Monday, March 12, 2012

art business sprinting, blasts from the past, farm pics

view from bottom of our driveway looking out across the road

"The business of art is a marathon, not a sprint.", so says Constance Smith in her book Art Marketing 101. Well after spending the last few weeks reading books on the business of art, I confess that I am content to be a sprinter. According to the experts, artists are to spend half of their studio time on the business side of things. I used to. Then I decided to (temporarily) step away from marketing and teaching in order to have more quality time to create art and to farm. Divided loyalties yes or perhaps having two passions is a better way to view it. I love growing food and caring for critters and quite honestly my life as just an artist would not be enough. Been there and done that as they say. So, while all of sorts of inspiring info spins in my brain, thanks to my recent reading -  info on dealing with art dealers, ways to present my art to the public, creating publicity campaigns and how to deal with copyright issues and  taxes etc. etc., I shall continue to enjoy the life we have created here on our small farm.

Spring has arrived in the last few days (quite a bit of snow has melted since I took these snowy pictures). Robins and red winged black birds are here and the temperatures have been very mild. My attention is turning to what needs to be done in order to be ready for gardening this summer. I think we shall be getting on the land early so I really need to start my seedlings.

Blast from my past - anyone remember those cup-o-soups from a few decades ago? Dehydrated packages of pseudo food, just add boiling water - no doubt filled with additives and preservatives and all sorts of nasty things...I can remember staying up late in my university days preparing a pouch of cream of chicken soup in a mug, in an effort to stave off the middle of the night munchies while I studied.

Now my cup of soups are the real deal.
The mug pictured above is another blast from the past. This mug is from Blue Mountain Pottery which was once Canada's largest manufacturer of giftware pottery (the company no longer exists). The pottery was all the rage years ago and my mother-in-law bought a set of four mugs. At some point they found their way here. 

Remember my ants in the pants phase of a couple of weeks ago? Well I channeled that antsy energy into a basement clean up. I also sorted out the root cellar and organized my seed file. I have oodles of carrots still (stored in bins with damp wood shavings on top of them) and lots of potatoes. It is time to use up some veggies and I have been making lots of soup. This weekend I made a cream of potato soup with home grown onions, carrots, potatoes, goat's milk, a  dried chili from last summer, coriander seeds (harvested at least two years worth of those last fall) with only the celery coming from the store. Yum.  

Yet Another blast from my past - my cross country skis. I received them as a Christmas present when I was twelve. I have skied literally hundreds of miles on them. The boots had to be replaced and the bindings but other than that, I still ski on the vintage wood (not fiberglass) and they are waxable. Non-wax skis are not for my kind of trails! My poles are wood and were made in Finland. Wow, when was anything made anywhere but China? Look back a few decades I guess.

Here are some pictures I took late in the afternoon a week ago...

In the distance you might be able to make out the Gatineau hills which are located in Quebec on the other side of the Ottawa River.

Noah has just been chasing chickens, some hens are heading up the ramp into their hen house
Noah waiting for a corn chip

This is our herd queen, Rainah. Her birthday is Tuesday. She will turn seven. I admire her so much. Rainah is a petite beauty (our smallest goat), very strong, fearless, very wise and an excellent keeper of her herd. She makes sure there is order in the barn and in the yard and she is always on guard duty. Last evening she climbed onto the highest level of our goat play structure in order to keep an eye on a fox that was hunting mice some 75 feet from the goats. Fortunately for all involved, especially the chickens, there was a fence between the fox and livestock. A fox wouldn't bother a goat and our big gal Veesa would be happy to take him on. While not the herd Queen, she is willing to go on the defensive when dogs are around. Well enough farm pics for now -  my other life that keeps me from running art marathons!  :-)
(My apologies if these sorts of posts format in a goofy way. They look fine in my browser. Unfortunately pictures can appear in areas I did not intend them if you are using a different browser or an RSS feed.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

art biz and death

I hadn't intended to spend February reading art business books. It all started when I was preparing for a studio tour executive meeting. The turn out for the last tour was down and I was wanting to do some research. Were we missing something when it came to advertising and marketing the tour? So, I went on-line and looked for art biz books at the Ottawa public library. There were several titles listed. I am not the only artist in the city looking to learn as some books were signed out or already reserved. I am still waiting for one book. Lots of folks are reading it so it must be a good one! :-)  It has been many years since I studied business and marketing and with the arrival of the Internet much has changed in the way artists do business.

Well I didn't find the missing holy grail, the secret to success, either for the tour or for myself but I did end up with much to ponder. While there isn't a missing formula to learn, it never hurts to refresh your knowledge and to re-assess your marketing goals and plans. I have made lots of notes.

Okay, so let's talk art and death. Your death to be specific. If you are like most artists, you have completed art work that is at the moment unsold. (Just a few pieces right? LOL) If you were to die tomorrow (perhaps hit by a bus or something) what would become of your art? Have you thought about that? This was a topic mentioned in several of the books and quite honestly I hadn't given it much thought. I don't even pay to insure the art in my home above and beyond what our basic home owner's policy allows and the idea of including my art in my will wasn't on my radar either.

Ah, but estate planning is important if you care what becomes of your art. If you have children, chances are your art inventory is way more than they would have room for on their walls. Whom do you want to benefit from your life's work? Is there someone you would trust to dispose of it in the way you would wish? Should someone have a big sale? What happens to the art that isn't sold? Do you wish to donate some art to a worthy institution or cause? You should perhaps make sure that this 'worthy instititution' wants your art. Storing art where it is kept safe from damage from the elements (heat, humidity etc.) is difficult for us artists, not to mention others who may not be thrilled to be inheriting your work. What if your work is unframed and not presentable for sale? Yet perhaps people will be thrilled to get your art, too thrilled - i.e. squabbles might erupt over who gets which piece...not good.

 Bottom line, does someone know what your wishes are with regards to your art? If you don't wish to formally include this info in your will, I suggest you clearly write out your intentions, have a discussion with your chosen person and then put this information where you store your will. You do have one of those right? :-)

I really had to do some thinking on this one. Each year my output increases. By the time I am elderly, the size of my personal collection could be rather significant. When I retire from running my Teresa Mallen Studio business, I shall no longer work at selling my art. Yet no doubt I shall continue to create! 

My mother-in-law has been an art collector all of her life. She is now 80 and she realizes she has way more art than her children could possibly want (our wall space is filled with my art) and she has been desperately trying to find buyers for her collection. Her children certainly don't want to have to deal with this and she knows it. Yet I have been a bit of a help in another area - I have been more than happy to take some of her English Poole pottery collection off her hands... :-)

Aren't you glad that I brought up the subject of your death????

Well how about we switch the topic to birth...the pictures below are of a robin's nest that was built in a shrub bush outside of our barn's rear door last summer. Baby robins were in there for weeks and they were close enough to peek in on. Nests fascinate me. Assembling mud, twigs and grasses and a dwelling is made, a sturdy one at that.