Sunday, July 4, 2010

Art Studios

One of the greatest learning experiences of my life (in a variety of ways) was serving as a sales representative for a major stained glass studio out of the midwest. For a few years I represented the studio in the Baltimore and Washington, selling new stained glass and stained glass restoration for churches, universities, businesses, and homes. I even worked with clients at the beginning stages of projects designing windows, which designs were later given the studio's production guy to come up with an actual "cartoon" (the proposed layout of the window). We also made mosaics, doors and window frames, and even some furniture (the studio had a fully equipped wood shop with expert craftsmen on staff). Besides learning about how stained glass is made, cared for, and restored, I learned something of what goes into having a modern day ecclesiastical art studio. I would recommend that any artist who wants to start a major studio try to work with an existing one so he can see how the business works, and how one goes about dealing with and promoting his or her work to churches.

As I begin doing some commissions for churches, the next logical step may seem to be to start a "studio" that designs liturgical objects for use in churches. Honestly though, after my involvement in the stained glass studio and seeing what it takes to do that and make something of it, I can honestly say that is the farthest thing from my mind. In many cases the creative mind behind the studio - the founder for whom it is named - ends up running a business, not creating art. Further, one must have strong connections with the architectural community. Most new churches that commission new large works of art, such as altars, reredoses, and stained glass do so through the architect. An artist wishing to start a "design studio" has to know how to find out about new jobs, how to spec them out, whom to contact, and so on. It is very involved, and learning how to do that, and then call people, set up meetings, etc. is often too much for people not interested in sales to handle. In addition, many churches have higher authorities to answer to on large scale art projects - such as a diocese - and these often have regulations which make it hard for an artist to get work into a church: i.e. preferred contractors, ceilings on how much may be spent, etc.

None of that interests me. It is much more appealing to me as an artist who wishes to have complete control over the creative process, and be an artist, to be "small time" in the world of ecclesiastical art... to do a few commercial commissions here and there, but otherwise still create, show, and sell art that - if it is sacred or secular - meant primarily for private, individual buyers.

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