Fridays Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South
Selling Art In The South
Last Friday night was the "opening" for my show at the LeMoyne Center For The Visual Arts, here in Tallahassee. I was showing with John Wilson, a painter, and Joan Matey, who does mixed media environments.
I had 17 pieces, which consisted of 13 sculptures, three pieces of furniture, and a box with a relief sculpture on the top. There were hundreds of people there, and the three of us had to give something called a gallery talk about our art work. I have no idea of what I said, but Wanda thought it was good, and many people told me how nice it was that I explained what my pieces were doing. I sure wish I could have heard it, too.
The work will be on display for a month, and so far I haven't sold anything. However I have received three commissions from people who attended. I had one piece titled, "Bear Crossing the River." It is a wall piece (2'x3') in walnut, oak, vermilion, and southern yellow pine.
Monday, this man called me up and said he wanted to talk to me about it, and I said for him to come down to my studio. Well he arrived he told me how much he likes the Bear, but he doesn't like the bear in it. The bear is pretty much the whole focus of the piece, but I went along and said, "Well, what did you like about it"? He said he liked everything, but not the bear and could I make one like it with a flower in it. I asked if he knew the bear was standing in a river. He said yeah, but couldn't I make an island in the river and put a flower on the Island? He then handed me a check for a thousand dollars and asked if that would be enough to get me started on a new piece for himto which I said in my best Minnesotan voice, "Yeah sure, you betcha."
After that, two other people stopped by and wanted me to make them boxes. The first one was a young lady who had admired the box in the show, and she wanted a box made for her husband. I asked, "What are you going to put in it?" I needed some idea of size, and she said she couldn't tell me. She left and came back a half hour later with a cardboard box she had made, and said if I made a box that could hold this cardboard box, it would be big enough. I gave her a price, and she gave me 50% down.
That same day another man came to the studio, and he wanted a box, too. He didn't know what he wanted on it, so I showed him some sketches, and he picked one out. We decided on walnut, with a sterling silver inlay around the bottom and around the picture on top. I must admit that I have never inlayed silver, but polished, and being next to dark walnut it should look spectacular. He gave me money down, too.
I learned a long time ago that all sorts of people will tell you how great your work is, and what they want you to make, but the people who write out a check to get you started are serious, and they have commissioned art work before.
It would be much easier if people just bought something from the show, but having some one commission you to make something is pretty flattering. The show will be up for another three weeks, so who knows what will happen in that time.
I am expanding my gallery to the other half of the building I am in as the people renting that half have moved out. That side will be the gallery for my art work, plus I will have a space so that I can work using hand tools. Right now I do all my work at the studio a block away. I'll still keep that for my big tools, but I'll be able to be productive during gallery open hours. I am a woodworker and I make dust. So I couldn't get any work done in the gallery. Now I am going to put in a big window and a door to the new half and have my work bench under that window. Then when someone comes in, I'll be able to brush myself off and come in and wait on them. That will be much better.
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