A common objection I hear to making art is that it costs money. What if you could find a way to fund your explorations, experiments, and even the materials to make your art?
Hello my name is Carrie Brummer and here on Artist Strong I help artists like you build your skill and develop your unique voice. Today I want to showcase a unique use of Kickstarter to fund experimental works by community member Kirsten Lee.
Kirsten has successfully run a Kickstarter project previously. Her first project created art and a book around horses. For her second project, she is taking a different approach: she is seeking funding that supports media exploration and experimentation.
So, what is Kickstarter?
If you know, go ahead and skip ahead to the next paragraph. If you don’t, this section is just for you. Kickstarter is a platform that helps creatives in many disciplines fund different projects they are making through crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding is a kind of investing where individuals can contribute to projects they care about and receive something in return. This is generally done in a way that people can choose a range of investment amounts and receive different types of awards that correspond with whatever level of investment they choose.
In Kirsten’s Kickstarter, she aims to create 100 bite-size experimental artworks, which she calls Quaran-Teenies. She will create 100 artworks that range in sizes from 2 inches square to 108 inches square and explore a variety of media and styles of art.
Note that for a minute, for if you are an artist that has felt cornered into only one style, or feel like something is wrong with you because you have more than one style or project or medium: Kirsten has a created a project that celebrates this.
YOU get to decide what you want and how to make it happen. Don’t let other people tell you what to do. (That includes me, too!)
I also asked Kirsten a few questions to help you in your own crowdfunding project. The first one was,
What is the biggest thing someone new to Kickstarter should consider?
“Three major things.
1-What are you really looking to get out of it? My first campaign had wide, sweeping goals as part of an ongoing exploration of the public lands through an artistic lens. Quaran-Teenies is for experimentation and serendipity and finding fun (what even is that anymore!)
Sure there will be opportunities for exhibitions and outreach and such but they are not the prime directives. I need to remind myself of this main constantly while making decisions around the campaign and the project to maintain clarity-and sanity.
2- What can you help others to get out of it? What fun rewards, particularly that are uniquely you, can you offer to your supporters? Look at what other people are offering to get a feel for rewards and price points, but stay true to your own he/art. Ultimately you need to ask yourself, “would I be excited by these rewards?”
3- What will you have to put into it? Be very aware of the actual costs in both time and finances. Fees and taxes are going to take about 40%. That’s a giant piece gone, BAM, before you even start. Campaign creation and promotion takes time, as does the obvious creation of the work.
There’s also invisible time costs like making mailing labels (or hand writing them) and driving to the post office. Looking at the minutia of fulfillment is boring but vital. Creating the work is the fun part. It’s important to set the project up so that the admin work is the tip of the iceberg and the creative work is the bulk of it rather than the other way around.
This line of inquiry led me to make a really difficult decision this time around. If I get funded the commitment is to bring all of the works together into the photographic journal. One thing I’ve learned about myself is I love telling the stories. Writing the book was a major highlight of my last Kickstarter – but a major time commitment.
Creating the work is my primary goal with Quaran-Teenies so I set my target funding rate low enough that it won’t come anywhere close to covering the time to make the book as I want it. I’m using the option of stretch goals, meaning if the project is funded the book will happen as more or less an exhibition catalogue, but if we get funded at a higher level, the book will have more content, at no additional cost to individual supporters.“
When people talk about Kickstarter people can get both excited and overwhelmed at the many ways they can offer awards to potential investors. Sometimes, they don’t do the math when it comes to the financial and/or time investment of following through on those promises. Because of this, I asked Kirsten’s advice:
How do you decide what is “too much” when it comes to different awards?
“It’s definitely a balancing act between offering an interesting vs paralyzing range of choices with respect to both the creator and the supporter. Offering too many choices could be just as paralyzing as too few ending up with people not supporting at all. I’ve seen campaigns that offer only one reward, and campaigns that pages of options and add-ons.
I try create a holistic overview where any once effort satisfies several levels. For example one piece of art is a digital reward, a postcard, potentially a print, and fodder for an update or blog post, which may then develop into book content, as well as standing on its own. Or even more simply, the same work results in both the e-book and the photojournal. I try and think of a logical workflow to maximize one effort across a range of tiers.
There’s also an element of knowing yourself well enough to know what does or doesn’t work personally. My choice of rewards this time around was informed by my previous experience- both things I found I loved like putting together-the book- as well as things that made me downright resentful. But that’s also an important part of the process-experiment and evolve.”
The other piece of the puzzle with a successful Kickstarter is being clear with yourself AND your potential investors what your goals are for the project.
I loved Kirsten’s honesty and transparency when discussing the motivation behind this project. Talk about a great way to help you follow through on your goals… you are much less likely to give up on them if people have a financial stake in what you do.
What do you hope to discover or achieve through your explorations with this particular project?
“My own next steps! I feel like my creativity has been at a standstill well, since my last Kickstarter! By making commitments to the work being small and experimental I want to try and get out of the subconscious urge to try and make something “pretty” or “meaningful” and see where my art wants to go.
There is still an element of activism: by making things mailable I hope people are encouraged to connect with friends through the postcards and support the struggling postal service, or hang something interesting on their walls to transform their immediate environment.
I always feel more worthwhile when contributing to a cause and I don’t think that will ever go away! But I want to get away from any notion that I know what that contribution might look like and let it lead me instead.”
I highly encourage you to take a peek at Kirsten’s Kickstarter. She offers us a great example of how you can create a project and fund your art before you even make it! I also hope you will consider investing in her work.
Let’s pause here a moment to thank today’s sponsor. This post from Artist Strong is brought to you by The Artist Strong Studio, our community of patrons who believe in and wish to support this community. You can become part of the Artist Strong Studio for a small monthly commitment as low as 1 dollar a month.
Kirsten is currently a member and recently shared her project with the community to get feedback, something you can do too.
To learn more visit https://www.patreon.com/ArtistStrong.
A special thank you to current patrons, I couldn’t do this work without your support.
I hope today’s conversation has you thinking about any objections you have, or people in your life have, to investing in your art.
While I personally know your art has value whether or not you choose to sell it, sometimes we need a path to justify our expenses, or the time we put into our art.
I hope Kirsten’s example offers you the chance to see there are many paths towards your art goals if you choose to look for them.
Now it’s your turn: what’s a project you’ve wanted to realize that might be a good fit for this funding approach? Tell me about it in the comments below and we can start to dig into what your next steps are to fund your next big (or small!) project.
As an aside, Indiegogo is another crowdfunding platform that works internationally, for my non-US art peeps. If crowdfunding sparks your interest, there is the possibility of using it to fund your next art project.