SIGNED VS. UNSIGNED-BUYING VINTAGE JEWELRY, ART
There is always a large debate between the “real” collectors, and your basic lover of beautiful items...should you buy items that are signed by well known and highly sought after designers and artists, or should you just buy what you love and what appeals to you, whether signed or not?
The answer usually lies in how fat your wallet is, and the reason you are buying in the first place. Highly sought after designers, especially in jewelry and art, are both usually very highly over-priced, as well as you often run the risk of getting a “knock-off” either at the ignorance of the seller, or the actual attempt to lead you astray of your hard-earned money. While I am on this subject, it amazes me that people will pass up a signed piece, if priced reasonably or even a real steal, to go on and pay a higher price for the same identical item, just because it feels more “authentic” if you paid the higher price! Either these people know something that I don’t, (which is entirely possible, I don’t claim to be an expert) or they have much more money to throw around than I do! I have a suspicion that it is mostly the fact that they can tell others what a sacrifice they made to own the item. In my books, why not save $30.00 or $40.00 on an identical item, if it is truly identical and authentic, if you have the opportunity? I have watched this happen repeatedly, especially in the jewelry department, and it still amazes me!
If you are buying an item because it appeals to you, whether signed or not, and is something that you feel you will enjoy looking at, wearing, or even admit owning, for at least the next 5 years, I say-”Go ahead and buy it.”
The reasoning behind that is, whether signed or not, you will be buying for the exact reason the item was created in the first place-for your enjoyment! Plus, who knows what will happen in the future? The very item or category of items you decided to purchase may just become the next “hot item” and suddenly that little pair of earrings you paid $15.00 for are suddenly worth three times that amount in the collectible market! In the event that doesn’t happen, you will still have an item that you don’t feel you paid too much for, you still enjoy it, and it appeals to your aesthetic senses. Also, beware of “fad collectibles”! Remember the Beanie Baby craze, the Cabbage Patch Kids that people were fighting over, and the myriad of other “collectibles” that have come and gone? If you got caught up in one of those, and now you can’t even give those items away, much less get what you paid for them, don’t you feel a little silly? I know that I do, I have a few “Beanies” laying around the house that still get under my skin. Luckily I mostly bought them because my children wanted them, so it wasn’t for the possible profit I might make in the future, and I wasn’t an avid collector, ready to pay several hundred dollars for a stuffed animal that was mass produced!
Now, when it comes to Art, I am a very vocal advocate for the “unknown artist”. You are probably thinking, “Well, I’m sure she is! She is trying to promote her own and her husband’s art, as well as other Artisans and Artist out there that no one has heard of, so she can make some money!” Actually that is partially the reason, and I will admit to it. I would be a fool to not try to promote someone who truly shows great talent, wants a more personal working relationship and outlet for their work than a gallery, and will realize more “clear money” from their efforts than they would get from most mainstream alternatives. The idea of trying to get an agent, approaching a gallery, entering juried shows, all the usual formats that an Artist goes through to try to achieve the elusive label of “listed” someday, are absolutely terrifying to me, and deep down, I feel they are both unnecessary, and ultimately pretentious. Does the fact that one Artist or Artisan is well known and listed make their art any more desirable to look at? Does it mean they are more talented than and unknown? Of course not! It just means that the Artist/Artisan has chosen to forge their own path for success, rather than taking the mainstream approach. It also means that you will probably take longer to become successful, because in the Art world, if you aren’t listed, you usually won’t get a second look, unless you are persistent in displaying your items and pieces to the public, target the demographic audience that will most likely be interested in your work, and create or produce often enough to have fresh and new pieces for people to choose from. I feel, and know for a fact, that there are many artists out there who are just as successful as they choose to be, and have marketed themselves entirely on their own, or worked through another individual, perhaps a friend with a website or their own website, without having to pay huge commissions for sales, bother with an agent, or rub elbows with the elite at a gallery “wine and cheese” Art Show. Not to mention the sometimes biased juried shows that you can become involved in, which can not only break your heart and spirit, but sour you on the whole idea of pursuing something you used to enjoy so much. Do I sound cynical? Probably, but I have never been a mainstream thinker, always wanting to have the control over pricing, display, description, and target audience of my particular style. You are probably wondering, “Well ok, where are all the things that you have painted/created/sold, if you know so much?”. They are all gone, because I sold them all! I have sold literally hundreds of decorative items, paintings, hand-painted jewelry and purses, ceramics, and other items, by doing it my own way. There is a little secret to this though, all those items were signed with a different name than I have now! Under my “old name” I was at least locally immediately recognized. Now, it’s like starting over to re-establish myself. I didn’t start painting in the beginning because I ever thought I would sell anything-I started painting because I was bored and had always wanted to paint. I never imagined, that just through word of mouth, that my art would blossom into a full time business that I maintained for many years. I did commission work, sold to wholesalers, had my own line of clothing and purses during the “wearable art” phase, and was literally working 14 hours a day to keep up. I specialized in unique designs, nothing was ever the same, and all were my own original concepts. I experimented with techniques, and made alot of mistakes and had alot of successes along the way, and finally, I just got tired. I even taught art classes, which is funny, since I never went to any classes myself! I am totally self-taught. I have gone through all of this to come to this final point. Am I listed? No. Am I a worldwide collected Artist? No. Do my older pieces bring higher prices than what I initially sold them for? Occasionally. Will I be famous after I’m dead? Who knows and who cares! I have had fun, made money, made alot of close friendships, and all along, I have done it My Way. My real point of this whole discussion is-my clients didn’t buy my work because I was a well known, collected artist-they bought it because they liked my work! I still run into past clients who have pieces I did for them by commission, and they never fail to tell me how much they still enjoy it, and “Am I still painting?”. That goes to show you that if a work of Art appeals to you, don’t worry about if it is a known artist or a newcomer. These people obviously still enjoy their piece of Art, which is the true purpose of buying Art anyway, aside from the basic fact that it is a very personal form of expression for the Artist.
To sum this discussion up, just remember a couple of things. Don’t overlook that lovely piece of Art or Artisan creation that either reminds you of something special, or just really appeals to your sense of design, just because it is reasonably priced and you have never heard of the Artist. Also, don’t hesitate to purchase that lower priced, good quality piece of jewelry, just because it may not be signed by a widely-known and collected designer, if it appeals to you and passes the “5 year rule”. You never know who or what will someday become the next sought after designer, item or style, and besides that, you will never regret your purchase, you will get alot of enjoyment from it, and you won’t be out a bundle of money. Today’s unknown could well be tomorrow’s “Picasso”!
About the Author
Laura Thykeson is a practicing Artist, business owner, published poet, and a big advocate and promoter of “The Underdog” as well as the emerging Artist. She owns the following sites:
“Ice Originals II ~ Collectibles, Jewelry and Artistic Designs
“Ice Originals - Inside out!!!”
“Ice Originals Toonz”
by Laura Thykeson - Owner of "Ice Originals II"