Thursday, October 11, 2012

Collecting Art

by Jo Reimer

The Quilting Bee
by Jo Reimer
25.5 x 23.75 x 2.5 inches
plaster, wax, acrylic on cradled panel
The Quilting Bee - detail

Several decades ago I started collecting original art pieces to replace an embroidered wall hanging I had made for my dining room. The art works were small and most were trades with friends that reflected the strong craft interests of the Pacific Northwest... embroideries, weavings, and pottery. These handmade pieces were special, one of a kind, different than the mass-produced decor in stores, and they somehow seemed to have a life of their own.  I was hooked. 

As I could afford I bought small works, originals that showed the hand of the maker. None were purchased as investments but because I knew the maker and liked the work and wanted to live with it.  I traded with other artists.

It's still like that for me. I've bought a few larger pieces which I loved then and still do, but most works I own are fairly small. When we moved to a home with big walls I hung handmade quilts and un-quilted tops which filled the big spaces quite well and reflected my growing interest in making and collecting quilts. 

I seldom change out the pieces that hang in our living spaces. Once they're hung they stay there because I like to live with the work. Some of the early purchases have been stored because my taste has changed somewhat, but I do love covering the walls with original art and setting my table with handmade ceramics. 

A couple of years ago I hosted an Open Studio and I took down all the art by others that hung in the public rooms of our home and put up my own art. I liked that a lot. It was fun to see what I had made and to talk about it with visitors.

Some pieces by other artists have crept back onto my living room walls and as I look around I realize that there's a theme going on: it's all about landscape. 

I made the two tree plaster pieces which hang over the fireplace. (My son wants them but he'll only get them over my dead body.)  One of Randall Tipton's pieces, Deep Forest Shallow Pond, is about trees and water. A large painting by Hannah Greaver over the sofa is beach grass at sunset. I've had that one 20 years.  A newish plaster piece by Deanna Lautenbach is a tree silhouette, a gift from my husband. A small pastel by Marla Bagetta is behind my husband's chair.  The quilt that hangs in the entry is one I made about 15 years ago... it's about trees, as are the three small quilts in the back hallway which depict 3 different varieties of Japanese maples that lived in our back garden. I can't get enough of these favorite pieces; they've aged well and are important to both of us.

So what is my advice to you about art on your walls?

  • Build your collection slowly and carefully.
  • Buy one very nice piece rather than three or four small works.
  • Don't be concerned about whether the artist has a 'name' or not. If you like his/her work, buy it, thinking about your personal connection to the piece, not about increasing value. Most doesn't increase in value.
  • If you like an artist's work but don't see a piece that appeals to you in the gallery, call the artist and ask if you can visit her studio to choose a piece.
  • If the price is too steep for the piece you want ask the artist or the gallery about payments over time, but don't push for a discount.
  • Sometimes an artist will do a commission. Know what you want and communicate clearly with the artist but leave him the freedom to work from his heart.
  • If the work is unframed you might ask the artist for his suggestion about what type of frame and for a reference to a good local frame shop.
  • Keep the frame simple so the work shows off well.
Consider starting a collection for family members, for special occasions. A work of art makes a personal and welcome gift. My daughter and grandchildren have nice collections started to which I will add over the years.

Please read this excellent piece on why we invest in artists by Rebekah Joy Plett.

Questions, comments and advice for others  about this topic are welcome; please leave a comment below.

If you want to add a piece of my artwork to your own collection you can click on the link below, "Available Work" to go to my Flickr album where many pieces are shown. Most art that I feature on this blog is available for purchase whether I've indicated so or not.  Just ask.

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