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Re: [BKARTS] Query



Dear Maria,

Your question is an important one, and one that I've been asking ever since
being struck with book arts fever some years ago. The answer I've come up
with is that the distribution system for artists' books is almost
non-existent. (This is about the unglamorous and to many distasteful issue
of selling artists' books. You can stop reading right now if you don't care
or don't have to care about selling.)

You mention Oak Knoll, a yearly weekend that celebrates its 10th anniversary
next year and that has been a mix of fine presses and book artists, and
Pyramid Atlantic, a every other year event focusing on book arts. Another
venue is Chicago's Columbia College for Book and Paper Arts (I'm destroying
the exact name) that held a fair two years ago and will perhaps bring it
back this summer.

As far as I can figure out, if book artists' can't or don't partake in those
few opportunities, they sell through personal contacts with individuals
and/or institutions (once the first book is accepted/bought it is easier to
do), through regional centers like the Center for the Book in NYC/San
Francisco/Minnesota and other, or through the small number of book dealers
(Califia, Bromers, Joshua Heller, Patricia Juvalis come to mind) willing to
carry and promote book artists -- in my experience, dealers are reluctant to
carry artists' books because "they are difficult to sell."

One book artist I know, now semi-retired, sustained his work with a
combination of jobbing work for other artists and wild sleep-deprived trips
to the US where he shopped his books from institute to institute. When I
marveled at his tale, he told me that it was what he had to so if he wanted
to make a living at what he loved doing.  I've always admired his stance,
but hope that there might be another way.

Artists' books fall into the crack. They aren't what most people are
comfortable with as books, and they aren't what most people call art. I can
attest to the fact the having artists' books at even the major US fairs is a
special form of limbo. I can't speak with personal experience of trying to
sell artists' books at art fairs, but have hearsay evidence that it's much
the same.

Many possible reasons for why they may be difficult to sell, but my feeling
has always
been than education is the key to alleviating the difficulty. People need to
know what artists' books are, why they are, how they are -- no easy answers,
of course.

As little as I know about economics and as much as I dislike the spoutings
of those who do know, until there is a demand for artists' book, I'm afraid
we're stuck with this hit-and-miss system cobbled together by happenstance,
persistence, and grit.

I'd be interested to hear others' experience or take on the situation.

Bill

Bill Stewart
Member: Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA)
              International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB)

Please note our new email address: mail@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Vamp & Tramp Gallery -- Unique Books and Art
2805 Second Avenue South, #100
Birmingham, AL 35233-2811
USA
205.321.9974 (voice)
205.321.9886 (fax)
mail@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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