There’s a scene at the end of the movie Pretty Woman, where a man is walking along the street, asking everyone he passes, “What’s your dream?“.  It always makes me smile because of his enthusiasm and the way the movie ended….on a high note in spite of the glossed over, fantasy story line.

What I would like to discuss and emphasize in this post is, “Do you know what your dream is?”  If you do, that’s great…it’s a start toward achieving it.  But if you don’t, it’s time to sit down, pen/paper in hand, and start working out the details.

I’m still revisiting my thoughts and impressions from the Colorado Metalsmithing Conference held in Salida, CO on July 22 – 24, 2011.  As I have reflected on what I experienced at the conference, more details are unfolding for me.  They have been significant to me because of where I am with my work, my goals, my dreams.

Avi Good

Avi Good discussed the business side of art.   She is Michael Good’s daughter and one of the most delightful and enchanting people I have ever met.  I love the way she looks at life and approaches things.  Coupled with her sense of humor, I found her insights invaluable.

The business side of art is something that I think we all struggle with, yet it is vitally important to our success.  Avi stressed that you have to know where you want to be, before you get there.  I often joke that I think many take the approach depicted in an early South Park episode about the Underwear Gnomes.

Underwear Gnomes Business Model 

You can see a key component of this business plan is missing!  How does one make a profit in their business?

Avi discussed the straight forward approach that must be taken for your business to succeed.  At the beginning of the year, determine the amount of money you need to make annually and then start working on all of the factors that will allow you to achieve that income.  It isn’t easy.  There are some ‘guestimates’ you will need to make.  You have to crunch the numbers in order to have a hope of achieving them and being on the road to success.

There are so many unknowns that go into this formula for calculating the amount of money you need to earn during the year from your work.  How many shows do you plan on doing?  Consider those costs….application fees, travel expenses, food, lodging coupled with the costs of doing your work.   That’s just one aspect.

She pointed our the dilemma, creativity vs selling to make a living.  You have to analyze what you are doing and is it working?  Pricing is the foundation of a sound business.

Determine the following:

  • Your costs = price of materials
  • Labor = all aspects surrounding your time, show preparations, making your pieces, marketing your work, etc.
  • Overhead = expense in relation to time, utilies, insurance, mortgage/rent, any fixed cost
  • Expenses = everything else, your tools, meals, advertising, etc.

Labor breaks down to how much do I want to make annually.  Once you have that figure, you can break down the number of weeks you work in a year, hours you work in a week and then ultimately, your hourly rate.

Lets face it, as we start, we may not be making much, if anything, on an hourly rate.  Sad but true.  I’m a realist and Avi confirmed (as Lexi has) that for the first couple of years in the biz, you may not be earning an hourly rate for your work because you are an unknown.  Avi’s father is Michael Good.  Talk about name recognition!  As she pointed out, would some one purchase an identical pair of earrings made by Michael Good or a pair made by an unknown?  The value for Michael Good’s work is considerably higher than that from an artist who has no name recognition.  That’s just the reality of it.

The thing is that we all have to set goals, coupled with that, we need to outline the steps we need to take to achieve those goals.  Remember here, you need to outline those steps you are going to take to achieve those goals….don’t be like those Underwear Gnomes and have a red question mark in Phase 2 of how to achieve your goals.

I admit that I’m lucky; I have a full time job in the corporate world that provides the stability and funding that I need to continue my artistic pursuits.  I know a lot of artists in this category.  Does this make any of us less as artists?  I would say not.  I am a person driven to achieve, grow and learn.  Certainly one of my goals is to become a full time artist.  Given the status of our economy in the US, along with the mindset of the public and the collectors, well, it feels like salmon battling the upstream current when trying to grow my business.  Yet I am determined to succeed.  That determination alone will not guarantee my success as an artist.

First and foremost, we must have a plan.  What do we want to achieve and how will we go about making that happen.  As I said earlier, it is not easy.

I am re-evaluating my business goals.  It’s imperative that we write these goals down, look at them every day to stay focus and pursue them.  This year I have made the choice to be a self-represented artist.  Once I complete my fall show schedule, I am going to look for galleries that would find my work to be a good fit.  Remember that takes work and research.  No one is going to “discover you and your work” without a LOT of effort on your part.  Realize that being represented by a gallery must be a good fit for both the artist and the gallery.  Much to do and learn.

The challenge of achieving one’s goals is a worthy one.  Consider where you want to be as an artist and how you will work toward those goals.  I believe there isn’t a set formula to achieve these goals and each of us must work out the details that will be a custom fit, tailored to our individual personalities and needs.

For me, I know there is a lot of work in front of me.  Being an ‘overnight success’ does not happen overnight.  Ponder this.

What is my dream? I have a concept, after listening to Avi; just having ‘a concept’ isn’t good enough. I have to develop a clear, concise, well thought out plan. Do I want to be famous? No. I envision myself as one of those artists who create “one of a kind” pieces of art.  That is all well and good…now I must plan my strategy and determine my real goals, along with the steps that I need to take, in order to achieve my goals.

Whew, that’s heavy….a lot to consider. Well worth it!

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.