Sunday, October 26, 2003

Huimang Shijang... the end?

My buddy Jang Woong and his wife Bo Hyun visited me at the market today after I called them. I sold one of my pieces, a cartoon tiger, to Bo Hyun. Jang Woong and Bo Hyun suggested a few things:

1. Don't cover your dojang stamps with Post-Its when displaying.

I agree with this idea in principle, but as I explained to them, the problem is that the stamps tend to smudge the insides of whatever container I place them in. The Post-Its provide ideal protection, much as tampons keep the red from running wild.

2. Think about relocating to Itaewon and Insa-dong, and maybe Ch'eongye-ch'eon.

Good idea-- people in these places are more likely to want what I'm selling, especially if my previous experience in Insa-dong was any indication. The only question is... legality. Not that that should concern me overly; as my friend Tom says, "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission." Where'd he steal that line from?

3. Make functionality part of product appeal; people who see a piece of paper with art on it won't know what to do with it. Show, for example, a complete scroll to give people an idea of what they can do with the artwork.

Great idea, but impossible to put into reality when you're a poor bloke like yours truly. If I had a thousand bucks to play with right now, I'd be making business cards, crafting symbol-explanation cards (to explain all the symbols I've incorporated into the Dalma-daesa art, for example), buying better equipment to display my wares, making a respectable sign (i.e., a kind of shingle to show BigHo is in da house), and other things as well. I'd still like to go with the tee shirt idea; the Maximum Leader offers mugs and tees through, and I might take that route as well.

4. Sell cheaper. A lot cheaper.

Yeah, I may have to, and that'll also mean reducing prices over at Chewiest Tumors. More benefits for you, the American consumer. In fact, while I'm home for two months, I might just offer a pre-Christmas special, assuming I can find local scroll-makers in Northern Virginia.

5. Stick to cute.

This is the kind of advice I can't stand, but unfortunately it reflects the mediocre, watered-down, wussified reality in which most of us proles eke out our lame existences. A freaky pic of a screaming mouth surrounded by fingers isn't going to please a conformist crowd raised on Hello Kitty and the equally repulsive Hamster Party (a logo I saw on a notebook... or is it a new Korean political party? and what do they advocate? stuffing themselves en masse up Richard Gere's ass?).

The problem for anyone who wants to do art almost always comes down to this question of how art and the market interact, and the extent to which one should be paying attention to the market in making one's art. I'm not a "pure" artist by any means; I won't be cloistered in a barn for days on end, obsessively ruining canvas after canvas in an attempt to find the perfect random paint spatter. I do care whether people are receptive to what I do, but at the same time I have no desire to widen my appeal simply to widen my appeal. In my case, this isn't a particularly earth-shattering dilemma; I've only just begun doing this kind of art (i.e., calligraphy and brush art), so if it turns out I have to leave it aside for more important things, it won't be a big tragedy.

Anyway, "stick to cute" is probably Jang Woong's reference not only to my bizarre mouth-finger deity, but also to my brush art of the skeletal Buddha doing zazen under a tree during his go haeng sang, the six-year period of austerity. In a market full of young women looking for cute hats and cheap jewelry, skeletal Buddhas don't sell.

Charlie (KimcheeGI) came by again and picked up his New and Improved Dalma-daesa for his friend. He also lent me a treasure: The Great North Korean Famine by Andrew Natsios, to which I will be devoting my future evenings, and from which I'll very likely be quoting. Expect me to blog a lot of new insights based on this book... material that will make already-in-the-know people yawn, but the rest of us sit up and take notice. What's important about this book is that it deals in some detail with the international humanitarian aid mechanisms. I look forward to learning more about how they work. Or don't work, as the case may be in NK.

I have only one weekend left in which to make sales, but it may be that going to the Huimang Shijang is barking up the wrong tree. So I'm debating whether I should be spending my final weekend in Korea on a futile pursuit. More on this as I cogitate.

TACITUS NOTE: There have been over 40 comments since my "inflammatory" Muslim statement. Not a single one is a direct response to what I wrote. I obviously provoked a huge yawn. Heh.

FORGOT TO MENTION: I was photographed by five different people today, including a Japanese lady who said she was taking pics for a magazine. Also, a group of pimply college students conducted an interview with me in Korean-- or rather, in broken Korean. It was videotaped, God help us, and the students came back a couple hours later to get an update on how much I'd sold (cough). So this is my big chance to look like an ass on TV... all I can hope is that they edit me out of whatever broadcast/show/etc. they're making. You don't want to see the Hominid on TV.

No comments: