Thursday 14 January 2016

On David Bowie's 'Blackstar' and the Series 'Fringe'

[Spoiler Alert] Yesterday, after listening to David Bowie's 'Blackstar' again, I put on the next episode of JJ Abrams' series 'Fringe' (S4:E22, co-staring Leornard Nimoy). I had to freeze-frame this a few minutes in. What's that on the wall? OK, pretty weird. Then a friend pointed out that the main bad guy's name in the series was David Robert Jones (who happens to die in this episode.) This is, of course, David Bowie's real name. Coincidence?

So I did some searching, and in the second season they fight a visitor from the alternate universe named Thomas Jerome Newton. "Thomas Jerome Newton" is the name of the character David Bowie plays in the "The Man Who Fell to Earth". Noteworthy is the name of TJN's business partner in TMWFTE - Farnsworth. Agent Astrid Farnsworth, was one of the main Fringe characters.' Also, the song 'The Man Who Sold The World' appears in Season 5 Episode 7 of Fringe. So there is definitely a connection between Bowie and 'Fringe'.

The above episode was made on 11 May 2012 - it would be possible that Bowie knew he had cancer then - 10% of people with liver cancer (if this is what it was) survive 5 years or more. Journalist Michael Azerrad notes that a "black star" is a medical term for a type of cancer lesion. Did JJA know Bowie, and would Bowie have confided in him? Or did Bowie watch this episode and see the Black Star on the wall and it fixed in his mind? Or none of the above. Who knows. But it is, at least, intriguing.

It's worth pointing out that JJA is well know for leaving 'Easter Eggs' to what's coming next - For example, the agent's SUV's licence plates are 1C3PO1 and 1R2D21 (he, of course, goes on to direct Star Wars Episode 7.) So I shall probably be watching Fringe from the beginning.

David Bowie, 1947 – 2016. Even in death, he gave us art.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Summer Lovin' Fund

Each summer, our cafe daytimes and our events get about 20% quieter as people go on holiday, and students head home.

To give us a little 'nest egg' to ensure we're still thriving come Autumn, we invite our supporters to donate a fixed amount each month from May - August, to cover our running costs (which don't drop over the summer, of course!).

Our target from donations and fundraisers from May - August is £5000

Your generous support keeps us open, so please consider helping out with any amount.....

Choose a monthly amount - each is for four months

If you would prefer to make a one-off donation only, please click here.

Thank you so much!

Friday 1 November 2013

Special events at The Art House for November 2013

The Art House

178 Above Bar St SO14 7DW Southampton

Andrew O'Neill (Is Easily Distracted)
Friday, November 8, 2013 from 7:30 PM to 10:30 PM

"So funny I put him on my new TV show." - Steve Coogan

Andrew's combination of sci-fi twists on real life, long hair and impeccable manners have led him being revered on the London comedy circuit. Activist, misanthrope and transvestite waxes comical about the decline of British industry. His is a flamboyant show of odd, but smartly-written material, relentless in its assault. Imagine Harry Hill as a cross-dressing metalhead, and you’re somewhere close.

"One of the funniest comedians on the circuit at the moment...hitting new heights of comedic brilliance." - Timeout.

We are super chuffed that the brilliant Grant Sharkey will be supporting!

Book below for Andrew O'Neill (Is Easily Distracted)
Friday, November 8, 2013 from 7:30 PM to 10:30 PM:

Above (The) Bar Comedy Night:
The Second One.

Saturday, 16 November 2013 from 19:30 to 22:30

'Above the Bar Comedy' is a not-for-profit stand-up comedy night run by volunteers who want one thing; to share their love of comedy.
This time around we have: Flange Krammer (the Alpine Ski sensation!), Thomas McElveen, Johnny Wardlow and Melisa Morman.
Book Below for Above (The) Bar Comedy Night: The Second One.
Saturday, 16 November 2013 from 19:30 to 22:30

Professor Elemental
Saturday, 23 November 2013 from 19:30 to 23:30
I say. Put the kettle on, the Professor is coming to tea! He'll brew you a nice hip hop number, stir in some comedy, then serve it with scones.

As a steampunk mad professor, his hobbies include adventure, invention, and a good cuppa*. He is also a unique and award winning hip-hop artist. Aside from the odd experiment (sometimes very odd), he first got myself noticed with the track ‘Cup of Brown Joy’. That video, and others, notched up over a million views on YouTube. You can have a look at them over on his videos page if you like.
The itinerary looks something like this:
[4.30 'till 6pm - Approx. 1 hour workshop with Prof E in our gallery / performance space] Book seperately.

6.00 'till 7.00 - Tiffin
7.00 'till 7.45 - Some lovely electro swing in the cafe with Still/Moving DJs
7.45 'till 8.15 - Sweetchunks band
8.15 'till 8.30 - A nice cup of tea
8.30 'till 9.30 - Professor Elemental
9.30 'till 11.30 - Some lovely electro swing in the cafe with Still/Moving DJs to close

The evening will be embelleshed by the immovable Sweetchunks band. Formed in 1892 originally as a chorus of ballet dancing penguins, The Sweetchunks Band Experimented with early forms of funk (The traditional music of the isle of Man) and a form of puff pastry.

The SCB invented blues music at least 60 years after it's inception, instead calling it Thrash-Skiffle (the traditional music associated with Tiddleywinks).

All members of the Sweetchunks Band can fire three rounds a minute in any weather.

To top it all, we are delighted to welcome DJ 'Still Moving' Martin to spin some lovely eletro-swing tunes and other musical delights on the gramophone.

And if that were not enough, earlier in the day, the professor will teach you the secrets of the emcee in a very special workshop (seperate booking for this, with very limited numbers.) With customary exuberance and his best trousers on, the Professor will teach you how to rap in an hour. Just an Hour. That's it. That really is pretty much all you need. Incredible. EXPLORE the roots of Hip Hop! DELIGHT in the whimsy of Steampunk! BARE WITNESS to the birth of the Chap Hop emcee within you!'

Well, thanks for dropping by. You look marvellous, by the way, and we love what you’ve done with your hair.

*Please note, in honour of the professor's visit, we will not be serving herbal tea.

Book Below for Professor Elemental
Saturday, 23 November 2013 from 19:30 to 23:30

Monday 23 September 2013

Special Events Coming Up For October 2013 At The Art House

We've compiled a playlist of some of the music you can enjoy live at The Art House this October and November. We hope you enjoy listening as much as we did compiling.

OLIVER WILDE - live! (An Art House Fundraiser)

Events at The Art House

Tuesday, 29 October 2013 from 19:30 to 22:30 (GMT)

Southampton, United Kingdom

A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Lightyears

"Ever wondered what My Bloody Valentine would sound like if they were a solo folkie? Wonder no more."

Initially arming himself with just one microphone, a guitar and a combination of internal conflicts, Oliver Wilde’s sound is stacked up with whispering guitar riffs, fragile vocal layers, slurring lap-steels, 8-bit tape loops, sanguine strings and DIY drum samples, leading to a lo-fi commotion of emotional outbursts and swirling sonic turbulence, washed down with moments of hushed delicacy that evoke the ghosts of his never-met mentors. 
Oliver Wilde
This is a face that many are beginning to know, from NME to The Guardian to The Fly, Oliver Wilde has taken the nation by storm with his debut Album 'A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Lightyears'.
" of the best we've heard so far this year... it's folk as performed by Kevin Shields with an arsenal of lo-fi gadgetry" - The Guardian
"Basically, it's the perfect album" - Loud and Quite Magazine
" feels like an amble through a magical mist... flittering guitars appear through the smog like gilded butterflies..." - The Fly

"On 'Perrett's Brook' he sounds intoxicated and the unexpected chord changes have the same effect on the listener. When the bass and drums come in halfway, all heaven breaks loose. It's like hearing a classic Creation Records single from the '90s at 18rpm, shoegaze reduced to exquisite sloth. Flutter is eponymous, the sound of butterflies in the stomach. Something Old is typical of what's on offer here: it's humid, sticky, like something left out in the sun, hot to the touch and warped out of shape." ~ Paul Lester, The Guardian
 Oliver Wilde
Watch 'Perrett's Brook' (Official Video)
We are also delighted to announce that we will be joined by local 8-string bass maestro A Ninja Slob Drew Me.

Don't miss our Halloween weekend:

Sorry but you missed these:

Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness - Stories and Supper for the turning of the year

Events at The Art House

Thursday, October 3, 2013 from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM (BST)

Southampton, United Kingdom

This month, gather with us to tell tales of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness, celebrating the turning of the year into Autumn. Join us for a cosy candlelit evening of food and tales!

If you have never tried your hand at storytelling, or just want to listen, or are a seasoned storyteller, you are very welcome.

We will have a special menu priced at £9.50 available during the evening, a delicious bowl of delicious seasonal veggie sausage, vegetable and ale stew served with rice & salad with a mulled cider, or soft drink included.

If you do not wish to eat, the event is by suggested donation - £3 or whatever you can afford.

The Happy Places / Noomi Basra DOUBLE BILL at The Art House

Events at The Art House

Saturday, 5 October 2013 from 19:30 to 22:30 (BST)

Southampton, United Kingdom

A fun night of live music with a double  bill from 'The Happy Places' and 'Noomi Basra', two of our favourite local bands.  It's free entry and the bar will be open, there will be burritos and other tasty things on sale till 9pm - all the ingredients for a perfect night out.
Bringing you a lively mix of the old and new, The Happy Places describe themselves as Folk/Soul/Rock/Jazz grooves from a man and his guitar (and friends) 
The Happy Places began with lead singer and guitarist Stuey Goodeve playing solo, before Oli Tong joined him playing cajon, guitar and backing vocals. From there it grew and grew, with Emily joining on co-vocals and Duncan on fiddle.
Noomi Basra are Maha Al Tai, Duncan Mortimer, Craig Rye, Matthew McNaught & Nick Parton playing ""Arabic / whatever-we-feel-like-at-the-time fusion --- with Columbian jazz-Manouche."
And... they're open to a bit of input from you, the lovely audience!
From TLC to MJ, from Usher to Spinal Tap, let us know in the comments the tunes you'd like us to bake into our next set, and we'll see if we can spice them up and knead them in...
A perfect Saturday evening at The Art House: a cold beer, some good music and a laid back atmosphere. Bring a friend or two, or come on your own, you will be made welcome!

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Sunday Musical Roast with The Alaskan Pipeline, 6th October

Events at The Art House

Sunday, October 6, 2013 from 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM

Join us at The Art House for a moo-free, cluck-free, oink-free roast lunch, all home made from organic ingredients with lots of fresh, local, seasonal veggies, upstairs in our gallery space.

Roast lunch without the washing up and with musical accompaniment too!
We will have two 'sittings' to select from - 12.30 to 2pm and 2pm to 3.30pm. These aren't hard-and-fast, but just give us an idea of how much to prepare!
We'll ask Alaskan Pipeline to play two sets, 1pm to 1.40pm and 2.30pm to 3.10pm, so you can enjoy some music which ever time you choose!  In between, they might join you for lunch!
Enjoy a generous plateful of yumminess, suitable for vegans and with gluten-free options, too. Booking is highly advised!

The meal is just £8.95 (£4.95 childrens portion) for one course, y£11.95 for two (either our soup of the day & main course, or main course & hot cake with dairy-free ice cream, or £15 for three courses.)

Our usual lunch menu will also be available, with the exception of the hotpot and other daily special.

The menu: Real Ale and veggie sausage pie, organic roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables (subject to availability.) First course and sweet to be confirmed.
The music: The Alaskan Pipeline play Americana Folk Rock - notmally a 5 piece, we will be joined by two of them that played a wonderful set for us a few months ago and we just had to get them back.
Here's the reviews:
"Prettily constructed forays into subtle melancholia" - NME.

“They allow their songs to simmer before expertly bringing to the boil” -

"The atmosphere is ethereal, the vocals are soaring and the songs are smoldering" - Drowned in Sound.

"An original and contagious sound that just locks onto you and draws you in" - Logo Magazine.

"Coming across like Damien Rice fronting My Morning Jacket, their songs are so beautifully crafted that total attention is gained from everyone here"  - South Scene

"The Alaskan Pipeline have what it takes to go far. They have the potential to be the next Southampton band to break the charts" - BBCi

* All gluten free options are prepared in an environment where wheat etc is present, so may contain traces of gluten. Nuts are present in our kitchen, too, so all food may have traces of nuts and other allergens. 

Saturday 14 September 2013

Autumn thoughts..... an impromptu newsletter from Jani

It's been a moving and emotional week for us here at The Art House:  the sudden passing of one of our very own volunteers, Nikki Mclean, a few weeks back, and the funeral this week, has brought us together as a community to remember a lovely person.  It has brought us together to mourn, as all communities must sometimes, the loss of one of our own.
In among Nikki's things, her partner found a glitter-covered note she'd been making for some of her friends and for The Art House, thanking us for accepting her for her.  It summed up what we are here for - a place where people can be their own, true, authentic selves.  A rare thing.  

The past weeks have, most of all, made us really appreciate what we have here and most of all the people involved, and remember how fragile it all is, too.  

I wanted to share with you, our friends, some of our thoughts going into the Autumn.  

Yes, I know all this talk of death, change and challenge isn't what you're supposed to write in a newsletter to your 'customers' - but I think by now you know you're more than a customer, and we don't do things the usual way here. 

The Art House has been running for nearly six years now, and the support we've had as been inspiring and moving.  Right through a recession, we've established and grown, moved premises and hosted thousands of events, workshops and groups attended by so many of you.  

Our world needs community so badly right now.  What we are, under all the fun stuff and cake, is exactly that - a community.

Last night I felt urged to post this on my own Facebook wall:

Support the things you love in your town, village, city or area. This is my challenge to you all.

Love is a verb - get out there and love your local places!

Buy local, get out of the house, commit yourself, give of your time, enjoy the feast that's on your doorstep.

Make yourself a promise right now to engage with what's going on in your area - book a ticket, plan a visit, tell a friend about something awesome. Stop putting off that visit to somewhere you love - enjoy it while it's there for you to enjoy.

No excuses.

Community is YOU. You can and do make a difference. Go make it.

YOU are our community, and through the quiet summer months so many of you donated to help us when money was short and kept coming in even on the sunny days.  That money meant we were able to keep paying all those bills when our footfall was lower.  Yay!

In late 2007, we took over a failing art gallery to see if we could keep it going a little longer.  It worked.  We moved to a bigger place, taking a chance on a longer term lease, to see if we could establish as somewhere that would last a few more years.  It worked.

Over this Autumn, Winter and Spring we have a challenge to get this lovely place to the next level:  a sustainable, long-term project which can be here to make Southampton a better place to be for many, many years to come.  It feels like the chips are down, for us, at this moment.  We need to make this whole thing click together and become something truly lasting.  There are big plans, little plans and many, many fond hopes tied up in The Art House right now.

We are asking all of you to be a part of this challenge.

Here are just some of the ways you can join with us to take this into the future:


Come in regularly We're here for you - so that you have a place to be accepted for who you are, can meet likeminded people, can be fed, inspired and entertained.  The more often you visit us, the more what we do will enhance and transform your life.  That isn't a grandiose statement - this little place has changed lives, people blossom here, that's what we set up for in the first place.

Volunteer!  We are looking for cafe, kitchen, publicity and admin crew right now.  If you want to:-

*Help in the cafe, meeting lots of lovely people (our crew and customers are the best), gaining customer service & food serving experience, supporting us in a very real way.
* Work in the kitchen - under the supportive eye of Abi or Ziggy you will learn more about healthy, tasty food preparation than you can shake a stick at, having lots of fun in the process!
*Support us by distributing leaflets.  We are looking for reliable people all over Hampshire who are happy to take our 'What's on' guides and leaflets to local places and spread the word.
* Work with our admin staff on the many day-to-day office tasks that need doing.
* Lend your expertise in publicity, systems, accounts, building maintenance....... get in touch if you have a skill to share, long or short term!
* We even have roles you can do from home, if you are unable to get in.


Donate Either a regular or a one-off sum, every amount makes a huge difference.  At the moment we are still getting back on track from a very quiet summer, so all donations are being welcomed with a big smile!  You can also donate clothing to our Trash Cocktail Boutique - we are looking especially for sparkly evening wear at the moment for the festive season.

Invite people to our events on Facebook!  Even if you can't make it, hit the 'invite' button a few times and spread the word.

Tell people about us - in realbook, on FacebookTwitter and elsewhere.  Your recommendation is better than any advertising we can do.  Become an ambassador for what you love by telling all your friends about us!

Click this link to Tweet about us right now in one easy step!

Share This Link on Facebook now to tell your friends about us.


There are so many ways you can be a big support for what we do - part of a powerful ecosystem of people working together to make our city - and our world - a better place.

The Art House is a little place with some very big ideas.  We invite you to be a part of it!

Come in soon, dear << Test First Name >>, we would love to see you, we are open today until 10pm, as we are every Wednesday - Saturday.  12 - 5pm Sundays and Tuesdays.  Here is where to find us.

Jani, Bik, Nina, Zigz, Abi, Natalie & all of The Art House crew

Monday 22 July 2013

Fooling da robberz

So, anyhoo, we can't go into details about our security in this public forum, but this is a thank you to everyone who, over 2 years ago, helped us raise money to make The Art House more secure....

Here's Jani and Bik, looking REALLY sleepy, to tell you why we've picked today to talk about this, and to say thanks....

Monday 15 July 2013

On financial honesty.....

Most businesses play their financial cards very close to their chests.

It's common business wisdom to be super-cagey about the money stuff, pretending all is well when it isn't or pretending all is bad when it's great.

Aside from the accounts we all have to submit to Companies House, which are really quite general, the rest is something most places won't talk about or share.

Add to that the general social taboo on talking about money, the potential for misunderstanding when you do talk about it, and the suspicious reaction people often have to fundraising and not-for-profits, it was a hard thing for us to do yesterday.

You see, The Art House isn't in trouble overall.  Far from it.  Thanks to your lovely support, our income grows each year and we've managed to become so much more than we'd imagined or hoped for.

But, the unexpected heat wave has meant far fewer customers than we usually expect at this time of year, and we've had a quiet few weeks this July.  
(Incidentally, all the small businesses we talk to are experiencing the same thing - so do support them won't you!)

Add to the quieter than expected weeks, a big ol' VAT bill is due soon, so we thought we'd share it with the people we know care about this place.

We realise that it's not just our volunteers, directors, members and staff who have a stake in The Art House.

It's all of YOU as well.

Given that The Art House is an important part of so many lives, we feel honesty about how we are doing is important.  We feel that, when we need a little extra support, our community would want to know.

So we talked about money.

I made a very high tech graph of our total target earnings for July, by week, and how we missed it last week - and will probably miss again this week, too, as it's been so hot everyone has headed to the beach!

This is high tech stuff.  That figure - £13,200 is our TOTAL target from everything we do from 1 - 28 July.  It's pretty much our usual target and what we've been fortunate to make on many weeks.  
Just not when it's sunny, you know?

Now, a few bad weeks aren't going to close us down.  This situation is what our accountant likes to call 'a cashflow problem'.  The cash isn't flowing.

A combination of doing well for three months (yay) and getting the matching big VAT bill and that VAT bill coming due at the end of what looks like it'll be a really, really quiet few weeks is what has made things a little tight.  We've had some yummy advice on how to stop this happening again next year, which is great news, and we'll be putting that into action right away!

We haven't 'spent the VAT' as some charming individual on Facebook suggested, the bill has not actually arrived yet, we just know it's coming.  

It's called forward planning. We know how well we have to do THIS month, in order to be OK in two, three, four month's time.

These things have happened before, and will happen again, and are part of the journey of any small business. One of the tricks in business is to act BEFORE there's a real problem.  Once the unpaid bills actually start piling up - which they haven't yet - it can be hard to recover, so the time to act is when things are still OK but look like they might not be as good as they need to be.

Which is right about now, actually.

So, the VAT bill ain't going to kill us.

What it might do, if we don't improve our income right away, is to stifle our ability to thrive and grow sustainably into the Autumn.  It will put pressure on us to cut back other things, mean our directors have to work all their days off (again) and, well, generally this is not how we want to run.

So, despite worries that the rumour mill would start grinding, as we know it will and that people would be saying we were making a loss, doing awfully and about to close (some folks just love to spread bad news even if it's not true news) we decided to come clean.

Hello Art House tribe, we said.  Look at this frikkin' graph.  Look at that target we haven't hit - can you help us get to it?  Can you all chip in a fiver, more if you can, less if you can't, to help us get there?

And you have.

In less that 24 hours we've had people popping in with fivers, tenners, more and our Paypal donation account is looking healthier already.

This is what community is all about - asking for help not just in a crisis, but when it's necessary, when the pinch is being felt.  It feels good and it feels right.

Yes, we've had somebody question about why we didn't budget for our VAT bill (we did, actually, thanks - but this heatwave was not planned for by, you know, anyone!) and a few other odd remarks here and there.  Some people won't understand what's going on, or will put their own interpretation onto it.

There will of course be much exaggerated rumours of our demise, and wise advice from armchair entrepreneurs on how we could have avoided this situation in the first place.

We think all of that will say more about those who just don't 'get' it, than it does about us, to be quite honest.

It's proved to be a handy way to thin out people who are following us to criticize instead of support (don't you just love that 'block' button?!).

They are in the tiny minority, those people.

For the most part, the support has been overwhelming - and we focus on our supporters, we always have.  You are the ones we are here for, you are the ones who we listen to, you are the ones who matter to us.

We're modelling and pioneering a new way of doing business.  A way that throws out the old competitive, secretive, BS-ridden version and replaces it with something more raw, more real, more... well... sometimes more scary and rough around the edges.

We would not have it any other way.

Please join our mailing list and come to see us soon!

You can also donate to The Art House at any time, here.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

The VAT man cometh (cue scary music)

Each summer, The Art House gets a little quieter than usual as people go on holiday, to festivals, hang out in their gardens and students go home for the summer.

Our expenses, of course, do not go anywhere for the summer and we have just paid the rent (yay) and have our usual VAT bill looming in August, so have raised our weekly target to £3300 total income, to make sure all keeps running smoothly and without things being too tight.

It often surprises people how much it costs to run a venue, we estimate we spend £1 for every minute we are open!  Providing a good, safe, ethical space and top quality organic food is not cheap.  We're very proud that we choose more expensive ingredients over cheaper, planet-wrecking ones.

Ah, but the summer - we have such mixed feelings about it!

Jani even made up a little song, 'Don't forget us when it's sunny' -  it goes to the tune of the 1960s hit "Hello Muddah Hello Faddah" by Allan Sherman.

Do sing along!

Don't forget us
When it's sunny
It still costs us
Lots of money
To pay all of
Our expenses
When we're empty it does nearly drive us senseless

We have ice-creams
We have smoothies
We have buskers
Sometimes movies
There is always
Somethine to do
And we're always very happy to see you!

We have tables
On the pavement
In the sunshine
A nice arrangement
You can sip on
And make a new friend or two or four or three.

See some art and
Go to Beatnik
Buy some cake and
Have a picnic
Learn about ships
In Sea City
Or just sit in the nice parks, gosh it's so pretty!

Don't stay home
We promise we will feed you cake
And pour you lovely cups of tea
You will be missing out
If you don't come and seeeeeeeee

Don't forget us
In the summer
Or we'll close which
Would be a bummer
Do not wait un
-til it's chilly
To come in 'cos that would really be quite silly

Anyhoo.  We hope you enjoy Jani's fine songwriting talents there - so catchy!  Jani is scared witless of singing in public, but has promised that, if we hit our target all through July, she will record a video of herself singing this song.

How can you resist?

So, how can you help reach this target and release Jani's singing talents on an unsuspecting world?

To improve our cashflow for July, we are doing a bonkers special offer on 'Friends of The Art House' cards.  These are a great way to show us your support AND save yourself money when you come to see us.

Find out more about the benefits of being a Friend here, or just apply for your card below!

If you can't or don't need a card, please do consider using the link in the sidebar of this blog to make a donation towards our 'VATman Cometh' July fund!

We rely on and hugely appreciate the support of all the people who come to see us - rain, shine and snow!

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Pricing artwork - the lessons I learnt from chocolate cake (by Jani)

I've already written about ways to go about pricing your work as an artist.

Here I want to talk about the tendency to think, when selling art, you should under price work you are selling in order to sell it.

There's a belief that people shop mainly on price, that people will buy something if it's cheap enough.

Now, I am not a business advisor or financial professional, let's get this straight.

But I have co-run a successful, growing business for well over five years in a high risk industry* AND made a living from art and teaching art.

The Art House opened in 2008 and there has been a recession the whole time we've been open (gosh, it's gone on long!) and the business was
at pretty much failure point when we took it on.

So, we have learnt in a hands-on way, very quickly, how to make pricing work.

The Art House has never sought to make low cost our main appeal.  Our food and drink - and the other things we sell, too - are of a far, far higher quality than you get in most places.

We believe that 'cheap food' costs society and the planet.  So we don't sell it.  We sell good food made with lots of love and care, and it shows.  Our food bill is our single biggest expense, costing between £700 and £1000 a week.  All of that money goes to local growers, an organic food co-op or local shops.  A tiny percentage of emergency supplies have to come from Waitrose or the co-operative, both supermarkets with values closer to ours than the others.

Through the five years we have been going, we have agonized every time we've had to raise prices.

But here's the thing.  Every time we have, our income has gone UP.  The number of customers has continued to go UP.  Our community and business have GROWN.

Putting prices up has worked.  Charging what we are worth has worked.

We don't overcharge.  We are not unusually expensive for a cafe, but we're not cheaper than other cafes and we've never tried to be.  When you visit, you will get exactly what you pay for.

Charging what we are worth, instead of trying to be the cheapest, means we can serve more people, do more good stuff, touch more lives, get more creativity happening.

It all goes back into this good stuff, as a not-for-profit, none of it is going into some greedy pocket.

Pricing well has worked by offering something that is worth MORE than people are paying, by offering fantastic value for money, by being affordable without being cheap.  Here's how it's done:-

- We have a strong ethic and mission, which our generous customers are happy to support and become part of.

- Our food is darn tootin' good and we make sure we communicate that.  People can enjoy the fact that their meal is of the highest possible organic and ethical standard.  This improves the flavour.  Fact.

- We have always kept some affordable options, including (but not limited to) the kiddies menu.  We also have a 'Friends of The Art House' card which gives a 25% discount, and a crew discount card. This means that nobody is excluded who wants to enjoy what we offer, and we support our biggest supporters and those who invest in us, but also......

- We have premium options, too.  The local beers, the carefully chosen organic wine, the generous main courses with seasonal organic salads (no plain old LTC - lettucetomatocucumber - here), our amazing warm roast veggie wrap...... the dark chocolate cake, made with an obscene amount of fair trade, organic actual chocolate in the cake itself, with more chocolate grated over the top, by hand.  I am making myself hungry.  In short, people can treat themselves to something special here.

- The experience of eating here is a WHOLE experience.  People eat out, for the most part, as an occasional and special treat.  We make sure the space is fun, quirky, clean, interesting for people who come... there is good music playing, a variety of seating, and the crew are jolly nice.  It's worth paying for.

Photo by Mike Daish
- There are extras.  Art, crafts, events, doodle books, board games, a preloved clothes shop, a community noticeboard and leaflet point, a toybox, frequent entertainment, a piano, books to read whilst you are here and books to take away by donation.  Your soup has a heart on it. Tea in quirky pots, coffee in insulated cafetieres (so your coffee stays warm whilst you peruse the art).  When you pay for a meal here, you get far more for your money than a plate of food or tea and cake.

- People can stay as long as they wish.  They can have meetings, discussions, groups, spread out on a large table and do brainstorms or drawings, use Wifi - many freelancers come and work in the space every day.

- We have a reach far beyond our four walls.  People can and do engage with us from all over the world.  You can feel a part of our community even if you visit once a year, through staying in touch on social media, through our mailing list, blog and website.  

Excellent value.  Not 'cheap'.  There's a difference.  

So, if you're an artist, you may be wondering what on earth this has to do with you.

I believe it's the same theory.

Offer good value without being cheap.

Communicate your value, add something extra, make your customers realise how special your work is.  How special THEY are to you, as well!

Handmade art and craft, or live music and performance, or any first-hand art experience is something of the highest value of all.  Human connection.  The most precious of all things.

The important thing is to make sure that's the experience your customer is getting, and that they know that is what they are getting.

'African Ancestral Call'
Copyright Kwame Bakoji
Example. Bik and I bought an original painting, 'Ancestral Voices' by Kwame Bakoji a few years back.  It hangs in our
living room, a unique and lovely object in itself.

Here is one with a similar theme and style - and it is for sale, if you click it you can find out more (:

We bought more than a painting.  

We bought things money can't really buy..... but the painting is soaked with them and fills our living room with.....

- the experience and flavour of another culture.
- another person's life experience and story.
- the memory of the lovely opening night for the exhibition.
- the reminder of Kwame's amazing smile and hearty laugh, he is just one of the smilest, happiest people I have ever met.
- continued contact with the artist as a friend and musician.
- the feeling of supporting a fellow artist.

Kwame in his studio
So, here comes the point of all this....................

My experience has been that I've always sold more art for a better price, to people I have met or connected with in some way.

I've sold more art when I've told it's story and mine in a good artist's statement.  When I've put a photo of myself painting next to the painting for sale.  When I've shared my process, shown work as it's being made, step by step.  When I've taken the time and trouble to engage properly with my audience and remembered they are not just buying a physical object from me.  That a painting is not just another piece of decor for their house, to go with the sofa (though it may, of course, go with the sofa!!).  

They are paying for a connection, for something deep and real and true.

They are taking part in a profound, sacred exchange.  Their money (it's just a measure of energy, n'est-ce pas?) supports me as an artist, my art enriches their lives.  Both of us are enriched.  A circle of giving.

Just like The Art House.  Our community support us, we support them, it's a symbiosis.   A natural thing.  Organic, just like the cake.

I sell more work (and we get more customers!) when I remember this meaningful exchange, beyond commerce, beyond commercialism.

When you sell a unique piece of art, or perform, or sell a CD, or a book of poems, you are giving deeply of yourself.  If you can get this across to your audience, you can charge what you are worth and make a living from what you love.

It may (will) take a little longer.

It will certainly take a lot more time and energy from you, especially to start with.

It will be SO much more fulfilling than slapping a cheap price tag on something to sell it quickly to somebody who doesn't really appreciate it.  You will feel supported, clean and blessed.

Take some time now to examine the value of your work.

Let go of your own need, any sense of entitlement or desire to make money.  That isn't why people will buy from you.  Look at what you will be giving somebody in exchange for paying you for your art.

Sit down now for a bit and write down all the things somebody gets when they pay for your art.  Feel free to share it in the comments section, or on your own blog, or with me on Facebook.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Blooming Creatives - do what you love, earn what you need

Want support with selling your art?

My 'Blooming Creatives' business program starts in July 2013.  This will be a group, limited to around 30 people, working together with me in an online group (with the option to meet up at The Art House).

We will be going through the stages of growing a creative business.  The programme lasts 3 months, with a bonus month at the end to catch up and move ahead!    

To apply and get your name on the pre-registration list for this, please fill in your details on the form below.  Fill out my online form to apply, I will notify you when the start date is set and let you know payment options for this programme.


If you are still in the early stages and unsure Blooming Creatives is for you, try my eCourse 'Follow the Butterflies' which takes you on an 8 week journey to pursue your creative dreams.

The next group journey starts on 1 June and you can find out all about it here.
* (the Office for National Statistics in 2008 reported 22,000 new hospitality businesses, but 22,000 also folded in that year - not all the same ones, obviously!). The failure rate is quoted as high as one third within the first year, although the myth of the 90% failure rate makes it seem even more risky to open a cafe than it actually is!  

Did you like this post? Then please comment below and share it along!   Sharing and connection are so delicious.   Don't forget to check out my free goodies to help you with your creative journey.  You can also link up with me on Facebook and Twitter.   If you liked this post, please join my mailing list, hunny bunny! Gosh, it's so easy.

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