Shop as art
April 30, 2011
We’ve been working for the past 4 months clearing out the etalage and knocking out a wall to create a shop/exhibition space. See Craft Chronicles .
After the last coat of fresh paint, textile artist Sandra Jongedijk came over with her wares. It was so nice spending time with her before her vacation and discovering each new piece she had brought. Everything she makes radiates a calm mastery of technique- she has been sewing since she was 12. The shop is filled with the warm playfulness of her work- from stools covered with recycled wool blankets, to purses called ‘Grandma’s curtain’, meticulously designed and put together and always carrying an extra touch such as hand printed motifs on the fabric.
I decided not to open for the public, but rather invite interested friends. I sent out about 30 personal invitations for the 3 weekends I’ll be open.
This shop is an experiment for me in exploring the new anti-marketing I’ve been writing about here for years: create a local base; commit to something you are passionate about and prepare to have staying power over the long-term; trust it to work; avoid manipulative sales techniques; concentrate on finding your own audience as opposed to a mega audience; team up with collaborators; offer a service; and use art to create community and inspire others.
As I sat in the shop yesterday and no one showed up*, I began to doubt in myself and my seemingly naive expectations. Was this all wishful thinking? ‘What, just do something you believe in well and assume that eventually it will earn money? How do you expect to earn money when you don’t even add a percentage above the artist’s price? How dumb is that by modern marketing standards?’ What! You’re not on Twitter, or Facebook or Linked in! Then you don’t exist. Not for most of the internet using public.’ *(Later: today there was more interest and a few sales, that’s better!)
But for now the internet using public isn’t my primary target group. Of course I will use the web as a supplementary tool, and I always will link to the artist’s site, so international readers have a chance to buy directly from them.
However, the local aspect, having a neighborhood store where people feel comfortable to drop by, have a cup of tea, browse the inspiration table, and just take some time to soak up the atmosphere appeals to me. I want to offer a face-to-face, hands-on experience, one that fits with the craft sensibilities that I and the artists I feature represent.
Not making money on the efforts of the artists whose work I show is the non-profit part of this venture and supports artists as well as fine crafts. It keeps the prices affordable and somewhat competitive with mass-produced goods.
The benefits for me besides the feel-good ones, are the new networks of potential customers I gain with each new craftsperson I show. And I have already begun to suspect that this shop will earn for me in totally unforeseen ways. I love this project, it brings together so many of my interests and passions. It is an artwork I can keep building on through time.
So as far as I’m concerned it is already a success.