Before Greenpeace and Dr. David Suzuki brought us all to environmental consciousness, many artists were already sensitive to the delicate balances of our natural and studio environments. Our use of some adhesives, thinners, cleaners and pigments required that we learn about toxins and their impact on our health and surroundings; many of us learned the hard way about toxic response, ventilation, tactile sensitivity, our immune systems and safe studio materials and practices. We also learned about how the environment could damage our work and about the permanence of various pigments and art materials in our environment.
Today, we have the wonderful advantage of the internet with which to lean about the products we use. As well, technology has transformed many artistic procedures from a dependency on highly toxic materials to the use of far safer and environmentally friendly products. Most art material manufacturers now post considerable information about the materials they use to manufacture their products (and their manufacturing process) on their websites with a view to being transparent about their carbon footprint. Also, the web makes the sourcing of safe materials very easy.
The responsible selection, storage and disposal of the hazardous materials you use in your studio often results in an increase cost of “doing business,” but you can recover your environmental investments through effective marketing practices. First of all, you can increase prices to recover some costs. (If you maintain a “pricing diary,” make note of the price increase as coincidental to increased [environmental] costs, and calculate your increases as a percentage of your past prices—you should have a coherent and annotated pricing policy.)
More important, however, is adjusting your marketing and promotional practices so that any price increases you make are supported by your gallery/dealer and customers. Many of us take the use of conservationally sound materials and environmentally safe practices for granted, but we cannot if we have products in the marketplace. Your website, blog, brochures, portfolio, artist statement, résumé, business card, price tags (every piece of your marketing/promotion arsenal) should reference your environmentally responsible practices. Some artists simply use the 3-arrow reduce, reuse, recycle symbol on everything as a subtle statement and they elaborate verbally or on paper for anyone asking about its meaning as concerns their artistic business. Other artists proudly list all their green practices on their websites.
Do you reuse solvents? Do you dispose of toxic pigments properly? Do you limit waste? Do you support “green” suppliers? Do you reuse, repair and recycle? Do you limit energy consumption? Is your studio insulated and “green?” Do you choose non-toxic supplies and materials whenever possible? Do you use permanent pigments? Whatever steps you take, let your customers know all that you are doing to protect our environment.
Celebrate the permanence of your materials and artwork in all your marketing messages. Impress your customers and gallery by developing materials for your buyers that explain the environmental factors that can threaten works of art over time. Tell your buyers how to protect their purchase from insects, heat, light and humidity—give them basic information on conservational framing. Better yet, offer to help in the framing of your work that they buy. People can be very intimidated by the framing options available to consumers today. Providing conservation and framing information tells buyers that you are thoughtful, knowledgeable and proud of your work.