Art is the foundation of society. People have been drawn to art as a way to express themselves and contribute to the collective good. Many of them created unique art pieces treasured to this day. But just as many ended up dying as “starved geniuses” and never got paid for their creations. According to the successful artist and businessman Nathaniel Mell of Felt+Fat, a successful ceramic design and manufacturing studio in Philadelphia, success requires fortitude, perseverance, and a dash of luck. There are no mysterious secrets to building a successful art-related business. Like any other enterprise, it takes hard work and dedication to your craft even in the face of the unknown.
After taking that into account you remain undeterred, the ideas below may help you apply the precepts of building a successful business to your art-related work.
First and foremost, an art-related business must be centered around great art. An artist-entrepreneur seeking to create a company must not lose sight of the idea that their art is their product, and it needs to be the very best it can be. Continue to build on your talents and improve your techniques.
Take time to study your customers and your market. The more you can learn about each customer, the better you will understand their motivations and preferences. One crucial way art differs from any other product or service is that people are drawn to art for sometimes undefinable reasons. By getting to know your customers, you can uncover what they love about your art, helping guide future creations.
Social media provides tools and opportunities to build a following that previous generations of artists could only dream about. Word of mouth advertising is the best kind of advertising. Nowhere is this truer than with art. When hearing a friend talk about a new vacuum they just purchased, few people are motivated to learn more about that appliance. But, when someone hears a friend they trust and admire talking about a piece of art that moved them, they will invariably want to experience it for themselves.
Learn how other types of businesses use social media to build a following. Become intimate with your followers and create a community around your art. Build an online presence to exhibit your talents and always be accessible to interested people.
In some ways, art is the antithesis of business. Art is creative and often unstructured. On the other hand, Corporations will rarely survive an unstructured or carefree environment. Create your art as an artist, but run your business as a business person. Create goals, plans, and strategies. Measure your success in terms of achieving your goals and sticking to your business plan.
Enlist some help if you need to. For some artists, the rigidity of running a business is stifling to their creativity. If this is the case for you, hire someone who excels at scaling operations. Keep your creative juices flowing while someone else worries about the spreadsheets and marketing strategies.
About Nate Mell
Nathaniel Mell is the founder and CEO of Felt+Fat, a ceramic design, and manufacturing studio serving both professional and at-home chefs. Nate Mell started the Philadelphia-based company in 2014 after graduating from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and working at the world-renown Philadelphia Clay Studio.