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Online retailer Artful Home knows a thing or two about reinvention. In its first iteration, the company (then called the Guild) published art and décor lookbooks for trade professionals, before strategically pivoting in 1999 with a new e-commerce platform. In 2008, Lisa Bayne joined as CEO, ushering in another era of innovation. We talked with her to learn more.
You joined Artful Home just as the recession hit. What were some of the challenges of taking the reins?
There were several challenges. First of all, it was an innovative business that was failing – as in, having a great deal of difficulty making ends meet. But also, it was a difficult time for artists; it was a difficult time for any of us in the business of selling art and craft.
What specifically did you see that needed to change?
One was to become very customer-centric and understand what our customers were looking for and how to better serve them. The second was the artist side. The company was set up with an extreme focus on artists, but without systems in place to help artists work more as businesspeople. So we worked on streamlining many of our processes, to help artists be able to ship more quickly, to get information from us better. We’ve continued to update the parts of our site that are dedicated to artists to keep the flow of communication going.
Finally, we felt it was critical to revamp the look and feel of not only the brand but how we showed off this beautiful work. So we completely redesigned our catalogue and our website. We overhauled the architecture of our site so that customers can search and navigate far more easily.
What makes Artful Home an attractive retailer for artists compared to other online marketplaces?
There is one very key difference: Every artist has to be juried on [to the site]. It gives artists a comfort level that they are essentially showing their work or playing in a sandbox with their peers, with their equals.
The other thing Artful Home does that artists are interested in is that we invest heavily in marketing their work through our print catalogue; we send out more than 2 million copies. We help many artists and craftspeople reach a national audience.
What would you tell an emerging artist who wants to stand out?
The first piece of advice I’d give is to enter our jury process. There are many emerging artists who apply to work with us who are not quite ready for one reason or another. We stay in touch with them and guide them through the process. The second is to have fantastic photographs. If we can’t see your work well, the customer can’t see your work well.
But as a precursor: Get out there and sell your work somewhere. Because you learn a lot from that. You can learn what people are looking for, what they like, or what is particularly attractive about your work. And it gives you some experience around the world of business that is really valuable.
Dakota Sexton is American Craft’s assistant editor.