Our Article Writer Olivia Church visited the Illustration department’s art fair on Friday, organised by third year illustration students Anna Chase-Roberts, Corrianna Clark, Ellie Hall, Katie McLachlan, Marilyn Ainsworth and Jo McIntosh. Collectively they raised £511.65 for their graduate catalogue. Here’s what Olivia has to say about it.
You might not think it, but it takes a lot of guts to stand behind a table and tell people how much your work is worth. On a sunny afternoon in the downstairs Illustration studio, a few gutsy people did just that and in the hope of getting some cash in their pocket and a couple more followers on Instagram. ‘The best thing about it is when people smile at your work’, says second year Illustration student Natalia Podpora, who was selling items including stickers and postcards. It was clear that as you shuffled in between the tables and apologised to almost everyone you went past, there was a huge sense of pride in the room. Artists were able to showcase their work and sell it to a variety of potential buyers in a friendly and informal environment. Whether it was badges, prints, graphic tee’s or zines, it was a chance for artists to display their work alongside other like-minded people whether they were selling collaboratively or as individuals.
So why should any AUB student consider doing this? If your practice allows you to make illustrations, textiles or even photographs, they all have the potential to be reproduced en masse and at low rates too. The illustration studio was not just an opportunity for eager sellers, there was music, live drawing, a raffle and most importantly, cake. Fairs like this are very much a social occasion as well as a business one. Regardless of what side of the stool you are on, you will find that discussion is very central to the way in which the buyer and seller relationship develops and how you might network with other like-minded creatives.
The immediacy of being able to see how your buyers react and engage with your work is hugely beneficial to your marketing skills. Second year illustration student Jodie Welsh commented that ‘it’s very interactive with the artist’ and she was even asked on the odd occasion how she originally made her work. The interaction part of the fair meant that like many others, Jodie was able to assess the trends within her work – not necessarily whether one image was a better seller than another but also which print sizes were favoured over another. She told me how ‘people tend to go for smaller prints – for their walls or pin boards’. It was good to see that people like Jodie were already out there almost trying to make a name for themselves even when they and their work are still very much in progress.
It appears that a lot of creative people are using a fair as a starting point to get themselves noticed and practising how to sell their work in future, perhaps at national or international fairs in future. But for now, the Illustration fair meant that seller could evaluate their social and marketing skills where they could see first-hand how successfully their work is sold or perhaps is not. That’s another aspect to consider – not every single piece that you make is going to disappear off the table. This is why participating in a fair can teach anyone how to face rejection and what steps need to be taken if you want to make an even greater profit next time.
Being at university can sometimes seem like you are churning out work without fully being able to enjoy the process let alone the final result. Everyone should be encouraged to leave the restraints of their discipline behind temporarily and simply enjoy showing others what you are capable of making and achieving. Events like an arts fair prove that you don’t have to come up with hugely original ideas to make money – what’s the use of an original idea when you could in fact steal existing ones and make even more money? The Illustration Fair was proof that it can introduce new possibilities for you as an artist, where your work can be seen the potential income you could gain over a few hours. Not bad for a few stickers.
I managed to catch up with second year Illustration students Cameron West, Sophie Louise Lawrence, Natalia Podpora and Hannah Morgan where I spoke to them about their day at the fair.
Tell us a bit about your experience of today’s illustration fair.
Sophie: It’s been really good because I didn’t actually realise we were going to sell anything and then we did sell stuff!
Cameron: I’ve made so much money today.
How much have you made?
Cameron: Enough to pay off the whole student loan, just from stickers – 2 A4 sheets of stickers.
Sophie: I honestly thought I wasn’t going to sell anything…
Cameron: …and now look at you.
Sophie: …then the first person that bought my work – she smiled! I was just there like ‘thank you!’
Hannah: Sophie nearly cried.
Sophie: I literally nearly cried. It was very exciting.
I was going to also ask you how do you think things like this contribute to your practice?
Sophie: Well, I guess really the end goal of having a practice is to sell it, isn’t it?
Natalia: It’s like it’s nice to see your work in a different format.
Cameron: It’s good for experience and our tutors like it when we get involved in ‘extra-curricular activities’.
Hannah: It also tells you what you are doing right – because people know it’s current and cool…
Cameron: And if you haven’t sold anything then maybe it’s time to have a little bit of a reflection…
Hannah: …On your whole life
Cameron: Yeah, on your whole life.
So, how do you think this differs from being on social media. You could post something online and then you are just showing your work that way?
Sophie: It’s instant, isn’t it? If you see someone looking at your work and they smile it’s like constant…
And what do you think of the commercial aspects of it? How’s that going for you?
Sophie: It’s a bit scary really – like, asking for money for things that you’ve drawn.
Hannah: It’s also really hard – it’s hard to price it.
Sophie: Yeah, it’s hard to price your own work. Because obviously you’ve spent time on it.
Cameron: And you don’t want to seem arrogant: ‘Give me money for something that I did!’
Sophie: But yeah, you don’t want to under sell yourself, you don’t want to under sell the practice but you know everyone is a student so you don’t want to be like ‘£50 for a print because I’m poor’.
Cameron: Sometimes if someone asks how much something is and you’re like ‘oh that’s 50p’ and they’re like ‘oh that’s great’ and then you think maybe I should have charged a bit more.
It’s all a big learning experience. And finally what do you think is the next step for you now? You’ve done it now, you’ve sold your work…
Sophie: Cover of Forbes! But we want to do this again so we want to get more people involved the art fairs.
Natalia: More second years I think.
Cameron: Maybe get some celebrities down here next time.
Natalia: Jessie J.
Cameron: Maybe Daniel Radcliffe or…
Natalia: Maybe Noel Gallagher
Cameron: Paul Rudd. Paul Rudd would be good.
Words by Olivia Church, Photographs by Kate Wolstenholme