adding the ability to purchase pieces directly from my website. I'm not convinced that will make any difference in sales, but it's worth a try. Just like etsy was.

So if there's something you've been eying on my store, act quickly.


visual language

Lately I've been working through the exercises in Jane Dunnewold (and Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan)'s new book, Finding Your Own Visual Language. One of these exercises involves carving 30 stamps in 30 days.

I used this to explore some shapes that consistently show up in my work, mainly a pointy oval that I see as a kayak shape, but which sometimes morphs into a leaf.

I am now done with the 30 days. I strayed afield on some days, developed some background stamps using similar lines to the other stamps, and discovered that the birds I've been drawing (with pen and with thread) are really the same shape with legs stuck on.

The yellow one in the corner is a rubbing on one of the stamps to see how they work.

To save money and to get something locally, I chose to use Pentel's Hi-Polymer erasers. I got them in a three pack for around $1.50 at WalMart. They measure 1" x 2.5", which was close to the aspect ratio I use on the kayak shape. They carve like butter; I used wood carving tools because that's what I had at hand, but they cut with an XActo knife quite well. I used both sides of the eraser.

So what have I accomplished in this 30 days? I saw the intersection of different icons that appeal to me. I got some cool stamps, some so-so. I reinforced the value of repeating designs with small variations, because sometimes small changes make all the differences.
I see this shape everywhere. I experimented in the visual journal I kept of the process with combining different stamps going in different directions.

And where do I go from here? I have more erasers, I'm thinking of doing a series that could be used together in a tray of some sort to make a larger surface to do rubbings on. I'm thinking of doing bigger stamps. And there are more exercises in the book.

Even when I think I've made a stride or two forward in the process of being an artist, it's good to go back to basics once in a while. You never know where they'll take you.


circling around

I've been struggling with a big piece I'm working on. I wanted a large circle on it, and this is the fourth attempt at getting it right.

The first try was with dark blue tulle, machine stitched on. It looked sloppy, and so I removed it, which took more time than the original sewing did.

So I tried fusing it on. The result was stiff, shiny, and still not right. I managed to get most of it back off, although there is a small amount of fusing left on the surface--which meant that I couldn't move subsequent circles much.

The next attempt very nearly worked. I took a piece of polyester sheer and used transfer dye on it to give it some character. Then I cut (freehand) a large circle out of it, carefully pinned it in place, and hand sewed (yep, with an actual needle and thread) it on. I then added some embroidery on the surface. Finally, I hung it up on my design wall to check out what I assumed to be perfection.

The circle was badly flat on one site--looked like the moon a couple of days past full. It was distracting and I couldn't get past it. I even tried waiting overnight and looking at it with fresh eyes. No dice.

So I took it back off--at least hand stitching comes out fast. I managed to cut a better looking circle out of the piece, and it was only slightly smaller. This time I pinned it in place and hung it up before sewing--novel concept, huh? I moved it slightly, and started resewing it. I think this time is going to work. I took advantage of the redo and changed the thread and stitch I used, which I think will make it a better piece in the end.

The thing is, not that long ago I would have tossed this piece aside after the first or second failure. Why the change? Not sure, except that my vision for my work has become clearer in my mind--I know what I want a piece to be, and I'm willing to do what I have to do to get it to that place. The maturation of the artist? Maybe. Growing older and wiser? Well, yes to the first part. Now I'm willing to put the time into a piece to get it. Even if it means fewer pieces produced. The art comes first.