Artist Success: Turning Publicity Into Sales

by Carolyn Edlund

Painter Elisa Sheehan received major media attention for her art, and turned those opportunities into sales.

 

Handpainted eggshells by artist Elisa Sheehan

 

Elisa Sheehan is a painter from New York State with a body of work that includes nature-inspired abstracts in oil, and a striking collection of elegantly painted eggshells. Her work has garnered a lot of attention from international media, resulting in sold-out inventory on her website, special commissions, and a highly successful in-person show. We recently spoke about her work, how she sought publicity and the way this exposure affects her business planning going forward.

How did you get started painting eggshells?

I started painting eggshells due to a happy accident, when I spotted some on our kitchen counter that were meant for the compost bin. Something about the dried shells just looked so papery to me, and I felt compelled to draw in them. I huddled around my space heater each morning before I painted and doodled with black ink in the shells. Soon I had a collection on my worktable and I loved how they looked all together. I immediately wanted to do more, and began sourcing and experimenting with frames. I also started expanding into painting them instead of just drawing with black ink.

One day I dropped and broke a shell I’d been working on. Immediately, the Japanese art of Kintsugi came to mind. Kintsugi is the process of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver. The philosophy aims to treat that break and repair as a part of the object’s history, not as something to cover up or disguise. I decided to apply that concept to my eggshells, and began to add gold metal leaf to them to represent those “cracks” visually. The concept of Kintsugi is something we can all learn from, and I keep it constantly in mind as I’m working.

 

Colored Eggshells by artist Elisa Sheehan

 

What happened that made this art take off and get lots of publicity?

While I sold these framed eggshells for a few years, my biggest boost came in February of this year. I contacted the incredible Danielle Krysa of  The Jealous Curator through the submission process on her website, and got interest there. She posted about my eggshell work on her blog and social media outlets. Danielle has such a large reach that I gained new followers, customers, and additional press, such as Martha Stewart Online and My Modern Met.

 

Artwork by Elisa Sheehan with eggshells painted in Kintsugi fashion

 

What type of response did you get and from whom?

As I mentioned above, I got an immediate and great response from folks who follow The Jealous Curator and Martha Stewart, but also from so many people all over the world. One article led to another and news stations near and far wanted to learn more about what I do. An Australian outlet even put together a video about my work! I also spoke with some really wonderful local reporters I hadn’t previously known. For me, making those connections in my own community is really special.

 

Grouping of art by Elisa Sheehan

 

Given your success, what is next for you?

I have so many ideas. These works originally started out as four eggshells framed. From there I experimented by going much larger, with some 24” and 30” framed pieces with the eggshells in a grid. I’ve also been playing with more organic compositions and paintings in the shells as well as new framing options like beautiful gold leaf frames and Lucite frames. I’ve worked on commissions for hospitals where the frame was 62” and contained nearly 200 eggshells. Working big appeals to me. There are many possibilities, so I really hope to do more projects like that one.

On the completely opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve created “minis” which are just a single framed eggshell painted with gold leaf. These have become really popular because of their price accessibility and because they are so giftable. They’re also fun to make!

Lastly, I’ve been experimenting with the idea of how to make these eggshells into an installation. I imagine them climbing a wall in a really large, impactful way. There are logistics and placement concerns since they are eggshells after all, but I love dreaming about that and taking small steps to test things out.

 

 

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