February 2

Savvy artists use internet tools to build their audience

Etsy and other sites help Maine creatives tap global markets

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Hannah Rosengren was only trying to practice her art when she made a botanical illustration of plants that attract bees.

click image to enlarge

Artist Hannah Rosengren of South Portland works on a drawing in her home studio. In the foreground are several prints of the image featuring herbs, annuals and perennials that she offers for sale on the e-commerce website Etsy.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

“Splash,” a 10-by-10 acyrlic painting by Portland artist Kathleen Daughan. She has been selling her paintings on Etsy since 2012.

Courtesy photo

Additional Photos Below

The 2013 Maine College of Art graduate assigned herself the task of making tiny paintings of plants. She read about the decimation of bee colonies, and thought an illustration promoting herbs, perennials and annuals that attract bees might be timely and interesting, and also challenging to make.

She combined those tiny paintings in one big poster, and launched an international art career from her home in South Portland.

At last count, Rosengren estimates the illustration that she made has been shared by about 15,000 people or organizations on Facebook and other social media outlets across the globe. It’s also resulted in a spike in online sales on Etsy, an e-commerce website that focuses on art and handmade and vintage items.

Rosengren’s story offers one example of an artist living in a rural state who has figured out how to reach national and international audiences without spending a lot of time and money on marketing and promotion.

“It’s amazing. It’s crazy, actually,” said Rosengren, 23. “I’ve had a shop on Etsy since last fall, and all of a sudden, it just blew up. People are buying other things listed on the shop, because they’re there.

“I am just kind of amazed that it’s happening. I’m getting sales every day. People in Australia are interested in my work. I’ve heard from people in Spain. I didn’t expect anything like this to happen so soon after graduating.”

Rosengren’s story illustrates the challenges faced by many Maine artists, as well as their potential success when they meet those challenges with savvy promotional strategies, said Jessica Tomlinson, director of the Artists at Work program at Maine College of Art.

Artists at Work helps MECA grads make a living doing what they love while living in a place they love.

“That’s what Hannah’s story is about, how artists are able to live here and do their work,” Tomlinson said. “You can say there is a limited market here, and that’s true. We have only 1.3 million people in the state, and our largest city is 60,000 (people). By using the tools available, artists can increase their market so they are not limited by geography. It opens up a lot of opportunity.”

In May, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle will host a workshop sponsored by the Maine Crafts Association called “Rural State, International Audience.”

It will be led by potter Ayumi Horie, who bases an international art career from her Portland studio.

The workshop will focus on how independent studio artists can expand their audience through social media and the Internet. It will look at the work and websites of participants, and examine both making and marketing with a focus on the digital world. The strategies discussed will be specific to Mainers.

Horie is a perfect choice to lead the workshop. She grew up in Auburn, moved away for her education, then returned to Portland to base her career.

She makes functional pots that feature drawings of animals.

She uses digital media not just to promote her work, but to offer glimpses of her life in Maine and her studio practice. Craftspeople sell their lifestyle as much as their work, she said, and social media enable her to strategically share her lifestyle with those who follow her work and career.

With a background in photography, she finds herself drawn to Instagram, an app that she uses frequently. When she posts to Instagram, she also automatically posts to Facebook and Twitter.

Her challenge is finding new ways to photograph her ceramic work, which reinforces her belief that artists are creative in myriad ways and not just their medium of concentration.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Since she began selling her poster promoting plants and bees on Etsy, Hannah Rosengren has had interest from people as far away as Spain and Australia. “I didn’t expect anything like this to happen so soon after graduating,” said Rosengren, who finished her degree at MECA last year.

Courtesy photo


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