In praise of makers: Where Houston artists become artisans
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Immediate jealousy set it. Reed is not only a gorgeous dancer, but a successful entrepreneur with an Etsy store, where she sells her sleek dancewear and chic outfits.
I was born without the craft gene, unlicensed to operate even a glue gun. There was never a question who made my kids' school projects. They did, because they would have looked worse if I had. My deficit has left me with a life-long fascination for people who can make things like Reed and puppeteer and La Camella owner Camella Clements.
Let's not forget that it's Fresh Arts' Winter Holiday Art Market (WHAM) weekend, which runs through Sunday at Winter Street Studios, where I get to roam among the artsy, craftsy folk. And then there's the collection of miraculous objects at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in CRAFTTEXAS 2012, on view until Dec. 30.
"Once I looked up in company class and noticed that 17 dancers were wearing my leotards. Dancers want to look good. You are in leotards and tights all day, you might as well look pretty."
I'm not much of a shopper unless it's WHAM season, where I do most of my Christmas shopping. True, mostly for me, but the boys get handmade soap every year without fail. I prefer to party while I shop. At WHAM, shoppers enjoy some craft beer and nibbles while actually meeting the makers. I like to visit with every artist before I buy anything. Not only do I take home fabulous objects, but the story behind them.
You just don't get that at Macy's. Of course, I have my favorite booths,Hello Lucky and The Community Cloth, but every year I look forward to seeing what's new and who has the patience to tell me all about their process.
So far, WHAM has generated more than $300,000 for hundreds of local artists with artists keeping 75% of the sale.
Jewelry artist Ann Wesby of Petals & Metals is a WHAM believer. She likes the artist friendly indoor atmosphere, where she doesn't need to worry about rain or wind. "The Friday preview party is my favorite part of the market," says Wesby. "It's a great combo of cocktail party with a little bit of hardcore shopping going on between catching up with friends. Since this is art and not mass produced goods we are talking about, it pays to get there early in order to get the best selection."
Stayin' alive: Winter Holiday Art Market helps creative entrepreneurs sell cool goods
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WHAM, the nonprofit's largest public event, offers a venue for artists of all mediums and genres to sell their work and meet new clients. This year,WHAM welcomes 60 artists, 20 of them new to the concept. It has grown in revenue, from $43,000 in 2009 to $78,000 in 2010 to $89,000 in 2011.
Its success is attributed to the leadership's understanding of the psychology and sensitivities of a career in the creative economy. More specifically, Fresh Arts is conscious that regardless of the artists' ambitions of stature and reputation, there are tensions between fueling creative impulses and producing marketable merchandise.
Generally the idea of art as a practice is divorced from the notion of commerce and business.
"What every single artist is engaged in is a small business activity," Jenni Rebecca Stephenson, executive director says."The goal of WHAM is to be an important opportunity for artists to capture some of the income generated at a time of the year when commercial activity is at an all-time high."
To help artists prepare for the three-day juried shopping festival, Fresh Arts provides educational information that art entrepreneurs can implement to increase sales transactions, among them average pricing, proven best-practices, merchandising suggestions and customer service strategies.
"What every single artist is engaged in is a small business activity."
"At WHAM we try to help the artist contextualize how markets differ when they are selling out of their studios or in a gallery or online," Stephenson says. "We suggest products of different price points, to think creatively when presenting their work, to diversify their income stream by offering different sizes and applications — to make their work marketable and to maximizing a creative assett."
Christmas Comes Early: WHAM is Here