How To Make Money From Art

Writing by Raisa McLean

Almost every artist worries about money, it’s natural. Babies cry, artist’s spend many waking hours thinking about how to sustain themselves creatively.

In late 2017, I started exhibiting in galleries and realized how difficult it is to sell artworks. This makes sense, even as an artist I recognize how easy it would be to view art as something without use. It can be very delicate or large or maybe too inappropriate to be displayed in someone’s home. It’s expensive and often only viewed as something to enhance the aesthetic value of a space.

Around this time, I saw artists like Kristy Dickinson (Haus of Dizzy), creating works in a way that would sell but still be true to one’s artistic beliefs. People LOVE stuff that has both a use and aesthetic value, especially self-decorative uses such as clothing or jewelry. Having people be carriers of my artworks seemed like a great idea.

So I started making earrings with shrink plastic. An easy material to work with that you can draw on, put in the oven and create your artwork with, in under 30 minutes. From there, I decided if I could turn my drawings into wearable art I could do the same with my sculptures and branched out into making earrings out of copper wire and eventually joined a gallery and started to make more high-end earrings out of sterling silver.

HOW I MAKE AND SELL MY EARRINGS

  1. Open Spotify, put on studio playlist or other intense focus playlist. Electronic music is good, but so is PJ Harvey and Björk. Anything that makes you feel on top of everything, listen to artists that inspire you.
  2. Draw, or sculpt. Although it feels more natural, sculpting with wire is somewhat harder than drawing, with sterling silver being a “precious metal”. I don’t really know what that means but it makes me worry about making mistakes and wasting the silver wire.
  3. An hour or so later I settle on a shape or drawing that I find interesting. This is surprisingly difficult, often the art I make doesn’t look great on the human body. I learnt this exhibiting in a jewelry gallery; art and fashion are very very different. This led to a kind of disillusionment, my idea behind the earrings was to create mobile artworks and the fact that literally doing that with my existing works could be rejected by the public made me sad. But, I think the antidote to disappointment is acceptance, my earrings are still art they just aren’t a part of my artistic practice. They’re not something that I would put in an exhibition with the rest of my works but they still have meaning to them – their galleries are the bodies of those who wear them.
  4. Once I have a drawing that I want transformed into an acetate earring there is little work left for me to do, creating the earring is a matter of tracing the drawing through the acetate sheet and then placing the acetate (shrink plastic) in the oven to turn into the size of an earring. I use different mediums to draw on the acetate depending on the overall look I’m going for in the earring. For crisp and bold earrings I use Copic markers and for ones that look more handmade and muted I use coloured pencils.
  5. The process for the sterling silver earrings is slightly more complicated, unlike with acetate I cannot trace a design on sterling silver. Replicating a wire design in a second earring is one of the most frustrating things I do in my working life. The sterling silver earrings are intended to be more minimalistic and streamlined earrings, this means I have to hide any knots in the wire and make earrings that are ideally identical. I can spend up to an hour making that second earring, trying my best to remove any evidence of human intervention. These earrings have to be S E A M L E S S, which may seem silly and fruitless but I assure you finishing a pair is the most satisfying feeling in the world. I always show my mum the sterling silver earrings first for unconditional approval.

This process may seem unnecessarily exasperating and restricting of artistic freedom but I feel it can also act like a break. As an artist I’m constantly thinking of different ideas and trying to realise them and have them fail or succeed. This can become overwhelming, which is confusing as art is also my outlet for stress. Now that I have established a number of earring designs that I can make many of, it’s more of an act of meditation rather than one of intense thought about what will look good on the body and what won’t. Of course I still make new designs but these earrings come without the pressure of fitting into an exhibition or being up to scratch at art school. They’re artworks that are totally separate from my art making. They stand alone in their art/design limbo world.

You can check out Raisa’s art and jewelry via her website.

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Raisa McLean

Raisa is an emerging artist from Melbourne. Her work includes installation, sculpture, photography, textiles and drawing. On top of her art practice she designs and accepts commissions for earrings. Raisa’s passions outside of art are mainly music, dance and psychology and she is a strong advocate for confronting and tackling stigma surrounding mental illness.

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