Ever since I started Beatrice the Biologist in 2009, I've been trying to think what my deliverable was. I sketched out science toys, fiddled with science books for children, and mapped out an interactive website. While I was deciding what to do, I started blogging and posting science doodles and comics. It turns out, that's my product. (I honestly wasn't expecting that to be the case.)
As much as I love being on the interwebs, sharing my and others' work, talking about science, and making new connections with people that would have been otherwise impossible--I do still yearn for some tangible, real-life science art.
Indeed, images are great ambassadors for science. It can make science immediately accessible, engaging, and interesting. Most of the science imagery I love is found online and nowhere else. Can we see more of it in everyday life? How can science artists get their work into the homes and on the t-shirts of the people that love science?
How do these science artists package their work so fans can display it on their persons, at their desks, and on their walls?
There are two basic types of online stores for artists. On-demand print shops or personal marketplaces.
On-demand printers include Zazzle (which Maki uses), Redbubble (which Glendon uses), Cafe Press, and Printfection (which I use). They print your uploaded artwork onto t-shirts, mugs, bags, magnets, and posters when someone orders it. The benefit of these services is that it requires $0 up front (which very much appeals to me), and requires no work on your end to fulfill orders.
The other option is more self-driven, and the best example is Etsy. This is what Artologica uses to sell her cellular watercolors. The seller sets the prices and pays a very small fee to Etsy: 20 cents to list the item, and 3.5% of the sales. Sounds pretty good to me. Of course, there is no Zazzle distribution center to sell the wares, though. It's all you.
I've had a printfection shop for about 2 years. Occasionally people buy an Amoeba Hugs mug or Apathetic Dolphin t-shirt, but mostly, it's pretty deserted.
Just yesterday I took the plunge and opened an Etsy shop to sell signed prints. Because of the personal connection people know Etsy for--since you're dealing directly with the artist--it seems to be doing well so far (although it's very early still). I hope to think of more random science crafts to make (with all that free time I have) and sell them as well. While it's more work than Printfection or Cafe Press, it's a lot more rewarding. And I am really impressed with the user interface of the seller side of Etsy, the detailed stats of my store views, and the support they provide. I almost feel like I can actually do this.
What forms of science art do you see yourself buying? Are you a message t-shirt person, a fridge magnet person, a coffee mug person, or a poster person? Or, and this is fine, are you the type of person who loves science, and can't get enough of science art, but you don't want to display it in your off-the-internet existence?