Ep.87: Creating more art buyers with Liezel & Kitty from Subject Matter Art Gallery

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Jan 10, 2018 •  Interviews

Liezel is the Co-Founder/Director and Kitty is the Artists director of Subjectmatter – a photographic contemporary gallery, which represents and promotes upcoming, established and award-winning artists.

Get in touch with Liezel & Kitty

Key Takeaways

“Never be afraid to ask for help!”

Resources mentioned

💡 Please note: We are supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! For more info, please read our disclosure.

Special thanks to Liezel & Kitty for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by artists represented by Subject Matter Art Gallery, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Announcer  

Creative, artistic, happy! That’s you. There are endless possibilities for living a creative life. So let’s inspire each other. Art Side of Life interviews with Iva.

Iva Mikles  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the next episode of art side of life where I chat with inspiring artists five days a week. My name is Iva and my guest today are Liezel and Kitty from subject matter gallery. In this episode, you will learn about their strong mission of supporting artists and creating more art buyers in the world.

Liezel Strauss  

Think worthwhile is ever easy. And I think that’s really true that when we have these days, it’s subject matter where, you know, maybe the sales aren’t flowing, let’s be honest, or we’re doing a project and we’re struggling with it. To actually feel that, well. This is worthwhile because we’re doing something worthwhile. And

Iva Mikles  

Liezel is a co founder director and Kitty is artists director of subject matter and photographic Contemporary Gallery, which represents and promotes upcoming established and award winning artists. pleasers creative endeavors spent four continents over a decade or articles on art and design have appeared in magazines in Japan, South Africa, US and Germany. Kiki is an artist director represents over 15 artists, and her careful guidance has led to success are many of them. They are co creators of a program with Royal College of Art to educate young art students on the business side of the art world in October 2017, they created a project called unfold a collaboration between London art businesses, to bring art to more people and to encourage more engagement with artists. So please welcome Liezl on the right and Chitti on the left, and let’s get to the interview. Welcome everyone to the next episode of art side of life. And I’m super excited to have my guest here today. Hi. Hi. How are you guys? Yeah, great. 

Liezel Strauss  

Thank you so much for having us.

Iva Mikles  

It’s my pleasure. And I would like to start with your background. And maybe I would like to hear some stories about your creative outlets when you were a child like either

Liezel Strauss  

of you. Sure. And as a child, I love to paint and I love creativity in the arts. But I grew up in quite a non arty home. And so I ended up actually studying engineering for a while. But I was definitely from a very young age really engaged with the art and yeah, I’ve mixed emotions are about that sometimes I feel oh, I wish I pursued my life as an artist. But on the other hand, I really love what I do. But now we both mothers and we certainly try to encourage whatever our kids are massively into.

Iva Mikles  

So what do you do now with the kids? Like, do they have some creative play?

Liezel Strauss  

Yeah, they do. Well, mine is a bit too young, he’s still just makes it an enormous mess. But recently, but older,

Kitty Dinshaw  

my son is five and my daughter is two. So yeah, they like to get messy. They I just encourage them My son loves he’s very visual, like you can really see that he loves looking at like, he loves looking at art. I take him around places, you know, we live in London. So we’re so lucky to have like, you know, Tate Modern on our doorstep or whatever. And actually, he’s the kind of kid that engages with that sort of stuff, which isn’t really nice.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, perfect. So they can go also to the office with you so they can get inspired.

Liezel Strauss  

Yeah, well, we would love to, but we’ll get nothing done. I think that only happens in the movies to be honest.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, perfect. But then okay, let’s talk about like the biggest decisions you guys had to do in order to follow your creative passion and like biggest turning points as well in your career, or study sooner.

Liezel Strauss  

I think the biggest turning point for me after I started subject matter was deciding to do only subject matter. I’m a real project person. And so at one point, the Committee will agree. I always come to I had one stage I was running an interior design business and a charity and a nonprofit and subject matter and I think it was just I read Richard Branson’s biography, and I thought if he can do 7 million projects, how can I but it was, you know, completely unrealistic and, and I made a decision. I think it wasn’t 2011 or 2012 to only do subject matter of full time and and it’s really transformed my life. Well, well, that’s one turning point and then another big turning point was Chitti joining us which is the best thing that ever happened to basically?

Iva Mikles  

Oh, perfect. I’m happy that you guys find each other. Yeah. Oh my god, yeah. But then we skipped a bit part, you know, like the studies and then it was already subject matter. So what happened in between or how did that evolve?

Liezel Strauss  

I’m sure subject matter was actually born from our love of buying photographic art and the frustration that our friends when we visit friends and family, they would have beautiful sofas and rugs, but they would have a piece of art on the wall, a mass produced piece of canvas on the wall. And it just I found it really strange that people wouldn’t be intimidated to buy an expensive rug or sofa, but they can’t get themselves to buy art. And so I started a photographic crowdsource project after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. And that sort of led to exhibitions in a coffee table, book, etc. And I saw how easy people relate to photography and how easy they buy it. And that basically was the birth of subject matter.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, perfect. And so who inspired you? Or did you have a mentor along the way?

Liezel Strauss  

Um, gays actually, as we mentioned, in this pre interview, somebody who really mentored me a lot is Kate black. She’s my friend and the co founder of Magnifico. I’ve been really lucky that most I don’t know if it’s lucky parable than most people who’ve inspired me, or both, actually, both of us, I think, is a woman I’ve just, we have such amazing women in our lives. My mom knows me. And Katie inspires me every day, these, we have this incredible sense of sisterhood with what we do. And it’s been mostly, Besides, my husband is very big source of inspiration and advice for me too. But besides that, it’s the woman in my life. And they’re not necessarily older or younger, but just women, friends and family.

Kitty Dinshaw  

I think also now in like, in the art world, there are so many women, women artists and women entrepreneurs who are really coming through and it’s wonderful like that there’s like, especially in London, I don’t know if it’s true in other cities, but there’s a real community around that community of like strong art Well, women, which is great.

Iva Mikles  

That’s perfect. Yeah. Because they heard mainly from like animation, like in past it was like a purely men, the kind of industry, but now they’re like more and more like young artists, like our girls and women. And they are just like progressing this career path. So I think he’s like, overall trend everywhere that like people realize, like, oh, I can do this as well. Yeah.

Liezel Strauss  

And I really hope Actually, it’s more than a trend, I hope that it will last and that it will become the norm that that gender is no longer a genre, you know, that we don’t have to say female Yes, because then we’ll be just fair and equal, you know, because we do struggle with that a lot. And I think another thing that’s really important for us is we feel a huge responsibility to help young entrepreneurs or our assistant, for example, just started her own business. And we are her biggest like fairy godmother, we’ll just go for it to introduce her to people, because that’s what people do for us.

Kitty Dinshaw  

And we’ve made the connections for her, which is, which is wonderful to see that we’ve been able to help her every stage of setting up her in business from giving her advice on her website to recommending her to people who now employ her to you know, just like okaying her business cards. And you know, that’s it’s wonderful.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And so what do you think is the best advice you ever received? Or maybe you see what is kind of given to young artists now.

Kitty Dinshaw  

So for me, probably the best advice I was ever given was actually from my husband. And it was, it was after we had kids, my son might well after we had my son, and he didn’t sleep very well. And you know, it was it was difficult, but it actually applies, I think, to pretty much anything that you want to do, which is that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. And I think that’s really true that when we have these days, it’s subject matter where, you know, maybe the sales aren’t flowing, let’s be honest, or we’re doing a project and we’re struggling with it to actually feel that, well. This is worthwhile because we’re doing something worthwhile and it’s not. If it’s so easy, then are you really doing anything that’s changing anything you’re not because, you know, it wouldn’t be that easy otherwise, so that, for me is the best piece of advice. I apply it every day. Yeah, and

Iva Mikles  

also if it was easy, everyone would do it, right.

Kitty Dinshaw  

Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Liezel Strauss  

And I think the worst advice definitely is we spoke about this earlier today, Katie, and I I was I didn’t somebody didn’t give me this advice. But I grew up I grew up hearing adults saying, never formed business partnerships with friends. And that just seems like the most I know, it’s such an old fashioned way of thinking, but I really hope people don’t think that today because, yeah, you know, we’ve been so lucky. And I’ve had businesses with other friends before and they sought such great and dear friends and you know, if you can’t have a business, which is like a marriage with your friends.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, definitely. So okay, so that’s a steal a good idea. And then usually Pro, or you should know the person before a bit. So you know, like, what do you are getting into, right? And what about the brand? What do you have? What is the vision, you’re always communicating through your art or works.

Liezel Strauss  

Um, I think everybody in our team wants to kill me, basically, because I’m so OCD, I’m actually pretty is now totally OCD. You’ve seen us earlier, perfect background. It’s just for us nothing, it’s signed off before it’s perfect. It’s just back then I want to say that if our brand was a person, she would be fun, she would be funky, she would be approachable. She would be fair and kind and generous. But she would know who she is. And, and that’s we were very, very proud of our brand, because it has taken blood, sweat and tears to get here. And sometimes we don’t sign things up and our partners get frustrated, but they can get frustrated. That’s the one thing that we’re very serious about is the look that we get out there. I mean, our vision,

Kitty Dinshaw  

I mean, our brand, it knows I think now we were comfortable with our brand. We know we know what it is our brand, I think knows what it is, I think if you come to subject matter, you know what we stand for you, you understand where we’re coming from. And that’s really important, that’s really important to us. And our, our vision, our mission, one of the things that’s very important to us, and something that’s always been important to us that maybe we’ve never been quite so vocal about it before, has been how passionate we are about artists making a living, because in the art world, there’s this whole kind of smoke and mirrors and it’s very opaque around the issue of money. And actually, it doesn’t really help anyone, it certainly doesn’t help the artist, if you want to buy a handbag, say you will go into a store and it will have the price on it, you won’t have to wait till the right person comes into the gallery to ask them the price. And then think that maybe you’re being told a different price, because you don’t look quite right or whatever. No, we want to change that we have all the prices on our website, you can see exactly what you need to see, we will help you through every step of the way. And that’s important, it’s important to us that artists actually, they actually thrive rather than they just kind of survive, they have bills to pay, they have families, they need to buy materials, you know, and that’s, that’s our mission. And that’s what we’re particularly you know, passionate about.

Liezel Strauss  

And we also are usually passionate about creating more art wires in the woods. We that’s our big dream is just have more people buy art and that artists can be paid fairly and that we can have this conversation around money. And we really honor your questions, actually. Because a lot of arts interviews are so it’s so purists then yes, almost seen that you are betraying the industry, we speak about awkward how on earth are artists face to pay their bills? Like it’s just conversations like this help?

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, because you need to make money in order to make art because otherwise, you know, it’s not making art to make money. But yeah,

Kitty Dinshaw  

I mean, how do you buy your materials, and particularly if you’re someone like a sculptor, say where your materials are incredibly expensive, you know, to sort of have this whole conversation where art buyers are somehow discouraged, they’re going to gallery and they’re discouraged because they’re intimidated, or whatever it may be is just wrong. And I one of the initiatives also that we’re just just signing up to at the moment, which we’re, we’re very excited about is a scheme. It’s a UK government scheme, but I think they must have them in other countries. And it’s called own art, where you can pay for your art in installments over a period of 10 months. So you don’t because I think there are a lot of people who are in well paying jobs, you could afford to buy art, but just don’t have one big lump sum to pay at once but could quite easily spread it over 10 months. Yeah. And we’re excited about that, because that’s breaking down another barrier. That’s an art so

Iva Mikles  

and so what would you suggest to young starting artists you know, when they don’t know how much they should ask for their art or, you know, this kind of like a process how they should start thinking or where they can go Do research or like inform? The tough one? Yeah,

Liezel Strauss  

it’s a tough where I’ve even response when you speak about it, because it’s so insane that we are 2017. And we can Google everything, but we can’t google prices. Yeah, I would think that really, if you’re an art student, speak to your art school about introducing a business course. Wherever you are in the world, push them and just say you need to make a living. And then, you know, look at your cost, of course, and then your time spent and rather start low and you can always go up, I think that’s such a taboo topic, but we really believe in it. And, and, you know, speak and ask, just ask, ask people like us, you know, drop an email, or walk into a gallery. I mean, not on the first visit, but become friends. You know, there’s no greater way than becoming a friend of ours, once a beautiful gallery called motion. And she’s such a good quote, she said, The best way to befriend the gallery owner is to go to their shows and support them, be there for them, talk to them attend all the openings, you know, and that’s so true and just become friends and then ask. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’s

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, that’s really nice. And also that you would be willing to answer some questions for young girls maybe. So we,

Kitty Dinshaw  

we get that a lot. And we’re really happy to it’s, it’s something that makes us really proud that people ask us,

Liezel Strauss  

actually, yeah, we were we have a project with the Royal College of Art. And it’s all around this topic. We help students to price their work and to be savvy in terms of contracts and everything. And we just think it needs to be part of curriculums around the world. It’s how can it not be?

Iva Mikles  

And is there some like a business course you would recommend for someone?

Liezel Strauss  

I don’t think there is.

Liezel Strauss  

No, there might Yeah, I don’t know, to be honest. Yeah, I think the thing is, they are expensive courses out there like Sotheby’s business of art, which of course is amazing. But they they usually pricey. So it’s not that everybody can do that. That’s a good question. We should look into that they might be scoped to right to course.

Iva Mikles  

Maybe you can run that. On the project.

Liezel Strauss  

So you’re right, I might actually yeah, we don’t know we need to look into as

Iva Mikles  

that would be nice. And so what is your main inspiration? Or kind of also motivation to keep going? And maybe do you have something strange, which inspires you to create more project?

Kitty Dinshaw  

I have to say this, I tend to get inspired by things. When I’m on the tube. I always go into this weird space where I just want to like get loads of ideas, and I get off and I’m like, Whoa, I’m kind of buzzing. And I would say I don’t know, I feel like we’re motivated, partly because we have to be we have young children, and therefore we need to do every day is precious to us every time if it’s time away from our kids, it’s time that we need to make work. And we need to really make a difference and make a change. And so that I think probably that is what motivates us the fact that we can’t, you know, for example, we can’t hang around the office till whatever time we have to be out of this if we need to get stuff done. We have a set timeframe. We get it done. Yeah,

Liezel Strauss  

we get it done. Absolutely. We have these little things called sprints. We set goals for ourselves three goals each meeting and aundre our assistant and we usually call it the eat the frog, Elizabeth Gilbert saying you you put things down dry that you don’t want to do. And then we save 90 minutes and we sprint and we’re not allowed to talk to each other. We just go for it. And it’s so productive and we’ll just get it done. So we do a few Sprint’s a week. And then in terms of inspiration Oh, and just for all the non european listeners tube is underground. Metro. Exactly. Right. So I Kitty is the biggest fan of public transport she always. Exactly. And I get inspired. You’re walking over Waterloo Bridge, it’s I walk over the bridge twice a day. It’s actually usually where I’m getting most frustrated and stressed but also where I get the most inspired because I don’t take my phone out. I just walk and think and so yeah, that’s nice.

Iva Mikles  

And so how do you design your day? How does it normally look like you know, you come to the office, you drink a tea or coffee and then you just go to work or do you work seven days a week, five days a week? Or how does it look like?

Liezel Strauss  

Well, we can’t really design our day because we have children we tried to ili we have we have a routine, but like we always have this joker This is how we arrive in the office. I tried to be all Polish but you know, sometimes it doesn’t work we have we have a separate routines, you know, but we tend to work two days a week, two to three days a week together in our shared office. And then Katie and I work from either her home or my my own home or separately. So it’s very fluid, but we tend to have at least one day Every Tuesday we all work together as a team in the office in Somerset House.

Iva Mikles  

You also travel a lot, right? So how do you do it when you travel? Do you have like special? I don’t know, software’s like Slack or something. What do you use?

Liezel Strauss  

No. I think we’re too old for me. We still can’t figure out Snapchat.

Iva Mikles  

You went missing subject? Masteral. Snapchat? No, no,

Liezel Strauss  

we, um, we use Basecamp.

Kitty Dinshaw  

Yeah, we use Basecamp every day. Yeah. Basecamp is absolutely vital. In fact, to us. Yes. And that’s great. You know, I mean, for example, for most of August, either Lisa has been away or I’ve been away. And so actually just having Basecamp there’s that project management tool where you literally have everything there. So we’re both pulling stuff out as and when we need it.

Liezel Strauss  

Yeah. We can’t live without it. And then we use Euro X Er, oh, zero for accountancy, which I love. Yeah, we’ve learned to love it was a challenge. But we now look at the numbers. And we what was the third one we said we use zero in Shopify runs our online gallery. But when we travel kitty, and I tried to really switch off, you know, we, we just we don’t believe in this notion to be online all day, every day, we just feel it’s really unhealthy. And so we really switch off and we give each other the time and unless, and we also say we’re not doctors, nobody’s dying. So if somebody’s not getting an email, it’s you know, so we tell each other the important projects and then when kids is way I take care of things, and when I’m aware she takes care of things. So we just worked so far. It’s

Iva Mikles  

it works really well perfect. And because you mentioned the software for project management, I tried to use like Asana or Trello or these kind of so is this one better? I haven’t tried this one or

Kitty Dinshaw  

personally Trello does my head and absolutely does my head and Basecamp I think is much better.

Liezel Strauss  

But I still can’t figure out trailer I’ve given up kitty as more patients than slack because of an entrepreneur group I belong to but it’s a lot it feels just like another Whatsapp group. So it’s a lot of messaging. And the reality is also the thing about living in London and maybe you can relate living in Zurich that you there’s just so much start up noise going on here no

Iva Mikles  

London is much busier. Zurich is

Liezel Strauss  

here and it could be great. Really, it can be amazing. We were part of the Google accelerator group get Google Campus and that was amazing. But at some point you feel like you’re in the startup washing machine and you know just goes round and you just get exit strategies and investors and you sort of get so caught up by it all and then you lose sight

Liezel Strauss  

almost Yeah, and we don’t

Liezel Strauss  

want to we don’t want to invest or so we don’t want to sell our business maybe 20 years from now but we really love what we do we passionately believe in what we do. And so we I think some of these tools is a bit distracting can be distracting or for us anyway. Yeah because

Iva Mikles  

as you mentioned the the software for finances or taxes Why did you choose that one because then some artists they always have a problem with like how to do this when in every country is different. So

Kitty Dinshaw  

it was recommended by our accountant I think it is good. It’s specifically designed for small businesses. So it’s quite it’s really user friendly. I mean as far as cancer T software they can be

Liezel Strauss  

it grabs all the boring stuff from our bank accounts and sales and it makes sense out of it. So you know we to be honest with you we we we have this recommendation we went for it with the software because we’re so not wired that way so we’re very happy it’s working out

Iva Mikles  

good good. So we will put it in show notes so our audience can check it out. And is there something you do daily which contributes to your success like meditation or yoga or something like that?

Liezel Strauss  

I want I used to meditate I do yoga quite often but I you know again, I know we say this often being mothers etc. And our children are just young. Yeah, so are we just not there we will get there but right now if we’re not with our husbands and children it’s all about subject matter and I guess to terrible excuse we got to make time but short i answer is no. We walk we average about eight kilometers a day just from walking to meetings and stuff we walkers.

Iva Mikles  

But that’s good. Can you explain it to our audience? How do you make your living? What is your income? Or how do you build your income?

Liezel Strauss  

Yeah, it’s we really honored this question, because it’s such a tricky and honest question. Yeah, it’s a really good question. The question so many people avoid, and it’s something we need to really pay more attention to, we are very lucky that both our husbands have very good jobs and earn a good living. And so, you know, we actually our business was profitable the last financial year, but in all honesty, we didn’t pay ourselves salary. And so we pay our artists, we’ve paid out us a lot of money over the last few years, and we pay our assistant but we haven’t paid ourselves. And it’s, we need to put a stake in the ground now because you know, we need to do it. Because like we said, otherwise, we could rather run a charity or do something. We’re very passionate about refugees, for example, why are we running this business if it’s not making money? So we speak about this often, and we know it’s the next step, and we working hard towards it. But right now, we’re not making a living honestly, from subject matter. Yeah.

Kitty Dinshaw  

So my art Yes, exactly.

Iva Mikles  

Perfect. So maybe actually, that course in the future might be some part of like, a passive income for your business.

Liezel Strauss  

It’s very, very true. Yeah, yeah, no, my mind is going.

Iva Mikles  

Perfect. I will definitely recommend it when it will be out. So I’m looking forward to see it. And so when we discuss also like different projects, how do you decide when to say no, and yes to a project because you cannot do everything at once?

Kitty Dinshaw  

Okay, well, Liezel basically says yes to everything. Cool. And my whole usual approach is to want to say no to everything. Because I’m always a bit more hesitant. And we kind of meet somewhere in the middle. There’s, there’s a lot of things over the years, I think we feel passionate about, we want to get involved in, but just we either haven’t had the time, we, it’s gonna be a hell of a lot of money. And I think that’s, we were more mature now. Whereas before, we’d almost have gone into it. And then maybe, like, got a little way involved and suddenly realized, Oh, my God, this is gonna cost us a fortune or whatever. Whereas now, you know, thanks to our third business partners, we sit down, we plan out Excel sheets, we plan out the costs, or potential costs. We also have a six month plan that we work on with Andrea or assistant where we literally sit down with a massive sheet of paper every few months, and look ahead for the next six months at what we have. And we actually then can really see, do we have the capacity to do this? Can we actually just physically do this? And quite often, we’ve actually thought, no, hang on, we’ve got one project too many going on. Yeah. And if it’s been at a stage where we can shelve that project, we haven’t really started working on it or something, then we tend to do that is super helpful. I would recommend it to any anyone in businesses, you know, do the six month plan, it really helps focus you do

Iva Mikles  

you do something like as well when you have a goal like six months goal and then you like break it down to smaller parts, like what do you have to do within the week?

Liezel Strauss  

Most probably in a month. Yeah, we do it more than a month because we only work together once a week as a team. And we set goals and you know, we look back and we have we have weekly status meetings, we call them we’ll check in meetings because we also check in are we personally doing but um, you know, we certainly have goals and it just lives all on Excel. And ya know, we pretty, pretty organized like that. Perfect. Exactly. And I think we’ve just like we’ve just matured and we’ve learned we don’t have to say yes to everything for people to like us, you know, some people just won’t get what we do and that’s okay. And we’ve also learned over the years not to have boundaries. We’ve had a couple of artists that really treated us badly and you know, and and I was in tears many days and the shocking thing is that those others were always paid and we were never paid you know and I never even said this to them but there was there was some times that it did it just wasn’t right and I would take it I would absorb it and actually it has taught me a lot about that is just having boundaries and you know having self respect and you know we it’s a team like he always teaches me this is it’s a teamwork we all we need to work together as a team. So it’s not like us do everything in the artists do nothing now all work together.

Liezel Strauss  

And that’s something that I’m really passionate about. Because I think that, you know, the artists, they’re, you know, they’re wonderful people, they’re wonderful creative people who have a lot going on in their lives, but at the same time, they are the ones creating the work, they are the ones who have the concept and the vision. And they, we can’t, you know, we can express that for them, but only if they give us the tools to do it. And there’s been a number of times when, you know, I’ve asked artists for biographies or statements, and they’ve sent me sort of one line. And I said, Look, I know this is this is one line is fine for you, because everything’s in your head, but we have to put this on a website and sell it to someone halfway across the world, and they’re not going to just read one line and feel you know, that that’s what they want to invest in. So it’s, it’s an ongoing process, I would say, it’s definitely an ongoing process. Not we’re one, we’re very lucky in the fact that all our artists are basically like family. And they, now they are, yes, yeah.

Liezel Strauss  

And also, I think we’ve also learned to manage expectations. When I started this business, I would send artists, hundreds of tickets to sign like, like, you know, and then it creates, like, expectations that we are going to sell 100 art pieces, which is not realistic. And now, you know, we the addition sizes are much smaller. And now we seem like for certificates to sign, for example, and it’s just learning, you know, so yeah, it’s an exciting journey.

Kitty Dinshaw  

A lot of them have been with us now for years. Yes. And that’s a really good feeling.

Liezel Strauss  

Yeah, I’m a big fan of them has been with us for five plus years. So

Iva Mikles  

and so how do you do your networking? Or how do you choose who to work with? Because you also have people working with you directly as a team, but also the artists? So how do you kind of choose?

Liezel Strauss  

Choose our artists? Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

or are people on your team as well?

Kitty Dinshaw  

With our artists, it’s, it’s quite a, it’s sort of, it’s one of these processes, it’s quite hard to pin down, there are so many ways that artists come to us, they can approach us directly, they just send us an email, and we’ll always will always, always look at their work, it might not be immediately it might be a few weeks, but we all that we always will. And other ways, quite often, you know, we just keep our ears to the ground in terms of you know, we obviously know a lot of people in the art scene in London, and quite often they will say, Oh, I know, this great photographer, and that, you know, so it’s kind of it all, you know, goes around in circles like that. Liesl, in particular is great at, like, you know, interesting art, well, blogs, etc. Yeah, we just keep our ear to the ground. Basically, I think that’s probably the best way to put it. Yeah. And

Liezel Strauss  

it’s a gut feeling to get you and I are very lucky that we have similar tastes, in that it’s really and if we don’t feel strongly about something, so even if I like something consistent, but we won’t go with it. And that’s advice I had from an entrepreneur years ago, he said, If human is business problem, they’ve been business partners for 15 years. And he said, The only rule they have is if one partner is not 100%. In then it’s a no. And that’s how we work. Yeah. Yeah. And

Iva Mikles  

do you also showcase or help artists, which are outside of London? Or is not in the area?

Kitty Dinshaw  

Yeah. Oh, yeah, absolutely. We have artists from all

Liezel Strauss  

over the world. Yes. All over must be like 10 or 12 countries.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, perfect. And so what would you say when you mentioned like some of the mistakes you see young artists or like also established artists are doing? Like you say, the bio description is only like one sentence? Do you see other things which kind of like ridiculous, sometimes,

Kitty Dinshaw  

I think artists have to be quite careful with how they manage their image now in the sort of modern world with, with the internet, with Google, etc. With social media, I think that’s something they have to be very conscious of which I think, you know, 1520 years ago, they didn’t need to be. We’ve had instances where, you know, I mean, I think you have to trust your gallery, your gallery will tell you where you should and shouldn’t shouldn’t be selling and we’ve had instances where some artists have disregarded our advice and put themselves on certain platforms that haven’t worked to their advantage. And these values work a lot. And then once you’ve done that, there’s not really any coming back, because that’s always there on Google somewhere. You know, and I think also with social media, they you know, Instagram now that’s how you promote yourself as a as a horrible thing, say, but an artist is that’s their brand. And, you know, if there’s just lots of photos on Instagram of, you know, then hanging out with their friends or whatever, that’s great, but keep that private and then have something for your public face. Because, sadly, you know, I mean, whether you like it or not, social media is here to stay and you know, that’s something artists need to get on board

Liezel Strauss  

with. Yeah, and just keep reaching out. out. Yeah, like sometimes people have to email me. I literally I was just giving somebody else an interview last week. And one of the questions was, how do you keep on top of your emails? And I said, I don’t I have 1000 on 1100 unread emails. So sometimes you just have to send two or three him. Of course, if somebody says no, then they have a reason for it. But if you don’t hear back, don’t assume it’s because they’re not interested. It’s most probably because their inboxes are so full. And sometimes just picking up the phone helps. You know, nobody calls these days. So it’s really a good thing to call. And they know your question around. How do we find people to work with? We’ve been so lucky. We’ve really I, we’ve worked with the most incredible people. We’ve had the most incredible assistants here and in Japan, and they just come to us, we’ve advertised on Craigslist, and some were interns. First, we used to have internship programs, but we’ve decided against it as a company. And now yeah, we’ve we I think it’s a lot of luck, or I don’t know, of course, we’ve had a few, but really, maybe recruitment, maybe 10% Didn’t work out. We’ve just been really lucky with the most amazing people working with us.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, that’s super cool. And now I’m also like bit interested when you mentioned some of the platforms way, which like maybe didn’t work out for some artists, but if you are not known yet, and would you recommend to start on some of these platforms, or not really, or,

Kitty Dinshaw  

if you have, if you’re with a gallery, then you should take your galleries advice on what you should do. If you are not known, then I would almost say it’s better to try to get yourself known even through something like Instagram, through approaching vloggers, through approaching galleries that you like, rather than, you know, just putting putting it out there on the internet, you need to be very, very careful with where your work goes. For example, with photography, you should never ever share the high resolution image of your work because that’s essentially the digital file. That’s the assets, if you share that, if it’s on somewhere and it can just be dragged and dropped. And then someone can print from it. That’s the value of your work. Gone. Yeah. So there’s there’s lots of things that artists need to be careful of, and I would definitely say, be cautious. Take advice. Don’t you know, just yeah, just be cautious.

Liezel Strauss  

We have two artists that or Instagram stars, or however you could say and they came to they approached us. And they are two fantastic artists. Well, we I mean, and they are self taught. And they’ve they’ve found their niche through through Instagram, and now they sell some of their work themselves. But the work we sell, we have exclusivity to you know. And so there’s many ways, but I think you’ll be careful. But you have to be proactive. You can’t just expect the gallery to find you. There’s just how much noise out there. But

Liezel Strauss  

it’s far better to contacted gallery like, however many galleries you want to directly rather than just putting yourself on a platform that ends up ultimately devaluing your art.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, that’s true. But that’s I think that’s really good point. And also our audience and our young artists, and everyone can think about it. Because when you’re just starting out, you feel like, oh, I can just put it online, you know, and you don’t think about like the copyright and the high res files and all of that. So,

Liezel Strauss  

absolutely. The high res files in particular is actually really important.

Liezel Strauss  

We get people all the time and when their articles or whatever journalism, they ask us, can you please send us high res files of your art and be like, No, we can’t. So you know, it’s just an awareness. Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

perfect. But that’s a really good point. And let’s talk about maybe some of the interviews we discussed as well, like the most difficult or worst career moment so far. And what did you like, learn from it? And what would be the key takeaway? Sure.

Liezel Strauss  

So my worst career moment was definitely I work for a big corporation and I got this promotion that I wanted, and the company moved me to my dream system to Cape Town and I thought it was always going to be fantastic, but it wasn’t it was just it was not what I thought it would be and was a creative and I realized that in two days. But you know, I felt I need to put the hours in so I stayed for a couple of years. And my key take out was that I learned a lot I learned so it’s such a great business skills and project management and budget management and and I met my husband. So you know I think sometimes and it’s happened before when I started a business before between subject matter my previous business. I had to take a job and and it was terrible working environments, we worked in a very cold basement in the middle of winter. Yeah, in London, it was for an amazing project, a wonderful project that actually makes the world a better place. But the work environment was terrible. And the the management was not great. But again, I learned so much. And I have some friends that now have to go back to a job that are entrepreneurs. And it’s just I was saying, you’ve just feel so defeated. But looking back at it, it’s not defeat, it’s part of the journey. It’s not, oh, now you work for someone. Now you’re not an entrepreneur. And the more you’ll always be one, it’s just, sometimes we are we have to pay the bills, we’ve got to take a salary somewhere. Our situations might change. You never know, you know, one of us might hopefully not know, it’s, and that wouldn’t make subject matter less wonderful as less entrepreneurial. It’s just the reality. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And what about the project you’re working on now? Or something exciting coming up?

Kitty Dinshaw  

Yes, yes. So we’re working on a project called unfold, which will take place in London during three weeks. That’s the first week of October. We wanted to do it that week, because basically, that’s just when London is the center of the art world. And it’s fun, there’s so much buzz around. And essentially, we we conceive of this project with two other art businesses both run by some fierce women, empty art and predella house. And we all believe passionately in supporting artists, and kind of bringing up back to artists that I think sometimes you know, especially in the Russian years, something like freeze, which so huge is that art becomes more about money, or it becomes more about certain names, or whatever, and actually doesn’t really become about the artists and about their creativity anymore. So we’ve got three spaces, two of which will be exhibition spaces. One is a sort of more sort of traditional gallery space. And then the other is the project space, which is going to be really fun, because Liezel is creating an immersive home environment. And that’s basically kind of calm, you can hang out and have your coffee, you can have read a book. And then the third space is a studio space where there’ll always be an artist, at least one artist working there every day creating, we’re creating new work. And yeah, just generally like being there for the public to come and talk to them to see what they’re up to. etc. So we’re really excited about unfold, it should be a great project. And we’ll share

Iva Mikles  

it also on some social media so people can follow it.

Liezel Strauss  

People can follow it. It’s unfold space. Yeah. Our Instagram account. And the website. I’m sure he’ll put it on, but it’s on unfold minus space.com.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, perfect. Yeah. So we will put that also in the show notes. So yeah.

Liezel Strauss  

Anybody in London, these classes are fun. And we’re showing more than 2018 or 18 artists. So it’s

Iva Mikles  

so if you can tell us a bit more about some books you would recommend or give as a present to people which is like, this is the book to go.

Liezel Strauss  

Yeah, definitely. Actually, Kitty should be speaking about books because she gives the basics of

Liezel Strauss  

elephant in 10 years. Yes.

Liezel Strauss  

So I’m sure she could tell you in a minute too. But I am not a fiction girl. I don’t know if I don’t have imagination. But I’m, I’m a complete nonfiction girl. So I like documentaries, and, and autobiographies and the latest documentary I watched was minimalism, which I absolutely loved. And then lion, the big Hollywood blockbuster so it really moved me and also Helvetica, my obsession with beautiful font. That was a lovely documentary today. And then two books I just finished I’m very happy that my child is but older. So I’m finally back to reading a book from front to back. And I just finished Jo Malone the perfume heavyset perfumer, approved for perfume year. Can you see english is not my first language. She, she’s a wonderful English lady that started a multi billion dollar company and I read her autobiography and then also read a book I really recommend is art therapy by Ellen to Bhutan. And it’s just mind blowing, how we should revalue how museums are laid out, etcetera.

Liezel Strauss  

Oh, and for books and I was a bit set up in a new 10 years, so I have quite a few recommendations. But to save time, I would just probably recommend one publishing house which is called Elance. And they’re based in London. They’re based based in Exmouth market. They publish old and forgotten travel, writing classics. And they’re wonderful. They’re a startup. There’s small publishing house, and they publish some of the best books. travel writers like Norman Lewis. It’s just Yeah, it’s wonderful. And then one of their best ones is called portrait of a Turkish family. And it’s actually the story of a Turkish family who were quite wealthy during Ottoman times. And it’s talking about them through all the changes in Turkey in the early part of the 20th century, and then onwards towards the middle of the century. And it’s just, it’s just wonderful. It’s wonderful taking, you know, going back into another place another time. And yeah,

Iva Mikles  

that sounds really good.

Liezel Strauss  

For documentary, The one thing I would really recommend, I want to give a huge shout out to an artists that we little met about a year ago. And I’ve subsequently met her name’s Xiaowen Chu. And she has produced this absolutely as about a half hour video documentary she initially created, it was an installation piece, double channel, installation piece, and it’s about a second, it’s called oriental silk. And it’s about a second generation, Chinese immigrants working in his father’s fabric shop in LA. And it’s so quiet, it’s so gentle, it’s so beautifully filled. But it’s one of these like, you know, you watch it for half an hour. And at the end of half. Now, you just want to sit there in silence for 10 minutes, just taking it in, because it’s so beautifully done. So I will share Joanne’s website with you. And you can put it on the on the notes, because I would want to give a huge shout out because she’s so talented.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, perfect. That sounds really amazing. So I will put it on my list as well. Yes, please do. And what about the future? I would like to know where would you see yourself in like five to 10 years, where you cannot fail, and you’re not afraid of anything and everything just works out how you want. And my last? Last question would be How would you like to be remembered for in like, 100 years?

Liezel Strauss  

Yes, I think for us, we would just like to grow subject matter and access as many people as possible new art buyers. And that really is a five year and 100 year plan. And we would like to be remembered. One day we no longer walking on that we we created 10,000 New Art buyers or 100,000 New Art buyers, that that would be magical to us, and that

Liezel Strauss  

the art world had changed Yes. And that the art wasn’t changed. And we were part of that conversation. You’re part of, you know, some of the people who really started that trend.

Iva Mikles  

Amazing. And I’m so happy that you took time and joined us here today. And before we say goodbye, maybe you can tell us some of the biggest takeaway or advice for young artists. And then we say goodbye.

Liezel Strauss  

Okay. Yes, I would say just go for it. Just go for it. And a friend recently say to me, remember to have fun, have fun along the way. We get so serious. Just sometimes if something goes wrong, just think, oh, it’s the technology Gods having a laugh. I think if we can learn to just have more fun. If you’re an entrepreneur and as an artist, just go for it and keep knocking on doors somebody will answer. I would

Liezel Strauss  

say also for artists for young artists, never be afraid to ask for help. I think it can be really hard. If you’re a creative person, and you’re in this world on your own, and you feel like you’re on your own. So I would just say yeah, never be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s from friends, whether it’s from someone you meet, you know, at a party or a private view, just yeah, just admit that if you need some help, you need some feedback. You need some criticism, whatever it might be.

Iva Mikles  

Perfect. Thank you so much again for being here.

Kitty Dinshaw  

Thank you for thank you for having us.

Iva Mikles  

So thanks again and thanks everyone for joining and see you in the next episode.

Iva Mikles  

Hope you guys enjoyed this interview. You can find all the resources mentioned in this episode at artsideoflife.com Just type a guest name in the search bar. There is also a little freebie waiting for you so go check it out. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review on iTunes hopefully five stars so I can read and inspire more people like you. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our site of life podcast because I post new interview every single workday. If you want to watch the interviews, head over to our side of life comm slash YouTube. Thank you so much for listening. Don’t forget to inspire each other. And I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Bye.

Announcer  

Thanks for listening to the art side of life podcast at www.artsideoflife.com

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

Recommended: