My Current Art & Business Read
This week I’ve been listening to Make Art Make Money by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens. As the title suggests the book is about the artistic approach Jim Henson used in his career.
I’m only about 1/4 through the book so I have a lot more to listen to. I don’t want to rush through because so far the book is really interesting. The arts can be so individualized and makers are so innovative it’s not uncommon to hear unconventional approaches to artistic careers. However, this book and Jenson’s career feels really different than other sources I’ve read on the topic.
As mentioned, I’ve only just started the book and have a way to go but here are my take aways so far.
-If you enjoy making it and people enjoy seeing it then it’s not that bad. Don’t get lost in what things are supposed to be like. Apparently Jim Henson didn’t consider his puppets “fine art” but he had fun working with them. So he found ways to make the puppet process fulfill his “fine art” needs.
-Don’t write something off, look for compromise. Apparently Henson didn’t want to sell toys but was convinced once he negotiated to retain creative control. He could make them educational and loveable and support the Sesame Street message. It was a way to balance his ethics with profitability.
-His profit from toys allowed him to create experimental pieces that further fulfilled his “fine art” goals.
-Accept that commercially lucrative art is still art and will require experimentation and R&D.
-He entered projects with a vision but the vision was open enough to allow other people to contribute creatively.
-Henson made sure staff who worked on the business side of things were creative so there wasn’t a divide between the artistic department and business departments instead the business was ran cohesively.
-There’s a difference between production and creating. Even though Henson saw success with his puppets he never stopped tinkering with them and finding subtle ways to infuse his “fine art” sensibilities into them. I feel like that’s a good lesson for todays commercially successful artisan.
-Reinvest the money you make into more art making.
I think what’s making this unique compared to other things I’ve read on the topic is that it illustrates an example of balance. That being successful in business or art doesn’t haven’t to be cut and dry. Instead it’s about understanding your current ethics, your long term goals, approaching opportunities with a compromising attitude, and always push projects as close to your end goals as possible. Don’t let something develop unless you’d be proud to have your name associated. Phew, already so much covered I can’t wait to listen to the rest!