Critique Group Guidelines Feed

To Co-Op or NOT to Co-Op: A really big question.

Casabard.eschercuff Dear Harriete,

I've been invited to become a part of an artist co-op and before I jump on the bandwagon I need to educate myself. 

Casabard.mixedmetalboatThe group is small right now ~ 5 artists.  For some reason, the city is requiring that a metal sculptor be a part of this group.  I do not know who this person will be but the space has room to grow, so I'm sure the group will grow from the original 5 artists.

Casabard.mothernecklace We will be able to use the space for creating as well as selling.  Our time is our own, so if we are not there we just use an "out to lunch" sign, and we are not obligated to watch for other artists.

Casabard.poppy The location is owned by the city.  We would pay rent to them.  And the city would be responsible for advertising/marketing.  The rent is not yet set, but they are saying it will range somewhere between $100 - $300 a month ~ quite a steal.

Casabard.sunflowercuff
Above images:  Diana Casabar
1. The Escher Cuff
2. The Mixed Metal Boat Necklace
3. The Mother Necklace
4. Poppy Brooch
5. The Sunflower Cuff

I have asked the following questions:
1.  What are the security arrangements?
2.  Will our equipment and products be insured or do we need to insure them?
3.  Can I use my torch and chemicals in the building?  Is the building fire coded for that?
4.  Is there electricity?
5.  Will I have running water?
6.  Will we be responsible for building out our space, or will the city do that?

Can you think of any other questions I need to ask them before I make up my mind to be a part of this group?

Diana Casabar

Diana,

This is definitely a question with potential consequences.  I will try to be brief.  The questions you have asked so far are a good beginning but, there are two overriding issues on my mind: 1) insurance and 2) getting everything in writing.

Everyone should have insurance to protect their work, tools and equipment regardless of whether the city has insurance to cover the building.

Get everything in writing. This includes arrangements with the city and with the other artists. Getting everything in writing may seem like a pain and take some time, but it will clarify the issues and avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication.  Believe me, this effort at the beginning will save time and friendships in the long run.

Write up a list of co-op guidelines for Studio Policy, Adding and Subtracting Members and Display Policy.  See some suggestions below.  See also my Critique Group Guidelines.  Download Critique Group Guidelines Final2011 which you can modify for your particular purposes.

The next part is very sensitive ….. in my experience, there is always a range of unequal effort and participation.  Frequently it seems that one person may work harder and longer then everyone else and that person may or may not be expecting others to work as hard…..which can cause problems.  At the other extreme, there is often a person who does not pull their weight.

A portion of the group may resent the super hard working person or the polar opposite person .... and that creates stress and tension.  And trust me, it happens even if they are your friends (currently).

ACTION PLAN:
Establish a
clear set of guidelines NOW while everyone is still friends. As I sit and write this post, more and more issues keep coming to mind....there is so much to consider.

Below are some suggestions to discuss and get in writing.

STUDIO POLICY for:

  • Sharing equipment
  • Shop hours
  • Shop safety
  • Lock up
  • Cleaning up after yourself and in common areas
  • Weekly/Monthly contributions to shop maintenance
  • Keeping track of the hours for shop maintenance
  • Policy for lost and broken equipment.
  • Creating a fund that everyone contributes to for future improvements.
  • Voting on future improvements.

 

ADDING AND SUBTRACTING CO-OP MEMBERS

  • Nomination and acceptance of new people
  • Set up a policy for how a person leaves.
  • What if they owe money? What if they do not pay up?

DISPLAY POLICY

  • Common aesthetic for display
  • Review of items on display
  • Establish retail (not wholesale) pricing
  • Commission for the co-op
  • Commission for the seller
  • Work hours contributed to gallery maintenance.
  • Hours for “sitting” at the space to keep GALLERY HOURS
  • Policy for Open Studios

PAPER WORK, TAXES AND ACCOUNTING

  • Who is responsible for accounting?
  • Who is responsible for paying rent, etc.
  • Who is the primary contact with the city?
  • Will each of you handle your own taxes?
  • Will you need a business license with the city?
  • How are you handling purchase? Checks, credit cards,Square

 Despite the expectations of the city for not keeping regular hours or no stated obligation to watch work for other artists, in reality, if you want people to visit your display space there needs to be regular hours that are posted…such as Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Everyone needs to take a shift on a rotating basis for gallery hours and preventing theft.

Hope this helps. If readers of ASK Harriete have some other issues that they consider important in a co-op situation, please write them in the comments.

Harriete

 


How do you stay motivated when trying to find a market for your work?

Dear Harriete,

 

There's so much to consider when making and marketing work that I sometimes feel like the crazy plate spinner in the circus.  For the past year, sales have been almost non-existent which also has me feeling a bit disgruntled.  I have a ton of work that I've made during the eight years since my BFA and I'm kinda tired of looking at it.

How do you stay motivated when trying to find a market for your work?

Signed,

 

 

Disgruntled and lost

Dear Disgruntled,

For aspiring artists and craftspeople, the path for success is NOT about making work to sell. The path to success is to make the best most interesting, deep, esoteric, off the beaten path, unique,  "_________(fill in the blank here)" in the whole world. It has to reflect your inner core, not what you think will sell.  You need to dig deep.

Expecting to sell what you make as a measure of success is a poor measure of the merit for your work (and bound to make you feel bad in this poor economy).  If you want to make work to sell, then make work for Target or Wal-Mart. That is what sells. In reality, nearly all artists and crafts people must find supplemental income.

As for staying motivated, the book titled, Talent is Overrated, by Geoff Colvin. analyzes how people become successful. I recommend that you read it. A very important concept of the book is regular, "deliberate practice."  Most successful people accumulate over 10,000 hours of deliberate practice before they become a success.  If you started in elementary school, or when you were 3 years old like Tiger Woods, then you will have your 10,000 by the age of 21, or 24. But if you started your deliberate practice as a student in college, then you've just begun your 10,000 hours of practice. 

My favorite part of the book is in the last chapter, "Where Does the Passion Come From?"   Colvin points out that focusing on extrinsic motivation such as awards (or money) reduces the creativity of the outcome. This principal is backed up by academic research.  So where does passion come from? It certainly has to come from within.  Think about what you really love to do.

 

While doing your "deliberate practice" every day in the studio, develop visibility for your work outside of or beyond the gallery/consignment world.  Look for other opportunities to gain insights and experience like submitting your work to calendars or magazines, or volunteer with your local or national arts organization or at a local small museum or non-profit. Network online like crazy. Save your money from your day job for professional photography when you are ready.

(Taking your own pictures is a back up plan.)

 

 

Start or join a Critique group.  I have been in several critique groups for over 28 years. It is an absolute necessity to hear solid critical feedback from your professional peers. Eventually, the group may even create or lead to group show opportunities.  Avoid talking about children, dogs, cats, and personal problems. Talk only about the work of the members.  Download Critique Group Guidelines Final 2011

 

One final thought. Have you considered giving away a few of your experiments or finished pieces to friends or family that appreciate your work? This may expose your work to a wider and diverse audience.

 

Keep working,

 

Harriete

 

 


I never make any money, how do you stay motivated year after year?

Dear Harriete,

MichellePajakReynolds
Lily Necklace by Michelle Pajak-Reynolds

As I prepare my yearly records for my accountant, the expenses vs income $$'s are always lopsided.  While I'm very frugal, I spend WAY more than what comes back. I hope it's not too personal a question to ask, but have your $$'s ever turned out this way as well.  Sometimes I feel like my art habit is pulling too much out of my household income.  While it's really only a small percentage of our total, it's still a several thousand each year. How do you stay motivated year after year?

 

Signed,
Worried about negative cash flow

Dear At a Loss,

 

You've really hit on a couple of fundamental issues.  One, Can I make a living out of my art?  And two, How do I stay motivated?  Many, if not all, artists have been confronted by these issues. 

Let's separate these topics because I think of them as entirely different. In this post I will address the money issue and the importance of using Short Term and Long Term Goals for your professional development and motivation. Then, continue with a few suggestion to stay motivated and inspired about your work.

IS MONEY MOTIVATION FOR CREATING
Personally, I have never made much money from my artwork despite the fact that  I do more every year to generate income.  To make ends meet, I have a part time job (leading exercise) and do silver repair work.  I give lectures, workshops and speak at schools and conferences.  Each year a couple of major pieces do sell and some smaller items sell more often.  The art sales alone are not enough to cover my expenses, sometimes close but not enough.

Harriete and emiko sorting for future use r

 

Making a living from your art. The reality for most artists and craftspeople is that they need additional sources of income outside of their artwork to pay the rent and support themselves. To put it bluntly, don't give up your day job. 

This may not be the answer you wanted to hear, but making a living from art is not a practical motivator. It is irregular and outside of your control. 

Revenue from my work is not my sole source of motivation. Really it is only a small part of the big picture.

So how can an artist/maker stay motivated? First and most important, you need to decide your Goals for Success,  then break this down into Short Term and Long Term Goals.

Be honest with yourself? Is making a living from your work your most important goal? Then your production methods need to align with this goal along with the type of items you produce.

I am more motivated by making the best, original, innovative work that I can and  finding exhibition opportunities. Displaying my work in great exhibitions, included in books and magazines, and purchased for museum collections are my goals. As an artist, I work at aligning my work methods, and designs toward these goals. 

 

WRITE DOWN YOUR SHORT TERM AND LONG TERM GOALS
Seek your validation from you short and long term goals. Examples include:

  • producing one AMAZING piece per year
  • producing smaller or less involved work that costs less
  • having your work published in books and magazines,
  • having your work included in shows,
  • learning how to update your own web site, 
  • developing your Photoshop skills,
  • participating in a show,
  • organizing a show of your fellow artists,
  • making new opportunities for yourself and others (like a Critique Group),
  • generating money,
  • generating sales.

PARTICIPATE IN A Critigue by  Downloading Critique Group Guidelines Final 2011
This is very important. Use the Critique Group to:

  • Stimulate your work,
  • Create deadlines for yourself to get work done for the next Critique Group
  • Give and receive honest feedback. 
  • Meet monthly to motivate each other.
  • Potentially, the group can create group show opportunities. 

Vague and gratuitous compliments serve no purpose here. Be clear and on target. An "I like it" or "that is interesting" is not useful. Be specific about what works visually and what doesn't. Give a detailed interpretation and identify what elements caused or triggered your perception.  Draw on your knowledge of each artist's objectives and target your comments toward their objectives. Are the fabrication techniques aligned with their goals.  Focus on constructive criticism.  Avoid talking about children, dogs, cats, and personal problems.

A link to my Critique Group Guidelines is provided here.  I recommend that a group have between three and ten people to maintain a core group familiar with the work, previous progress and the short and long term goals of each member. 

DIG DEEP, BE UNIQUE
For me the path to success is to make the best, most interesting, deep, esoteric, off the beaten path, unique,  "_________(fill in the blank here)" in the whole world. It has to reflect your inner core, your passion, your inner being, your singular artistic voice, and a personal vocabulary of fabrication methods that you have developed over time. The more unique, the more unusual the work, the more likely you will reach your goals. Copycat designs will quickly hit the "glass ceiling" of the art and craft world.

Write down the goals for your work, and then study your approach to design and production. Are your work methods, approach to production, promotion, networking, and dedicated focus all aligned like the stars? Are you working in a straight line?  Your goals for your art or craft may be different than mine.

Your goals for your art or craft may be different than mine, the most important thing to realize is the you will never reach your goals if you aren't clear and honest with yourself.

Harriete Estel Berman