Chris Roberts-Antieau is an artist I discovered by accident. I came across her “The Circus” and bought it immediately (wrote about it in a previous post). It’s hanging in the hallway just inside the front door of my apartment. Every time I walk by it, I pause, chuckle, and marvel at it.
I’ve always liked “primitive works”, and in New York I spend a lot of time at the American Folk Art Museum.
I love her naïve style, and her sense of humor in the characters she sews onto the fabric.
She has a new gallery in New Orleans (although her studio is in Michigan) and a terrific website here: http://www.chrisroberts-antieau.com/ Chris describes her complicated work simply: she cuts out pieces of textile and sews them to fabric.
I drove downtown when I heard she was exhibiting at this year’s Art Basel in Miami and was delighted to meet her son, Noah, who was kind enough to spend quite a bit of time chatting about his mother’s “fiber art”. That meeting inspired me to call her the other day to ask if I could interview her for my “Joy” blog. I was curious about her marketing challenges which strike me as daunting.
She needs to sell one piece of art to one person who loves it.
When I heard her voice, I was delighted. She’s warm, easy to talk to … not a hint of artistic temperament … and as whimsically funny as her art.
Most artists think it’s “crass commercialism” to market
When I asked how she markets her art now, she told me that the biggest boon to her business has been her website. She sells her original pieces online along with signed limited edition prints, posters and notecards. Having that site has made all the difference to her business.
And then she told me her story….
Chris started drawing when she was 4 years old and just loved it. She never excelled in school and somehow flunked out at grade 9, so there wasn’t any college for her.
She married young and had Noah, now 7 feet tall. Chris is 6 feet tall (a woman after my own heart). After her divorce, she struggled. She started making little figures for Noah and other Moms asked to buy them. She particularly remembers a piece that took her about 24 hours straight to make and sew. She sold it for $18.00 and was delighted. She started making more fiber art pieces and taking them to art fairs.
Her sense of humor comes through in her work, and she loves the mediocrity of Pop Culture so she pokes fun at it, herself, her pets.
At a show at the Smithsonian Institution, someone from the George W. Bush Administration bought a piece for the White House. Soon over 100 Galleries wanted her work. Now she has her own studio in Michigan and her own Gallery in New Orleans.
And she’s started working in acrylics.
So for all of us who make a living in marketing, Chris’s encouraging words:
Price your product right. If she really loves a piece, she prices it high or hides it in the back of her studio. She also prices her pieces higher when she sees there is a demand for them.
- She said “the essence of art is communication with the viewer”. It’s the same in our business which is why we find it amazing when we see ads that are nothing more than companies talking to themselves.
- Don’t give up. If you can do it long enough, it will work out. I agree. Over my career, I‘ve seen dozens of marketers just give up when they’re on the brink of success (and that’s another story).
Whenever people visit my apartment for the first time, they comment on the Chris Roberts-Antieau piece hanging just inside the door and they ask about the artist. Well, she’s a lot more than an artist. She’s a wonderful human being and an inspiration.
It’s a long story! Please tell me yours, here (in a comment):