This week's blog was written by mosaic artist and jeweler, June Martin of MOTH & TWIG.
I have been a member of Artistic Portland Artist Co-operative for nearly four years. Occasionally I am asked why I choose to belong to a co-operative. I’d like to share my thoughts and experiences in this regard, so in no particular order….
Community – If I were to leave the co-op tomorrow, I think the first thing I would miss would be the community. As a working artist, I sometimes find that I am isolated since I work alone in my studio, although I do enjoy the company of my neighbor’s cat, Pickle, who essentially now lives in my studio. That’s a story for another day. I have met so many wonderful, talented, and interesting people at Artistic Portland. We share ideas and even resources with one another because we genuinely care about one another and want to see everyone succeed. I am quick to share my resources with other jewelers at Artistic Portland even though one could say other jewelers are my competition. I feel as though we’re all in this together so if we help one another, we will all benefit and hopefully be successful. If the gallery is successful, we are all successful.
A place to sell art and to gain exposure – This is an obvious one. When I first started creating mosaic jewelry, I mainly gave pieces to family and friends. I sold a few pieces here and there on Etsy but I soon found that I needed to have another venue where I could sell my work because if I didn’t, my house would be overrun by mosaic jewelry. I have a supportive husband but I doubt he’d appreciate me using up what little storage space we have in our small house, for my art.
Meeting customers – At Artistic Portland members can work shifts based on the level of membership they choose. I work two half days per month which gives me a chance to meet our amazing Artistic Portland customers. Yes, I'm talking to you! Working shifts also helps me to “get out in the world” rather than be sequestered every day in my studio (with Pickle of course). I have met so many lovely customers by working shifts; locals and tourists alike. It’s easy to start conversations with customers at Artistic Portland as the gallery is inspirational and customers often engage with the artists on shift. Many customers have shared their stories with me and I have shared mine with them. It’s been fun to learn about what brings customers into Artistic Portland. Often I find that people come into the gallery because they are looking for that “perfect gift” for family or friends and they like the thought of buying unique local art.
Sharing – I touched on this already in the community section of this blog but I think this concept deserves more attention. I am always appreciative when someone shares their ideas and/or resources with me. Sharing with others is a lovely gesture and demonstrates care and thoughtfulness. As I mentioned earlier, we’re all in this together so by sharing, we help each other grow and strengthen our community.
Business acumen – Belonging to a co-op has helped me to pay attention to the business side of my art business. Since many of us work shifts at the co-op, it is easy to see how managing the day-to-day of a store can help artists manage their own businesses. Picking up business tips and techniques has been instrumental in how I operate.
Fun! – I thought I’d save this for last because ending on "fun" is just a good thing…always! I guess this category could be coupled with community but I thought I’d give it its own category. Simply put, it is fun to work in the co-op because the co-op has a lot of fun members. We have a member who is an expert yodeler, another member who brings joy to many lives because he spearheads a monthly activity that helps an underserved population, and a member who brings cats to life in a way that I’ve never seen before. I could go on and on about each member if space allowed! All of the members are unique in their own way and they each bring something to the gallery beyond their art.
If you’re an artist and you’ve thought about joining an artist co-operative, check out our membership page! We’d love to meet you!