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Paying to Play – Art & Craft Shops

Yesterday, a friend was telling me about auditing all his art material. It was a familiar story, many creative people have more craft and art supplies than they know what to do with or will even have time to use. I have recently inherited all the unused art materials from an aunt of mine, an amateur artist.

Senior Art Supplies

The desire to be a creative individual is a strong drive in contemporary society, the ideas of expressing your identity through art or crafts because you can’t be alienated from what you have made. This desire is easily exploited in the sale of materials to assist your creativity and the marketing of creativity and artistry is just another way of selling more products. It is the compilers in the art world are the only ones who can really make a profit (the publishers, the suppliers, the performance venues, etc.) rather than the creative individuals and art supply shops are compliers of materials. A couple of major chains completely dominate Melbourne’s art supply shops.

When I was in a band I knew of venues where you had to pay to play and maybe if you attracted a large crowd you might make some money. If you are a writer you will know about vanity publishing or a visual artist you will know about rental space galleries (see my post on Rental Spaces). However, there is more to it than the costs in producing and marketing a performance or publication. These are the obvious instances of exploiting the artists but the whole creative industry is exploiting the idea of being an artist, a musician or other creativity individual. A lot of equipment and materials have to be bought before you can exhibit or perform.

This is where the art supply shop comes into the story of art. The artist, or potential artist, is drawn in to the shop by the attraction of chromatic rows of paints, pencils, pastels and coloured papers; the orderly world of brushes, palette knives and prepared canvases; the availability of everything that you could imagine creating with and more.

In his book 50 Techniques of Magic Craftsmanship, Salvador Dali recommends buying something new every time that you visit an art supply store. But before you do ask yourself do you really need all those coloured drawing inks, tubes of paint or sketch books?

Remember, if you are an amateur or professional artist, the most expensive thing that you can spend on art is your time. Instead of buying some new materials only buy what you need to replace. You don’t need to spend money and expensive equipment to be creative. You can buy a HB2-6 pencil and paper in stationary or 2 dollar shops. Porn magazines are cheaper than life models and twice as useful. There is nothing wrong with making your art practice around your income: that is the first step in making it sustainable. Dancing, singing and beat-boxing are free.

That said the creative industry is not as bad as the exercise and sports industry. Walking is free, no equipment required and amongst the best exercises that you can do.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

6 responses to “Paying to Play – Art & Craft Shops

  • Mark Holsworth

    Thanks Jane, at my age I must good for some advice.

  • sukiesoriginal

    I’m not sure if a person can have too many art supplies, or buttons, for that matter…That said, I do live a long way from the big art supply shops, and my budget generally runs to a couple of pencils, or materials I need for a particular project. What I’ve noticed is that a lot of “art” magazine content is driven by recommending some new (and expensive) product in almost every project, and I don’t condone that at all, to the point that I don’t bother to look at them any more.

    • Mark Holsworth

      Having a shopping list for supplies is better than impulse buying. Enjoy your supplies and buttons.

  • Eucalypso

    You are hilarious. An art lecturer told us students to buy lots of expensive paint and then squeeze it into the rubbish bin to teach ourselves not to be tight with materials. His style was to layer up the paint with a palette knife to make it 3D so I could see where he was coming from.

  • Mark Holsworth

    Thanks Eucalypso, art lecturers, like the art magazine and art supply stores, of making a living from the desire of others to be artists. On the other hand, part of art is dealing with excess in society.

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