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Buy British Arts Our Mission: Fair trade for artists – better options for retailers

Welcome to Love from the Artist.

We are a small community interest organisation (just a handful of art lovers really) and with your help we're hoping to make a big difference to professional British artists, photographers, designers and illustrators so they can earn fairly from their creativity.

What we're trying to do:

In times of limited resource, just what happens to the funding for things of ‘lesser’ urgency, like the arts? You can’t give everything all the cash, or time, or facilities it might want to flourish in the world. It’s just a fact – some things are simply more important than others and prioritisation-in-giving is the natural sibling of austerity.

I doubt many in the arts world would disagree with this assertion. If money were plentiful then the case for giving to the arts is compelling; but when times are hard, as they say, can we really expect to maintain our heyday levels of arts activity and creation?

In our minds (here at LoveFromTheArtist), a really good way to fund artistic endeavour is through trade. We like this somewhat simplistic principle because trade, unlike dependence on philanthropy and public generosity, is far more sustainable. Or, at least it should be. Trade, to us, represents the most sensible way to push money into the arts and help the sector develop, most especially in times of austerity, without perhaps needing such reliance on giving. If you like arts – buy arts! We aim to bring you a great choice of original work but in formats you can enjoy at everyday prices.

The idea is perfect. Artist creates work, sells work, earns money, creates more work, etc. What could go wrong? Well, for many the situation goes more like this: Artist creates work, doesn’t know how to, or doesn’t have a route to, reach the potential buyers, artist engages ‘middlemen’ (apologies for the sexist term) like agents or publishers, middlemen earn from the sale, artist gets…, well, not a whole lot of the proceeds is the polite way to put it.

Not only that, but, certainly in our areas of interest like greetings cards, the middlemen now generally control what the artist can present for sale. So commercial pressures now dictate artistic output, and thereby what you and I get to see of the artists’ works. This means that huge amounts of artistic work, that could make fantastic products like greetings cards, will never see the light of day because they might not have the mass appeal needed for commercial development.

But when I buy something like a birthday card I really like to aim at getting the one case that suits the intended recipient most precisely. I don’t want to be shoehorned into the most mainstream commercial option ubiquitously available in the supermarkets.

What makes this even more annoying to us at LFTA is that we all come from the world of digital ‘print-on-demand’ so we know better than anyone how easy it is to give the buyer their own choice of what to print for that one unique greeting or occasion.

So why doesn’t this happen all the time? Well the simple fact is that producing a one-off digitally printed product is fractionally more expensive than mass producing millions of middleman, middle-of-the-road, generic products. Offering you, the buyer, a greater choice means the middlemen make less profit.

When we dreamed up LFTA, we wanted to create a platform that could offer the widest choice to buyers and that could connect buyers with artists without the ‘assistance’ of middlemen. We felt that the price of a typical transaction, such as buying a greetings card, must inherently hold enough value to justify the slightly higher unit cost of individual manufacture if you can cut out the amount normally earned by the middlemen and instead route the proceeds directly to the originating artist.

So, this is our mission. We want to create an environment for the widest range of works to be offered in such a way that sales are made directly and fairly by the artists creating the work in the first place. Wider choice, fairer trade. We’d like to think that, if you like an artist’s work, you buy from them and they earn from their work in an open, honest and genuine way as they are entitled to do.

We also rather like the idea that when you buy from one of our artists in some part of Britain, the money is staying in and benefiting the British economy. A lot of the ‘conventional’ card content out there is manufactured overseas by commercial ventures based in other countries. Our cards are manufactured in Britain and sold by British artists.

Working fairly with retailers like shops and galleries:

We are very sensitive to the opportunities we can present to retailers too. We love card shops, especially those that try to keep a great range of art cards and less mainstream content. Despite being an online operation we still recognise that the vast majority of greetings cards purchased are from physical shops and retail outlets.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the principle of wholesale to shops and retail to you and me. As before though, the current situation inherently routes the major chunk of the wholesale sale to the middlemen with the originating artist or designer getting just the tiny remainder.

We welcome wholesale trade as much as direct retail from our website. We are aiming to reach out to shops and retailers to make our artists’ products available to them in the normal way at the normal wholesale price. The difference is that we can give the retailer a much wider choice of designs and content with smaller order amounts and a correspondingly wider selection of designs per order. We also route the full amount of the profit of each item back to the artist which means the artist earns at a higher, and much fairer, rate than they would through the conventional middleman channels.

So, if you’re a retailer and you would like to know that a) you are sourcing work directly from British artists in a fair trade relationship, b) you would like to be able to buy more diverse sets of designs and smaller quantities but still at your expected wholesale prices, and c) that you’d like to have your own shop or gallery branding on the back of the cards to market your own business (we produce artists’ cards digitally on-demand so adding your own logo and website address etc. is not a problem), then we hope to be able to meet your needs too. Register as a shop now if this is you and help us develop a new fair trade wholesale offering.

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