Experiments in home decorating, DIYing, and vintage furniture collecting.

The foolproof way to collect unique and affordable art

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December 04, 2015

Finding a painting or photograph that just speaks to your soul is something that is equally amazing as it is rare. Although I'm a creative at heart and have always loved art, the hunt for meaningful and affordable pieces is extremely difficult for me. My first real apartment offered a blank slate of walls begging to be adorned, but I had no idea where to begin and couldn't bear to cover it with run-of-the-mill, mass produced faux canvases from IKEA or Target. 

I remember wishing that there was a one-stop shop where I could discover up-and-coming artists and afford to buy their work. A few months ago, I finally found it: it's called Art Crate, a genius concept founded by veteran insiders of the art world to help connect potential budget-conscious (and overwhelmed) art buyers like me with premium quality print works of individual artists that we might otherwise not discover on our own.

Art Crate recently invited me to try their service, which was genius and incredibly efficient: I completed a short survey about my design aesthetic, and was paired with a curator who hand-selected and suggested three pieces for me to consider. I emailed her with my choice, and received it a couple of days later to frame myself!

 It came with the sideline benefit of introducing me to several new artists (like Katie Keyworth, whose print is hanging on my wall, and Hannah Mode, pictured below). I've since Google-stalked each of them for inspiration and plan to become a benefactor of their original pieces once I am rich and famous! 

I interviewed Art Crate to learn more - keep reading to learn about the curators, their process for choosing great works, and their really great advice for starting a collection.

1. Who are the curators, and what's their process for finding artists and selecting pieces?

We have a small team comprised of the two founders, Rachel Wenman (our lead curator) and a handful of interns. Rachel is the backbone of the curation process and advises the rest of the team as needed. We spend a lot of time looking at what the customer selected during the survey process and sometimes we’ll write our customers to get a few more details about them before we start selecting prints. Once we’re confident in our understanding of the customers style we select from our database of art. 

We have partnered with amazing artists from all over the world and we now have a collection of hundreds of specific pieces of art for specific client types.  So, we strive to choose art from our database. Sometimes we find a piece of art that would be perfect for a customer but the artist is outside of our network. So we will personally write the artist, and ask them to join even if they are only licensing that one piece to us.

We curate 3 prints that fit the customers style, they select the final piece, and we ship it a week later. 

2. So, about that survey - I think I'm divergent because I liked all of the options for every question! What's the rationale behind it, and how does it help the curator select something that you'll love?

The survey is a beast in it’s own right and it’s a process we’re constantly refining. Like I said before, sometimes we will reach out to the customer because their results are all over and we don’t have a clear picture of their style. Other times a customer will fill out the survey in a very clear and direct way and we know exactly what to send them. So it’s a process and we’re always working to improve it. 

As for the rationale, we know our target market (we’re not trying to sell to everyone), so our survey is very specific and speaks to our core customer. You’ll notice we don’t have street art, southwest art, etc. because those are not the customers we’re trying to serve. But, within our target market there is still a wide range of styles and home decor aesthetics and that’s what we’re trying to pinpoint with the design survey. So I’m not surprised that you like all the options (many people do) but that’s why we force you to pick one store, one gallery wall, etc. 

We’ve found our first question to be very telling “select the store that best represents your style.” We only let you pick one store, so you’re forced to really think about that question and make a decision. Our original design survey would let you pick multiple stores, but clients would select a bunch of stores they “like” not the ONE store that matches their personal aesthetic. 

3. What is your absolute favorite piece of art that is on the site right now?

Well it depends which one of us you ask. Katie Keyworth’s ‘Shall We’ print is one of my favorites, but Kate Roebuck, Sonal Nathwani, Julia Contacessi, Cat Coquillette, Hannah Mode, (and many more) all have amazing pieces that we LOVE. I think that is why we love what we’re doing and why we love the gallery wall concept. We don’t have to pick just one piece! We can create a wall that has 8 or 12 of our favorite pieces from our favorite artists. 

4. What advice do you (or your curators) have for someone that's looking to start to build a meaningful collection of art - both original and prints?

Art is a very personal thing, so first you need to know what you like and build a collection around that. Some people collect art as an investment but that has never interested me. If I love it, I’ll buy it whether the artist is well known or not. So I’ll buy a $5 piece or a $500 piece, I just need to love it. 

Even though art is personal, we pride ourselves on being very high touch. If we miss the mark for a client they will let us know and based on their feedback we’ll select more art for them. We are not here to replace our customers opportunity to discover, we’re just reducing the noise and finding new art for them.