From Feb 7 – 8, jewelry artist and gallery owner Thomas Mann visited the Poconos, PA to speak to artists and students at East Stroudsburg University. Tom brought his gallery exhibition “Storm Cycle” (link to a video or site), which gets us up close and personal with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Tom collected bits of personal paraphernalia left after the storm floods retreated, and created gallery art that includes stories about the individuals and families that owned them. The more I read of his personal accounts, the more meaningful the art became for me.
Tom stayed for two days to present “Design for Survival”, a 2-day course designed by Tom to meet the needs of artists who are too inexperienced in the world of business to create sustainable businesses based on their art. Often lacking business training as well as experience, many talented artists and craftsmen burst upon the crafts scene, excited to sell and become known in their fields. Very often working from home with little overhead, they typically charge too little for their work to really maintain a business, inadvertently undercutting experienced artists who have priced their work to survive as a sustainable business. They close up shop a few months or years later, disillusioned and frustrated by failure, and not understanding that they actually put themselves out of business by ignoring the rules of a sustainable business. Does this scenario hit just a bit too close to home? Most of us have no idea of how to price our work or run an arts-based business that can survive the competitive and ever-changing market. Tom has created “Design for Survival” to meet this need, and to help artists find lasting success in the business of craft.
University art students that attended Tom’s seminars got a real behind-the-scenes view of business as a self-employed working artist. Local members of the arts community gained detailed information about retail shows, juries, marketing strategies that really work, appropriate pricing, reaching your market, and so much more. Stop back soon, I will be posting more details, and sharing a lot of what I learned.