When the covid-19 crisis hit in early 2020, the art industry (which is heavily reliant on events, auctions and retail galleries) took a hit. However, since moving online the industry has thrived. The latest edition of the Hiscox online art trade report found that 67% of art buyers surveyed had purchased art online between March and September, up from 44% in 2019.
This has been good news for thousands of people who turned to arts and crafts during lockdown to supplement their income in the wake of widespread job losses and economic insecurity.
The handmade goods platform Etsy has seen the number of sellers registered on the platform increase from 2.7m in 2019 to 4.3m in 2020. The number of registered buyers on Etsy has also increased dramatically from 46m in 2019 to over 81m in 2020, representing a buoyant and growing market for handmade arts and crafts.
Around 20% of young people aged 16-21 expect to become self employed during their future career, and 9% of those aged 22-30 actually do, and this figure is increasing.
Sema Martin, author of the book Art is My Career: How to start an art business, leads a community of artists and creatives, all of whom have seen explosive growth during the last year.
“Lockdown has opened people’s eyes to the possibility that art and crafts are a viable way to supplement their income, and I’ve seen more people than ever using this period as a steppingstone into a new career path”. Sema Martin @Artismycareer
Members of the Facebook Community “Art is my Career Community" have had similar experiences, with many becoming professional artists during lockdown.
“I was a store manager when Covid-19 changed the world. By April, 2020 I was unemployed, about to buy a house, and learned my sister was pregnant! It seemed as though stressful times were ahead. However, leaving retail meant I could finally focus on my family, new home, and art-making. After 4 years of pushing my dream to the side, I realized if I wanted to make art my full-time career, it was now or never. I utilized my time and unemployment to create a new space, organize my finances, acquire the necessary materials, and do the research. Sema Martin’s book provided exactly what I needed: an organized path with clear reachable goals! Now my portrait business is my only source of income.” Jessica Cavanaugh @fineartbyjess
“Being furloughed during lockdown gave me an amazing opportunity to start getting into pet commissions. But after having a full-time job to fall back on, that was taken away in January this year. My 13 years in retail had ended. I questioned if I was ready to go full time! But with the redundancy being the push I needed, it made me even more determined to make it work. One thing I’ve learnt from this past year is stop thinking and start doing! You’ll never know where something might take you.” Sabrina Jones @sabji_art
“The pandemic, like many, changed my life forever. I lost my mum during the end of the first UK lockdown, something that will stay with me forever. Not only was my mum my best friend, but she was my biggest support. This, mixed with poor mental health and a national lockdown meant I needed to find my own way of coping. I was urged by friends to start taking on commission work and charging people for tattoo designs etc as many people wanted tattoos but weren’t sure on designs, something I could help with! At this point in my life, inspired by my mum’s resilience I took the jump and started my own Instagram page. Quite quickly I had clothing brands coming to me asking for collaboration work etc- something I hadn’t even considered but I am so thankful for setting up this page, it’s given me a creative outlet, a route into my dream career, a side hustle, and helped me meet some amazing people.” Ellie Webb @Elliejotattoo
Entirely self-taught, British artist Sema Martin made the leap from a NASA Aerospace Engineer to Fine Art Artist in 2016, now working from a studio in Antibes, France. In 2020 she authored and published the book Art is my career: How to start an art business and has been building a social media community to help other artists ever since.