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MassArt offers students a chance to sell as they learn

Posted by Emily Files  November 5, 2012 01:20 PM

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MassArt Made, a small store at the corner of Huntington and Longwood avenues, carries many one-of-a-kind items: hand-blown glass pumpkins, beaded jewelry, cotton handbags in loud prints, and tiny, hand-blown glass candies with swirling colors.

But it’s not the items themselves that make the store unique. It’s the people who create them.

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Massachusetts College of Art and Design alumni, staff and students produce almost everything in MassArt Made. The year-old store enables MassArt, the nation’s first public college of art and design, to showcase its students’ work while also promoting the school.

Daria Bukesova, 21, a senior architecture student, sells her colorful, polymer clay flower earrings there for $12 to $20. The earrings are MassArt Made’s most popular item.

Fiona Stoltze, 20, a senior fibers major, sells silk chiffon scarves. She created three yards of dyed and screen-printed chiffon for her final project in a design class.

“I loved the idea of wearing it, so I decided to scale it down a bit to make scarves,” she said.

All of the store's artists receive 50 percent of the proceeds from works they sell, while the store retains 40 percent, and MassArt’s financial aid services gets the remaining 10 percent.

All artist work is on consignment with the shop. Whatever MassArt Made doesn't sell, the artist gets back after a six-month contract ends.

Fine arts take longer to sell, so store manager Ginger Russell assigns a longer contingency period to paintings. “It's really a case-by-case basis,” she said.

Choosing artists is no simple process. Russell and a “jury” of alumni and MassArt staff members hold quarterly meetings to select the store’s art. Candidates submit images of their art, along with brief biographies specifying their connection to the school. Typically, the jury receives 10 submissions in each round.

Russell said the jury chooses the artwork based on style, quality, and range. She’ll also consider the types of items that are selling best.

“I try to take into account what kind of item it is, and how other like items have sold compared to it,” Russell said. She tries to represent all the school’s academic departments, she added.

Artists determine the price of an item, sometimes based on prices from other sales venues. Russell works with artists selling for the first time to determine a price. She takes into account the materials, the hours spent on the piece, the craftsmanship, and some market research, she said.

Prices vary widely: Key chains start as low as $7, while necklaces can cost as much as $650.

MassArt Made’s main goal is to promote the school and its students – rather than to turn a profit. That’s evident when campus tours stop there, making the store “admissions Part Two,” said Martha Barry, a MassArt graphic design student and MassArt Made employee. Barry answers prospective students’ questions about the artwork, as well as classes and on-campus housing.

Customers wander in off the street and from nearby hospitals. “A lot of our customers like the pottery for gifts,” Russell said. Pottery fills the store’s high windows.

On a recent day, Carol and John Pavan of Acton, Ma., walked straight to the shelves of pottery when they entered the store. It was Carol’s first visit.

“I do pottery myself, so it's really nice to look at,” she said, as she examined a pale green- and-white bowl selling for $35.

John Pavan is a veteran MassArt Made shopper. When his daughter toured MassArt about a year ago, he noticed the “very different variety of stuff.” On this visit, he said he was pleased to see the store hadn't changed.

The store has been a boost for the student artists who sell their goods there. Stoltze, who sells scarves in the store, is interested in designing interior textiles when she graduates.

“I still enjoy creating wearables,” she said, noting that MassArt Made has helped her learn how to sell them.

Bukesova, whose clay earrings are so popular, said selling at MassArt Made has been a turning point for her.

“I never imagined that my jewelry would sell so well. I think it’s the best compliment any artist could get,” Bukesova said. She is considering making jewelry full-time when she graduates.

This article was reported and written under the supervision of journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel, as part of a collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.

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