The cafes of Capitol Hill are helping to fuel an art-focused Seattle ecommerce start-up. Sarah Brooks and Stella Lorenzo have created Artsyo, an online marketplace for local art that launched early this year, in the same cafes where many of the works you can find on the site hang.
At less than a year old, Artsyo already features 300 local artists and 1,200 pieces. Brooks says they primarily recruit for the site by contacting the artists who take part in art walks around Seattle.
“The art walks are the first filter, but [Artsyo] is open,” says Brooks. “If you are an artist, you can upload work.” Brooks and Lorenzo recruit, vet new artists and artwork, and maintain the site in cafes around Capitol Hill – the 12th Avenue Stumptown was mentioned as a favorite. Both founders said that if they’re able, they’d like to keep Artsyo on the Hill when it’s time to get an office.
Brooks says that the idea for Artsyo came to her when she first moved to Seattle. “[An online local art marketplace] was something that I was looking for when I moved here five years ago,” says Brooks. “I was going to set aside some money and get some art for my apartment. I was working a lot and I didn’t have time to see all the galleries and art things. I wanted to be able to see it all in one place!”
Brooks brought the idea to Lorenzo two years ago during a summer day on Lake Washington. Lorenzo says what hooked her on the idea was the idea of connecting people to artists in their area. “I think local art should be about connecting people, especially people in the local area that aren’t comfortable looking for art in venues on Capitol Hill,” says Lorenzo. ”They’d come down, but they don’t know where to look. If I’m not an art connoisseur, I can find things that catch my eye and meet up with the artist.”
Artsyo takes commission on pieces that sell through the site that aren’t otherwise represented. “We want to show all the pieces”, says Brooks, “but we won’t take commission on pieces where the commission is owed already to galleries or coffee shops where pieces might be showing.” Lorenzo likened what they’re doing to the Craigslist financial model. “Primarily [Artsyo is] about getting people connected with artists and venues that are showing, trying to get people out to see stuff”, says Lorenzo. “Craigslist makes all the money on job listings, and the rest of [the site] is run for free. I want to make sure that the big part of [Artsyo] is connecting people to artists.”
Brooks and Lorenzo also have plans to be able to provide “last mile” services for people purchasing artwork through Artsyo. The idea is to partner with frame shops and companies that do art moving and installing so an Artsyo customers can have the option of having their purchases delivered to their door and even installed. “For people who don’t [buy art] often, it can be an unapproachable thing, says Lorenzo, “We want to lower the bar for that – if they see something, they can have it in their house right now.”
Artsyo just posted the ten finalists in their “Saddest Wall in Seattle” contest. Hop on over to the Artsyo blog to vote for the saddest wall of them all – the entry with the most votes by December 20th gets an original piece of art from the Artsyo marketplace, and Artsyo will pick up the tab.
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