Declining number of art supply stores

A.I. Friedman, the Manhattan art materials store, never had a lot of products for sculptors – there were some small tools for carving, some Sculpey and a limited number of small bags of plaster – but its closing on April 30th after 80 years in business means that yet one more venerable brick-and-mortar supply company for artists to visit, shop and learn about new products is gone. New York City, where there are perhaps more visual artists per capita than anywhere else in the world, has seen a spate of these closings in recent years. In 2014, Pearl Paint closed its doors for good after 81 years, and both New York Central Art Supply (founded in 1905) and Lee’s Art Shop (founded in 1951) closed last year. In 2006, Peter Leggieri Sculpture Supply was shuttered after 17 years. Continue reading

Children of Artists Carrying on their Parent’s Legacy

It is rare that an artist retires, so when sculptor Rob Fisher died suddenly of a massive heart attack at age 67 in 2006, he left five large-scale commissioned projects uncompleted. In most contracts to produce a new work of art, there is a clause to cancel the agreement in the event of the death of the artist, but Fisher’s family looked to maintain and extend his legacy. Over the ensuing six years, his son Brett and daughter Talley took over the process of completing these commissions and even to begin new projects that they themselves designed, however still under the imprimatur of Rob Fisher Sculpture. Continue reading

Working in a Sculpture Foundry

Casting Iron at Carrie Furnaces at the 26th International Sculpture Conference in Pittsburgh.

Casting Iron at Carrie Furnaces at the 26th International Sculpture Conference in Pittsburgh.

Cynics like to claim that a studio art degree is training for a life of unemployment, but many graduates of BFA and MFA programs find that they can put their technical skills to use, even if not directly towards their own fine art careers.

For instance, Sheryl Hoffman’s main interest at Cleveland State University (where she earned a BFA) and at Ohio State University in Columbus (where she received an MFA) was her sculpture, but the process of creating her mixed media pieces required her to learn welding and various casting techniques (plaster, sand and wax), which enabled her to find work in sculpture foundries after graduation. “While I was waiting for a teaching job to come along, I took up casting, because I knew how to do this,” she said. For eight years, she worked at several different Ohio-based foundries–Studio Foundry in Cleveland and David R. Kahn in Athens, among others–working with artists in their studios to create rubber molds of their work, then at the foundry making waxes and the investment that resulted in editions of their artwork. During those years, she earned between $20,000 and $30,000, depending upon how many jobs came in. Continue reading

Responding to Suggestions

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Mark Hopkins, a sculptor in Loveland, Colorado, was offered a commission by the director of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, but the proposed subject was a bit odd. “He wanted me to do a sculpture of Noah’s Ark, including a dinosaur or two,” he said. (The Creation Museum “brings the pages of the Bible to life,” according to its Web site.) “I thought, ‘that’s ridiculous.’ I told him, ‘it will look like Dinotopia.’ It just wouldn’t make any sense, so I rejected the idea.” But he said it nicely, diplomatically, “something like, ‘Let me think about that for a while,’ because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.” Continue reading

The alternative art school movement

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“Back to school” sounds good to children (who get to see their friends every day again) and to their parents (who get to not see their children for a number of hours every week day), but adults often find that their own schooling – say, earning a Master of Fine Arts degree – can be a hassle, what with the job, the kids, the cost of tuition, moving. Tuition for an MFA in sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art currently runs $43,760 for a full year (and it is a two-and-a-half year program), and then there are a range of required and optional fees, and we haven’t even gotten to food and accommodations. The low-residency MFA in studio art at the college is exactly half the cost of the full-time rate, which may be more palatable but still a big chunk of change. Continue reading

Is That an Insult?

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It sometimes seems as though being an artist gives the rest of the world a license to be insulting, if unintentionally. Can you really make a living from this? Is that a cat? Could you do that in yellow? Wouldn’t it look better flipped on its side? Artists who sell directly to the public regularly face those and other questions and comments that seemingly denigrate their professionalism and their art. What’s more, the same questions get asked repeatedly by different people at exhibitions and fairs, which could turn sensitive souls sarcastic and mocking, hardly a good way to engender sales. Continue reading