Strategies: selling art online (2)

Kentucky-based collage artist Randel Plowman launched a new project back in March 2006. The project—called A Collage A Day—was ambitious to say the least.

He committed himself to producing a new 4″ × 4″ collage every day and putting it up for sale on a specially created blog. Each collage is offered for sale at $25.00, which includes 8″ × 8″ archival gallery matting, documentation and free shipping within the United States (or $10 outside the US).

I ordered one of Randel’s collages back in November last year. It’s the one illustrated right here—it’s called Once Again—and here’s Randel’s the blog post featuring it.

It arrived promptly a week or so later: an original well-made, hinge-mounted 4″ × 4″ collage, complete with a signed document of authenticity, which now has pride of place on my wall (next to a postcard of Lee Miller).

Randel’s idea works so well because everything is made easy for the customer. The collages are great, the blog format is easy to navigate, the images and details of the collages are clearly available, and payment is made via PayPal. Equally importantly, he has priced the collages very well, so that just about anyone can afford one, and shipping costs are minimal (and non-existent within the US).

Let’s examine Randel’s strategy in terms of Kevin Kelly’s eight generatives—“categories of intangible value” that must be “generated, grown, cultivated, [or] nurtured” that make the non-free version better than the free version—comparing the free digital images of the collages to the collage I received in the post. After all, why should I spend even $25 on a collage when the digital image of it is available free on his blog?

Here’s the generatives that I think add value to Randel’s collages, making the non-free physical version better than the free digital version:

Of these four, I think Embodiment is the crucial quality that made me buy one of Randel’s collages, followed in second place by Patronage (both of which are preceded by the fact that I liked his collages on an aesthetic level, of course – without that, any other values are moot since I’m not buying as a financial investment to make money). This is no real surprise with a hand-made physical piece of visual artwork which is unique—or scarce—by its very nature (or at least limited, in the case of a print) compared to the abundant multiplicity of the digital image.