Selling on Etsy Without Selling Out


As a fine artist there is always the fear of selling out lurking in the background of any potential monetary exchange. If you work within the walls of a brick and mortar gallery you have the assurance that you are going about selling your artwork the "right" way, right? As a former Art Professor for ten years and a Professional Artist for fifteen, I know that the idea of making money and being an authentic artist is sometimes unsettling at best. In school you are not necessarily taught about the business of art, but more the principles of design and the awe and respect owed those who came before us in the art history books. When the topic of selling work is broached in an art program you often hear about the importance of a strong portfolio and contacting galleries but there is not a lot said about the vast array of avenues that many artists might take to continue making work once they get out of school.

What exactly does a career as an Artist look like these days? Unless you are independently wealthy you are most likely not going to be on the fast track to "making it big". Chances are you may be looking for ways to fund your career choice before you get on your feet. I want to talk about a few concepts I've been following in relation to the cultural idea of the Artist today and how they may lead you to opening up your own Etsy shop. Then I'd like to discuss how, as a fine artist, you sell your work on Etsy without feeling like you are selling out.

Let's first talk about the traditional gallery.

The first question emerging artists have is, "how does one get into a gallery?". Good question. From experience I can say it is typically an organic process, one that happens through networking and exhibiting your work. This may take time for some and you may be looking for a way to get your work out there and bring in some income before that elusive gallery connection comes to be. But let's say you do have gallery representation, this still does not necessarily equate to a steady income. Gallery sales are great when you can get them but again, until you are really selling in multiple well known galleries, it is not going to pay the bills. Showing your work in a Gallery venue is respected in the arts. It is a way to show that you are established and you often reach clients who have a strong appreciation for your work and a pocketbook to back up that passion. So all and all, gallery connections are a good thing. However there is still the saying, don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Showing in galleries should be part of your creative business plan but is not the only avenue to explore.

As a digital / photographic / mixed media artist I have always thought about my work in terms of multiples. I have also broken my work down into size / price range points. I have the need to create authentically and never want to feel as though I am mass producing my work. Initially I started off selling limited edition large prints. I would feel guilty if I sold too many and yet always wanted to sell more! I finally realized that the concept of the original does not have to stop me from selling work. I opened up an Etsy shop called "Spirit in the Machine" that is based on the concept of the digital handmade. I sell limited edition prints that match the quality of my larger works but on a much smaller scale. I sell limited edition by size, not by piece. So I can sell multiple editions in multiple sizes.

This allows me freedom in a couple ways. One, it allows for more sales. But two, it also allows me to feel settled with another concept I had been struggling with. Galleries allow me to sell to clients with higher monetary means. Working with a consultant allows me to sell to businesses and individuals with higher price points as well. Yet I believe that authentic original works of art should be made available to all income brackets. I didn't just want to sell to those with expendable incomes, I wanted to sell to those who love my work and can't live without it.

Etsy allows me to create a lower end price point and open my market to any individual who is interested in my work. The work is still high quality but they are now more affordable as well. More sales and a more democratic approach to art- win/win!

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