I cannot begin to tell you how many working artists I've spoken to who are completely puzzled by this question: do I choose quantity or do I choose quality?
I guess this post will be more for artists looking to sell their work, so I will try to ask you a few questions to get you thinking and then give you my current response to this question.
If you're choosing quantity then you really can dive into how to scale your production. This means that you have a set product design (or designs) that you'll develop over and over and know what your costs will be and how much to make per month, or per year, to meet a quota. This makes your work ideal for galleries, boutiques, and shops because you can price your work to meet their demands.
What's good about working with galleries and shops is the exposure. The more people can see and feel your work in person, the more likely you are to gain their trust because they can see who you are and what you stand for.
You can still do high-quality work in quantity, but you are restricted to those few designs. From my personal experience, it is harder to balance quantity when you're someone like me who is constantly designing new work. In designing new pieces, the time it takes to stumble through your mistakes, go back and correct them, realize that something is off, go back to the drawing board, it just doesn't make sense if you're in the business of production/quantity. If you're doing something with quantity in mind, you need to work through all those mistakes once, and then you know how to do it faster the next time.
If you're choosing quality, that might mean that you're taking more time with each piece. 'Quality' works especially well if you're an illustrator or painter because you can always have your work printed and available for smaller purchases. It also works in jewelry if you create a master copy and then have it cast so that you can always produce quality work.
I'm currently taking a completely different approach to my work than what I have in the past. I personally tried to do quantity work, and it was good practice for me to hone my skills and get faster at the making process. It wasn't until last year that I realized I was making faster than I was selling and that my buyers weren't particularly interested in that rhythm.
I've also tried to take my sweet, sweet time on a piece (over two weeks to one month) and the cost of making a piece like that was too much. It cost me a lot of mental effort, and then the resulting price was only something a few customers would want to afford. I'm finding that if I spend time with a piece, invite you into my process, and share various aspects of what I'm learning in terms of history or technique, then it's more likely to sell. It's fascinating that my followers and my buyers are aligned with how I think the world should be in that if I embrace my pace and dig into the more artistic side of my work, then it's more likely to be shared and to be appreciated.
I felt like my attempts at doing work quickly in order to lower my prices was a race to the bottom, as Seth Godin says. I was trying to bring my pricing down because I felt guilty that putting my art into the world came at a price. What it was doing was affecting my designs and now I look at that work, and it doesn't have the same presence as the work where I've taken my time. It was a race to becoming less different, a race to fitting in, and I thought that by fitting in I would have more success.
These last three months have been a real eye-opener. Three months ago, I decided to do A Year of Earrings where I gave myself permission to do whatever idea comes into my mind, take my time, share my process, share my excitement, and just not let the pressure to produce, produce, produce get in the way. I have struggled for all these years to find my creative voice, and I've been on a search to really understand my unique style. I feel like I'm just on the brink where everything is about to come together. I'm getting the sense that I'm a few months from hitting my stride, being my true creative self, and I haven't felt so much love and support from my community like this.
So that's it. These two lanes can crossover and work together quite well, or you can choose to lean into one more than the other.
Thank you so much for reading and have a wonderful day.