Belinda's Bash

Belinda Naylor-Stables MA

Making a Bundle

I promised to look more closely at the business side of art this year. The choices are: do nothing – or do something. Doing something is more interesting than nothing – though perhaps it depends on your definition of interest and whether you’ve got friends in high places…

Doing nothing

Last year I was irritated when I closed a bank account and the bank continued to send statements. But then I became intrigued as the account actually made interest on £0.00. So, theoretically if we could all persuade that particular bank to open up fifty million empty bank accounts for each of us, within a few months we could all be millionaires. However, unless you happen to find a very friendly bank manager this is unlikely – so this year I’ve decided to try something different…

Doing something

As a painter I normally start the year painting like mad and then the smaller items like labels, cards and other gift ideas seem unimportant later – in fact so far I have never had cards printed.

This year instead of creating first, I thought it would be good to dig out my existing resources and make something of them. Rich sources include scans and photos of artworks. I think pictures of sold works may be a particularly good idea because the fact they have sold is evidence that people like something about those particular images. The copyright is still mine and it must be easy to turn them into cards, bookmarks, mugs and T-shirts. I know these are competitive markets with lovely examples in every gift shop, so how to push the boundaries?

Our edge is the hand-crafted. Single items are good but I think some natural environmentally friendly packaging – a strip of brown paper round half a dozen cards finished with a label, a friendly message from the artist with signature and a raffia bow - may get visitors excited about bundles of cards or mugs or T-shirts as gifts. Or stuff mugs with tissue, top off with a sprinkling of Fair Trade chocolates – and you have something even more tempting. But then I think why limit myself to the standard gift ideas - designs can be printed on anything these days – think Kath Kidston… I’ll keep you posted.

Doing something more

I’m aware members of Open Studios are all at different stages. At one end of the spectrum there are highly successful businesses and at the other end people are enjoying a creative hobby. It just strikes me that wherever we are on the continuum, we are creative people and therefore it must be in us to be more inventive about the business of art too. For me Open Studios is my main outlet. It was successful last year – so I feel ready to take on a bit more of the world. The question is where to start? Art is mostly about self-expression – so it probably goes against the grain to ask some of the obvious business questions which include: who are my customers – why should they buy from me – and how will they benefit? Somehow it must be possible to find the middle ground between ‘us’ (the artists) and ‘them’ (the customers) so both benefit. I guess the answer lies in the journey you want your business to take. Particularly this year when the Government are saying, 'there’s a business in everyone'…

Useful opinions and advice:

Regular business sites around the UK:

  • www.businesslink.gov.uk (There’s a good article on here about protecting and handling your designs. From the Homepage select Create, Innovate and Protect then select Design for Business Success.)
  • www.bgateway.com (This is Scotland’s Business Gateway – and might supply some ideas.)
  • www.business-support-wales.gov.uk (The Welsh business advice website which has a useful Create, Innovate, Protect section.)
  • www.investni.com (The Northern Ireland business site and I’m not sure how useful this one is for creative people – but as I’ve included Scotland and Wales I thought I had better include Northern Ireland!)

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