Where art and function meet is opportunity! You can create a beautiful item with function in our daily life or recreate something once functional into something beautiful. There are markets for both.
Perhaps you have seen a plain glass wine carafe that has been painted with flowers and became a vase for sale in a specialty shop. Perhaps an old window has been painted with a view and hung as art or a shaker style chair was crafted by a contemporary fine wood hobbyist. If you live in New York, you may have seen bracelets from Design Hype with maps of the New York subways.. Check out the functional being sold at large sites like www.artisancrafted.com/ and www.etsy.com and individual artisan’s sites like John Grubb’s http://www.bigriverfolkart.com/.
Your creativity will be tested as a creator of functional art. Your imagination at full tilt might well come up with something completely new. But there is room for your twist on something created in another time, another place or by another person.
Let’s take a look at some more possibilities. An old sink can be brought back to life as a guest bathroom basin with the application of an artisan’s touch. Everyday items, like cat litter boxes and file drawers, can be designed so they look like furniture or accessories. You can invent as well as reinvent. What is the latest electronic gizmo, how is it carried, what can you make a case from, how can you decorate a simple leather case? Do teenagers need a way to transport game cartridges for trading or sharing, can you make it better or more colorful or unique?
You might consider creating canes or walking sticks that double as art whether through carving or painting. You can start with a store bought cane or a natural wood find. The approaches and possibilities may well be endless. Or because of the rising cost of fossil fuels, pellet stove sales are on the rise and since wood pellets need to be kept dry, there’s a need for stylish containers with covers appropriate for displaying on living room or bedroom hearths.
Two big items in the world of functional art are seating and birdhouses. The latter come in various shapes and sizes determined by the bird expected to dine or take up residence. These can be quite humble or quite elaborate. At the Natural Handyman web site you will find plans for birdhouses that can be built from scraps, every one unique, many beautiful, and all functional.
Chair making is an ancient craft and you won’t get rich making Windsor, Shaker or other classics, but you can make a living. The development of the skills involved in building furniture will take some time. There are classes and there are many books. More than anything it will take experience to create a piece that will last.
Chair making is a process that can be broken down into several parts that can be divided among craftsmen or completed by you alone. Trees must be harvested, lumber must be prepared and cut, and some parts may be purchased pre-shaped. There is assembly and there is finishing which may be left to the purchaser. Each activity brings its own satisfaction as your chair takes form and you ready it for sale.
Nina Walz’s approach to pursuing her love of her art was to create something appealingly practical, yet strikingly out of the ordinary. She created a line of brightly-colored, gourmet ceramic serving pieces shaped like the objects they’re designed to serve, but looking more like sculptured works of art, such as fish platters named after the fish they represent, such as Rainbow Trout and Sockeye Salmon. Later came artichoke servers, asparagus platters, corn-on-the-cob holders and olive boats. Below is one of her salad sets. Others you can see at her web site: www.offthewalzstudio.com. She expanded from selling directly to buyers at art fairs to selling to wholesalers and retailers at gift shows. You can see her work on the web.
Even the end of life provides an opportunity for the art. With the rate of cremation increasing to one out of three, survivors are choosing individually made urns and other funeral vessels. From both a website and a California galley, http://www.funeria.com/, sells creations from many artists.
Anything perceived as art created by hand commands a higher price than the machine tooled version. A set of shaker chairs made by machine can be purchased for hundreds less than a grouping completed by a craftsman. A piece of glass adorned with hand painted flowers or a window with a hand painted scene are found in gift shops and at craft shows; their manufactured counterparts are sold by chains and, of course, they all look alike.
If you want to sell your creations keep these statistics in mind. According to the National Endowment for the Arts in a twelve month period:
- 33.4% of adults attend art/craft fairs
- 31.6% visit historic sites
- 26.5% take in an art museum
If what you produce proves marketing or catches the fancy of the right person at a show, a manufacturer may wish to license it, which is a reason to sell at shows. If you wish to keep control, you can go to a tabletop manufacturer. (See our profile of Table Top Manufacturing)
Creating functional art requires skills that can be learned, an imagination, and identifying trends in taste, which you can see on Home and Garden Television. Your rewards will be both emotional and financial by creating a path to sustainable livelihood.
For an initial free consultation to explore this or another sustainable livelihood that bests suits your personality and your community, contact us.
Comments on the substance of the blogs are welcome. If you have other questions, please contact me directly for a consulting appointment.