Saturday, 1 November 2008

Thanks so much

I have to say how happy I am to have recieved every piece of advice, and kind but direct honesty from you guys in the last post. It's true that actually vocalising the issue has helped. Here's a few things i've done since then:

  • I put together a spread sheet showing the most basic outgoings I need to meet each month, the amount it costs me to create prints and ship them, the amount I make from them, how much tax I pay on them etc to figure out how much I would need to sell to meet my costs.
  • Collated every months sales this year and after fees/shipping etc figured out what my average earnings were
  • Read a lot of advice, mainly about cataloging work, writing an artists statement and CV and self marketing and presentation
  • Thought a lot about which direction I should go in, this is an important point which i'm going to ramble about now
Putting together the spread sheet and figuring how much i'd need to sell especially in today's financial climate was rather sobering. I looked at various options like going part-time in my current job (unrealistic, and I haven't been there long either), contracting (most of the work is in London and runs for 6 months), working part-time in a lower paid job (couldn't afford the bills), moving to a smaller place in town (Lack of studio space and no more great outdoors).

So realistically I need to increase the average amount I make from art enough to make it feasible. I know that if I am making more I can sell more, however the laws of supply and demand don't work that simply. I feel like there are two main options, either try to increase the value of my work by submitting to exhibitions/juried shows/self marketing - the traditional route. Or else commercialise some of my work, I am thinking mainly of the toys (jumping jacks/paper dolls) and theatres. Perhaps even both.

Anyway, before any of that takes place I need to address one major issue, my totally rubbish cataloging of work. I take shoddy & badly lit photos all the time, this is because cataloging for me is secondary, it's something I do in the 5 minutes between finishing a piece and starting another. But it struck me recently that if I were to send a stack of photos of my work as examples, i'm not sure most people could work out what the hell it is I produce. I need some level of consistency as well.

So, I promised myself that whenever there is good light on a weekend and I have work which needs photoraphing I shall set the camera up properly, put a white sheet on the table and take the photographs as well as I can. And as it happens, this weekend there is good light.

These aren't the best shots you'll ever see but thery're the best I can manage at the moment, so that's ok.

These are tiny steps, but it feels good to make them.

In terms of actual art, i'm doing a rather exciting commission at the moment, it is to be a fully moving automaton. Normally with these things I get bogged down by the complexity of the task and can never make it because my tools are minimal. But this time, I stumbled upon a genius solution in a book which made it do-able even for my clumsy hands.

Here's the central mechanism, it looks so simple doesn't it?
That little baby took me all day and lots of glue and nails and pulling it apart and more glue.

Here's the sketch, it'll be put inside another of those old clock cases

Here's the main character, a sinning sailor who's making his way to heaven (hopefully)


paolability said...

I've always thought you've never charged enough. I think you could easily double your prices on Etsy and not see a significant drop in sales.

Re: photography - agreed, it's worth spending the time to get a good portfolio. For my jewellery, I found I couldn't wait for bright days and I now have two OTT-Lite Task Lights and a Cloud Dome (to diffuse shadows). (I still have to fix the contrast on the computer.)

I don't recommend getting a Cloud Dome -you can make your own light-tent - but getting day-light lamps are a good investment and mean you can take consistent photos any day of the year.

You might find that just one light is enough. They're about 45 quid from John Lewis but I was able to get one from eBay for 20 and so it's worth shopping around.

Anna Lloyd said...

I want to start making prints. Can I ask how you get them printed, on what paper, what kind of inks and what kind of printer?

Making a lightbox works well, you can make it with a cardboard box or get serious and make a wooden box. This blog describes how to make one.

pen and paper said...

Spreadsheets are useful creatures, aren't they? I think I felt so affected by your previous post because I'm feeling challenged by the same things you are, but I'm not nearly as far along.

Lonnie Bullington said...

You might try this website for some help on making mechanical mechanisms. These guys are in London and they have a book called Cabaret Mechanical Movement. There is also a gentleman in England, Rob Ives, from The Flying Pig, who has some mechanical paper models of gears, rack and pinion and a bevel gear. Any of these models would provide you with ways to make your toys move. I just hate it when you have to work so hard when there was somebody else who figured out an easy way of doing things. And I just was over to Paper Pino's website and all of his card automata models are now free. He has some nice action mechanisms as well. You might want to contact Pollock's to see if they would be interested in your toys. Your stuff reminds me of the things they sell there. Good Luck Lindsy on your new path.

littlerobot said...

Hey guys

Thanks so much for advice on the lightboxes! I'd have to make quite a large one for my stuff I think it will be worth it in the long run though - hopefully you'll see some better photos soon. The daylight lamp is something I definately need, even for painting.

Anna, I use a canon pro9000 with hahnemuhle photo rag paper. In my various experiments with printers this is a brilliant combination. The chromalife inks the canon uses are durable and the photorag paper is really beautiful and thick (I use the 308gsm version). I think it's a great idea to start producing your own reproductions!

Pen, to be honest i'm not feeling that far along myself - it's all just wishful thinking and pie charts :)

Lonnie! Thanks for the links, I know of Cabaret - It's a damn shame they're no longer at covent garden. I have a few mechanism books - my issue is the mechanism I want is never exactly the one in a book - but I realised in the making of this one that usually you can make it out of a combination of different mechanisms....So, I made this after stumbling across a wave machine in a Rodney Peppe book.

And, as for Benjamin Pollock's toy shop, what a great and wonderful establishment! By amazing coincidence, they stock my paper forest doll and the theatre! One of my favourite things to happen this year. :)

Lonnie Bullington said...

Did you know that Cabaret has a kit for playing around with mechanisms made of wood? It seems to be a little bit dear but to use it to play around and see what you can do, might be worth the money. Also this link ( to a large number of mechanical paper dolls publish by the LA times in the 1920's. There are some cool things Mr. Rudolph did with his toys to make them interactive. I am so glad that Pollock's carries some of your art. Ok I will be quiet now.

Anonymous said...

Simple? Simple? That mechanism looks totally amazing to me! Your work is astonishing and I hope one day to be able to buy something :)

Rima said...

Congrats Lindsey on your positive sitting downs and planning... I think you can do it :) I agree about doubling your prices.. .you make such amazing work. And wow for getting work in Pollocks - I used to love going there when I lived in London :)
Our little cottage is up for (cheap) rent when we go in a month ... only a few miles from you and still with great outdoors... interested? :)
Wishing you much inspiration and creative days x

ArtSnark said...

Enjoy reading your blog & seeing what fascinating pieces you've come up with. I mentioned your latest posts on mine & just thought I'd let you know.

Your new project looks quite interesting - it will be fun to see how it progresses

littlerobot said...

Hey lonnie, yes I thought about buying that until I found the wave automaton in a book - which led to me being able to make this one i'm working on....I will probably invest in it though.. I have a few books on the topic but I find it difficult to imagine a mechanism, which is why I think I get stuck....:)

Jess - honestly, in my mind it started off as a horribly complex series of mehcanisms which I would find impossible to build - reducin it to essentially a long stick with bends in it was a miracle :)

Artsnark! Thanks so much for the mention - it's much appreciated! :)

Rima, a mail makes it's way to you

ThessalyRose said...

I've been studying the same idea, of being a professional artist, though I'm not sure my work is quite developed enough to make the leap yet.

May I suggest Christine Kane's blog for creative entrepreneurs? It's a little bit self-help and a little bit business advice, but I find her advice often helps me cope with my artistic foibles (disorganization, etc.) and turn them into strengths.

One of the hardest things is figuring out how to promote yourself. Most of us were raised not to toot our own horns, but you have to get over that to be a selling artist, unless you're blessed with a friend, spouse or relative who can do that for you. I'm not, so I know how hard the road is.

I wish you the best of luck in promoting your excellent work!