Eyes on the Prize

How to get your work seen

By Michelle Kay

If you’re a crafter, zinester or all-around artist, chances are at some point you will need to find ways to get your work into other people’s hands. If you’ve created something original and exciting — like a zine about toast or knitted sweaters for hamsters — here are five ways to market your creations to the world:

1. Organize an event or start a project that begs for collaboration
Building a community is vital if you want your work to be seen. When you host an event, you’re almost always guaranteed to get exposure and meet a bunch of new people. Not only does it give your work a platform, you get to network too. Of course it helps to make the event intriguing not only by partnering with other great vendors but also by holding it in unconventional venues. Maria Bui of Fuzzy Logic Records [www.fuzzylogicrecordings.com] once organized a traveling show, where the audience moved to various locations like a laundromat and the steps of a local high school, to see musicians play. Passersby and those waiting for the dryer were able to take in some free music and learn more about Fuzzy Logic.


2. Piggy back on an established event in your neck of the woods
If organizing an event is too daunting, pair up with an indie project that is already established in a community. Steel Bananas [www.steelbananas.com], a culture zine and arts collective whose mandate is about collaborating with independent artists and writers, hosts The Monthly Eggplant Reading Series, which invites local writers to share their work with the public and meet other literary types. That might be just the place to launch a zine or book.


3. Create a “space” for fellow artsy-types
If you build it, they will come. Well, it might not be that simple, but opening a gallery space, venue or a more conceptual space to house the work of others can help build a community and allow you to meet others and promote your own creations. That’s exactly what Serena McCarroll and Tyler Brett did when they opened All Citizens [www.allcitizens.org ] in Bruno, Saskatchewan. While the pair initially did not want the space to promote their own work, they found it happened naturally and ended up connecting with many artists. Costs for starting a new venture needn’t be hefty, especially if opening in a small town like Bruno. McCarroll says they paid $6,500 for the space (which sounds like a lot, but we’re talking about an entire building here.)


“What Tyler and I did was crazy. However, there’s something to be said for following your heart. Not everyone needs to be as reckless as we were… [But] people really respond if they feel you’re doing something genuine,” says McCarroll. If you’re in a higher rent area, look for a space that already exists, a space within a space that’s being underused.


Of course, your space can be largely virtual: Jesjit Gill [jesjit.blogspot.com ] began Free Drawings, a free newspaper that features drawings from artists around the world, because he wanted to share artwork. “The first issue had stuff from people I knew. By putting out that paper, I got work from strangers. People saw the paper and wanted to contribute,” says Gill, an artist himself. He also puts the paper, which he started two and a half years ago, in local shops, bookstores and record stores while also sending along stacks with friends when they go to out-of-town zine fairs. When friends go on tour, they bring along papers to hand out at shows.


4. Go online
Your “space” doesn’t have to be quite as elaborate as a regularly updated publication. Blogs and websites are a crucial tool, especially if you can’t seem to create a community in your own backyard. Lee Meszaros, who makes the adorable fabric Be Proud Merit Badges [www.etsy.com/shop/leemeszaros], meets fellow crafters through online blogs and trades ads and contests with fellow bloggers, sometimes giving away her swag for free “to cute people who will wear it but can’t afford it. It’s just a good deed, and I believe in karma,” she says.


5. Get out of town
Do an artist residency or go on tour with your goods. Halifax’s Roberts Street Social Centre [www.robertsstreet.org ] has summer residencies where artists live in the city for a month and work on their art. At the end of their residency, they have a show for the community. Not only is leaving town good for inspiration, you’re bound to meet new people who can kick-start your creativity and get you excited all over again.