Goat Sculpture Done, and the Business of Selling Art Online


Looking for great ideas for your next paper mache project or a gift idea? Check out my patterns and videos for masks, animal sculptures and faux trophy mounts.


boar goat with catDaisy and Mike, the Boer goat and her friend the tomcat, are finally finished. I put the last coat of varnish on Mike yesterday afternoon. No video about painting Mike, I’m afraid – I changed the colors on him so often that the video just didn’t make any sense. I’ll try to be more organized next time.

And about selling art online…

As I mention in the video, I’m starting to do some research about the business of selling art online. It’s been a long time since I’ve sold physical artwork, and I’ve never sold art online. That means taht I don’t even know enough about the market to feel comfortable about putting a price on this sculpture.

And I do need a price, because the proceeds of the sculpture will go to the Heifer Foundation, a group that gives goats (and chickens and bees and sheep – and may be even some water buffaloes) to subsistence farmers here in the US and overseas.

For months now, I’ve been fending off suggestions from friends and family, who have been urging me to start selling my sculptures – and not just for this one fund-raising venture, but as a real business. I’ve been hesitant, because I know how hard it can be to make a living selling art. And the one time when I had a product that sold like crazy, even getting a write-up in a national magazine, I discovered that I hate making the same thing over and over again. (I did enjoy making the dolls one more time, when I wrote a book that shows you how make your own.)

So – can I learn how to build a viable business that doesn’t take all the fun out of sculpting? Can I find a market that will pay me enough so I don’t mind letting my babies go? (I do get really fond of them, you know. I’m going to miss Daisy and Mike something terrible when they finally go to their new home).

I also think this is an especially challenging time to start a business like this, because I have a sneaking suspicion that a recession is on its way. When will it hit? Who knows – but selling luxury items during a recession is super-hard.

Still – I think it’s going to be a very exciting project, and I do hope you’ll help me with some of my research. As I mentioned in the video, I’d really love to see your favorite artists’ sites, just so I can see what other people are doing to sell their own work. If you sell art online and you’d like to share your website, I’d love to see it. And if you have experiences in the business, either good or bad, I’d love to hear about it.

Are you thinking about selling art yourself? Already doing it? Thought about it, but decided not to? Let us know. Let’s get a conversation going.

Also – I set up a small space in my studio where I can take better photos of my work. I’m still a major dimwit when it comes to cameras, so if you see anything that you think I could do to improve them, let me know.

Boer Goat with Tomcat
Daisy and Mike, Image 1

 

Boer Goat with Tomcat
Daisy and Mike, Image 2

 

Boer Goat with Tomcat
Daisy and Mike, Image 3

Β Artist Sites Shared by Readers:

Thanks to Dream Up Art for sharing these links to her favorite artists:

Thanks to Nance Brown for sharing a link to her Etsy shop:

Thanks to Claire for sharing a link to her website:

Thanks to Harry Keaton for sharing a link to his website:

Thanks to Jill Taylor for sharing a link to her Etsy page:

Thanks to Donna for sharing a link to one of her favorite paper mache artists:

69 thoughts on “Goat Sculpture Done, and the Business of Selling Art Online

  1. Please check your other email at [email protected]
    Fw:Blueprint: $0 to $25K on Amazon (PAPER MACHE)…I just wanted to be sure you got it. There’s some things I know for sure will help you Thanks!

  2. The recommendation by an artist to look at the art of Wood Splitter Lee Cross is an excellent one; as you probably now know, she has done very well and sells by means of “adoption auctions”…you, too are very sentimental and I’m sure your artwork will also can fetch those prices she gets (patience and time). Please look up Gary Ryan Blair’s Webinar (it’s only about $150, on the “100 Day Challenge”…you are a woman who WILL GET EXACTLY WHAT PRICE YOU WANT IDEALLY IF YOU FOLLOW HIS SUGGESTIONS…AND I MEAN FAST! Please watch his free video interviews on YouTube…you’re a sweet lady and he will help you reach your goals FAST! (I know from experience!) Please listen closely to what he says and apply it…with INTENSITY…and you’ll accomplish more in 100 days than most people do in 10 years!!! (no exaggeration, literally!) Thanks so much for your time – I’ve learned a lot from you!

    • Hi DD. With such a great sales job on Ryan Blair’s challenge, I had to go out to Google and find him. He lost me right when I opened his website and saw the huge video with the people jumping off the cliff. I might still do it, though, when I can afford it.

      I get the impression that you’ve done the challenge, and it helped you achieve your goals quickly. Did you tell us what kind of business you’re in? Do you sell online? Forgive me if I already asked this question – I’m at an age when that’s forgivable. πŸ™‚

  3. Check out a site patreon.com I don’t think it’s the place to sell your actual pieces, but it would be great for all the art-related content you’re creating. The site allows supporters and fans to send you money. They can pledge monthly or by piece. You can give your supporters extras that are for them only. Head over there and explore, it might be a good fit for you.

    • Several of my favorite YouTube channels have Patreon buttons, but I’ve heard that it’s really only useful for people with a huge following. One of my favorite bloggers even put his entire blog behind a Patreon firewall, and now you can’t read any of it without subscribing. I can see his point, but I’d really prefer that people go ahead and purchase one of my patterns or one of my books if they need a little extra support, and that also helps support this blog.

      • Well keep it in mind. You do amazing art and have good video production. You have over 38k subscribers on YouTube. I’m sure many others see your videos too so I think that’s a big following. I’m pretty sure the paywall thing on patreon isn’t required. It’s extras you give to your patrons only if you want to. It can be the same concept as having a book or patterns for sale. You can keep this blog, your youtube channel and anything else you want to share completely open. Another thing you could do is give your patrons first access to your latest videos. So, the videos would eventually be open for everyone but your patreon patons will see them a month early, for example. It’s just another way to connect with people while allowing them to support you if they want to, but how much, if anything, you put behind a paywall is entirely up to you.

        • Thanks for your nice comments about my work. You’ve obviously given this a lot of thought, and yes, what you say about Patreon is true. My take on it is a little different, though. If someone wants to support this site and ‘get something a little extra,’ they can do that easily by purchasing a book or pattern. That way, they get something valuable they can keep, and I will love them for their support. But this site is a hobby, not a business. It’s a hobby that pays for itself (usually), and that’s nice – but the article on this page is about trying to see if it’s possible to create an actual business selling art online. That’s a valuable experiment, I think.

          Patreon seems to be useful for people who entertain millions of people on YouTube but who don’t have books or other items to sell to their raving fans. One of my favorite YouTubers, CPG Grey, has almost 3 million YouTube subscribers, and his Patreon account shows he makes a good living from his donors. (Patreon gets 5% of that, so they’re doing OK, too.) It also shows that only .23% of his subscribers signed up for his Patreon account, and he receives $2.49 per patron, per video. Doing the math, (yeah, I know – TMI πŸ™‚ ) I could make an extra $200 a month, maybe, if I added Patreon to my income stream, and if I added a few extra hours to my already busy schedule to make it worthwhile to them. And how many people would choose to send in a few dollars instead of buying a book or pattern? In other words, would it actually add to my income, or just move money around? Whichever way it went, it might help pay the hosting fees for this site, but it still wouldn’t help us find out if it’s possible to create a business selling art online.

          But I repeat – I do appreciate everyone who buys a book or pattern from me to help support this site. I love you guys!

          I’ll be putting up a new video soon about my evolving thoughts about selling art online. I’m having a lot of fun with this project already, and I’m learning a lot! More to come soon. πŸ™‚

  4. Jonnie, I have never made and sold individual work. I began selling my work to publishers in 1968 when I was 17, both written articles and craft work, and that has been my life ever since. Over the years I’ve been blessed to work freelance with many of the largest craft-related corporations in the world, like McCalls, Better Homes & Gardens, FiberArts, Tandy Leather and even a division of Mattel. During the 90’s I worked as a liaison, helping artists and corporations communicate with each other as they worked through the process of licensing original art work and producing it in China for sale in the U.S. gift market. From that background, I have often looked at your work and wondered why you aren’t licensing your designs. The gift market has an endless need for fresh designs, and your work has what the gift trade desires most. It has what I call the “Ooooh” Factor. All your animals have a sweetness of expression that has huge emotional appeal for women, especially, and causes them to sigh, “Ooooh!” Anyone looking at the cat and goat on this page will instantly see what I mean by the Ooooh Factor! Licensing your original work means you only have to create a piece once, or in some circumstances a few times, just to provide backup in case a piece is damaged when making the first molds. Licensing can be extremely lucrative. The process for getting involved is pretty straight forward. You can simply put together a portfolio and present it yourself to gift manufacturers you think would be a good fit for your work. The easiest way to find prospective manufactures is to visit one of the large gift shows, such as those held in New York. Every artist I worked with during the manufacturing process had found their manufacturer by attending a gift trade show in a major city, looked for companies producing work compatible with their own and made an appointment to show their portfolio. That was before the internet. Today I suspect it’s possible to explore the vast number of manufacturers to the gift trade without leaving home! On the other hand, many artists just look for a rep, someone that, for a percentage, finds suitable artists, represents them to manufacturers they think will be a good fit and walks them through the licensing process.. If you want to learn more about licensing, here are some appropriate terms to Google:
    what is art licensing
    licensing artwork contract
    licensing artwork for commercial use
    how to license art to manufacturers
    art licensing companies
    art licensing agents
    I don’t often see work that seems as perfectly suited to licensing as yours, Jonni, so I would certainly encourage you to explore the idea. If I can offer you any encouragement or advice, don’t hesitate to email me.

    • Hi Bonnie. Thank you for taking the time to explain this process – this is something I’ve never considered doing, but it does sound interesting. I enjoy the design process and creating one-of-a-kind pieces, but I don’t enjoy re-creating the same thing over and over again, all by myself. I’ve been asked if I’ll be selling copies of Daisy and Mike, and the mold would be a real challenge – someone who has more technical knowledge could probably make it work, but I’m not sure I could do it myself.

      I don’t suppose you know of any good books about licensing that I could read? I’d really like to know more about this industry. You’ve really given me a lot to think about!

      • I can’t personally recommend any books as I haven’t worked in the area since the 90’s, and most of the people I knew in that field have retired. I looked up Tara Reed, who I meet somewhere along the way. She was a great teacher on licensing. I found she sold her business to an artist named Melissa Shultz and the very comprehensive website is http://www.artlicensinginfo.com . I also found this old interview with Tara Reed and her remarks are still applicable,especially the advice that manufacturers look for a series of related objects or characters. (This is something you’ve already demonstrated with your book on baby animals.) You can read the interview here: https://www.artsyshark.com/2010/02/22/is-art-licensing-right-for-youinterview-with-tara-reed/ . And an article posted here contains links to forums and other resources related to licensing artworks: https://www.artsyshark.com/2010/06/15/how-to-license-art-to-manufacturers/ .
        Licensing is a complex subject, but don’t let it feel overwhelming. The whole topic boils down to one thing: showing the right design to the right manufacturer at the right time, and that’s often just a matter of putting your work out there for people to see. One woman I worked with had been selling her Fimo-sculpted characters at crafts fairs for many years when she had the bright idea to send photos of her work to the people that make Fimo. They guided her through creating a number of craft kits for them, which she helped promote. While attending a trade show to promote her work with Fimo, she was introduced to someone in the gift trade. That resulted in her characters being reproduced as a series of collectible figures. Oftentimes the payment the artist gets in a licensing deal like this is one dollar or less per item sold, but when many thousands of little sculptures are being sold in gift shops all over North America, it adds up to serious money very quickly. Another woman I remember working with was a doll artist making one of a kind, high-end jester dolls with cloth bodies and ceramic head, hands and feet. An agent spotted her work at an art fair and offered to represent her to manufacturers. Within a year this artist went from struggling to pay the bills to making more money than she’d ever dreamed of. And both these women started out just working the craft and art fair circuit. Neither of them had thought of licensing their work until someone approached them and put the idea in their ear. The thing to keep in mind is that manufacturers to the gift trade must keep a steady stream of new, appealing designs flowing into the market place, so they are always on the lookout for artists whose work suits the company’s needs. Charming characters with emotional appeal always sell well, and charming characters with emotional appeal is what you specialize in, Jonni, so you are already well equipped to approach licensing.

        • Bonnie, thank you so much for all this information. I’ll check out those links, and do more research. It’s so kind of you to take the time to explain all these things to us, and I certainly appreciate it!

  5. Jonni, your goat and cat are beautiful and it’s east to see how difficult it would be to put a price on them. For years I sold my work, mainly dolls and paintings. With the dolls I probably had more profit because the materials didn’t cost so much, but it took hours and hours to make them so I didn’t earn much for my time, however, the fact that someone admired them and wanted to own was rewarding. Paintings were a different story. Most of them didn’t take the time that making dolls did, but the cost of materials, especially the framing was very high. Galleries and art shows would take 40-50% so my proceeds was minimal. I wasn’t trying to earn a living with my art and I honestly don’t think many do, but it was enough for me to buy my own materials.

    If you decide to go into online selling I wish you every success. Your videos and comments show you to be a warm and caring person and that with along with your artistry is a winning combination.

    • Thank you Joyce. I think you’re right that most artists don’t expect to make a living with their art – and that seems to include people with fine art degrees. But some people seem to be making it work. Maybe there’s a trick to it that we just haven’t learned yet. Are you still selling your work? Or are you taking a well-deserved rest?

      • Jonni, anything I make now will be for gifts or my own pleasure. I had a very bad case of shingles over 10 years aga which left me with constant pain and some impairment in my right side and it wasn’t until a year ago that I was able to do much art. Last year, for the first time in 12 or more years, I entered 4 small paintings into our art schools annual auction and in all the years I had entered none of my paintings sold. I could tell myself it didn’t matter, but it did so I made up my mind that I was done with that. I think I might have put too high a reserve bid on them, but I will never know.. I am 88 years old-89 in June and much too old to be entering art shows…..thing is my brain doesnt want to accept that.

        • Ouch – I’ve heard about the pain caused by shingles, and I am so sorry you had to go through it. I disagree about you being ‘too old,’ though. If you want to show your work, go for it. In fact, if you’d like to show off one of your paintings here, and if you have a photo of it you’d like to share, I know we’d all love to see your work.

          • Thank you, Jonni, that is a very generous offer and I will post a painting (or two?) soon, but I forgot to say what excellent photos you have of Daisy and Mike. They look as if they were in a posh gallery somewhere. I enjoy your site so much and you must be pleased to receive so many comments on the topic of selling your art. It shows how popular your site is.

            • Yes, I am excited that so many people have given me such great advice – so many things to think about! And I really look forward to seeing your paintings, too.

  6. Thank you for taking the time to research selling art online. I am curious what you will find out. I have been lucky to sell my work through galleries and commissions. Yet galleries open and close so frequently. Many of my sculpting friends have been successful selling their work in Saatchi online. https://www.saatchiart.com
    I have also been very lucky by placing my name , website, in artist registries. Art dealers constantly search them for their clients. I am currently upgrading my website to be more shopper friendly instead of just contacting me. http://www.katietruk.com Thank you for being so inspiring and willing to share your creative journeys. I constantly encourage all my students to visits your site. Your recipes are fantastic. Good luck! Can’t wait to hear the results!!

  7. Hi Jonni
    I know this doesn’t help with selling your sculpture but would you consider selling prints of photographs of your work through Society6? On Society6 you upload a high resolution photo and then choose whether it should be printed on paper, canvas or a variety of items – cushions, laptop covers, blankets etc.
    You can choose your own mark up for the art prints but the other items are a set price.
    Your work is excellent, so unique and full of character. I think it would appeal to a broad range of people. A photo of Daisy and Mike would look great as a framed art print and would be more affordable for a larger group of people.
    Of course the problem is to get your work seen.
    I’ve been on Society6 for a week so far. I’ve followed 200+ and gained 70 new followers in return. Unfortunately its all artists following artists. I’m still trying to figure out how to reach customers! πŸ™‚
    I hope these ‘links’ will be some help to you –
    Society6 site –
    https://society6.com/
    Tutorial by one of their top sellers –
    https://society6.com/studio/blog/this-top-selling-artist-teaches-you-how-to-make-that-travel-money-ti7
    Things to try –
    http://www.moma.co.uk/10-ways-to-sell-art-online/
    My shop
    https://society6.com/2abbie

    • Thanks for the links, Jane. I’ll check them out. And I do hope you find your market soon. Are you doing anything to send traffic to your page? Social networking, guest posts, or anything like that?

      • Hi Jonni
        I’m not social networking yet. I’m still in the process of stocking my society6 shop.
        For some reason I’m a bit reluctant to try facebook but no doubt I’ll get sucked into it!
        This comments section is becoming a great resource of ideas. I must research Bonnie’s suggestion – art licensing. She’s definitely right about your work – it has an instant emotional appeal. Its more than technical ability or good design. Your work really connects with people. I love the faux trophy mounts and the baby unicorn especially.
        Also I would like to say to Joyce you are NEVER too old ( Monet, Picasso etc ) so please dont give up! πŸ™‚

        • I certainly agree with that last statement you made! I have to, since I’m getting older every year, myself. πŸ™‚

          Did you give us a link to your society6 shop? Or are you not yet ready to go public with it? I really like the idea of selling prints and mugs and t-shirts, and letting someone else do the printing and shipping. Please let us know what you think of the website after you’ve had some time to get some experience with it.

          I agree about Facebook, too. Even if you don’t go out there very often, it can eat up your time.

          • Hi Jonni
            the link to my shop is https://society6.com/2abbie
            I’m still adding to it but it should be viewable.
            I think I’ll have to do a lot of work to actually make sales!
            I definitely believe age doesn’t matter. I felt older when I was 35 than I do now! It might be an issue for footballers or gymnasts but its definitely not an issue for artists or writers. Imagination never grows old πŸ™‚
            In fact the older we are the better we get πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

            • You have some very interesting prints on your store – they’d be really cute in a child’s room. Do you have a plan for getting traffic?

  8. Oh Jonni, this team is unbeatable, irrestistable.. so cute and beautifully made.. If I would see you on an art market over here I wouldn’t be able to resist.. what a pity you would not sell it, or have you changed your mind?

    • I will be selling it eventually. I seriously considered giving them to a local library for their display, but I gave that up, (I was just trying to get out of doing some work), and I’ll sell the sculpture as I originally intended so I can make a donation to the Heifer Foundation. But I need to do some research into the market before I set a price. I had no idea what a big project I was getting into when I decided to make that goat!

      • This is absolutely adorable! I love both of those animals. Great work.
        Since you have so many followers, I would do your website and use Facebook for additional advertising. As for pricing, as you know, it is what anyone will pay.
        I give to Heifer too. Gave money for goats not too long ago.

  9. Dear Jonni, I love your work, I save all of your posts and have several of your books. As a teenager in 1962 I saw a 3ft rabbit in an exclusive shop in LaJolly CA and fell in love with it. It was paper mache and looked like porcelain. I hoped that someday I would do things like that. I was an art major at San Diego State. I still love paper mache. We are making a move from SD to WA and are prepping our home for sale. When we get there I am planning to go ‘full steam ahead ‘ with the paper as inspired by you. I also love your gentle and loving person that comes through your posts and work.
    I don’t actually have advice for selling your work. The prices some works get amaze me and I can’t even hope to buy them. About paper mache, maybe the elite won’t notice the medium. The medium,as you make it, is going to last a very long time. I am sure it will outlast anyone buying it now.
    I also think that you will do very well selling only what you have already made and not worry about having to fill orders for the future. If an artist in Mexico sells a piece at a certain price, he will want way more for a dozen of them because he is an artist, he wants to bring forth the visions he already has, not to stand still. Do you have some other job that you would have to give up in order to try to make a living?
    I hope I haven’t gone on too long. You and your work are inspiring. Kay

    • Hi Kay. I’m curious – did you ever make one of those big rabbits? I would love to see it, if you did.

      I’ve been self-employed for ten years, but as a publisher and writer, not an artist. I used to sell art, many years ago, but way before the Internet. Since I write about my sculptures, I don’t have to give anything up except the idea of keeping every single thing I make. And I have to give up that idea anyway, because I’ve seriously run out of room. πŸ™‚

      • What about hiring a gallery for a while. I work voluntarily in a gallery and artists book the gallery space ( 2yrs ahead unfortunately) for a set period, which is 3 weeks. Artists hire it as a group (of acquaintances) or individually. Groups often have paintings on display and 3D work in the centre of the gallery. This is where you would get good prices for your work and it would be taken seriously.

        • Do the artists do well with their shows? I might consider something like that, but I live a very long ways from a gallery. My work would need to be shipped, which would be expensive – and if it doesn’t sell I’d have to pay to have it shipped back. I’m not against the idea, though – if we had a community gallery nearby I’d love to participate.

          We do have a small city about 35 miles away that has two spaces where they do show local artists’ work. I’m thinking about applying for a show (a year or two out, just like your gallery) but I don’t actually know if any of the art is for sale. I’ll need to look at their website a little more closely.

          Do you volunteer for your gallery because you sometimes show your work there? Or do you just do it for fun?

          • Hi Jonni, Yes, I can see your predicament of your distance to a gallery. To be truthful, I have observed that only an average of about two or three art works sell (out of about 70 works) at each 3 week long exhibition, so that is not very encouraging for the exhibitors! Your work is so unique and tecnically brilliant….it needs to be on show…somewhere!! ?

            • Gosh – that must be disappointing to people who wait so long for their show. But there are so few places where artwork can be viewed. I suppose that would be true if we made fine wooden furniture, or quilts, or some other craft that takes years to learn. The Internet has really opened up opportunities for us, hasn’t it? We can show our work to the world without gatekeepers, or applications, or waiting. But, that also means we have to be in charge of the promotion – helping people find our work online is a job in itself.

  10. Hi Jonni, I really enjoy your videos and feel you are exceptionally professional and easy to follow. Your work is wonderful too and definitely worthy of a good price. I believe if you find the right galleries, you could command any price you choose. I can’t recommend Etsy or worse yet, Ebay if you want steady sales, unless you bring your own following. Both are quite affordable compared to art dealers and galleries but getting found there is much harder with each passing year. Contradicting myself, Etsy is a place where people go looking for art, so it might be good to have a shop there just to show a sampling and links to your own web site. Many artists do this idea. Etsy has been good to me but I certainly could not live off that income. I’m no expert on web sites, mine is only a place marker for links to my Etsy shop. I’m a ceramic sculptor/artist and have been selling on Etsy for 7 years. Like you, I have misgivings about selling my work and how it influences what I make. I have become a permanent fence sitter in that regard. I want to make what I want to make and yet money is nice too.
    PS one of these days I’m going to try my hand at your medium, it is so different than ceramic.

    • You have a nice site, Jill. I love the mug with the cave drawings on it – that’s fabulous. And it’s funny, but I would love to work with real clay – I know I don’t have the mind for it, though, and I don’t have access to a kiln. I suppose that’s why I came up with the paper mache clay recipe, and why I’m now falling in love with epoxy clay. But there’s nothing like getting your hands around a clump of real clay.

      Do you have a special technique for getting traffic to your site? And do you show your work in galleries, too?

      • I was lucky, Jonni, to open my Etsy shop in 2008, it was a wonderful place back then. I was able to get two or three thousand people who “Liked” me. I joined a team of other ceramic people and we all help each other out. There are many tricks to get seen, some work, some don’t. Social media is the buzz word of the day. Do you have an Instagram account? Highly recommended. Post pictures daily if you can but not too many. The best thing I think is to have a truly unique style and technique because competition is brutal.

        I do not show in any galleries at this time. Our lives are too hectic right now.

        Best wishes for your endeavor, I believe you should do well.

        • Thanks, Jill. I must admit that I don’t have an Instagram account, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a photo that was posted on Instagram. I’m a total troglodyte, I guess. I do post on Pinterest, when I remember to do it. I’ll check out Instagram tomorrow.

  11. Hi Jonni
    First I want to say your work is always awesome.
    As to the matter of selling, it’s something I’m musing about at the moment, too. My sister sells jewelry on etsy; not enough to make a living but she’s retired and she’s making enough to keep buying supplies and pays her etsy bill. As I am also retired I have a small income so I think that is probably the direction I will go, too, just to give it a try. My concern is that there are so many vendors on it that my items (small trinket boxes) would probably get lost. I am also thinking about checking out Folt Bolt and Artizan Made on Facebook. I suspect it is more expensive to list products, but I also think the people who patronize them have a disposable income. Sorry I don’t have anything more to add, but did want to mention those two sites.

    • Thanks, Marilee. I had not heard of those groups, and I didn’t actually know there were groups where you could sell art on Facebook. That’s an interesting idea. I have a Facebook phobia, but I will definitely take a look at them.

      I’m pretty sure that with any storefront, they provide the technology, but you would still need to find the traffic. Social media, your own website, ads, etc. Have you watched any of the videos on YouTube about selling on Etsy? You’d probably have to make sure they were fairly new, because things change so quickly on the web.

      I’m curious – how do your make your trinket boxes? What material, I mean. Do you happen to have a photo you’d be willing to share, so we could see them?

  12. Thanks for this post Jonni. I can relate to all of it. As a wildlife artist, I paint what I love – animals and nature. The down side of that is that after spending months on a piece I usually get attached to it and have a hard time parting with it at any price. I also do commissions and have a price list for that, which may or may not help you. My website is http://www.forestedgestudio.com . I did research other commission artists’ prices and tried to keep my prices in the mid-range so that my work would be affordable, while still making it somewhat worth the time that goes in to each piece. I have a full time job and a small farm, which means that studio time is my spare time. A good deal of my artwork becomes gifts for friends and family (partly because I hate to shop!) Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful techniques and knowledge! I have had a great deal of fun using your paper mache-clay techniques. I always look forward to your posts and seeing your beautiful work.

    • Thanks, Claire. I’ll add your link to the post above the comment section, to make sure everyone sees it. I’ll go check it out, too, as soon as finish this comment. πŸ™‚

      Have you had any trouble getting traffic to your website? Or do you sell mostly offline, to people nearby?

      • Hi Jonni,

        Thank you very much. I don’t know how to answer your question, though. When I look at the site, there is a separate pricing page and contact page, which is how I set it up. I’ll have to look in to that.

        Most of my business comes from word of mouth. I prefer commissions to be local and since it’s not how I make my living, I don’t advertise other that to put up flyers at local feed stores. I do have a Facebook page as well. I did an inexpensive Facebook ad once as an experiment and got lots of hits on the website, but it didn’t generate any work.

        • Hi Claire. I just tried it again. I was mistaken before – the portrait pricing link didn’t go to your contact page, it goes to your login page. I’m using Firefox, but I also tried it on IE and got the same result. About a month ago I changed my email signup form to a different plugin, and it worked just fine every time I tested it. Finally, someone contacted me and told me that it didn’t work. Turns out that it only worked for me, because of the way my site’s security was set up. I wonder if something like that is happening to you. Is the pricing page in a membership folder, perhaps? But if you do most of your work locally, I wouldn’t worry about it. Websites can steal way too many hours from your day if you let them.

          I like the local flyer idea at the feed stores. It’s a great way to find people who actually know and love horses.

          • Thanks for the feedback – I logged out and tried it again and had the same problem. Curious – I’ll figure it out. I would like people to see my prices. Now I’m glad that commented on your post – I don’t always chime in. Thanks!

            • You’re welcome. I’m so glad my readers look out for me, and let me know when something isn’t working. Otherwise, I’d never know. It shouldn’t be too hard to get your price page fixed, but I’ll say good luck, anyway. πŸ™‚

    • The horse on your home page is beautiful, Claire. And your website looks really nice. I did notice that the “portrait pricing” link goes to your contact page instead of a separate page with prices. Did you do that on purpose? If so, can you tell us your strategy, and why you keep the prices off your site? (Picking your brain, here, you see… πŸ™‚ )

  13. Hi Jonni,
    My two cents on this subject.
    I’ve a friend who’s been in retail for ages and is tired of me being such a goofball about the business aspect of the creative fields I play in; and wants to help me take myself seriously enough to charge what the items are worth. She’s a Good friend, persistent.
    Her main thing is to itemize the material costs, add my time, literally track the time it takes to make something, from conception to the final pieces. There’s a LOT more time involved than people realize, who don’t create physical items; time value feels subjective, but it is possible to quantify it. And you have to if you’re going to sell things that have value to you.

    I ask myself, can I charge minimum wage to myself, when so much thought and time and love goes into what I’m creating? (more subjectivity). Or, do I charge what a lawyer would charge for their hourly wage? or a Mail deliverer? Or a school Teacher? When I did bodywork, I charged what the market could bear, with discounts as needed. But this is Art, is this the same thing? why and why not. etc. So philosophical.
    Do I base it on wealthy people affording it? Or someone with more shallow pockets? It feels personal, you know? We value our time, but we would also really like people to enjoy our creations, do only the wealthy enjoy art, then? Should I be concerned with that? Well, I think about it, so it is an element in the mix.

    I decided that it doesn’t matter what others make at their jobs. It’s perceived value that matters. What is my hourly wage I’d pay myself, or be willing to pay someone else, to make what I’m making? That’s the clincher.
    What would you be willing to pay for this sculpture, if you were purchasing it from an artist you admired, knowing the proceeds go to an in common respected organization. Would you be willing to pay more than normal? And what would that be?
    Finally, a way to perceive the value is this:
    If this were on an Auction block, what would be your lead-in price? what would be your top– can’t go there– price? It’s an interesting process to use.

    We have to take into consideration what others would be charging for the same thing, what it seems like it would be worth, and adjust value that way. Researching the art field in venues like Estsy, or Artsy Shark, or local Art leagues might be of help. I’d call galleries and send photo’s to see what they say their patrons would pay for something like this.

    Art is a market driven thing, you are right. I don’t think Goat with Cat sculptures are saturated on the market right now, there are many people who would LOVE to own it.

    Your work is cream of the crop, top of the notches on anyone’s list of art they love. Who wouldn’t love to own an original Jonni Good sculpture!? Good luck with it!

    Those goaty eyes are dreamy, the cat and he are in reverie. I know at least two goat farmers who would fight over owning it if this were auctioned. I hope it all goes well.

    • Thank you, Susan. You brought up some really interesting points. I agree with your friend about adding up the costs and the time. That’s how a plumber would do it if he wants to stay in business, and so do we. Another number we need is how many items we can make in a month, considering all the other things that need to be done, and that will distract us from our work. Once we have that number, and a good grasp of the perceived value (which is the amount we’ll really get for the work, regardless of any other numbers we come up with), we’ll know if we can afford to be in the art business.

      The one number that’s most important, and the most difficult to find, is the perceived value – because it’s locked inside the brain of a potential customer.

      Back when I first went into the art business, in the 70s, I sold prints of my wildlife portraits that I made with pen and ink. That way, I could sell to the average person who came to the Pike Place Market in Seattle – people who were looking for a fun way to spend the afternoon without spending a lot of money. The problem came when the recession hit in the 80s. My low-income customers suddenly needed to watch every penny, and even cheap art is still a luxury. People who still have jobs and good incomes usually start cutting back, too, when the economy goes sour, because it’s hard to know for sure what’s going to happen next. But does that mean we can only sell to people who make a lot more money than we do? And if so, are we comfortable with that? Really hard questions.

      The one thing I did to start my doll business was to go to a local gift shop during a slow time of day, and I asked the owner if she thought the dolls would sell. I made sure she knew that I wasn’t trying to sell them to her, and that I’d like an honest answer even if she didn’t like them. She was very enthusiastic, and her encouragement helped me go forward with the business. It’s great to get the opinion from people who don’t automatically love your stuff just because they love you. πŸ™‚

  14. Dear Jonni, I just wanted to tell you that I am in awe of your artistry. Daisy and Mike are wonderful. I am fascinated by paper mache and would like to try my hand at it again (I made a flower arrangement and pinatas long, long ago – things have radically changed since then).

    I have a little Chihuahua female dog and recently bought your book on how to make tiny paper mache dogs. I will attempt to make one in her image soon.

    I almost afraid to comment, because I do not have enough experience or near your level of knowledge and artistry, but I have an Etsy shop and, even though I like my little shop, I have learned that it is very difficult to make sales and stay on top of things. I fully agree with you. I am sure you would do so much better having your own site. Etsy is getting too big and competition is fast and furious. I am afraid that your beautiful work would be drowned in the enormous sea of items offered for sale at Etsy. Just my humble opinion.

    I have to say that you are also my favorite artist. Thank you so much for being so generous and sharing so much!

    • Thank you, Maria. I have heard that Etsy changed a few years back and that it’s now much harder to get traffic to your page. In fact, a lot of the things I find on Etsy aren’t actually handmade anymore, or they’re made in Easter Europe. It would be hard to compete. Do you have anything in your store now? If so, would you like to share the link with us? And I do hope you show us your Chihuahua when it’s done, too!

      • Thank you for inviting me to share the link to my shop. I have not yet made anything with paper mache. Lots of ideas swirling in my head. As soon as I list something made of paper mache in my shop, I will be delighted to share it.

        My first encounter with your site was your little Swedish Tomte. My daughter-in-law is from Sweden and I instantly fell in love with it!

        • I don’t mind if you want to share a link to a shop selling art made with some other material. I use all kinds of things, and my readers don’t seem to mind. πŸ™‚

  15. Hi Jonni, I’m not qualified to give you any advice beyond the most basic, avoid Ebay, while Etsy may be worthwhile.
    However I do have to compliment you on your attitude to learning about the next steps. Your humbleness and willingness to share both teaching and learning are a wonderful example of someone passionate about their art.

    Thank you, Mark.

    • Thanks, Mark. I agree about eBay. Not sure about Etsy. It’s just as much work to get traffic to an etsy store as to your own website, but when people get to etsy there’s a ton of competition trying to get your attention. I think I’ll stay clear of it, although it is a good spot if people really don’t want to mess with making their own site, I suppose. I’m looking into Squarespace for my new site, since it looks like a lot less bother than WordPress.

      • Jonni, I was hyperventilating over this sculpture long before it was done. And you already know that I believe you do some of the best work available. And that you are my favorite artist.
        I think that the photos are wonderful.Thank you for the different angles. Just beautiful work all around.
        Sorry if you said, but did you send the folks at the goat farm a photo of the sculpture? I know that it is spoken for, but I can’t imagine them not loving it.
        Obviously I wish you the best of luck selling your other extraordinary pieces.

      • I totally disagree. It is an affordable place to sell from, and sometimes people do turn up from Etsy search, but a good place to stay organized, print shipping labels at a reduced price, have a book keeping system, etc. I make my living saying clay art on Etsy. It is my only job. Etsy is easy for me, less expensive than most, and just has been awesome that I FINALLY am making a living doing my art! Whatever venue you chose, I wish you the best of luck! Your work is AWESOME, Jonni. Thanks for sharing so much with us. I am still trying to get to the doll idea, using clay instead of paper mache. If you want to check out my etsy shop, there is not much there for sale because it usually sells within a few hours of posting on my Cleyhound Fan Club page. Then they head over to Etsy to buy. ….it is http://www.etsy.com/shop/GreyhoundCleyhounds

        • Thank you Nance – it’s great to get a different view on this subject. With your input, I may have to reconsider what I just said in my last comment! πŸ™‚

          Some of the problems that I hear about on YouTube about Etsy probably come about because people thing a storefront is all they need. They don’t realize how much work goes into getting traffic, so people actually find your site. It sounds like you have the opposite problem – you have all the traffic you need, and just need an easy place to take orders.

          I’ll check out your shop. Thanks for sharing the link.

  16. Hi Jonni, Boy have you brought up a loaded topic and there are so many ideas that I can respond to. I really don’t know about online sales but here is a website that I used when I first started doing art shows: http://webbwildlife.com/sales_gallery It is really hard to find comparable art work prices as paper mache is not a usual medium. A soapstone or alabaster sculpture artist can find like pieces and do a comp but not so much a paper mache artist. I believe an epoxy sculpture artist would fall into that category as well. If you go on ebay or etsy, the prices are all over the place. Some appear overpriced, others appear underpriced.
    Online sites for sculptures may be tough. In 2-D art, you can get a lot just from viewing it from the computer but something is lost with 3-D art. In the art shows I am in, I have watched people come back time and again to view a sculpture, from all angles before a decision is made. You cant do that online even with different views. It may be good to try and get into a gallery or art show.
    Pricing is tough as you need to value the art but also must be realistic about the medium used and the value. So you can not charge as much for a clay, or paper mache sculpture as you can for a more expensive medium such as alabaster or bronze. The same work may go into each sculpture but the value of the medium has to have a play. A stone or bronze costs so much more than paper or epoxy, hence can exact a greater price. Once established, one can charge a bit more.
    My prices have ranged from $175 for a smaller piece to $450 for a larger or more detailed piece. My mid range of $300-$350 seem to sell the best. Oh and one thing that is not done is to change your prices.
    Don’t underestimate the WOW factor of paper mache. People are amazed that the sculptures are made of paper and it adds to the novelty. So don’t limit your website to just the epoxy. There is a number of people who find the process fascinating. Also, the area in which you are selling comes into play. An affluent area may be more prone to paying a lot for art where a lower income area may not.
    One other thing I would like to mention is to remember the taxes. Yes, the federal income taxes. If you pay over $600 for something, you are required to report it to the government. Art falls into that category( I know because I have to fill out W-9’s in order to get paid by art shows) That may complicate issues if your prices are over $600. Just something to keep in mind.
    Lastly, I LOVE Daisy and Mike. They really are superb sculptures and you really have outdone yourself. I wouldn’t want to part with them either. I would charge the max for them. A few years ago you told us to make sure you charged enough so that having the money would be better than having the sculpture around. Whichever made you happier sort of thing. It is funny, the more I like a sculpture, the more it sells. My favorite always sells in any art show. Good luck on your quest.

    • Wow – thank you, Eileen, for such a thoughtful response. And it’s especially welcome, since you do actually sell your own work. I’ll take a look at that link you gave us.

      The taxes can be a pain, but I have a business already (as a publisher and author) so I have to pay taxes now as a self-employed person. In fact, I should be filling out the forms today – I’ve been putting it off, because I hate spending a day of my life gathering all the info they want. Plus, Minnesota has both a sales tax and an income tax, and anything sold online to someone who lives here will have to be charged sales tax. That’s actually one of the reasons why I may eventually decide it isn’t worth it. But I’ll look into it some more.

      I still think it’s a good idea to never sell anything for an amount of money that will not feel like a good ‘trade.’ And although I do believe the market sets the price, not the seller, one still has to know how much time each piece takes to make, and how much the materials cost. Otherwise, it’s really easy to make lots of sales and feel like your business is a success, and then look at your bank account and see that you’re losing money. I think that, now that many art shows cost so much to enter, (our local art-on-the-park show costs $400 for a booth fee, and Jessie and I are not allowed to share a booth. In a town with only 20,000 people!) a lot of artists probably go to the show with less inventory than they need to sell just to break even. That Home and Garden show that Kim Beaton was at must have cost her company a fortune!

      I’m sure I didn’t respond to all your points – I’ll go over it again and see what I missed.

    • Oh right – about the difficulty of selling sculptures online. I think sculptures may be hard to sell, even in person. I think we all have more room on a wall than we do on shelves, tables, and stands. James Gurney uses a lot of maquettes when he draws and paints, actually sculpting his dinos and other critters before using them as models. That is an option for me, as well. I already have a lot of ‘maquettes’ sitting around the house. I would have to learn how to paint, of course, but that would be another challenge for me, wouldn’t it?

      • That’s our Jonni….always up for a new challenge! I was amazed to read that your local art on the park show costs that much to enter. I have entered into juried art shows only where there is a nominal fee in order to be juried($15-$20) and some don’t cost at all. I do know of a few shows that charge per table sort of thing of about $150, but they are fund raisers for an institution. Perhaps they charge that much so that “junk” is weeded out. I would have a hard time forking out $400 for a space as well. I would not be able to ensure that the space would pay for itself and I wouldn’t gamble with that sort of money. I wont do that to just get my name recognized.
        Each of my shows are also fundraisers for various institutions so they get me on the sale end of their commission of 40-45%. I do get to claim that percent as a charitable contribution on my taxes though. Online sales would enable you to keep your profits minus taxes and shipping. They would have to be built into your prices.
        As far as making money is concerned, I must admit that I don’t really sell to make money, it is more for the validation. I would be starving if I depended on my art sales. It does however provide me with more freedom to buy the supplies I want and to experiment with some that I would hesitate to do if I didn’t make some money to cover those costs. Your paper mache techniques and the supplies attached to them really are not that costly, though the finishes can run up a bit. The epoxy clay is more expensive though. I think you should set a price, then add the cost of supplies, taxes and shipping. If that seems too high, then you can modify future prices.
        I had never heard of the term “maquette” until you wrote. You could advertise some of your sculptures as maquettes, make a mold and be able to sell them for less. Just a thought.
        By the way, I forgot to comment on the photography of Daisy and Mike. It looks fabulous in all of the pics, very professional looking.

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