18/06/2014 - 12:51

Artisans lacking business smarts

18/06/2014 - 12:51


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Western Australia is failing to develop a core part of its cultural sector because artisans aren’t being taught how to run effective businesses.

Artisans lacking business smarts
Chamber of Arts and Culture chairman Warwick Hemsley.

Western Australia is failing to develop a core part of its cultural sector because artisans aren’t being taught how to run effective businesses.

An investigation into the state’s craft sector, in which nearly 30 per cent of the state’s visual artists operate, has found many are failing to make even minimum wage from selling their wares.

The report commissioned by the Chamber of Arts and Culture WA stated that formal craft training courses in skills such as ceramics and jewellery design failed to arm graduates with sufficient business skills.

That, combined with the fact that many graduates set up as sole traders, resulted in minimal success amid craft practitioners.

Specific problems included practitioners not knowing how to price goods appropriately or apply goods and services tax or costs associated with travel and sourcing materials.

Outlets specialising in the sale of artisan products such as Aspects at Kings Park, Found at the Fremantle Arts Centre, and the Mundaring Arts Centre also reported issues with how producers marketed their goods.

The report also found craft artists were faced with dwindling routes to market as many galleries, which would previously have run craft exhibitions, have closed.

Founder of Perth’s Scarab Wood Studio, Peter Cook, told Business News the only way he had managed to establish a profitable business was to focus on selling goods that didn’t necessarily portray his core passion.

“My experience is that in a sound creative practice business model, of which there may in fact be very few, it’s the other – more menial – end of the business that pays the bills,” Mr Cook said.

“Strategic control of such revenue streams makes real artistic development possible.”

Mr Cook said that it wasn’t surprising artists lacked the skills required to build a successful business.

“Artists are notorious for being ‘absent minded’ regarding business management,” Mr Cook said.

“Let’s face it; they are lead into the field by their hearts, not generally by an aspiration to make money.”

Gavin Buckley, the chief executive of Artsource, which works to foster growth in the visual arts industry, said many of the organisation’s members struggled.

“Affordable studios, exhibition opportunities, routes to market, quality writing and the promotion of art and craft are all significant issues of vital importance to artists and makers,” Mr Buckley told Business News.

“Gaining access to commercial opportunities can be tough.

“Many of our members have an established and successful practice, but, despite considerable talent, not all artists and makers find it easy.”

Mr Buckley said the report’s findings would help Artsource refine its strategy for promoting growth in the visual arts sector.


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