The Cost of Lost Art

Art and Business

My dad continued to teach me more and more about art and business.  I loved to learn what I felt like was the behind the scenes aspect of art.  My dad would share stories about how poor he and my mother were when they first got married.  They struggled to pay rent and on several occasions the power was turned off because of delinquent bills.  The worse struggles happened before I was born.  In fact, my dad told me that when mom become pregnant it helped send him into over drive and he worked harder than he ever had before.  But he told me he worked hard and smart.  Prior to that point when he was stressed about money he would focus on creating more art.

He called them having shoes on the shelf.  He thought process was if it wasn’t already made and displayed how could he sell it.  But my mom would regularly point out that his studio was already filled with dozens of unwanted art pieces and unpaid for pieces.  She did not understand how creating another one was going to change anything.  She wanted him to get a more stable job with health insurance now that she was pregnant.  More than anything  my mom wanted stability.  But she tells me know she is glad that was one of the few times she was happy my dad did not listen to him.

Learning how to Market:

During that early season of his career my dad listened to an audio tape of Zig Ziglar and he was so inspired to take action and it changed his business life.  My dad went from making dozens and even hundreds of unwanted art pieces to an art marketing machine.  It did not happen over night, but he realized he needed to created awareness and a unique market or niche for his business.  My dads brother ran his own carpet cleaning company  and a dozen or more carpet cleaners working for him.  He performed cleaning services for a higher end wealthier clientele.  He told my dad that by focusing his services on a higher end customer he was able to charge 3-5 times what he would charge a regular client.  He also told my dad that ironically the more he charged the less customers seemed to complain.  He told my dad he should create fewer pieces and charge more for them. My dad decided to try it and it happened to work.

His first high paying client came as a referral from one of his brothers clients.  He recently had a high end vase broken during a party.  When my uncle showed up to perform some carpet cleaning services this broken vase came up in the conversation and my brother made the introduction.  My dad told me that when he first sent the quote to his brother for review his brother told him to at least double it in not triple.  My dad hesitated.  He told me he felt uneasy about the price.  His brother wisely told him to start valuing his work and if it was too expensive the client would just say no, not a big deal.

The Offer:

My dad delivered the quote.  It was his first ever job that paid him 4 figures for a single art piece.  He perfected that piece and the client was so happy.  From that day on my dads business has never been the same.  He has focused on high end art pieces.  He most expensive piece being 6 figures.  This was the business he was teaching me.  I was excited and I was hooked to learn more.


Pottery Auction

The first time I went to a pottery auction with my dad I was floored.  We walked into the exhibit and there I saw for the first time a glimpse of the fine art niche.  I was walking by vases after vase.  Each one of them with their own unique shape, color, design, and finish.  But while my dad appreciated the vases themselves and the craftsmanship then creator demonstrated while creating them. I began to notice the price tags.  Wow, were they much higher than I ever would have imagined.

I was used to vases that cost hundreds of dollars, but thousands or even tens of thousands, that was new to me.  As we walked the floor of the exhibit in preparation for the auction I had one mission.  Find the most expensive price tag and try to learn why.  As I continued my search, the excitement i felt each time I saw a new higher price, $549, $699, $1,200 and then suddenly there it was.  I saw my first vase that was priced over $10,000.  This particular vase was priced at $17,995.  I could not believe it.  At the time my allowance was like $20 per month.  So as far as I was concerned, it was like making a million dollars.  I asked my dad why it cost so much and he smiled.  I did not really get it.  I asked again and he blushed a little bit and then came up with this goofy smile and said.  “It is that expensive because of the artist.  He is famous and people pay a lot of money for his work.”

My next thought was to meet this artist and find out more about him or her.  I went back to the display and looked at what I somehow missed the first time around when i was only focused on the price tag.  The artist was my dad :).  It was one of those moment where you are both proud and shocked all at the same time.  My dad was selling individual vases for thousands upon thousands of dollars.  It was crazy.  It was this moment that I wanted to learn not the creation portion or art, but the business side.  And was I blessed, because my dad was a great teacher on art business and I was eager to learn.

On the car drive back I must have asked my dad dozens of questions.  At first I could tell he was excited.  He had tried for years to share his passion for art with me but until today I had remained uninterested.  Now as a teen ager money had become of great interest to me.  I wanted to have cash in my pocket so i could hang out with my friends and buy things I wanted without having to always ask my parents.  I was looking for a job but ideally wanted a way to learn an industry and make more than just minimum wage working at some fast food restaurant somewhere.  This was it.  With my own dad as the teacher and me as the ever willing student.

Childhood Art

As a kid growing up my dad was an artist.  Like many artist he enjoyed creating with various tools, from simple pencil, to brushes, to his favorite clay.  When I was incredibly young my dad tried to teach me how to use a potters wheel and the creativity and flexibility that the creator could demonstrate.  The only limitations he told me were patience and creativity.  He believed a potter could make a wide range of items using the potters wheel.  Which I knew to be true with all of the pieces he had created and were around our home.  What I struggled with was the patience element.  Whenever I tried to make something on my own I struggled.  As I look back now I realize I needed to display more patience when creating something on the wheel.  I would often make the wheel spin to fast or put to much pressure on my clay and ruin what I was trying to create.  Often times I would repeat this cycle a couple of time before I eventually would give up.

My dad was great at trying to encourage me to keep trying and that they only way I would fail is if I stopped.  Unfortunately for me, stopping was all to often the end result of my efforts.  Over time it was no longer stopping that become the problem, but starting.  My dad would ask me to join him, I know he loved creating art together, but more and more I simply said no.  The picture above is a reminder of how he would try to take my hands in his and teach me the proper feel of the clay and speed on the wheel.  He knew I would figure it out if was would persevere.  At the time I was not a willing partner.

As I grew older and the years went by my dad become more well known for his art and his pieces began to sell for amounts that would have once seemed impossible.  He would get custom requests for weddings and began doing high end celebrity pieces of art.  It was during this time that my passion for art and for creating was awakened.

Because my dad was becoming renowned is his field he would be invited to various exhibits and conferences to teach, share, essentially be the key note “expert” speaker.  Some of those trips he would bring me along and I was exposed to the amazing industry and people of art beyond my own fathers studio.  What was interesting is I found myself interested in the business of art.  The way various art pieces would be valued and for a rare piece of art the auction portion of fine art.  It was they mutual passion for creating and selling art that my father and I bonded over.