Art is not just for hanging on your wall.
Online marketplace Society6 launched a line of area rugs this month — the newest addition to the Web site’s growing collection of home goods.
In 2009, Justin Cooper, Lucas Tirigall-Caste and Justin Wills created Society6 to help artists promote their work and make money. The three co-founders were inspired to create the site after Wills’s wife, an artist, was unable to come up with the funds to attend an art show. Their site lets users upload their work and have it printed on cellphone cases, poster-sized wall prints, mugs and more. The marketplace, which is based in San Francisco, has nearly 100,000 registered artists around the world.
As the Society6’s base of artists and customers has grown, so has its list of available products. Last month, it added shower curtains. Tou can choose to adorn your shower with anything from a simple chevron pattern to a panoramic view of the New York skyline.
With the addition of rugs, you can have the same custom art underfoot. The rugs are made with woven polyester and come in three sizes: 2-by-3, 3-by-5 and 4-by-6 ($28-$79).
We wanted to know more about the story behind Society6, so we asked spokesman Rory Wood to tell us more. Here’s an edited excerpt.
What was the inspiration behind Society6?
We want to help artists out there, to help them succeed. The founders, they saw a lack of opportunities and resources for creative people and artists to promote themselves and get themselves out there. . . . As entrepreneurs that were passionate in their own right, they built a platform for artists to rise.
Tell me about the Society6 business model. How does it work?
We wanted to make signing up is as easy as it is to make a sale. You hit the register link, drop in your name and e-mail address and you’re a member. At this point, we don’t know if you’re an artist or art enthusiast. You can choose to post your work for sale, and by default, it becomes an art print. We sell that original work as print, on stretched canvas or paper.
When an order is placed, we fulfill it on the manufacturing floor. We package it and ship it and we address customer concerns and questions. We deal with the pain and process. When an artist’s work is purchased, they get a portion from the sale and can see all the transactions online.
Can anyone submit work? Is there any control over which artists can post their work?
We do our best not to step in a whole lot. Art is a very subjective. It’s a creative forum. We don’t want to get to the point of censoring, but we do automate our curation process the best we can. We decide what is being predominantly featured. A lot of it comes down to what our community is telling us. They tell us what the coolest new things are, and also what people are buying.
We have artists that have been so passionate since we launched in 2009. They collaborate and support one another. In every new blog post or piece of work, comments can be made, and you can see artists cheering each other on and pushing each other. They also promote the work they like the most.
How do you decide on the products you sell?
We’re always thinking about . . . the next product we want to put ourselves behind. What artists want is a big driver. We also study the marketplace. We don’t want to just produce a product no one will want to buy. Lots of artists know what their followers and fans will be interested in.
What makes Society6 stand out from other online marketplaces?
There is a lot of on-demand services out there for you to be able to upload your work and sell it. And a lot of those places cater to the consumer. You can upload photos of your dogs. You’re interested in showing off your own work by creating something with that photo of your dogs. But from the very beginning, [Society6] was always about the artist. We obviously think about the customer, but we always put the artists’s glasses on first when we make these decisions. What does the artist need to be successful? How can we design the site and create the products, and how can this be leveraged by the artists? It’s a cool and rewarding way to do business. We’re only successful when our artists are successful.
Why did you decide to start producing shower curtains?
We saw an amazing opportunity to extend our home decor offerings. It’s been a focus for us over the last few months. When we launched throw pillows, we saw sales grow. We saw what artists liked, the excitement and championing for them that they do. We took that and ran with it. Wall art is already a part of home decor, so it’s part of our staple product line. Getting art and being able to display it in a new, custom way in your home was a cool opportunity we saw.
What about area rugs?
It always seemed like a natural next step. We first had wall clocks, then shower curtains and now rugs. We are always thinking about where can you bring art into your life, and also about what we can manufacture with the quality of prints the artists upload to Society6. It’s supposed to be easy for artists to showcase their work on every available product we make now. If the artist is selling laptop skins, then we made rugs automatically available.
What’s in your home from Society6? Do you have a favorite item?
My house looks like a Society6 bomb went off in it. This is a hard question. It’s like asking to pick your favorite child. If it doesn’t pass muster for us, it doesn’t go through. It’s stuff that has to past muster with us. One thing that was really impressive to me was the art prints. But I also have a special place in my heart for throw pillows. Our couch is littered with them. I have some floor space that I’m looking to fill with a rug. And I wish I had more bathrooms, but l’ll have to rotate through a new shower curtain every once in a while. And I don’t drink enough coffee to justify the amount of Society6 mugs I have.