Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Art of Fair Trade

As an artist who needs to pay bills, I've never been a fan of trading artwork with another artist.  I didn't quite see the point unless it was someone whose artwork I really admired. (I think I have made one, maybe two, of those trades.)  My standard answer when asked to trade was "I need the money, sorry."  I do buy artwork of some of my favorite artists when I can afford it.

Then last summer as I was in the middle of my "daily painting" craze, I rediscovered the fine art of trading - not artwork but other cool things.  On Etsy we have the functionality to "Favorite" items.  If someone favorites my art it shows up in my activity feed.  It's a very helpful function and gives you a good idea of what paintings people are responding to. (Most online galleries and shopping sites also give you this ability.)

I hate shopping in a brick and mortar store. Believe it or not my husband has to bribe me with lunch to get me to go to Kohls. I will, however, spend some "TV-Watching" time browsing jewelry and clothing online.  I came across some custom tops on Etsy one night, made from recycled t-shirts and knit tops, that prompted me to hit the "Favorite" button.  I loved the idea of recycling and reconstructing, and I thought the designs would be flattering on my "short hippy" figure.  They were quite expensive though. Remember - I'm a Kohl's shopper.

Next day, my fellow Etsian and creator of the tops, sent me a convo (short for conversation.) Her message was short and sweet..."I love this painting! I see you have favorited several of my items. If you ever are in the market to trade please let me know."  Aaaahhhh!  I jumped on that.  I now have 3 (soon to be 4) of her tops and she has 2 (soon to be 3) of my paintings.  I've also traded for some stunning silver jewelry, and luxurious bath products. 

While I still don't trade art for art, I love trading art for something I value, need and don't already have.  The fun part is realizing your art is also valued and "needed."

Today's Nitty Gritty Nugget:
     Explore trading as a way of receiving value for your art. 

Some things to remember:

1.  When someone favorites your items, take a look at their shop and see what they are selling.
2.  Be polite when "feeling out" the other seller.
3.  Don't take it personally if the other seller is not interested in trading.
4.  Some sellers will put "trade-friendly" in their bios.
5.  It may not be an even financial trade but it should be within the ballpark. 
6.  Rather than removing your item from Etsy (or wherever you sell), accept "other" as payment.  This keeps your sales records intact, but there doesn't need to be an exchange of funds.

"Pears on Blue Plate"
5 x 5 Oil on Gessobord


  1. That's a pretty pair of pears Cynthia (too bad your name is Priscilla). My husband and I were just talking about that, but I want the money, or something I need or think I need. My last trade was a portrait in oils for an iPad. Portrait artist get a lot more money for their work than the cost of an iPad I know, but I'm new into that genre and still working out the quirks. I figured an iPad was fair. And I love it. And the mom loved the painting of her two little ones even though it took me three months to finish it. --Looking at your pears, I like the simplicity of the subject, your bold brush strokes and your color scheme. It's very nice. I'd like to accomplish that in portraiture. Wish me luck.

  2. An iPad! Now why didn't I think of that. I'm also all about the money...but, there are some things I will need to spend money on eventually. Clothes is a good example.

    Thank you for your comment on my brush strokes and color scheme. Believe or not, I tend to want to really tighten painting small and quickly (about an hour) makes it tough to paint tightly.
    Check out the work of Carol Marine or even better, Gary Holland (he paints portraits) to see some great bold brush strokes.

    I do wish you much luck!!!

  3. I don't know how your tax laws work - but I'd be wary of trading too much without checking out the tax aspects.

    Tax in the UK is on benefits in kind as well as on money received. For example this is what Her Majesty's Tax Collectors have to say about exchanges where no money is involved

  4. I just read the IRS tax code on bartered goods. This link actually makes it a bit more readable. For these purposes keep track of trades and fair market value for what you've received to report on your income taxes.