Creating a bread & Butter line

Creating a bread & Butter line

As an artist you often need to create a bread and butter line, or in broader terms, a line of something that sells quickly and easily and more importantly, often. This is your product that you can re-produce in the same manner as you need to be fast, consistent, productive and able to keep up with the demand.


Artists at the classes I teach often say that they don’t want to sell out or become commercial, they don’t want to paint or sculpt décor work, art that goes with the new curtains or little butter dishes with Kiwiana designs, but in all reality especially in smaller countries like New Zealand not many artists make it to the top of their profession and they will find it hard to live off the earnings of just their art alone. His doesn’t mean your bread and butter line shouldn’t be in the same form but generally it won’t be that deep and meaningful large canvas or sculpture that you laboured over, forgetting time and all else as you lovingly created it.


Some artists will make little simple canvases of simple subjects that may be nothing like their usual work, or paintings on things like bark or stones, and let’s not forget the simple butter dishes for the sculptor, selling them under an assumed name at times so as to not be confused with their more serious work they are also doing.


For my original bread and butter line, I created a range of merchandise, it has its ups and downs, some products sell like hot cakes while others have either sold slowly or occasionally stopped all together, not being a popular choice after all. It’s been a game of trial and error learning what works and what the market will be interested in with a lot of time spent on market research and development of the products so they are affordable and not too time consuming to produce.


There’s no simple answer to creating a range of merchandise, you do need to see what your market wants, like for me, the Boozehag artwork which is targeted at women in the age group of 20 to 50 often means that there are those who cannot afford a painting or want something on the wall but would happily buy a t-shirt or mug and often come back for more for their friends birthdays etc.


Over the years I have created different t-shirt designs, my mugs have changed, there were wine glasses that turned out to be too time consuming due to needing to be hand-painted as part of their appeal, they were also not dish-washer proof which in this day and age made them not quite so saleable. The range includes perpetual calendars, the ones where you can start them at anytime of the year, a range of tea-towels and aprons both for artists and anti-domestic goddesses! Key-rings have always been popular and so have the greeting cards, but my top sellers have always been the hand-painted coasters on Italian ceramic tiles and the coffee mugs. Sadly the green ware I use for both these items is no longer available so there goes my most popular merchandise lines until I can source some suitable replacements.


The key things to make sure of with your items are

  • That they’re something people want.
  • Affordability of producing them so you can make enough profit on sales.
  • Availability of stock to create and to sell.
  • Distribution, either on the right sites on the internet or in enough s of the right kind so you can target your buying public. Sites like and are good sites to work with for small fun items. There are many more so do your research.


Good luck with finding what works for you and happy selling! I’m off to work on some new ideas I have to create a bread and butter line for my latest project. I’ll keep you posted.

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Posted: Sunday 13 June 2010