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Hi There, I don't mean this question to be rude, so don't anyone take offence, but does anyone sell their work as art? I mean art, not crafty pieces sold at the Sunday markets. I have been searching Australian eBay, and anything Papier Mache that sells is either antique or else little, worn, old Chinese/Japanese boxes. Mind you there is not a lot of individual papier mache artworks on eBay Aus, perhaps I should look at etsy. I have been thinking of selling some works but somehow I can't get past the thought that Papier Mache is regarded as childs play by a large proportion of the public and not taken seriously as an art medium. I know it is not childs play having seen hundreds of the great works on this site and sooo many others on the net, I want to know why the stigma is there. (or am I totally wrong, is the stigma in MY head?) I know it is very popular for stage props etc but not often seen in Galleries, in my area anyway. Let me know your opinion and direct me to any links to Papier Mache art exhibitions at galleries etc, I would be encouraged to finish something if I thought I could sell it for more than a few dollars. I have just reread this and my reference to selling at Sunday markerts is not meant as a put down, any sale is a good sale as far as I am concerned so I would love to hear of market successes too.
There has been this 'war' between 'art' and 'craft' for a very long time.
I suspect that most of it is in people's heads, rather than in the materials used. For instance, which is art and which is craft: a well-made, beautifully finished piece from papier mache, or a poorly-made, roughly-finished piece made from gold? Ask 100 people and probably three-quarters of them would say the piece made from gold was still 'art', and the piece of PM was 'craft'.
However, if you do really nice work, with good color sense and design, you only need ONE buyer for it, not 20,000.
Regarding eBay: what this comes down to is people looking for bargains, at the lowest possible price. There are actually people who make things, put a lot of time into them, then sell them on eBay for less than it cost them to make (including their time). This is not what you want.
You must find a place where the people who have money to spend do their shopping. These people don't buy art from eBay. And I'm not talking 'rich' people, just the people who are comfortable and would like a nice conversation piece.
Just a thought: suppose you made PM dogs, lifesized and very realistic, small breeds like Yorkies, Poodles, Dachshunds, etc, in cute poses, weighted to give them a bit of heft. Then suppose you took a couple of them and went to the higher-class hair salons in your town and asked if they would be interested on selling them on commission. They get 25-40% for just having them in sight of their bored customers.
This way, you're matching what you make to the people who are most likely to buy.
Christmas bazaars are popular here. They start November 1. Suppose you made up a supply of your 'PM Pooches' and sold them at this kind of venue?
Creativity doesn't end with your art, you have to sell it the same way.
p.s. Keep your prices high enough. A woman I knew made art pieces from concrete. She and a friend were both selling at a Christmas bazaar. Her stuff was nice, but wasn't selling much. Then she got a call that her daughter had been injured at school, and she rushed off. Her friend immediately ripped off the price tags and TRIPLED them. The stuff started selling like crazy.
Like one guy said years ago: "If it doesn't sell, raise the price".
If you don't value your product, why should anyone else?
Thanks Sue, I know what you mean about raising the price. If I see something that is cheaper than I think it should be I think there has to be something wrong with it. And your point is taken with being creative in your selling as well as in your work. Thanks, you have encouraged me to finish something and give it a go.
Have a look at Diane Grey's work. She sells as art not as craft she is both in the galleries and has her own website
Thanks Charlotte, Yes Dianne's work certainly is what I would class as figurative art. Thanks for directing me to this site. I would love to learn more about her technique. I had a look at your puppets on Etsy too, they are great, and I am just about to browse your website, the owl looks very interesting so I will go and have a look . Thanks again Charlotte.
I'll try to give my opinion like it happens in Brazil. I hope you understand what I mean.
Sometimes it's very difficult to me to write and understand English but I'll try.
First of all I think that one of the reasons that people don't give the right value to our kind of work is the concept between art and craft throught the years but this is another point. We can discuss later...
I think the only people that really like, appreciate and valorize this kind of work are own artists (yes, we are artists!!), other artists and very sensible people, but only artists (workers) in this area (PM) know the hard work we have.
I also think that if we don't believe our own work nobody will do it. We need to know how and where to sell it. Here in Brazil I need to know the right places to offer my art. It's not easy anyway.
Two weeks ago I have felt very glad!. A person that I don't know has seen a piece of mine (a cat) in an exposition, take the piece and take it home. After that he asked me to make another one. Really, it was the first time it happend!!!
We also need to know what people want. We need to see their eyes shinning when they see our pieces and try to make more like that (mainly if we want to make business).
Another thing: we have The Paper Mache Resources as a big show-case. It's a big opportunity to say: "Hey my work is so good that I have it in an international site!!!" PM in Brazil is not very common but when I know people who makes this kind of work I tell them: put your work in this site.
About the price of pieces: they don't show our real work. The love we put in working them. Here, in Brazil, I need "to kill a lion" every day. I'd like to have good (higher)prices on my pieces, but depending on the public, they say: "it's made of paper. Why is it so expensive???? You can be sure, the prices here are ridiculous if compared with Europe or USA and the work, the expended time and the love involved are the same.
So: art is different of money but = love and
Survive is different of art but = money
Sometimes we need to choose the way we want or need. I prefer art and love! It seems romantism but...it's very important to me.
We need to participate all expositions we can to be known.
It's a very, very hard and a long work to be done but I think we can do it because we deserve it!!!
The man that has bought my work doesn't know how important he was to me because I have had my work, my art and myself recognized.
I'd like to write much more about this topic. Burrumgirl touchs in a crucial theme but I'm already confused with the text in English above. ;-))))))))))
I'd like to suggest to the site administrator to have a translator software or something like that. I don't know if it's easy or not. I don't know nothing about PC, software, hardware etc. But sometimes I don't reply a topic because I don't understand the sence well.
I hope you don't have a hard work to understand my point of view. Have it only to make your pieces. ;-))))))))))))))))
Thank you for your attention
Hi Shali, Thank you for your reply, your English is fine, I understand most of what you are saying. Congratulations on your cat sale and commission, I hope it is just the first of many for you.
I agree that love of your work is more important than just turning them out for monetary value, and I think this distinguishes what a true artist is.
Your statement - "I'd like to have good (higher) prices on my pieces, but depending on the public, they say: "it's made of paper. Why is it so expensive????" shows that there is a general problem with the public's perception of this art form I think.
There is also the fact that when I look at a lot of the work, it is clear that it IS art, while other work I have seen is clearly craft. This is only my opinion, but I wonder, is it because the medium itself is mainly recycled paper, or so the public thinks ( and free, which is even worse and not necessarily true either), and the fact that it is an art that all ages can try and possibly master at any age, that it is given a lower status.
Also Sue makes what is probably the most important point in saying that the marketing is as equally important as the work itself, especially where prices are concerned, if you don't value your work highly enough, the public won't either. Thanks for your post Shali, this is very interesting to me.
I have sold a few pieces as art. If I can't sell it for a good price then I don't sell it at all. I have gotten a couple of commission type sales through my gallery here on the Paper Mache resource. I also have a new website that is not yet listed with the search engines so no one can find it. As soon as it is "findable" I hope to get sales from that, I'll let you know.
As far as Ebay goes, I have never had any success selling any type of art there. People are only looking for a bargain.
When people are rude enough to say it's only paper mache, I ask if they could make it? When they say no then I say they're paying for my talent. If they say yes then they should go home and do it.
We're having a Saturday market here in May. I guess I'll know if stuff sells at markets here then.
Just my two cents worth...Moni
Thanks Moni, Please let us all know when and where we can find your website, I would love to see it. I have sold some drawings on ebay as art but as you say everyone is looking for a bargain and I wasn't making much out of them. Isn't it amazing that people have this thing against the worth of papier mache? You have the right idea though to point out the creative talent that goes into the work, not to mention the time. I will keep that in mind. Thanks again Moni, keep in touch about your site.
There is a story about Coco Chanel when she created a headpiece using nothing but a scarf, wrapped, twisted and tied.
She was near a model who was showing off one of her headpieces and someone (man, reporter, idiot?) who scoffed at it, saying, "A price like that for just a scarf?"
Chanel looked at him, beckoned the model to come closer, reached out and pulled the headpiece off the model's head, pulled it loose so it was just a scarf again, and handed it to the person who had ridiculed her, saying, "The scarf is free".
Hi Sue, I like that story, and it is the truth of this whole thing really, the buyer is paying mainly for the artists skill and creativity. You have all given me the amunition I needed to defend my work if confronted about it. Also I will heed the advice about marketing, thanks for the help.
Also Moni, I had a look at your web site and really like your work, especially the dogs (Mack is great) and the polymer clay is great too. I see you have already sold a lot, at reasonable prices, so there are people out there who understand the worth. Great, thanks for your help too.
What a great subject - and some excellent advice.
You were right on the nail in your original post, Lesley - the majority associate p-m with their schooldays. I've no idea why so many people can't 'get' the difference between what they produced as children to what you, as an experienced artist, can do - and make the connection with the value of your inspiration, artistic interpretation and skill - when they can manage it for artists working with paint or clay (which they almost certainly also did at school).
People seem to need the reassurance of a 'proper' gallery venue to give them confidence to buy art in an unfamiliar medium, or perhaps one that they feel isn't 'recognised' as an art form. (Also, in a gallery they often don't realise what it's made of - once they've decided they're got to buy it, the fact it's made of recycled bank statements or whatever doesn't bother them so much!).
I've been selling my papier mache sculptures in East Anglia (UK) for about 20 years, from small to large, and have had most success through galleries. Over the same period I have regularly taken part in annual Open Studios but although it has led to some good commissions I've found it almost impossible to sell anything more than the most basic pieces at the time. I avoid anything called a 'craft fair', with a couple of very local charity exceptions run by friends; round here they just attract people looking for cheap & cheerful, with little interest in or appreciation of quality. "Art fairs" can be very good but you need to do your research carefully before committing, to make sure they will deliver the right audience for all that stand fee (and watch out for all the extra costs). They can be very good for making contact with other artists and makers, and exchanging information.
It does help to find the right gallery that will attract the sort of customers who will be interested in you, but there's a lot of artists out there competiting for exhibiting space and everyone's got to start somewhere! You do have to factor in the commission which they will almost certainly charge. Here it's somewhere around 35-50% for most decent venues, although some do charge quite a bit more, particularly for a well-known outlet or in London. The art buying public are fairly aware of this so will expect to pay less if buying direct from the artist, although there's no reason to deduct the entire gallery cut - you are, after all, doing the work of selling. And if someone commissions a piece, particularly if it's personalised (that includes matching the colours in their dining room curtains), then they should pay a premium for it - a) it's extra work for you accommodating their wishes and b) if they change their minds you might not be able to sell it to someone else.
Actually, pricing is a perennial headache (I could put it more strongly!). Particularly for p-m, where there isn't much else to compare with. If you see any items featured in magazines, cut them out and keep them for reference. On the whole I agree with being fairly bold with your prices, but there's a fine line between what people are prepared to pay and not pricing yourself out of the market altogether. If I've done something that I really feel is the business, then I'll put a high price on it and stick to it. It took me 3 years to sell a rhinoceros (mind you, she was over 5 foot long so she wasn't going to fit on just any old mantelpiece) but her home found her eventually. In the meantime, she got me great publicity wherever she was exhibited. (if anyone's interested in a 6' whale, by the way ....)
Have the courage of your convictions and do what you believe in (I'm assuming you're not trying to earn a living at this!) - compromising for commercial reasons will be unsatisfactory for you and I'm not convinced it really works in the long run. I'm not saying you shouldn't listen to informed, constructive criticism but papier mache is such a personal form of expression that I really believe that pieces created from the heart will be the ones that people really connect with. When that connection is made, they'll buy it - no matter what it's made of.
And don't forget Gemma Taccogna, who is in many of the art books from the 60s and 70s. She was practically synonymous with PM. (Maybe I should leave out the 'practically'.)
Her finishes were SUPURB. You can see a few pieces of her work in the gallery here.
Unfortunately, Gemma died last year.
Thanks Antoniag for the great post. I think (judging from your post and all the others on this page) that showing your work in the right place seems to be the most important thing after pricing correctly. Also putting your heart into the making of the piece is what it is all about in the first place, fun and enjoyable. I am not looking to make a living out of pm, as you ask, but I have this bad habit of not finishing anything. I seem to stop when I feel the challenge has gone out of the work, mind you this is before any painting which I feel can make or break a piece. I live in a small space and decided to find out from this forum if I was likely to be able to sell if I did finish them off, either way I need to move them on. I expect I may be baulking at painting them, even though I can paint, but I am never happy with anything I make. (ceramics, cloth dolls, collages etc). It is clear to me now that several artists sell their work as art and that it is an accepted medium if you market and price correctly. Thanks again Antoniag.
Hi Sue, I have just looked at Gemma's work and yes it is lovely, what a pity the world has lost her. I hope her skill did not die with her because as you say the smooth finish of the work is fantastic, similiar to the old world style of papier mache. Thanks Sue for pointing this out to me.
Hi Lesley, glad you found it helpful. You're far from being the only who has trouble finishing things, I can assure you! My problem is that by the time I'm halfway through something, I'm planning the next one and by the time I've got to the finishing stage I'm desperate to jump ahead and put the new idea into action. And sometimes I just can't get ideas to work out no matter what I try, so I have to stick them in a dark corner for a few months; it's surprising how often the solution will appear when you take them out for a fresh look.
You've also got the problem of deciding WHICH finish to use, as p-m is so versatile. I'd recommend experimenting (have a look at some books for inspiration - not just p-m books, decorative surface finish titles - eg Kevin McCloud - are very good) to develop your own approach that does what you want (I mess about with abstract shapes and balloons to give me practice surfaces that I can play on without the risk of spoiling a lot of careful construction work). However this IS papier mache we're talking about and you CAN change your mind at a later stage .. can't think of many other 3-D media that will allow that. When I eventually retrieve my files from the latest home pc collapse and set up my gallery here, there'll be a whale fantasy called Close Encounter. It actually started off as a mermaid - unfortunately I just couldn't get the 'maid' part to work and eventually admitted defeat, but she did have a cracking good tail so I kept her. Eventually inspiration struck, so I pulled her top half to bits, grafted in some more armature, sanded off the original tail finish and away we went again. Relax, get stuck in and have fun!
"... I just couldn't get the 'maid' part to work and eventually admitted defeat, but she did have a cracking good tail so I kept her. "
I laughed out loud at that! YES! I sawed the head off a cat once, for the same reason. The head was fine, but the body was.... umm... not as good as the head.
And Lesley, an artist NEVER seems to be satisfied with their work. I think you'd best get used to it. You do the best you can on each object, and try to learn from any deficiencies...... And I need to take my own advice.
Thanks so much to you both, it is great to know I am not the only one with problems.
Antoniag, I have the ideas problem too, I have so many ideas that I cannot wait to put into form so I start them and next thing I know I have several bits and pieces, mostly heads, lying around bodyless and unfinished. I never seem to think the whole thing through though, but from what you say about changing direction midway through, that's probably not such a bad thing.(This change of direction is versatility, something I need to adopt)
I have done a lot of ceramic work and exhibited it sucessfully, so you would think I would be better disciplined, but I think the ceramic training has made me forget the versitility of papier mache, yes, you can pull it apart and alter it quite easily thanks for reminding me of that. Also the practice surface idea is a great one. (Why didn't I think of that? I used to test glazes and finishes all the time for ceramics) I was at one stage thinking of using cloth as the finish, actually incorporating the designs on the cloth, but I got bogged down in the thinking process (again) so I haven't delved there yet but I will try other practice test pieces.
After reading this I feel like I need a whole new attitude to papier mache.
Sue I think I am struggling a bit with the medium and my comparison of paper to ceramic. I seem to be trying to get ceramic like finishes in paper, (Gemma came close) but as you say I will have to learn from my mistakes as you do with any art or craft.
Here is the perfect example though, the public thinks the art of papier mache is simple childs play, but it has all the mental, creative forethought in it that a good painting or sculpture has, this topic shows that, the whole forum does in fact.
Thanks for all the help and reassurance you have given me. I have gained so much from this topic, I love it, please more, more, more.
Lesley, thank you for starting such a fruitful thread. I have SO enjoyed everyone's remarks.
Regards work habits, I also have the method of beginning a work, and moving to the next without finishing the first. PM lends itself to this method because of the need to let pieces dry before adding more layers or details. PM is also good for this because it is so amenable to reconstruction; if I run out of inspiration before a piece is complete I can always let it wait for more energy, and can cut away less successful layers. I find it stimulating to have incomplete pieces around...so much opportunity for new solutions. I have two major pieces I have been working on from more than 2 years. The smaller works I have completed inbetween have functioned as "test pots"...with them I have developed new techniques that require me to go back and change the major piece to incorporate a "better" solution. Something else that helps my process is to alternate between small and large works. It is very refreshing to be able to finish pieces, so I make smaller ones (like my tarot card boxes) as a vacation from the big, long-term pieces. Another thing that helps my process is to have a "clothes line" in my studio for storage, to hang unfinished works up safely out ofmy way, but visible as inspiration while I work on other things. So far I tend to sell (or gift) my small "test pot" works and keep the monumental ones for myself.
Enjoying you all, Scylla Earls
I think it is hard enough to sell art as it is. I know some really amazing artists in different mediums and they definitely don't make a living at it so when you add that to the fact that papier-mache really isn't taken seriously by the average person it just makes it all the harder.
It got to the point that I've come to calling the pieces I make 'environmental art' instead of papier-mache to get past the preconceived notions people usually have.
I don't really bother trying to sell anything because I find that it just isn't worth the time and effort. I have a deep sympathy for knitters. They seem to get the same end of the stick that papier-mache does. No one really appreciates the time and effort that goes into making something, so they never really compensate you for it.
Hi, I am sorry I haven't replied to you but I have been away for 3 weeks and am just trying to catch up.
Thanks Scylla your idea about the line to hang the work on is great, out of the way but in sight, and test pots are also a good idea, someone else also suggested test pieces for painting.
Butterbee, isn't it sad that we have to resort to disguising our medium in order to make it more appealing to the public, but if this is what it takes then so be it. It is funny though that other paper arts ie paper sculpture and collage don't have to resort to this.
Anyway thanks to you all, I am going away to work for another 3 weeks so I may not reply to you immediately but I will catch up when I get back.
I think the main problem with producing papier mache art is, as Burrumgirl says, getting past the (mis)conception that PM is nothing but kids' craft.
I am reading a book titled Making a Living in Crafts by Donald A. Clarke (Lark Books, 2006). One of the craftspeople who work is shown in it is Patti Quinn Hill, who makes baskets from strips of paper.
The caption under a photo of her basket says, "Anicent Myths, 17"x13". Cotton, archival paper, acrylic and metallic paint."
I found one of her pots online that was about half that size, and the price was $1,250USD.
It's still paper and paint, but it's all in how it is perceived.
Suppose you left the words 'papier mache' out of the description altogether: "Egyptian Cat God. Virgin cotton, archival paper*, acrylic and metallic paints."
*Definition of Archival Paper from PaperMojo at http://www.papermojo.com/glossary.html:
"A paper that is acid free, lignin free, sulfur free, and usually with good color retention. The paper may also be buffered to protect it from environmental factors. Archival papers have long-standing qualities and are usually considered safe for preservation purposes."
How about that??? Play the game by the craft world's rule!
Hi Sue, excellent stuff. Yes I agree, why use the words papier mache at all, when "archival paper" sounds so much more arty. I was thinking of using the word "composition" as the media, as the paper is mixed with other materials such as fillers and glue. It could be worded as "Egyptian Cat God. composition, acrylic and metallic paints." and if the artist is asked what "composition " is they could emphasize the fillers more than the paper, maybe explaining it as; composition is a mixture of several components including fibre, whiting, archival paper and glue, or even just whiting, glue, oil of cloves and acid free paper. I looked the word composition up in the Merriam Webster dictionary and one of several meanings for composition is; a product of mixing or combining various elements or ingredients. Sounds good to me and it isn't dishonest to the public. Anything that gets the public to see the work as art and not childs play is a step closer to our work being recognised for the art it is.
Anyway I won't be back for a few weeks but I hope to read more about this topic when I return. Keep on with your art and I hope you can sell it for what it is truly worth.
One description I see frequently is "Mixed Media", which should cover a multitude of materials.
Another question I've been asked, esp on my concrete work, is, "How did you do that?" I've reached the point where I am tempted to tell them that I've spent four years studying concrete and figuring out how to do this, and I'm not going to TELL them how I do it.
"Trade Secret" also covers a lot of ground!