In this post we are going to explore the business and profit making potential of a relatively unknown woodworking niche, fine art woodworking or, simply, wood art. By it’s very definition, a niche means a select category that is not mainstream, and yet is popular with a select, responsive audience. Wood art fits this description nicely.
What Is Wood Art?
I wasn't aware of this niche of wood working for a long time. I did not come across it on any mainstream woodworking websites or in the magazines. Even though they keep updating their content with great new projects, tutorials and told reviews. This could be because fine art woodworking differs from traditional woodworking where the emphasis is on building.
Examples of what constitutes woodworking art projects can perhaps best be demonstrated by showing you a few images. Here they are:
So what do you think. Do these images evoke the artist in you?
Wood art is about expression, adornment and, well, art. It is neither necessarily functional or purposeful. There are projects that fall in the category between pure art and pure craft. But we are not talking about them just yet. We explore these differences ahead in this post. Read on.
Origins Of Wood Art
Wood art is probably nothing new. However, for years, fine art was the domain of painters and sculptors. In fact not even sculptors. It was much later that through the work and effort of talented craftsmen that sculpting was included in the hallowed category of art.
But in recent years forms of art and artists working with mediums other than paint began to surface and be accepted as such. These were glass blowers, metal workers, ceramists, and porters. Woodworking did not remain an exception. And wood art came to be considered as such.
Difference Between Wood ‘Art’ And Woodcraft
Making wood art is a different way of working with wood as compared to when you build with it. A lot of the differences can be explained in an article we published sometime back about the difference between art and craft. It is an interesting and telling read about how to distinction came about and what the current status quo is.
One of the ideas presented in that article was that, in current times, the fine artist makes a lot more income from his work as compare to an artisan, even though the skills demonstrated by the artisan can be exemplary. There are reasons for it.
One of the reasons for this disparity in income is the static nature of crafts in terms of design and creativity. An artisan doesn't often create new ideas and designs with subsequent projects, whereas an artist is expected to do just that.
In this manner, art is considered to be an extension of the artist’s mind, mentality, expression and message. If an artisan did the same thing, that is, create new designs and ideas for his projects he will be considered a designer and hence an artist in his own right. Many artisans today do this.
For this reason an artisan can only demand upto a certain amount for his work as the monetary value has to represent intrinsic value of the craft including the raw materials and the skill involved in making the craft.
The Functional Nature Of Craft – Advantage & Disadvantage
An artisan has to keep in mind the functional nature of his craft. That is and should be the identity of any craft. All crafts are created to serve a function where as most fine art is aesthetic and decorative in nature. It is meant to appeal to our senses and resonate with some emotional string inside us.
In that sense fine art also serves a purpose. But that purpose is wholly different from ‘functionality’ which means that the object should come into use in an existential manner.
The functionality of crafts is what makes them true. Good design makes them aesthetically pleasing. But it is the same functionality that deprives them the status of being considered ‘art’.
I am, personally, in love with the crafts because of this very blend of function and beauty. The best kind of craft should come from nature and most of it does, be it the design inspiration or the material. However, it is also true that Art is somehow considered superior.
Speaking for myself I can tell you this. Making something for the sake of expression and creation can be a liberating experience. Admittedly, there is an enormous amount of satisfaction in making woodcraft that has purpose and function. But you might actually enjoy being released from that requirement and create something solely to reflect the beauty and creativity of working with wood.
The phrase ‘work of art’ is often bestowed as the highest praise on architecture, furniture et cetera., things that are otherwise not considered ‘art’.
Here I will like to make a point to note the distinction between creativity and Art. Creativity is not the domain of Art alone. Creativity is the power behind all things from a pencil to an aeroplane. Creativity is as integral a part of crafts as fine arts. It is mostly the purpose that differentiates the two.
So now that we have a grasp on the difference between art and craft let's have a look at fine art possibilities in woodworking.
Difference Between Wood Art And Other Alternative Craft Forms
I have mentioned artists emerging in all fields like metallurgy and pottery. However, wood art differs from even these in a way. A lot of wood art can be basic in design and be created using basic woodworking techniques. The process is not so novel as a potter throwing an original shape or a glass blower going the same thing.
So in some cases, the perceived value of the wood art might get limited for this reason. Some of your might be thinking wood carving as being wood art. That is not necessarily true. Even though it takes a lot of skill to carve, the carvings are mostly not original, or even if they are, they are still not an explosive expression of the carver’s creativity. For this reason, wood carvings are usually confined to the spectrum of ‘craft’ rather than becoming works of Art.
Why Making Wood Art Is Good For Business And Profit
So why should you consider making and selling wood fine art? Because, as we touched upon the subject a little while back, artist tend to make more money than the artisans.
Sure, you can contract large projects that are worth a lot of money. But these projects usually entail a long-term commitment, many working hours and most likely an additional workforce. This poses its own sets of issues unless you are running a large scale woodworking manufacturing unit. Read or post on the advantages of a one person woodworking business.
So when it comes to small projects you want to choose the stuff that you enjoy making as well as the ones that bring you a pretty penny for every hour that you invest in the building process.
Although, I should remind you at this point that making fine art woodworking projects is not the only way to do this. You can increase profits by careful use and planning of business tactics, like creating a brand image and discovering other profitable niches of woodcrafts. However this post is about the potential of woodworking art projects so let us continue with that thought.
These are some good reasons why wood art projects are a good idea from a business and profit point of view.
Wood Art Projects Tend To Be High Profit
Art makes money if you can sell it. And wood art sells well. Wood Art is not necessarily resource intensive. The value of any form of art lies primarily in its concept and expression. However, as things stand with woodworking, exotic words and a variety of tools play an important part in the creating process as well. The tools required are usually not the full fledged building tools although the wood used is always good quality and often the exotic kind.
Wood Art Projects Are Not Labour Intensive
Another reason why Wood Art is a profitable niche is because of the number of man hours involved. Also, it is mostly always a one person effort thus eliminating further labour in the end, the piece of art demands a monitory value that is commensurate with the artistic value and little to do with the actual cost of making it. This very fact immediately sets it aside from the usual wood crafts.
Note: I want to mention something here. While artists stand to make more money when successful, it is more difficult for them to sell in the first place as compared to someone making a good craft. It is easier for an artisan to attract buyers because of the intrinsically functional and purposeful nature of a craft. So the artist needs to break a barrier of sorts to get people to part with a large sum of money for the sake of art appreciation.
Fine Art Woodworking Is An Untapped Niche.
A good niche is defined as a category where there are selective but very interested buyers and not an oversupply of the product. Woodworking Art fits the bill.
Easy To Market And Brand.
Because fine art woodworking is a special niche, promoting it becomes easier. It is easier to build a brand around something that is novel and to market it to potential buyers. Online advertisement costs are also low for the same reason.
Most Wood Art Is Portable, Can Be Sold Online And Shipped Easily
Today, you want to tap the power and potential of the Internet to sell your craft. Everyone can promote their business online but not everyone has a product that they can sell online.
Selling online usually requires shipping. Although everything from shoes to large furniture can get shipped it is, having a light and portable product makes the transportation easier, faster and cheaper. Although wood is a relatively heavy medium, the finished art project is usually compact enough to be easily shippable all over the country at a reasonable cost.
Sense Of Freedom In Working For The Sake Of Art Expression
This is an interesting point and I have touched upon it already in this article. Creating functional and purposeful crafts is a gratifying process. But creating something out of pure creativity and expression without the constraints of practicality is a liberating experience. If you have never worked with wood art before, doing it now will will make you perceive the medium of wood in a very different way.
Art Can Be Used To Enhance Value Of Existing Woodcrafts
Once you realise your potential and liking for making wood art, you can use you designs to recharge your existing crafts. A wall shelf you have been making till now might never look the same again.
That's it for my thoughts on Wood Art for the moment. I will love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below. We leave you with a few more pictures of fine art woodworking projects for your inspiration and viewing pleasure.