by Carolyn Edlund
Have you ever sold your artwork to interior designers? Or wanted to? These design experts share insights on how to get started in this market.
Interior designers may work on residential or commercial projects. They may be paid hourly by their clients, or they may mark up the cost of furnishings, accessories, and other items in order to earn their fee. Either way, they must source all types of products, from floor coverings to lighting to artwork in order to create spaces that work for their clientele.
Since designers are acting on behalf of their customers, they search for particular pieces that are a fit for the project. That means that although they may love an artist’s work, if it isn’t right for the room, they won’t buy. Artists can build long-term business relationships with designers, but should understand these priorities.
What do you need to know to begin working with interior designers? Joyce Creiger, the founder of Art Specifier, an online art resource for designers, shares some basics.
“One of the most important things an artist needs to think about if they want to work with designers is to be flexible,” she says. “Many designers have a pre-conceived idea of what they want the art to look like for their projects. It might require an artist to be willing to change colors, size, the substrate or process – and in many cases, even the cost. If they want the designer to consider working with them on an ongoing basis, all of these issues are up for discussion.”
A willingness to work as part of a team is essential, as well as setting your ego aside. If you dislike compromise, this type of work might not be a good fit. Creiger notes “There is a big difference between an artist preparing for an exhibition of their work vs. trying to be included in a hotel, hospital or other commercial project with a designer at the helm.”
All may not be lost, however, if you feel that you need to stay true to your muse and create what inspires you rather than tailor your work to the project. She adds, “If making radical changes is not something that is part of the artist’s lexicon, then they need to look for the group of designers who are really looking to incorporate art in their projects without trying to improve it, but appreciate the original vision of the artist and are willing to display the work as originally intended.”
Finding these designers is more difficult and requires in depth research. Creiger suggests that the artist go to the library, check out interior magazines, see which ones incorporate original artwork, and contact those designers. She adds, “You can usually tell, by looking at the work and getting familiar with artists that were selected, if they were designed for the space or actually came out of the artist’s studio in ‘as is’ condition.”
What do individual designers feel about working with artists on their projects? We asked Denver designer Meg Miller (who is also an artist) where she locates art for her interior projects.
“I never go to galleries, because it adds to the expense and doesn’t allow for direct interaction with the artist,” she says. “I like to support local talent. This means that if I like what I see on Instagram or Facebook, I can research and contact those people for further discussion. And meet with them and my client if we’re doing a commission.”
She has found that if original artwork isn’t in the budget, she will see if artists are willing to reproduce their work in various sizes and/or on various materials (i.e. wood, plexiglass, metal, etc.) to give it a fresh new look.
As a designer, she has found that “It’s important to develop a network on social media with your local community of artists, artisans, fabricators, art resource printers, etc. because it expands the possibilities for how art can be incorporated into a project. Be the facilitator and think outside the box of possibilities of what can be done. I write down what was discussed and clarify/manage the expectations of both the artist and client.”
Wisconsin designer Jessica Gundlach, who specializes in business interiors, concurs on the local angle for sourcing artwork.
“I’ve been approached by many local artists hoping our company can promote their work,” she says. “I have found that clients love to support their local artists, and often depend on their designers to make recommendations. Artists should feel comfortable seeking interior designers as advocates and should try to express what makes their art special and/or different. This helps designers know when/where their work may be applicable.”
As an artist, communication and knowing your market is important. Gundlach advises, “There may be a specific industry that the artist focuses their work around, which would be important for the interior designer to understand. For example, if an artist focuses on nature photography, they may find that healthcare facilities would be a good fit due to the calming and healing benefits of their work.”
New York City-based interior designer Michala Monroe shares her approach on working on new projects, and always starts with material. When choosing art, she says, “I need to first narrow the market by deciding if I want a framed 2D piece, a canvas, a wall sculpture, etc. Once material is decided, then budget becomes the focus. Budget is important to avoid wasting time. Then I search, online, galleries, local artists, art & design friends, custom makers, etc.”
Monroe works hourly and does not mark up artwork chosen for a project. She states, “I just try to negotiate the best price. A good experience with an artist – making my clients happy – makes me a repeat client of theirs.”
What mistakes has she seen artists make when negotiating an art sale? “I think that artists often make the mistake of not working out the logistical end of a deal,” she reveals. “I need them to come ready with shipping options (no ridiculously high bids) and any special hanging instructions or installers. Unfortunately, I often see commission bids come in too low. Some artists are good at working with galleries to price their work, but once they commission on their own, they often bid too low. This is great for the client, but bad for the artist.”
Is your artwork a good fit for this type of project? Flexibility, professionalism, and good follow through are musts for artists who want to take advantage of the opportunities and rewards that come with working with interior designers.