Amazon Handmade Open Letter

Dear Madam, Sir,

I consider leaving Amazon Handmade because the sales are disappointing. I have given some thought to the ‘why’ of this and I would like to share some insights.

I’ve looked around, as a potential buyer, on Amazon Handmade in the section in which I sell, that is ‘Art Prints’ and I was tremendous disappointed to find my work popping up at page 52+. I understand this can happen when a broad search term is used, however, the first 50 pages where full of work by only a very few and the same artists or companies. They are FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) sellers and as a consequence of their FBA, their products hog the first dozens of pages. This is discriminatory to non-FBA sellers and also, I’m sorry to say but many of the FBA prints are nowhere near living up to the definition to be of any artistic value. You might say in defence that taste is debatable or De gustibus non est disputandum, I agree, but although they could be handmade, they are barely recognized as such. They are more ‘prints’, i.e. minimalistic textual prints than ‘art’. Part of me evaluating ‘art’ prints is coming from my educational background, however another large part is related to the conflict between FBA and original artisan or artwork and/or handmade-art. How can one produce handmade art, often sold with customization, by having it stored in a warehouse? Prioritizing FBA artisans and artists might not be a smart move on the long run. Art and Handmade can’t be rushed.

To prevent disappointing customers showing repetitive pages full repetitive buying options by the same FBA sellers as well as artistically disputable artisan handmade work, Amazon Handmade needs an artistic director or curator who makes Amazon Handmade a place where buyers go to in order to find high(er) quality artistic and artisan handmade products and art works. Such curator can made Amazon Handmade a wonderful place to explore, appreciating all the fine and truly handmade and artistic work. Take for instance Artfire. The first page of this website is so engaging, you start exploring and it takes an effort to pull yourself away from the it.

If Amazon Handmade isn’t actively curating its handmade and artwork, but continue to prioritise showcasing the best FBA sellers, Handmade will stay a boring place to find inspiration or gifts. I understand there is tension, even conflict, between the need to make profit and showcasing an attractive, which means variable, gallery. But just because of this tension, somebody with a broad and deep understanding of art appreciation should work on those first essential pages that show up when a regular search term like ‘Art Print’ is used.

The next appointed aspect of Amazon Handmade that is troubling me is that buyers has zero feeling that they are actually buying handmade products or art works. The whole art experience is missing. Amazon Handmade has the same interface as the book and DVD and all other products sections with small pictures and too few options for information on the studios where the artisan products originate from. In order for Amazon Handmade to succeed in selling handmade products and artwork, artists and artisans need to be able to dress up their online studios to enchant their customers by giving them an art experience that is essential to buying handmade, artisan or artwork of an artisan or artist. Take Etsy. Etsy is now allowing artists to at least upload 5 studio pictures, their story and a video. That bis most helpful for customers to get to know the person behind the art. I have mentioned the interface so far. There are technical troubles too. When I upload my art prints often the colours change. This isn’t a disaster for a book or CD cover but changing hues has a big impact on how artwork is showcased and experienced.

Amazon Handmade needs to inspire artisans, artist and customers. In fact, it needs to become a gallery. Artwork and handmade products can’t be sold as books or batteries. The whole dimension of having an art experience, admiring the artists take on life, stepping into his or her studio in order to feel what this artists is doing, making and communicating is essential. Experiencing art and an artist online using a digital medium is compromised compared to stepping into an art studio physically, smelling paint, touching clay, leafing through sketchbooks, and drinking a cup of coffee in a studio that allows you to take in the world of an artist. However, much more can be done to bridge the gap and make buying art an uplifting and enjoyable experience. But for that Amazon Handmade needs to hire artists and curators who make sure customers feel they aren’t buying schoolbooks but something made by artisan human hands.

Amazon Handmade has been going nowhere for me and I’m disappointed because with such huge potential of customers it should and could have been successful. Maybe Amazon Handmade will outgrow its half hearted approach on art and handmade products by embracing innovative technology that helps art-lovers and artist to meet each other. Only then, Amazon Handmade will have an added value to me.

All said, I have positive experience with the sellers and help departments, for which I thank you.

If you could fill me in on which ambitions Amazon Handmade is having for Europe, I will be able to take some decisions. Also I need to know whether I can put by shop on non-paying hold till Amazon Handmade has grown up.

With kind regards,

Paula Kuitenbrouwer
www.mindfuldrawing.com
www.amazon.com/handmade/Paula-Kuitenbrouwer

My articles on art and art musing are at LinkedIn Pulse Paula Kuitenbrouwer.

I’ve submitted this letter to seller-suggestions@amazon.com.

Peony Time

Pioenroos print met pioenroos

A real Peony, a printed Peony and notice the one on the Korean flower vase.

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Peony and Tulip art prints of pencil drawings by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Beach treasures

Beach treasures. Before you think Paula has painting pebbles, I didn’t. That awesome white stone with that intricate wine red pattern, that is dried seaweed. Nature is a great artist.

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On a desk with 3 art prints by Paula Kuitenbrouwer.

Dog Sketch

And my darling daughter drew this cute dog. I framed it straight away. My daughter’s shop is at Etsy too, click here to say hello by giving her perhaps a whole lot of hearts?

Love,

Paula

My Etsy & my Art Shop.

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Ma, a Japanese aesthetic principle, in my three bird drawings

I’d like to show three paintings in which I have incorporated Ma, a Japanese aesthetic principle. Ma is described as ‘an interval in time and/or space’, thus referring to empty spaces, vagueness or abstraction. Empty spaces, in which nothing seems to happen, are full of possibilities. How do my three birds deal with Ma in their portraits?

Ekster by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

For my portrait of Magpie, Korea’s national bird, I added orange colour to compensate for a magpie’s black and white plumage. To stay close to her Korean habitat, I decided to position Magpie on a colourful and fruit-bearing persimmon branch, heavily laden with pumpkin-shaped kaki. Magpie is content with her portrait, and so am I.

Crow Kraai by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Setting up a composition for a portrait of Carrion Crow was a little harder. Negotiations with this proud and cheeky bird were tough. I talked him into sitting on a mountain ash branch, but initially he didn’t agree with my decision of pushing him a little to the rear.

‘You are an indigo blue-ivory black bird’, I explained by pointing out that humans don’t like black things. I explained that I could trick humans in loving his plumage by adding the rich palette of colours of an autumn Mountain Ash.

‘This branch has fresh green, bright orange and deep red, and will charm viewers in loving your monotonous black feathers. And if I use a diagonal composition, I can guide the viewer along the branch, climbing up from deep red, through the bright orange to sap green. After such a colourful journey, people don’t mind a bit of solid black. But to do that, I told Carrion Crow, I have to push you a little to one side, but that is okay. Reluctantly, Carrion Crow agreed.

Sparrowhawk by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

My Sparrowhawk demanded to sit high and mighty on the top branch of a proud pine tree. The world of humans doesn’t interest him. He soars above it, looking down on our wars over oil, mass migration and our overheated, overpopulated world.

Sparrowhawk knows he has this intricately textured and awesome coat of feathers, which makes fashion designers drool. Not much is needed next to such an eye-catching bird; two almost evenly-coloured pine cones complete the portrait. Sparrowhawk sat down just long enough for me to make a portrait, and, without so much as a ‘thank-you’, flew off to his own world, soaring high above ours.

Back to Ma.. In all three bird portraits you’ll notice considerable emptiness. My birds seem to look into this emptiness. What do they see? A suitable partner? Prey? Are they guarding their hidden nests? Are they exploring new horizons?

Ma is for you to fill in with your imagination, with your story-telling, your ornithological knowledge or poetry. But Ma can also be left open. We don’t need to fill in empty spaces with projections, trauma, words or sounds. Ma offers a thinking pause or escape from our train of thoughts.

Magpie, Carrion Crow and Sparrowhawk understand Ma naturally. We are enchanted when we see a bird resting on a tree branch and we long to be like them: resting in Ma, accepting the here and now.

Paula

at  Etsy and at Paula Art Shop

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Lotus Plant Drawings: Botanical and Symbolic

Two Lotus Prints

Lotus Plant’ & ‘Lotus Pond with Tortoise’

by Paula Kuitenbrouwer

In preparation for the upcoming birthday of the Buddha, I have drawn two different views of a lotus plant. Much venerated in Buddhism, the lotus is one of the ‘Eight Auspicious Symbols’. It is also a delight to draw, as the textured leaves and petals of the plant encourage the kind of finely-detailed observation and drawing work that give richness and texture to an image.

For my first drawing, ‘Lotus Plant’, I researched and focused on all the interconnecting parts of the plant. Most drawings and paintings of the lotus concentrate on the flower itself; the next part, the stem, is submerged and thus often merely hinted at. And the roots, although many of us will be familiar with them as edible parts of the plant, are rarely depicted in art, since they grow deep in the muddy bed of the pond.

For a Buddhist, this concept of living in three mediums – mud, water, air – signifies a progression. The soul journeys from the muddiness of materialism, through the water-world in which we live and experience our daily, day-to-day lives, and thence beyond, to enlightenment in the ethereal world of light and air. That these parts are all connected, roots to stem, stem to flower, is reflected in my drawing.

My ‘Lotus Pond with Tortoise’ shows the flowering plant, partly in water, and blooming just at the surface. A tortoise, resting on a rock, looks up at the lotus. Such a bright and beautiful flower is an inspiration to all who see it, tortoise as much as human.

In Asian culture, tortoises are sacred. The longevity and tenacity that they symbolize seemed to me to be a wonderful way to celebrate what the birthday of the Buddha means. We need to live long and work hard to reach enlightenment. And if the ageing process is enlightenment in slow motion, as John C. Robinson describes in his book ‘The Three Secrets of Ageing’, then my combining of the symbols of enlightenment with those of longevity expresses this process.

Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Lotus (Botanical) at Etsy

Lotus with Tortoise at Etsy

 

 

Artists Inspired by Nature Treasures: Sybille Tezzele Kramer, Liliya Tereshkiv, Lois Mathews and Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Sybille Tezzele Kramer, Liliya Tereshkiv, Lois Mathews & Paula Kuitenbrouwer

Sybille Tezzele Kramer:

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Italian born Sybille Tezzele Kramer draws inspiration from her direct surroundings in Sud-Tirol. Sybille shows her appreciation for weeds with her drawing, named Erbacce/Unkraut. Notice Chamomile, Poppy, Alchemilla, Foxtail grass and Dandelion. Also, notice the smiling face of the weeds. Weed smiles because it is stronger than all the poison that is used. And why using it? Why do we categorize some plants as obnoxious weeds and others as ornamental plants? Why do we say some stones are pebbles and others are gemstones? Sybille creates a three-dimensional effect by drawing a heliocentric composition. Read more about this lovely drawing here. Sybille’s Erbacce/Unkraut/Weed is available here. The original Erbacce is touring through Italy as a mobile exhibition ‘Lo Sguardo Obliquo’.

Liliya Tereshkiv:

Liliya Tereshkiv, a Ukraine born artist, also living in Italy, is the woman behind Sorriso Design. Liliya shows us how nature inspires her by picking up leaves and pine cones and looking at the blue sky. Here is her lovely Etsy shop full woodwork, jewellery and home decoration. Have a look, you will be surprised. More of Liliya’s nature photos are here.

Lois Mathews:

For years I’m enjoying the walks Lois Mathews records at her delightful blog  Sketching on Whidbey Island. If there are sketches directly inspired by nature, they are Lois’ water-paintings. I don’t like to sit in front of a screen, but that all changes when I read Lois’s records and nature studies. Did I just feel a bit of fresh air? Or did I hear a songbird? Do I noticed footprints on the walking track? Lois’s nature journal enchants me.

Me:

An empty wall, wood and driftwood treasures and a few of my prints. I’ve put them together for a playful exhibition of a few of my prints. My birds and butterflies feel perfectly at home in their natural environment.

There is nothing definitive or pretentious about this, I can add and remove things without damaging the wall. There is bark of an eucalyptus tree, a honeysuckle knot, pine-cone branches, driftwood, some wooden pegs and prints.

Paula

Paula at Etsy

Paula at Amazon Handmade