Thursday, April 03, 2008

An interesting review...

of an event at VCU. One of my wonderful students, Chris Morgan, wrote about a presentation by the founder of Etsy. I will try to highlight( in italics) some points for everyone at 1708 to consider. Please pass it on. Thanks to Quirk gallery for helping to bring the event. I think the most important point in this long, but great, post is the importance of galleries as a community center. To me this means discourse and dialogue...not simply attempts by a wonderful non-profit gallery to compete with commercial art galleries.


I arrived a bit late and missed whatever Arthur Hash said.(This is unfortunate Chris, because Arthur is fantastic.)

The CEO of Etsy, Robert Kalin, had many interesting things to say concerning the role of the gallery in response to Etsy’s existence in the art world, the economics of craft vs. “high art,” and the opportunities available for artists to make their own business and use Etsy as a platform and toolkit for doing so.

Because I missed the introduction, I could only gather that the purpose of the seminar was to discuss the relationship of Etsy and the role of the gallery(Quirk). Etsy’s online marketplace takes advantage of the unlimited real estate and other features exclusive to the Internet (such as blogging, which I’ll get into later). It essentially eliminates the middleman that is the gallery. I gathered that the gallery’s current role was to provide an establishment that could market, distribute and sell the work of the artist to an established community because the artist is not as capable or willing(this is only my assumption). Since the gallery is fairly similar to a music retailer, Etsy is similar to iTunes, but Etsy’s commission is simple and small enough to be most beneficial to the collector and artist.

Robert referenced Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media, where he made an analogy using the idea that McLuhan believed: “it takes a new medium to understand an old one.” He compared the role of the gallery in response to the existence of Etsy to the role of the radio industry in responce to the advent of the television. The radio industry had to recognize what the TV industry could not offer that the radio industry could: broadcasting to cars. With that knowledge of what their audience was doing, they took advantage of the weather and traffic market. He claimed that the gallery needs to do the same and recognize what they can offer that Etsy, as an online existence, cannot- a community center.

Another interesting point made by Mr. Kalin was about the consequences of a current bad economy in the art world when the representative for Quirk gallery gave testimony to the fact that Richmond collectors aren’t buying as much. “High art,” like paintings and sculpture, tends to serve no practical function while selling for very high prices, where as crafts are relatively affordable and will be appealing to collectors and consumers who would like to appreciate art but use it as a tool.
Good luck to all the Painting and Sculpture majors.

I think that the most personally relevant information was about the relationship between blogs and Etsy. Kalin has seen successful business stories on Etsy (which are apparently highlighted every month) whose artists have used their blog to merchandise their life. Consumers can follow the life of an artist, whose posts could contribute a personal context and connection to each piece of art, which has the potential to greatly entice certain collectors. He even proposed the idea of making “fictitious blogs” for the very purpose of branding yourself. He also compared particular bloggers to galleries who aim to build reputations of “good taste” and “pockets of affinity.” These are some awesome ideas for using blogs as publications rather than the journal blogging that we’ve been doing in class.

Some other interesting quick notes:

-Manufacturing Landscapes by Edward Burtynsky

A documentary that explores the aesthetic nature of towns and cities in China that are developed for the sole purpose of manufacturing handmade goods for the rest of the world.

-Etsy Statistics

-1 mil. registered members

-11 mil. unique visitors per month (it might actually be per year)

- Average price - $15

-Average age (seller and buyer) - 33

- Out of all 1 mil. members, 96% are female.


openhouse said...

I found the presentation on the whole to be disorganized and somewhat irrelevant to Richmond crafters, artists and shop/gallery owners:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. The program was actually hosted by the American Craft Council in partnership with VCU as part of a traveling 3-part symposia called "Making Meaning & The Marketplace: Craft and the next generation of thought'. The idea sprang out of a 2006 craft leadership conference that the Council hosted, in an effort to explore and celebrate the next generation of craft artists and their burgeoning influence in the market and culture. The Council felt motivated to offer this series and to address the changed and evolving marketplace for craft and to take a leadership role in designing relevant, meaningful programming to help students as they move from school into the marketplace (whatever that might be or look like!).

VCU's Craft Materials Studies group selected Etsy as their featured presenters.The other schools that we'll be partnering with will be UArts in Philly and CCA in San Francisco (both in the fall).

We hope that these programs will help to engage students, faculty, alumni and the public at these schools.

I thought Rob, Matt, Arthur, Kathy, and Sonya did a great job delving into some juicy topics. I think, also, that the audience did a fantastic job of raising some very relevant questions about the state of craft and our economy and society in general. Thanks for attending - and thank you for commenting! Stay tuned to the American Craft Council's website for more info on our programs:

-Monica Hampton, Director of Education, American Craft Council

Catherine Chandler said...

Thank you for the review. I just read about the presentation on Arthur Hash's blog and wish that they would hold the same presentation in Portland, OR...but alas, the rest of the country still views us as country bumpkins over here and they all go to L.A. and San Francisco. At least we have blogs to communicate and keep updated!

Definitely going to check out that documentary.

And, I really enjoyed the comparisons of Etsy and galleries...I think you're spot on. I have sold a few pieces on Etsy that would never have sold if they weren't in a gallery.

eyembradnow said...

I dont mind a contextual connection to my work but wouldn't want to "merchandise my life" - NO WAY ... too bad we cant get back to selling the art, and not the artist ...