Lake Norman Magazine

Accessible Art

Dawn Vertrees of Dawn Vertrees Jewelry in her Cornelius home studio working with a lost wax process to sculpt a decorative wine glass ornament commissioned for use in an upcoming wedding.
Dawn Vertrees of Dawn Vertrees Jewelry in her Cornelius home studio working with a lost wax process to sculpt a decorative wine glass ornament commissioned for use in an upcoming wedding. Grant Baldwin

These local artisans may live around the block, but their craftsmanship is recognized far beyond Lake Norman-area galleries and shops. Though their art forms differ vastly, they all share a common denominator in the way they market themselves as artists. Learn how the emergence of online markets has enabled artists to sell their goods to consumers near and far from the comfort of home studios and workspaces.

Jamie Reed, 30, Human Shaped Robot (www.humanshapedrobot.com)

For Jamie Reed, one of the coolest aspects of his small business is seeing where his posters end up. The Huntersville resident’s male-centric, retro prints feature subjects ranging from bacon obsessions and men’s grooming products to old-fashioned cars and vinyl records. And according to his online sales, there are folks in Africa, the Netherlands, Israel, and Japan who find this Americana-type art worthy of their wall space. “A Japanese company liked one of my prints, a man wearing a wrestling mask, licensed it, and now they have it on their site with models wearing it on t-shirts,” Reed says. “But, what’s funny is the picture of the wrestler is actually me with a mask on so I always laugh that there’s a bunch of Japanese teenagers wearing my face on their shirts.”Concepts like this one come to him rather unexpectedly, which he admits results in a lot of sketching in the car. But coming up with the idea is the simple part, Reed says. It’s what comes after that makes his prints a labor of love. “With screen printing by hand you have to kind of understand how the colors are going to lay down,” Reed adds. “Everything is done in layers so you do one color, and the second, and the thirdyou can also do metallic colors and glow-in-the-dark, so it’s kind of cool, all of the different colors and techniques you can use.”Because of the nature of hand printing, each poster has its nuances that make them different from the next. Signed and numbered—and at just around $15 to $20 a piece—they make for affordable, original pieces, which is almost an oxymoron in the art world.After his concepts are executed, Reed uploads photos to his website and Etsy page, which can reach consumers around the globe. It’s then that he’s able to sit back and enjoy allowing the Internet to move his pieces without spending a penny on gallery space.

Dawn Vertrees, 54, Etsy store: DawnVertreesJewelry

After retiring from a lengthy corporate career, an unexpected mentor came into Dawn Vertrees’ life. Volker Kracht, a senior master jeweler from Germany, put off retirement for three years after seeing a stunning orchid pendant that Vertrees made from three sheets of wax. Since 2001, Vertrees has pursued different artistic media, starting with ceramic jewelry and moving on to the world of Lost Wax, which she works in today to make fine artisan jewelry like intricately designed rings and pendants depicting tree frogs, turtles, starfish, and other nature-inspired subjects. Along the way, she’s picked up numerous awards at festivals and art shows across the Southeast while making a living from her craftsmanship. But when the constant travel started to take its toll, Vertrees turned to the Internet to keep her business going.“I got so tired of being out on the road that one day while my husband was filling up the motor coach with gas, I created an Etsy site and at each rest stop and break I had, I photographed my pieces so I could continue to make money without having to constantly travel to shows,” Vertrees says.The Internet opened up more doors for Vertrees, allowing jewelry retailers in St. John, Virgin Islands and Disney resorts to discover her pieces and add them to their collections.In the coming months, Vertrees says her business will come full circle as she’s in the process of building a wholesale market and will eventually only sell through brick-and-mortar stores.“It’s the circle of life of being a jewelry designer. Art shows come first, then Internet, and then wholesale,” Vertrees adds.

Liz Rogala, 31, Etsy store: JustArtinAround

Davidson resident Liz Rogala creates digitally mastered prints popular with growing families seeking to mark milestones via art. Case in point: custom prints featuring a baby’s initial, birthdate, and newborn measurements. “Just Artin Around” launched online in 2013 with items ranging from chalkboard art prints and all-occasion personalized invitations to “Made in North Carolina” state silhouette prints and personalized coffee mugs.Even without experience in art sales prior to the emergence of online markets, Rogala acknowledges that the Internet has made it possible for her to do what she loves, while making fun money on the side.“It would probably just be one to two pieces a month but right now I’m selling about a piece a day,” Rogala said. “You have to kind of be a go-getter when you’re an artist, you have to put yourself out there and with two kids, I don’t really have time to be out there selling my stuff.”Etsy and Facebook grant Rogala the means to sell her pieces on a consistent basis, with the click of a button, all while reaching a wide consumer base and often, she notices regional purchasing trends. Recently, an entire week of her sales came exclusively from North Carolina and Virginia, which, in part, can be attributed to a lack of consumer privacy with online purchasing. Similar to “liking” something on Facebook, Etsy has a “favorite” option, which allows users to share their discoveries. But for Rogala, and other artists around the globe, this type of online publicity is a good thing. If it weren’t for the Internet, she says her sales would be dependent on galleries and word of mouth.

To see more of these artists’ works, visit our pinterest board at tinyurl.com/onlineartists

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