Coleridge, and the Craft of Selling Art

I know several persons from Porlock. They are most infuriating, conspiring to rob this world of the benefits of inspiration. They call on my phone, send me an SMS, knock on my door, ask me the time, ask me for directions, and end up, though often unintentionally, to shatter my fragile moment of inspiration. You, probably, are from Porlock too.

The term 'Persons from Porlock' is synonymous with anyone who destroys that moment when you are 'in the zone' and have received a 'revelation from above' or 'caught an idea virus'. The term is derived from the prologue to Coleridge's Kubla Khan.

In the prologue, Coleridge claims that he had dreamt the poem in an opium dream, and had woken up brimming with excitement at being able to remember the entire poem, word for word. He sat and penned down what we have available to us today, before he was disturbed by a person who had come from Porlock on some business. The person from Porlock took up an hour, and that hour supposedly robbed the world of the rest of the brilliant poem.

This is now believed to be hogwash, and that Coleridge was trying to give an excuse for the seemingly incomplete nature of the poem (though that doesn't take anything away from the poem). Of course, this false revelation made the poem immensely popular and brought Coleridge much attention. Kubla Khan represents a moment of inspiration and persons from Porlock represent disturbing elements. Now you know why authors and poets sneak away to cottages in the hills or lock themselves in their rooms - they're afraid of people from Porlock.

But the fact remains that the prologue was a fabrication, and what can be called a marketing tactic.

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A few months ago, I had the opportunity to organise an art exhibition with a team that was very low on experience. It was also the artists first exhibition. Added to that, we had all of twenty days to do it. We managed it rather professionally, if I may say so myself, and it was a success, especially in terms of return on investment.

But even now I hesitate before calling her an artist because, for me, the 'art-work' was craft, not art. The final products were contemporary and classy; if I could afford them, I'd have bought at least one piece for my room, if not ten. Each piece was unique, but it wasn't 'inspired'. They were essentially showpieces, which is how both the creator and the buyers eventually viewed them, and no thought, no feeling had gone into making them. They were furniture accessories: dhe has a great sense of style and knows what a socialite would like in her living room. But the original names of some of the art pieces were off-putting and, well, lumpen- Transparent Horse 1, Transparent Horse 2, Small Transparent Horse, Multicolored Eye, 5 Heads in Yellow, Yellow Ganesha, Red Ganesha....you get the picture.

There are several little things that go into the marketing of an art exhibition - from the creation of a portfolio, brochure, invitation card to the compilation of a mailing list; from organising the press coverage, press package and a chief guest to telecalling prospective clients and design houses. And though marketing is the least of your worries, it is critical to the success of your project. But first, you've to market the craft as art, lest it be considered a showpiece to complement the furniture, and hence warrant a lower price.

We sat across the sketching table in her 'factory' where she creates the design and two of her workers create the finished product. I explained to her the need for renaming the pieces and of making the buyer think about her work in order to establish a connect, to create a relationship between her work and her prospective clients; to, metaphorically speaking, make them look beyond the brush-strokes. Intermittently over the next week, we sat in that claustrophobic room and made art of her craft.
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