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!
To be perfectly honest, I know very little about art. I have no conscious sense of form, composition or light, nor do I have any insight into what an artist may be trying to convey. I'm not artistic or even all that creative. But I love art. In all its varied forms. I'm in awe of the skill with which an artist can impart their vision onto canvas or into stone or music or their medium of choice and am intrigued by the different emotions and feeling their work conveys, different for each and every person experiencing it.
With one of my first ever pay cheques, from my very first full time job, I bought a small work from a tiny local gallery. I still have it some 35 years later, although the gallery is now long gone. It evokes some of the very same feelings today that it did when I first brought it home, along with a few new ones. Which is exactly why I bought it, and have hauled it along with me where ever I've moved, hanging it on a new wall in each and every place I made my home. I've continued to buy small pieces of art over the years, based entirely on what I like and how the piece makes me feel.
Art really doesn't have to be expensive. Some of my favourites were picked up from street artists from where ever I happened to be travelling, at music festivals, craft shows, and more recently at auctions. The common thread is always that each piece makes me feel something....happy, thoughtful, wistful......To me the sole purpose of art is elicit emotion or make a connection of some kind.
So, I don't really get the appeal of mass-produced factory art. The Ikea furniture of the art world. Not that there's anything wrong with Ikea furniture....it's just not really meant to endure beyond the average length of time it takes to complete a university degree. Disposable. Superficial. Mass produced. It lacks that special something that an artist infuses into their work . It seems to be less about making a connection and more about matching the furniture. There really is no comparison though to an original work, conceived of and executed by an artist with the talent and skill to connect people and make them feel something. What a cool way to make a living.
I feel like a treasure hunter.
For the most part, I buy things that catch my interest and capture my imagination and I assume they will do the same for others. Sometimes they do. Not always though. My end goal is to purchase items I'll be able to sell and it seems I have the most success buying and selling what I like.
My approach is probably a little unorthodox but I buy what I can afford, what I like, and what looks a bit different. Usually in that order. The treasure hunter part comes in when I get my purchase home and do some research into what it is and where it came from.
The computer geek in me gets an enormous sense of satisfaction from solving the puzzle of what something actually is, where it originated, how old it is and what the value might be. The history buff in me is thrilled to discover a bit about the history of a specific piece, what it may originally have been used for, and a bit about the time and place it was produced in.
A few months back, I bought a sculpture from an online estate sale. There were only a few photos of the piece and they were not the best quality. The description of the piece was very vague, simply stating 'Stone Sculpture - Heavy' and the dimensions were incorrect. Something about this piece captured my imagination, in spite of the lack of detailed, quality photos. Very few people seemed to be interested, and I had the winning bid. It was fairly challenging picking it up and getting it home as I was very surprised to discover it was much larger and heavier than described in the listing. It weighs 137 pounds, to be exact. It was also much more beautiful than was evident in the listing!
The size and weight made it difficult to research and I was told, after sending photos to a few people for appraisal purposes, that likely its highest value was in my own appreciation of the sculpture. A kind way to say that it has no real value, I think. I was intrigued though and wanted to know more about the sculptor and where it came from. So, I did my own research and after many, many hours of searching, I've discovered the origins of the piece that makes me smile every time I walk past it.
It's a lovely example of Zimbabwe Shona sculpture, so named because they are created by the Shona of Zimbabwe. The Shona people have been hand sculpting stone into works of art for nearly a thousand years. The name Zimbabwe is derived from the Shona word which means 'house of stone'.
Even more exciting to me, was learning that the piece I wrestled to get into my house and struggled to research, was created by the one and only, Colleen Madamombe. Ms. Madamombe, who died in 2009, was one of only a handful of women sculptors in Zimbabwe, and often considered among the very best. Her sculptures are said to highlight the special qualities of Shona women, as well as to communicate the inequities that affect their lives and status.
The feminist in me is a bit in awe that one of her sculptures is at this moment, in my living room. How cool is that? Most certainly a treasure found!
Like many, I'm concerned about the affects of climate change and recognize the environmental impact of the dozens of small decisions we make each and every day. The benefits of reducing, re-purposing, reusing, repairing and recycling are clear and the decision to include previously owned for some of our home furnishings and decor is one of those small decisions.
I like brand new things as much as anyone, but I'm increasingly frustrated with our throw away culture. We each have the opportunity to reduce our impact on the environment with every purchase that we make. Quite simply, purchasing a beautiful, vintage, hand cut crystal bowl from the 1930's or 1940's, will have a much smaller environmental impact than buying a replica, which has been mass produced off-shore in a factory with questionable materials and labour practices, over-packaged, shipped and then trucked to your local big box store. My primary goal with this site is to give new life to some unique and beautiful items, while reducing the environmental impact of some of our purchasing decisions.
There is a simple beauty in each and every item listed on this site, that's embellished by its deep history. The products offered on With A Past were created by artisans and master craftsmen & women, in a time before mass production practices of today. Quality and workmanship are two reasons why these items have outlasted their generation. In many cases they have been lovingly collected and cared for by families through a generation when home furnishings and décor were expected to last a lifetime. All of the items you'll see in these pages have exceeded that expectation.
I have a soft spot for old stuff. Maybe it's because there's always a story or two attached to them, but vintage and antique items are just a little more interesting to me than new.
All of the items for sale on this site have come from various downsizing auctions and estate sales. I'm fairly new at this game and am still learning the ropes, but I find these auctions a mix of fascinating and bittersweet. I love watching and learning from both the professional and casual buyers, and feel a little like I'm on a successful treasure hunt every time I'm the high bidder on something.
Knowing the things up for sale have come from homes where they were collected and cared for over a lifetime, has me imagining the history and stories behind each piece. I'm amazed that these items have stood the test of time and continue to have much life left in them. Finding new treasures and knowing that they might be enjoyed for another generation, in perhaps a very different way than in their first life, makes me quite happy. And, selling these found treasures here on this site, keeps me from becoming a hoarder. Win, win :)
The information that accompanies each item is as accurate as I can find in my online research. Prices listed are at or below the prices of similar/same items in stores and on different sites. My primary goal with this endeavour, aside from feeding my own competitive streak, is to extend the life of some classic, beautiful things, through re-using and re-purposing. Will it ultimately have any effect on the melting polar ice cap? Who knows. It certainly can't hurt!
If you have questions about any of the items listed on this site, please feel free to contact me via e-mail at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org