There are three major insights following the ACC Conference that seemed to be most relevant to making a viable livelihood from your art and craft. They are:
2) The evolution of "filters" from gallery/curatorial selection to peer review and online search.
3) The need to bring value and commitment to a community.
Now for more depth on Part 2. The evolution of "filters" from gallery/curatorial selection to peer review and online search continues to accelerate. But the role of filters has always existed. Human brains are wired to categorize stuff. Whether consciously or not, we naturally place things into groups like blue or red, big or little, jewelry or sculpture, even superior craft or mundane.
Accordingly, gallery owners, curators, editors, etc. have exercised their judgment to bring together groups of selected (implying the best) art and craftwork. Consumers and collectors have relied upon the time, effort, and expertise of the galleries and exhibitions to filter the most interesting work worthy of special attention. Ultimately, the audience and buyers exercise their own personal filters to opine what is most interesting or perhaps even decide what to buy.
The role of filters is not only helpful, filters are essential. The physical limits of space, proximity to potential visitors, time, and convenience, all force galleries, curators, editors, casual viewers, and buyers to use filters to choose how to expend their limited resources.
AOL Bracelet © 2007
Recycled tin cans
Harriete Estel Berman
See more bracelets
As mentioned in part 1, the Internet has impacted everything. Traditionally, the most important value that galleries offered as a "filter" has been as a voice of taste, knowledge, and expertise. They selected the best merchandise to display in limited show space, shelves, and pedestals. Retail locations will continue to provide this value, but the Internet extends the virtual display space to near infinity on the Long Tail.
The online show space has no limits - but buyers still need filters to zero in on the small subset of merchandise that is of interest to them. The algorithms and parameters of search engines are the new filters.
Illustration by Jose Cruz
X-Factor e blog
Little Known Actors series
In addition, the Internet has spawned online tastemakers like Great Green Goods, Stylehive, Daily Art Muse, and X-Factor E Blog. DailyCandy.com (with 12 city editions) can zoom the popularity of a featured item or business into a supernova in a day. These are the new filters of the Internet world. Yet, I can't think of even one conventional gallery or art/craft-related site that has extended its online presence to act in this "virtual tastemaker" role. I don't know why. Perhaps, like Blockbuster versus Netflix, the people in the traditional "brick and mortar" model are concerned about cannibalizing their gallery marketplace.
Online filters are adapting with new fluidity and the egalitarian momentum of the Internet. The ease of sharing a link with your friend can launch a funky YouTube video to stardom. Where will this take art and craft? Don't really know yet, we're still in the early stages of a huge transition. Will it be peer reviews, virtual curators, sheer popularity? Somehow I don't believe it will depend on "friending" or "hearting" your fellow makers. I do believe that quality, innovation, or provocative content will be recognized on its own merits.
With the Long Tail, filters are still necessary and will definitely further evolve in the future marketplace. We will soon take for granted emerging filters that don't yet exist. More effective search technology and improved consumer characterization will help search engines "know what the consumer likes." Online filters will further enhance the opportunities for artists and makers to connect with potential online customers without traditional intermediaries such as galleries, magazines, and exhibitions.
What can you do now? Help the search engines find you and your work. Use tags, titles, and descriptions effectively and as much as possible on every site that includes your work. These text elements are the critical hooks for you to communicate with potential buyers in the online world. Under-utilized tags and descriptions are like having a storefront window in a fantastic high-traffic locale with nothing displayed in the window. If the shoppers can't "see" what you have, they won't walk in.
I consider every one of my online sites a potential storefront. Does your storefront invite folks in or leave them guessing (or worse, never connecting)? Learn to work effectively with current and new filters as they emerge. I'd love to hear your ideas and comments either as a comment or privately through the email link below my photo.
Harriete Estel Berman
FIND ME ONLINE riding the long tail like a wild bronco at:
This post was updated on January 5, 2022, to provide current links.