News / ethical sales
One of the best things about owning my own business, is that I get to set the rules. Each and every one of them. I'm responsible for everything that happens on this site; the successes; the failures. Inventory I've purchased that turned out to be not such a great find, nor quite what I was expecting, now graces the shelves of my local Salvation Army and Value Village. A lesson here. Different items that simply caught my eye or seemed like a very good deal, have just as often turned out to be an exceptional find, or a rare and wonderful learning experience along with the purchase. A lesson there.
This new venture of mine is almost a year old and the past months have given me the opportunity to fine tune the operational side and solidify my vision. Not much has really changed, to be honest. My primary purpose is quite simple and remains much the same as when I started. To give new life to well made, quality and previously owned treasures. By default, buying previously owned items also has much less of a negative environmental impact. Two of the main reasons for launching this start up.
I didn't really anticipate how much I would enjoy setting my own rules. I'm quite fortunate that I have an actual day job and am not completely reliant on income from this new venture to put food on the table. Again, because I set the rules, I get to choose how much time I spend going to auctions, estate sales, and the like as well as how much time I spend on all the other aspects of starting an online business. And there are a great many!
I get to choose to use the most environmentally friendly packaging available when shipping orders, because it matters. I get to choose to purchase the compostable, biodegradable, 100% recycled PaperNuts from a local start up, because supporting local businesses matters. I get to choose to help establish and to opt-in to a resale royalty payment initiative from the sale of art on my site, because it matters. The token royalty fee will hopefully benefit artists in some small way, for the resale of their work, even if the amounts are quite small. Because the actual dollar amount is not the point, and because paying artists fairly for their work matters. And I get to choose.
My inbox has been jam packed this week with teasers, notifications and other advertisements about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There have been endless countdowns all month from all the online service providers I use to run this site, reminding me of what I should be doing to maximize the potential to increase online sales during the next few days, and following holiday shopping season. While I did briefly consider that as a new e-commerce retail business I should probably wade in and join the frenzy of what is no doubt the busiest shopping season of the year, I very quickly decided to decline. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales blitzes simply don't align with my vision for this site. I much prefer to offer well researched, fairly priced, quality items at all times of the year. That they've also been ethically sourced and shipped, is a bonus. And I get to choose!
Inuit & Indigenous Art always draws my attention and captures my imagination. I suspect that it has something to do with the simple honesty that I see.
In the many, many, downsizing and estate sales and auctions I've been to, I can't seem to walk or scroll past Indigenous pieces without at least trying to win them. I'm not always successful but I do now have a very nice collection of art and sculpture.
I've hesitated to list these pieces for sale for a couple of reasons. Most of them feel quite personal to me and I'm somewhat hesitant to part with them. It also feels somehow wrong to make a profit from artwork that I had no part in creating or from an artist's work who is in no way benefitting. I suppose the same could be said for other vintage and antique items I've listed for sale but the difference for me is that manufactured pieces can't usually be attributed to a single artisan. Artwork in general, and Inuit art in particular, is often signed and the artist can usually be identified.
It's generally agreed that artists receive the least amount of money in the original sale of an artwork. When a piece is resold, prices often increase as the reputation of the artist and the market grows. Resale of that same piece can sometimes reach staggering numbers. The fact that collectors are willing to pay such amounts for these exceptional works is a wonderful thing. A testament to the skill of the art community in the Canadian north, and the quality of the works produced there. The artists who created these beautiful pieces however, don't receive any money when their art is resold. The sometimes huge returns go to the galleries, auction houses, brokers, etc., as they should for their part in promoting, organizing and increasing the awareness of this beautiful art community. However, nothing goes back to the original artist nor to the community that produces and supports these artists. That just seems wrong.
The Artist Resale Right entitles visual artists to share in the ongoing success of their art by providing them with a percentage (5%) of any resale of their art. Not an outrageous amount. $2.50 on a piece sold for $100 or $500 on a piece sold for $10,000. To date, 59 countries across the world have endorsed the Artist Resale Right and legislation has been adopted to ensure this right for artists. The Artist Resale Right has not been adopted in Canada nor in the United States, with the exception of California. So, artists in North American generally receive nothing on the resale of their work. Shameful really. There's much more information available on this subject in the links below.
CARFAC Help Bring the Artist’s Resale Right to Canada
Recommendations for an Artist Resale Right in Canada, November 2010
Canadian Artists Representation Copyright Collective
Nunatsiaq Online: March, 2012 -Nunavut government supports resale royalties for artists
Resale rights for visual artists can only help to nurture and promote the artistic community, which in turn will hopefully allow artists to create a sustainable living through sales of their work.
In my tiny little world of online sales, I'm committed to establishing a system whereby 5% from the sale of any original art will be remitted back to the artist. I'm not quite sure how I'll do that yet, and it would be a whole lot easier if I could simply file a return of sales along with any funds owing to a governing body, but I'm confident I can find a way and I'm open to suggestions. This will likely represent a minuscule amount of real money, but it's more a statement of support for a long overdue initiative. Ethical buying and selling....what a concept!