5 Tips for Creating an Artful Home
Toni Sikes, founder of Guild.com, talks about how art makes the home -- and what consumers are crazy about right now. Plus, get her top five tips for creating an artful home.
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You do a lot of what I’d call art education in a really non-patronizing way. I wasn’t really sure what "giclee" was until I read about it on your site.
The education part is all part of the mission. There have been a couple different things we’ve tried to do since the day we started the web site. One is to describe the artist’s work and processes so the consumer knows what he or she is getting. Another is to celebrate that artists make a broad range of work. Most people when they hear the word "artists," they think painting or a piece of sculpture, and I feel very strongly that a teapot can be just as important as painting—in many ways more important because it’s something you pick up and use every single day. So we present all of these artists in different categories and they are all side-by-side as equal citizens in the art world. So the artist who makes a piece of jewelry is next to an artist who makes an art glass piece next to an artist who makes a painting. It’s all art and it’s all valid and relevant and important. There aren’t the caste systems in our world that you find in the art world.
And yet it’s fine art. It not just anybody or anything that you’re putting on your site. How do you pick what to share with consumers?
All the work we share is juried. We have four merchants on staff that are very experienced in the art world and we work with juror Michael Monroe, the best known and most revered curator in the fine craft world. He ran the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian for about 30 years and is now running the Bellevue Art Museum in Washington State. We accept about 10 percent of all of the submissions we get. We’re looking at new artwork every single month and are adding work all of the time.
What does it mean if artwork has been juried?
It means that when someone buys from us they are buying artwork that has been selected by art experts with a couple of key criteria in mind: We look for a strong sense of design, we ensure that any item is well made and we, quite honestly, like to look for artists, particularly younger artists, who we think will become bigger names over time. We like to think that the pieces of art will work over time and will go up in value.
Can you name an artist whose work has taken off?
A lot of artists’ have become very popular, but Brian Kershisnik is an interesting example of the kind of thing that happens with us. Brian was one of the very first two-dimensional artists we brought onto the site in 1989. He lives in Utah and is a very devout Mormon, and really early on we would get his prints and occasionally his paintings. From the moment we put his artwork on the site, people bought it. Years later, he is still our number one best-selling print artist. And now he is doing 6- to 7-foot paintings and has three museum exhibitions, and we are still carrying his prints!
Your consumers seem to know what they’re doing!
It’s an interesting point. I have learned that the consumers — even people who don’t consider themselves to be collectors — have a good eye. We have learned to trust their eye because they will pick out what is good, and Brian is a perfect example of that. They picked out a young budding artist who is becoming a national person on the art scene!
What are consumers telling you they’re into right now?
They love art glass. It’s our number-one category and has been from the beginning. It’s about 25 percent of our sales. There is a category of person who buys art glass over and over again. They are collectors or they turn into collectors.
Our biggest growth area over the last two years has been artist-made furniture. I’m not sure what the underlying cause is. I could speculate that people are becoming more willing to make a commitment to something much more expensive than the other things we have on the site. We’re finding that people are thinking about living with and keeping these pieces a long time. They’re willing to take a little bit of a risk in the design and the kinds of things they have in their homes. To buy artist-made furniture might require that you’re more of a risk taker. They’re beautiful pieces of furniture, but they’re unusual and the person who wants that may be more willing to experiment.
This Craftsman home gets a matching backyard.