The Artist, and the Ability to Make a Living

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Ika Vantiani, a Collage Artist

Fulfilled with communication and advertising background, for 15 years she worked professionally as creative and copywriter in an agency. Not to mention one other path she made as a principal at a photography school where management skill obtained. A long journey before her firmed decision to be fully independent in art; turning something that previously was a side job to be her primary at the present time – being an artist and crafter is no more secondary choice. Amazingly, it now takes her to deal with the art policy within her work for Indonesia Coalition of the Art.

Disregard a fact of growing up with a mother who was a banker at American Express, Vantiani has been surrounded by creative environment and naturally encouraged to make things in any contexts. Started in 2008 to make collage, an art resulted from clip and latch technique, she now activates her talent for creative art and craft in all possible ways; doing collage and curate, running her own store, be an art teacher, conducting workshop, exposure in exhibition to managing art spaces.

Art is a long-life passion planted thoroughly on her mind, what she always mentions as `making things` or can be defined as making art creation was an activity that had been started since she still worked as professional. Identical with saving money, her creation-making activity was a projected future plan, “I had actually thought to stop office work and confirmed that my next focus should be art and craft. As now I`m doing it as my main job, it eventually leads me to realise my responsibility as an adult that my art has to make me live. Such pressure is an obligation that keeps me creating more and continuously; if I don`t make things, I won`t eat. But if I do art as a side job, I will easily get satisfied with any results from my creative work; so, doing art as primary takes me to be more serious in creating greater masterpiece and of course support me fully for a living”, she explained clearly.

Indonesia`s Market for Art and Craft

Discussing the country`s climate for art and craft, Vantiani initially emphasized on how it isn`t easy to be artists or crafters in Indonesia. Strategies are needed since a number of concerns stand as potential obstacles. One of them is that Indonesian audience isn`t ready yet as the public doesn`t have high appreciation towards any creations made. Indonesian people don`t grow up with a knowledge of the importance in appreciating art, it`s never been a part of their daily insight. In economical side, Indonesia has a lot of artists or what it`s named as makers and also a huge number of artwork producers; but the fact on the market not get tuned on it, it`s no wonder if many artists still have to hold a permanent job, of course to support their living.

To survive as makers in the country, tons of works have to be done; a kickoff to educate the market and public seems to be one solution. However, support from the government is essential as well, in particular to provide education for our society about the difference between original art products and mass products.

Too many people don`t catch the real understanding about collage and its technique, they can`t see the discrepancy among original masterpiece, printed work and merchandising stuff. Take a discussion on traditional art and present-day contemporary craft, in which people generally would comment that such crafts are just something made by a grandmother easily. This is the point when a maker would feel of not being appreciated in Indonesia, as it should be more about giving value to artwork and not a raw opinion.

Vantiani shared on how often she receives offer to sell her artwork products in a bazaar; but to her, it`s not about how regular she does active selling effort, it`s whether the people coming acknowledge one of a kind art or not. One example was learnt from an activity she made with her artist friends named `Making Art at the Park`; aimed to be a process to bring art-making to the public and in open space people really see the artists do collage or knitting. Here, interaction was spontaneously formed in a direct discussion. It could also inspire people to create creative things as well. Hence, when the artwork is finished and the artists put a price on it, people would comment in a more grateful manner. Assuring that original artwork doesn`t play role as a single ignorant display at home.

In addition, artists and makers are born with genetical distinctive personal views; but what they create has individual sensitivity to the buyers. One artwork can be thought as the greatest piece according to the artist`s thinking, however, it`s quite often to find ordinary pieces to be more preferred one and they`re sold. Owning a single original art makes the buyer becomes the only person having particular piece; nonetheless, some Indonesians would argue on why investing money on such artwork. Looking at this fact, one crucial factor to keep the audience be on the understanding track is the artist`s eagerness to be talkative; now it`s a must for every maker to speak and educate people. So, people will learn to recognise if one splendid original art is contrived, they won`t think that such piece is a print-resulted artwork. An artist should tell people on its  process difficulties and it`s highly hoped that they will value original art differently with mass product.

“I`ve been relentless after leaving my last permanent job, been having strong-hearted feeling to force myself that this decision has to work. It`s been difficult switching, but so far so good!”

It`s also important to let public knows that an expensive original art isn`t branded stuff; so, Vantiani didn`t advise to have original artwork displayed and sold at malls. It`s unfair to put competitions in public area particularly malls; as one merchandise can be made with machine in only five hours, compared to such art that could possibly spend five months on the making process. On the other hand, it`s not only about people having a lot of money; but they`re not yet educated to have artwork as their choice of products when doing shopping at malls.

Basically, Vantiani doesn`t dream to change Indonesia`s market totally, but a never-ending education effort is believed to make public perceives the characteristics between original art and mass product, then later people will gradually have clear buying options. It should be no more about a product being cheap or expensive, but they are expected to understand on the valuation of IDR 50,000`s merchandise and the worth of IDR 500,000`s artwork. Access to information and knowledge is relatively easy in today`s life, it`s just less interest from Indonesians to access anything about art.

The Trend of Art Workshop & Its Business

Two cities in Indonesia, Jakarta and Bandung, have now smelt the trend of art and craft workshop; in which urban people now have solution instead of spending their weekends at the malls. One reason is seen as people`s  boredom with big malls solely and such workshop gives them new skill, finding new friends, a chance to communicate, creating network until it can possibly be a community.

From the economy side, organising this workshop is really productive; some can be said as one of the busiest art and craft organisers and it`s interesting to know that it works financially. Such organisers are even concretely established with real offices, a number of employees and a train of request orders. Distinctively, some orders come from cafes where they need people come; here art and craft workshop is positioned as a new attraction to help other businesses to keep alive as well.

Vantiani also emphasized that workshop is also a way to educate the public as she has always wished on; and she hoped that this trend will never end, so economically it can be well-spread. It should be one potential that society in general has to analyse; art and craft are another solution to create independent maker, businessmen and provider.

Making Art for a Living

Making art contains with useful influence; even though many would have said that an art maker never teaches people or the same creation will appear. To her, it won`t happen as what makes art interesting is the exact clone art result is impossible. Its technique and equipment can be the same, for example its sewing mode and the machine, but the outcome will surely be different. It`s basically a good influential solution when people suddenly have no permanent job and this art making can be a source to make living.

To do art, it doesn`t require someone to be naturally born with art talent; talent is surely a point, but anyone can apply it by learning process as well. Vantiani met some women whose their children are now young adults and used to be clueless on what to do after raising them. They ended up buying sewing machine and eventually their stitch attracts customers`s preference; now they are really busy to fulfill orders. Initially, those women didn`t realise on their hidden talent and now they actually know that sense of being a maker has already been inside them.

Similar story came from makers who started their career as office workers; they literally resigned and established hand-made products under their own company, since they had seen that it will be a good business if they can survive in long-term scale. Some of them said that they wish to have something given for their next generation through this art and craft business.

Indonesian Artists and the Facts

Previously mentioned that art can make a living, but it doesn`t mean that there can be requirements of an artist to also be a marketing. Those are two different skills, artisans can`t be pushed to sell merchandising. However, it doesn`t mean that Indonesian artisans can just be an object.

Indonesians are popular with their magnificent capability as sculptor, batik maker, tailor and doing other forms of art. The truth behind their skills is that they always think themselves as an object, which their mentality problem is just to wait for an order. They should have a sense to be a maker and as producer they should put themselves as a subject, not anymore as an object. Then later they can create their own brands and products; no more wait for orders and being paid. That will be the point where they can develop in further.

If they get more developed as artisans, big industry shouldn`t get nervous since their platform is totally different with business that wants to get big in producing a product. While artists are more to survive; they like doing it, they make something small but they are alive. It`s not a competitor to big industry as artists don`t do things such as spending tons of money and sell in giant portion to be tremendously famous. Artists are happy by staying home and do knitting for eight hours, then they can also get famous around.

Vantiani said that artists have their own choice of what to be, but the most important thing is they need to have a confidence that Indonesians have the ability to be makers. Some artists might be really satisfied in doing small scale; but some who choose big can also get involved in major creative economy market such as in SMESCO and Inacraft. If at the end artists produce a lot of money, to her, it`s just a matter of their fortune.

On the right to choose, that scheme looks fine, but Vantiani then took a concern to artisans who can`t opt. One example can be clearly taken from a number of batik makers or producers who know nothing about marketing and finally attracted foreigners to help them selling their products. It should be a real concern, because that`s eventually a chance if domestically we can help those batik makers by giving them knowledge about marketing or online selling.

It`s such a pity to find Indonesian artisans are just in the phase of making and receiving money, not independently implementing selling tools. However, selling should also be smart; for instance, if a maker from Yogyakarta sells product; don`t sell them in Yogyakarta as the whole city is fulfilled with makers – local buyer can`t be dependable. So, selling has to be out of town and show to the world that Indonesians are full with amazing makers.

“As an artist in Indonesia, we have to strategise our way of communication and discussion. Being talkative is crucial and to let the public recognises what we do. If not, our art isn`t going anywhere. We can`t just sit and make things, then hope for someone to ask what we do. We have no choice, if we want to be here, we have to deal with it”

Towards Indonesia`s readiness for AEC 2015, Vantiani is confident since Indonesia is huge one especially in art and craft where this country owns tons of talents. The problem is that outer world sees Indonesia mostly for Bali and D.I.Yogyakarta, while it`s actually far wider than those two provinces. In further, Indonesians who go international are just those who are well-known, but it should be more widespread; government is advised to implement some supports in giving education and facility. Those who work in full determination deserve for real recognition in the country.

Witness Ika Vantiani`s artwork on

Anisa Kirana | 2014 | Published on SOROTAN Magazine – column: Signature – Creative Youth (edition IV/2014) | Photo credit: Ika Vantiani

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