Thursday 29 October 2015
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Susie McMahon - Art Dolls
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, more and more Tasmanians are making a living, or a part living, by the internet. Especially as the NBN rolls out and continues, and with that, the speeds are increasing. There are many ingenious ideas out there, from operating consultancies from homes in regional areas, to marketing online and selling by post a wide variety of products.
One of my constituents in Rosevears, Susie McMahon of Exeter, has always liked the process of making things with her hands. She started at the Tasmanian School of Art in 1969, when she was 16, but she soon realised that making and selling artwork of any kind is a fairly tenuous exercise, because sales rely on the discretionary income of the customers. However, she continued to make, exhibit, and sell her work - paintings, drawings, sculpture, and one‑off, artist‑made dolls.
In the early 1990s, Susie McMahon made several trips to the United States to display and sell her work. She says acceptance of her work was very good among a new breed of collectors whose interest lay in the new genre. It is called 'art doll', for the want of a better term. Later in the 1990s, two big things happened that transformed her artistic life and ability to generate a living wage from selling her work: the coming of the internet, and the advent of digital photography.
I quote from an email that Susie McMahon sent to me:
I can't remember exactly when I first got myself connected, but it was quite early on. I realized that it was a revolutionary thing to be able to finish a piece of work, photograph it and be sharing it with a vast audience right around the world almost instantly.
I started keeping a regular blog … where I shared my working process and finished work. … I also took up residence on a number of social media sites, where I do the same. These sites have become my virtual gallery and my visitors are from all over the world.
My day usually starts early with checking of emails and dealing with orders that may have come in overnight. I then work for anything up to ten hours in my studio - and it helps that I absolutely LOVE my work - work and life are indivisible.
She says that probably the most significant thing she did to boost her business was to open what is known as an Etsy store. It is a hosting site, where artists and craftspeople all over the world can open their own little store for very low cost. They list items they have for sale, and open up their customer base to the whole world. Etsy functions like Ebay, but because the listings are limited to handmade items, the targeting of potential customers has already taken place. Etsy is now a listed company based in the United States. It is worth billions. The number of virtual stores that it hosts numbers in the millions.
Susie McMahon says that while exhibiting online is convenient and cost effective, it is always great to have work hanging on walls or sitting on plinths in actual galleries. She was one of the artists behind the Tamar Valley Art Trail in 2013, with the aim to get visitors into studios to visit artists while they are working, to see them working and to see their finished work, and hopefully, to buy something. She also exhibits at other venues, like the one I mentioned just recently, the Rosevears Waterfront Tavern with the new special gallery.
Susie McMahon says the usefulness of the internet, social media, and digital photography is just wonderful. She speaks of that all the time. It is interesting for me to follow her on Facebook and Twitter. It also helps that her art dolls are very small and light. That makes them very easy to post anywhere in the world. The bigger the artwork, the greater the cost.
We are seeing only the beginning of enterprises like this. There will be thousands more in Tasmania. They can only benefit our worldwide reputation as a creative island. Well done, Susie McMahon.