Is art hype, or not?

Just recently the elusive artist Banksy set up a booth in central park and sold his artwork for a mere $60 each. Now what I find interesting, is if you don't known his name or his work, you probably would think of him as just another spray paint or graffiti artist, and probably just move along. If you know his work, you probably would have thought these images were fakes and just moved on (I would have). But in a day he made $420 dollars, and reportedly from people who had never heard of him. They were later appraised at $250,000 each.

In 2007 one of the world's best violinists, Joshua Bell preformed on his Stradivarius in the Washington subway.. In 43 minutes he made a mere $32.

Bansky didn't do too bad for setting up at a random location, and not being a part of an "Arts" show. I don't know how much the booth cost him to set up, but I know many artists who (if not happy) would be satisfied with that day's wages, because at least they had the opportunity to meet a new audience.  Compare Mr. Bell's take for 43 minutes and many buskers (street performers) would be very happy with that, and many artisans and crafters would be happy to be able to sustain that kind of income per hour over a day's vending as well.

So what can this teach me as an artisan?

A certain amount of art is hype. Good work, that speaks to people, will be recognized, however the better it is packaged the higher it will sell for, and the more people it will sell to. This "packaging" could be the level of art and craft show you are exhibiting at, the type of frame it is in, the display of the booth, or even the label on the bag it comes in. There is a certain amount of money that needs to be spent by the artisan in order to ask the highest prices possible for their work.

Good work will sell over and over. Bad work will sell once, maybe twice, and then the hype can't mask the low level of craftsmanship forever (regardless of the price). This should boost the confidence of artisans that have trouble commanding a fair price for their work when a cheap knockoff is present at the same event.

It is often the event, not the artisan. Just this past weekend, dad sat a a small event and made $40 all day. At a prestigious event I could make that every hour. Not every expensive event is right for me, but more often than not, I don't regret the decision to be there at all. There are events where people come in the mindset to buy, and those they come to just walk around. Like Joshua Bell that day, people were in the subway to get someplace, not to stop and listen. When they are in the mood to stop and listen they would pay a premium to listen to him. We need to find the places and events where people are in the mood to appreciate art.

Appreciate every sale. Joshua Bell was quoted as saying "At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cellphone goes off, but here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change." Even the greats can put their work into context and be appreciative of what they get. Every contact that gives you a chance to share what you do with someone else is a blessing, and if they pay you on top of that, what a wonderful life we live!


Finding Inspriation

There are times where all artisans have trouble finding inspiration. Today I am having one of those days, so I have decided to write about it.

One thing about me is that on days I don't feel inspired, I also feel blue. Not depressed, not anxious, just a little blue, like some of the color has come out of the world. These are the days that I feel like I am just going through the motions and doing what has to be done. When this feeling extends for a long time, I think most people would call it burnout. I have been to that stage too, but today is just a blue day.

I need customers to keep me inspired. I don't think I could be an artisan that turns out work and uses a sales force to sell it. I need the interaction with the end user to help me come up with ideas and to help me keep pace with what is desired in the marketplace. This helps me always evolve my business each year. I already have 8 suggestions for new products/fragrances for next year and I am sure that list will be twice as long by the time I have the chance to start developing the 2014 line.

As for that, I do think of my products as a "line". I try and keep a cohesive feeling and story to everything. My best sellers in soap, you can also find in fizzys, and soaks, and lotion bars. New soaps for this year don't have any accompaniments as I test out the fragrance popularity. When a fragrance is discontinued, the entire line is dropped, so even if it is a wildly popular bath fizzy, if the soap doesn't sell well, it is dropped from the entire line. I am primarily a soapmaker, so it is soap that determines the rest of the product line. Popular soap = more products using that fragrance.

But inspiration hits from odd places if you look for it. Today we tried to save some time and make Dragon's Blood soap at the same time as Egyptian Cotton. The fragrance of those two mixed together instantly got me thinking about how to combine them. This will go on my list of things to research for sure. It also made me want to break out my case of fragrance samples, over 200 small vials filled with samples I have acquired over the years. Time to sniff them again and see where they lead me.

There isn't much time for all that fun right now as I head into my last few weeks of long hours getting ready for Chriskindlmarkt, but i have taken the note and I will get back to it later. Right now it is time to put my head down and work hard. I can enjoy my inspiration later.

Self Worth

It seems that in the past week or so there has been a recurring theme amongst people in my life about self worth.  So here are a few random thoughts I have on the topic.

When I stopped working my "real" job and became a soapmaker I had a hard time with my self worth. I felt as though if I wasn't bringing in a paycheck then I wasn't contributing to the home. It took almost a year of C constantly reminding me that it is "our" money no matter what, and that he was investing in our future by investing in me and my business, that it would all work out in the end. I still have my days, especially after a show that didn't go as well as planned, but mostly I feel like an equal contributor now.

This equal contribution isn't just financial in nature. I make sure the house stays relatively clean, I plan and cook most meals, in general I "hold down the fort". This allows C to travel for his work and have a solid foundation and strong safety net when he needs it. I know now if be both worked the way we did when we met, this probably wouldn't have lasted and built to be as strong of a relationship as it is. We both have our roles, they are separate roles, they are equal roles, and they have nothing to do with income or gender, they have to do with our passions in life and following them together as a partnership.

Passions in life. Someone recently told me that no one is passionate about their jobs. I disagree that no one is passionate. There are two many jobs that require some level of passion to obtain and keep. You can't be an ER Doctor without some passion for the practice of medicine and for the human race in general. You can't be an actor without passion for the craft. You can't be an artisan without passion for your medium. You may not like all aspects of your job, you may not like all the people you work with, but if you look there most likely will be one aspect that you can claim to be passionate about.

If you can't find passion at work, find it somewhere else. Volunteer, pick up a hobby, take classes, anything to help you find that spark.This can be hard with a full time job and a full time family but I think it can be done, even if just for 15 minutes a day. We are vessels and when we get empty we have nothing else to give those around us, we get refilled through things we are passionate about.

Everyone has to feel like they are worth something to someone. So be sure to tell the people around you what they mean to you. Also remeber as we are going through our day to thank the people who help us. This morning I had a wonderously helpful government worker help me accomplish something over the phone I thought I needed to do in person. I could tell by the sound in her voice that when I told her that "she rocked" that not enough people do that. Yes, we as customers should expect good service, but be willing to tip (even if just with words) when someone is extra special. 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and tell your family and friends just how much they mean to you. It could be the exact moment they need a boost. 


Annual Free Shipping Sale!

All of October is FREE SHIPPING!

Who can benefit? Just about everyone! No minimum orders, just easy free shipping so tell your friends and family too (please).

What do I have to do? Nothing but place an order! There are no codes to use, every order ships free.

Where do I have to live? You need to be in the United States or a US Territory (like Puerto Rico).

When does this end? October 31, 2013, so you can order as many times as you wish until then.

Why do this? To help you stock up, and to help me prepare for my busiest time of the year.

How does this help? With the soaps curing for a minimum of four weeks before sale, I need to think ahead a month. These early sales help me figure out exactly what I need to make in early November so it is ready by Christmas.