In part two of our interview with textile artist Janice Lessman-Moss (episode #211), we noted the substantial volume of artwork she created over her lengthy career. That prompted Andy to ask how she keeps track of her work—does she catalogue it, photograph it, and so on. She responded with her approach to documenting her artwork, and how it has changed over the years to keep pace with technology. Here’s a summary of the data Janice keeps on each piece of art:
Janice acknowledged it takes time to document artwork, and that time should be accounted for in its price. Documentation is crucial if ever there are questions about provenance, loss, theft, insurance claims, shipping issues, and so on. Use of time, as we mention frequently in the podcast and in this blog, is one of the least obvious costs to arts ventures. Further, when artists are documenting their works, they aren’t creating, producing, or practicing their art—often the most valuable time for artists.
One aspect we didn’t discuss in the interview in terms of documentation is reproducing art. While Janice isn’t able to reproduce exact copies of her art, those in other arts genres have a much easier time doing so. Musicians write fingerings, bowings, or stickings into their music. For large multiple-percussion set-ups, I even attach photos of how the instruments are to be arranged. This type of documentation saves time when preparing for future performances since the work can be relearned much easier, saving time and money.
Janice suggested that artists starting out should find software and a process that will meet their specific documentation needs as cost-effectively as they can. There’s a cost for that software and hardware, which also needs to be recouped in the price of the art.
As we noted above, the method and cost of storing the art, as well as the documentation, needs to be reflected in the price. In Janice’s case, she is able to roll her art and store it in storage closets in her home. But other artists have different needs and cost structures. Art printed on paper or film rolls may need to be stored in a temperature-controlled environment. Composers or digital artists will likely save their works electronically, but there may be back-ups in the cloud or on hard drives at different locations to mitigate loss. A sculptor will likely need a much larger space to inventory works, and so on.
Regardless of your definition of success, it takes discipline to provide details, and the more details you provide, the clearer you will see your growth over the years as both an entrepreneur and as an artist.
Thanks for reading,
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