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Forum topic by kolwdwrkr posted 07-29-2010 09:28 AM 2016 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2821 posts in 3554 days

07-29-2010 09:28 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I was searching the internet looking for a little inspiration for a project I’m wanting to start. I’m going to make a turning and was just seeing some other artists work to get my design juices flowing. I have to say, there’s a lot of turnings that are amazing, and I think I was overwhelmed. Needless to say my brain didn’t spit out anything as it normally would.
The problem with the loss of inspiration started when I started looking at gallery pieces. I found some very elaborate carved turnings and some very simple hollow forms. Granted I’m not super skilled so even the simple ones are a challenge to me. My problem started when I found pricing. A simple spalted maple vessel was being sold for $6,000. I recognize the makers name, and I’m sure the price comes with recognition. His work isn’t art to me, but rather a skilled turning. On the other side of the spectrum I saw a piece for $35,000, and a lot of pieces running between 15-20k. These are for turnings that are the size of a vase and some are just out of walnut. The actual work is stunning though, some elaborately carved. But some still just seemed like skilled work.
The prices changed my mindset from wanting to turn to wanting to be an artist. I personally think that I’m just a woodworker, and I get lucky with some of my work when it comes out good. So lets get to the questions.
What makes one artists piece so much more then anothers with the same skill? I mean, if I turn a vessel out of spalted maple and it turns out flawless, I can guarentee you that nobody would pay $5,000. So why would they for someone elses? What makes that piece any better?
If by chance I decided that I could be an artist, what would be the best way to gain recognition and be able to sell at those prices?
How do you convince a gallery to take your pieces if you are a new artist?
What even makes you an artist, and not just a talented worker? In my mind I think that anyone can turn a nice vessel or make a great piece with time and dedication. Does that make them an artist when they have gained the necessary experience? Or just a skilled craftsman?
I don’t see how a simple form, one that is not that unique, can be priced so high, and yet someone can make a piece that takes different types of skill, is very unique, etc, but that seems to be worthless. I would think that if I chose an artist, I saw his work, and I was able to make a piece as nice, then my piece should be worth as much as his. I’m not saying copy his. I’m saying use his as inspiration to make a unique piece that is as flawless, same skill level, same technique, etc should be worth as much as the artists, because it is art. Correct? Or is it just woodwork because the maker hasn’t written a book, won awards, been in galleries, etc?

Any thoughts on the matter? What seperates a craftsman from an artist? What keeps the values so different? What should a struggling artist do to become a high priced artist?

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

25 replies so far

View BertFlores58's profile


1694 posts in 2885 days

#1 posted 07-29-2010 10:52 AM

First of all, Congratulations for two years now in the LJ.

My opinion.. Craftsman pertains to skills in doing the job. For example a good sculptor, carver, etc. but not his idea or original design. Some of the Craftsman can copy a lot of work better than the original one. Artist is the one who think, design, and gives the impact to the viewers. Some instances, the artist sketch only but not doing an actual model or prototype… he needs a craftsman to do it for him. However, it does not limit each one that he can be the same guy… the artist and craftsman. If you made your own original design that will be worth expensive as you will be called the artist and craftsman (but you need to be good at it). If you buy a Sam Maloof original chair, it will be expensive than buying from a craftsman who had made (even with good quality wood or better than Sam) will again be lower priced than the original.

-- Bert

View PeterM's profile


21 posts in 2867 days

#2 posted 07-29-2010 11:04 AM

“What should a struggling artist do to become a high priced artist?”

I also wonder about this question.

I think you have to develop a recognizable stile, people have to say: “This piece must have been made by Mr. X.”
And than you have to change details, but keeping your style.
In my opinion that is the way you take inspiration from other artists without copying them.
Out of others works you develop something new.
I think, that is the difference between doing what others do and doing your own thing.
And than – after many years – people recognize your work and you can gain higher prices.

The second aspect – in the beginning many artist price their pieces much to low.
Mostly because they have to (because they need the money) or they think their work are not worthy to gain a high price (and maybe thats true because it is not their own development).
But if you price the pieces to low, the customers belive it is nothing worth.

My experience: If I sell something very quickly – it was to cheap. If i sell it after a while – it was well priced.
If i do not sell it at all – the work was to bad for this price.

That all sounds wise and smart – but reality often is different.
Sometimes you only have to have good luck. Get to know the right people who appreciate your work, who have contacts to others who appreciate your work and so on.
You get better known by collectors and the prices get higher.

Greetings from Germany

View mafe's profile


11643 posts in 3053 days

#3 posted 07-29-2010 01:00 PM

Yes it’s a good question, and if we had the answer we would be rich!

I belive that a artist are one who invent or do something allready done with a twist that talks to people.
First of all, we can’t invent the chair, it is done, but we can add a twist that make people say wauuu, and this is where the artist comes in, a good artist have the ability to do that.
A good craftsman are able to do the work perfect, but sometimes also the twist – is he a artist then? Yes I think, but perhaps in his mind not, and so what! If he is payed well and he loves his job, it’s wonderful.

Me I’m a architect of education, but also of mind, I grew up as a architect (my father are a architect), so it’s in my blood, I belive I have a talent for shape, colour and space, but it does not make me a artist, I’m just holding the skills. To become artist, I have to have something to express / to want to tell something / to to put my skills into something and belive so much in it, that I repeat this so many times, that I at the end find my answer, or at least are on a travel againt that point of satisfaction.
As a architect I was never saticfied, and since arcitecture are a bound artform, where we have to consider so many aspects, it becomes rearly art, but men like Corbusier, Frank Loyd Wright and Calatrava, have achived this status since they never gave up on their travel against their wishes and ideas.

A woman I know who are a painter, she said to me, that she probalyt had this moment of insiration twise a year, the rest of the time she was working like a office worker, to get closer to this moment, and to paint what she saw there…

So where do I want to go?
I want to say: ‘every one is a artist’, but only if you are eighter extremely talentet, extremely giftet, or extremely well connected – it comes easy.
Otherwise, you have to get up every day, and work on this same simple shape, and perhaps on the number 200 turning, you fel it was almost there, and smiles in your mind. If you are lucky others might find your work beautiful or interesting on the way, and you might get high prices – but I think the moment you belive you are there, it will disapear, to be a artist are a travel in life.
So enjoy the travel, and if you don’t become ‘famous’, it does not matter, it’s all the moments of zen, where you are there, the wood works with you, your heart beats in a calm rythm, and you are full of love for your work, that counts.

Best thoughts,
the traveler,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View lwllms's profile


555 posts in 3245 days

#4 posted 07-29-2010 01:41 PM

Ron Hock just and an interesting blog on this with a audio lecture link. The lectures are by a guy named Garth Clark and I enjoyed listening to them:

View poroskywood's profile


618 posts in 3328 days

#5 posted 07-29-2010 02:06 PM

Deep stuff…. My take on one difference, vocabulary examples: a vase is a vessel….. Any object you are selling is called a piece, as in a piece of art. Board with whole in middle – “This piece represents the angst of the fallen.” Whoa! Not just a board with whole in middle; but a piece of art…... It happens in the lumber business all the time, example: Wormy Maple (cheap) – Ambrosia Maple (more better $) Stained Pine (no value) Blue Jean Pine (more better value)..... Part of being something is being something… Now that’s deep…. I’m a philosopher.

-- There's many a slip betwixt a cup and a lip.--Scott

View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3359 days

#6 posted 07-29-2010 02:14 PM

I’ve been hoping to be an Artist (upper case A intentional) when I grow up. At age 77 I’m still trying.
Some people say I am an Artist. I hope they’re right.
What I lack is the confidence to represent myself that way and to price my work accordingly.
I’m somewhat put off by the extremely high prices I see on many pieces I see in Art Shows.
I have to wonder if they actually get what they’re asking for.
I personally think some of it is horrible.
Why would anyone pay ANYTHING for junk?

So, I’m still searching for the way to price my work well without robbing my clients.
I think I’m going too low.


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4182 days

#7 posted 07-29-2010 02:59 PM

To become a successful “artist” is much like becoming a successful musician, actor, writer, etcetera. There are three basic factors involved.

1. Talent
2. Persistence
3. Luck

You can make it on any combination of those three things, as long as you have #3. But all the skill, talent, and persistence in the world will not get you to a high level of success unless you have some luck along the way.

The turnings you mentioned are a perfect example of what I’m saying. You know that there are folks posting here on LJ’s who are capable of similar quality work, but that guy selling $10,000 vases just happened to get the right exposure at the right time, and he developed a reputation. Have you ever looked at some of the high-priced paintings in an art gallery? They could have been done by a blind monkey with a set of crayons, but they are fetching $20k!

The same is true for all artistic endeavors. Here in New Orleans, I often see street performers who are more talented than a lot of people selling millions of records. Hell, for that matter, I’ve been writing music for almost 40 years. I guarantee you that at least a dozen songs I’ve written could have been million sellers if performed by the right artist and given good air play. Which leads to another point…. A lot of it has to do with marketing. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 3969 days

#8 posted 07-29-2010 03:14 PM

Just do a random search of “Artist Statements”. What you’ll sadly discover is you’ve entered a world of political lock step conformist who’ve sold their very souls to be excepted in the highly protectionist business of Progressive controlled art. It really is that simple and damning of the profession.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View poroskywood's profile


618 posts in 3328 days

#9 posted 07-29-2010 05:38 PM

miles onetwentyfive.

-- There's many a slip betwixt a cup and a lip.--Scott

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3267 days

#10 posted 07-29-2010 05:59 PM

well i dont want to read anyone’s else statement until i have expressed my own thoughts on this, then ill go back and read them, i think there are several things at work…i wonder if sometimes its just looking like an artist…or one day your a good craftsman, then someone comes along and pays a high price for your work..and suddenly its like ok..if i can sell it for that much…and then if the right people continue to buy at those prices…boom your an artist..ive seen guys on this site who have made pieces that are just as good as say maloof, how did he become an artist…how do tv star’s becomes so famous…a lot of the time its being in the right place and the right time…..keith you have made some fantastic work, and it should sell for a good price…i think ive made a few nice pieces and no one has offered to buy anything ive made…maybe if i color my hair or drive a weird car someone will think im a star…im rambling here…does it take a nice studio…filled with your work and probably in the right place…if you were on rodale drive in Hollywood,,,you might be an artist…i think folks like darrell pert and mark decou, and others here are artists to me…but the world doesnt think so..and at the end here, im like everyone else…not knowing what it takes to be an artist. my sister thinks im an artist….my mother thinks im an artist…now if they gave me lots of money does that seal the deal…not in my book..i think most of the wood workers on lumber jocks are artists..i really do..i consider what they do as art…i think you are an artist…now your probably not a well paid one…but that brings us back to square one…....ive heard people say they are a starving artist…..i guess i dont have any good answers…..grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3855 days

#11 posted 07-29-2010 09:11 PM

Much of the gallery scene operates at a different mindset than many of us woodworkers, or craftsmen. I’m just a simple country boy. The only inanimate object in my house is me in the Lazy Boy watching the finals of the British Open. I go to gallery receptions occasionally because I have a couple of non-woodworking friends who create this kind of art. I don’t, and never will, “get it”.

High-end galleries, as opposed to handcrafted consignment galleries, have to really want your work in order to do business with them. They have a discriminating customer base that is really into useless items that they can proudly display in their home or office. It’s not as much about whether the gallery can make a commission off your work, but more about their customers knowing or thinking that they have unique high-end works of art. Sales will come because of the gallery’s reputation. From what I have seen, it appears to be a very clique’ish environment. Everyone knows each other and getting into the inner circle requires not only very nice work, but also a lot of socializing and politics.

A good friend of mine does sculptures and does very well at it financially. She has her stuff in galleries and also has the occasional featured artist gallery reception to show new works. We also do some of the same art shows. Every time I see her at her booth, she asks me what I think about certain items. My response is always the same, “It’s a little too cutting edge for me”. One day she asked me what I meant by that and I told her that I think they are ugly as hell and the only use I could see for one of her sculptures is for target practice with a .30-60. She will respond with “So, do want to buy a target?” She does six figures a year, so far be it me to question her artistic expressions. It took her years to get to this point, but the perseverance finally paid off.

The gallery receptions are interesting. Here are the pretty people, dressed up nice, walking around with a glass of wine looking at the most gawd awfull stuff I have ever seen. They are discussing all the nuances of each piece and genuinely sounding like they know what they are looking at. I’m standing out there in blue jeans, a pack of cigarettes rolled up in my t-shirt sleeve yelling at the bartender “What do you mean you ain’t got no beer?”

The ones who do this type of work generally do well at it if they have a gallery pushing their work. If you have good pieces, time, and a knack for politics, there is money to be made. Unfortunately, this is not my type of gig. It’s the oil and water syndrome.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3023 days

#12 posted 07-30-2010 03:11 AM

It’s simple. As long as the person like it, he/she will buy it at any price.

View Grumpy's profile


23837 posts in 3814 days

#13 posted 07-30-2010 05:01 AM


-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View beginrbldr's profile


99 posts in 3006 days

#14 posted 07-30-2010 05:10 AM

So what everyone is saying is that whomever is wanting to to get there name out and become well known from their work is that they have to actually get out and talk to people and market their art work/wood projects anyway you can Instead of having it stack up in your garage or attic or wherever collecting dust. In my opinion it is hard to market their art pieces because most people are wanting modern woodwork that fits their life style. A fancy art piece will look out of place now days depending on where you live. I personally would ask galleries what it would cost to let you show a piece or two. Whats it going to hurt. You lose a little money but your name will start to be known. And also if everyone hasn’t noticed the internet is becoming every ones way of shopping for stuff. To lazy to get out or just wont get out. There are many options to get your name out. Research the best way for you and go from there. There are many talented artist/woodworkers out there. Lumberjocks and woodweb are not the only places you can post your work. Sooooo get off your butt and research and post those remarkable pieces out there. Here’s another Idea. You can also ask furniture store owners to see if you can place one of your projects in there. Of course if it sells they will make a percentage. but who doesn’t. I would go where most people will look. How many of you go to an art gallery once a week, month or year even. I bet not many. Showing your work, and meeting people is the best way your going to get your artwork out. No one will get known if they just stay inside there box. The people looking for Art are beyond those walls. So cut a hole in it and peak out and you’ll see that their there. lol. Eventually You’ll break out of it if you want recognition and make the money you deserve for you beautiful work. Good luck to All who want to be famous.

-- Jeff, Laguna Hills CA

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4263 days

#15 posted 07-30-2010 03:03 PM

I think you should use your name instead of a pseudonym in order to be better recognized.

Also I think your web site should be renamed, or redesigned in some way to attract art collectors.

Although I think you have a beautiful display of your work.

You should also enter some internationally known juried shows, because I think collectors frequent

such shows. The famous woodcarver Fred Cogelow has won, or placed in quite a few of these shows.

His carvings usually bring a minimum of $5000.

These are some of my thoughts.

Dick Cain

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

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