Shifting art from zeroes to ones

Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied
The simple act of buying a wedding present for a friend gave Dunedin woman Katerina Thomas an idea to help support the city’s emerging artists, Rebecca Fox writes.

Knowing many artists have drawers filled with their work but no outlet, Katerina Thomas has set out to give Dunedin creatives a chance to empty them.

Katerina Thomas is behind the new art website artq.
Katerina Thomas is behind the new art website artq.
‘‘I thought it would be quite cool for emerging artists to be able to showcase their work.’’

With her digital-marketing background, a website-based gallery seemed like the perfect idea.

It came to her while shopping at Dunedin’s Stuart St Potter’s Co-operative for a wedding present.

‘‘It made me think how hard it is to make a living as an artist.’’

So with a bit of help from those in the arts sector, Thomas, who moved from Europe to Dunedin about six years ago, has set up a website, artq.co, where emerging artists can submit their work not only to be sold but also to be seen.

Otago Polytechnic Dunedin School of Art senior lecturer Michael Greaves has been mentoring her and putting her in touch with other artists.

‘‘I’ve been introduced to a really cool network of people.’’

From the response to the idea, she believed it has resonated with artists.

‘‘A lot are madly keen to give up their day jobs and do art full-time but it’s just too hard commercially for them.

‘‘So I’d love to help them sell more so it can help them do what they’d love.’’

She hopes that it will also tap into millennials’ and younger people’s shopping habits.

‘‘They do not go to art galleries or are intimidated by them but they are seeking out authentic work and want to support local artists.''

The site features profiles of each of the artists and pictures of their work.

Thomas takes a commission on the works sold, like a traditional gallery, does the marketing and organises the photography of works.

Dunedin Art School senior lecturer and artist Michael Greaves has supported the idea with some smaller works.
Dunedin Art School senior lecturer and artist Michael Greaves has supported the idea with some smaller works.
''We want to tell their stories really well.''

She has noticed people are looking at the site the most between 7pm and 8pm when they have down time.

''It's about growing the community.''

Greaves said he felt Thomas' idea of the website being a kind of partnership with the maker and their existing relationships with galleries, one to support both directions, was a positive way to support both the maker and her platform.

''I felt that her idea was a novel way of approaching people who have an interest in art, and who might want to express an interest in beginning to collect work.''

He did not see it so much as an online art shop, as an introduction to the work and the story of how the work was made, or the context of the art maker.

''You will never compensate for the actual physical object, seen in space, in the online work. But you can introduce the maker, their work in a way that gives the potential collector a different kind of relationship, via the story.''

Greaves has also contributed some of the drawings he has been making that have had an influence on the larger paintings he creates.

''When thinking about the kind of work that might be able to sit in this platform I had to consider a number of things, scale, portability, and context.

''It allowed me to nominate works that would usually stay in my studio collection.''

While the website has only been up for a few weeks, Thomas has secured nine artists - painters and jewellers - who have put their work up for sale.

They are learning as they go as to how the concept will work and how to price pieces.

''Often what an artist suggests is not reflective of work put in.''

It is hoped the website will help artists understand the true value of their work.

''There is consumer recognition and awareness that handmade takes time. Something handmade is never going to cost $20.

''If it is unique and made locally, someone came with the idea and the story behind it, the price should reflect that.''

Young Dunedin artist Madison Kelly said the idea appealed to her as it gave an outlet for a lot of her drawings which do not usually get seen - unlike her large, abstract installations.

Thomas does not see the site as competition for bricks and mortar galleries as they show different work and appeal to a different demographic and buyer.

It is a bit of a passion project for Thomas whose day job involves helping business use technology to further their goals.

The website also combined Thomas' experience working with artists and potters years ago in Europe with her current skills.

''It brings the left and right side of my brain together. It's an escape I guess for me.''

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