An up-close and personal interview with one of Toronto’s emerging entrepreneurs.
Last month I was very lucky to grab a coffee with Dmitri Tcherbadji of the start-up ArtSocket. He sat down with me over a coffee and spilled his guts about his amazing e-commerce project and told me all about what motivates him and how he got started.
ArtSocket is “a boutique art gallery featuring prints by a select group of artists and photographers. All of the images in the collection are professionally curated and arranged thematically into “exhibitions”. Every drawing or photograph is supplemented with a short story about it”.
You can browse through exhibitions of art, find your favourite, pick, print and have them delivered right to your door! This can all be done through the easy-to-use site. What really got me about the site was it’s ease of use, and how it embodied the very thing that it promised to do: create an accessible online space to art. It was, in essence, art at my fingertips.
Talking to Dmitri about ArtSocket has made me realize that the lack of art and push for the arts in our society has truly hurt us. Dmitri really made me think about the link between ethical living and art, as well as the impact that such type of forms of entertainment have on our lives and how we interact. Taking time away – from being in a situation that we can’t conquer, to having something akin to a writer’s block – can really help us to refocus and regroup, which exactly what I got from my brief and interesting conversation with this effervescent entrepreneur.
Needless to say, I left inspired and just had to share my experience. Below is a transcript of my conversation with Dmitri.
1. What made you decide to create ArtSocket?
There needed to be a place for art, and though there are a lot of websites out there that let you do it, like 500px, Flickr and such; they are all amazing, but I thought that there must be another way to do it without it being a photo dump.
2. What challenges did you face in terms of converting and integrating the different pieces of art, both digital and print into the interface?
In terms of arranging the art, you are making art out of art. You have to have a theme in your head; you have to imagine—if this person goes into this part of the website or the gallery, you want this person to feel a certain way.
You want the person to feel why you arranged the pictures this way. It’s a challenge to achieve that because it’s really hard to gauge your feelings on other people. For example, I will do an arrangement, and say ‘hey, it’s great, it makes sense to me”, but then I will have to go and ask some other people their thoughts.
3. Do you travel to different places to look art galleries to see if there are different things? Do you go to smaller ones, or do you look at big — is there rhyme or reason to what you do?
Basically I quit my day job and I’m thinking about just travelling around and visit galleries. If I see great art I will make sure to approach that person.
4. Do you have a team? Or is this just you? What is your process?
There is not much of a process, we’re not getting so many entries right now that we have to wait, which is great. I actually prefer to see somebody whose work is great and approach them in person. That is how I acquire much of what I have on the site.
5. Were you inspired by any specific galleries?
So, what I thought of for this website was just to go in the opposite direction from Amazon, because everyone wants to have a huge website, a multi-billion dollar company—which is great and it’s an amazing business idea, but it’s very hard to accomplish. But, one thing that’s kind of my direction is to make it have a personality, right? When the people go there they know what they want in mind; this is a website just for art. Which doesn’t mean that it’s better than anybody else, but what I mean is that if you go there and whether make a purchase or not, you know that everything in there took a lot of work. That gives it that personal touch.
6. What type of payment system do you have with the artists? Do they get a certain percentage cut?
I like to be as friendly with people as possible, so I’m always going to realize that business is all formalities. So basically, the only person I don’t get to sign a contract is myself; so if my photos are there and I know I’m not going to need the contract. But generally the first thing is: I will approach the person and be like, “you have great art work, and it would be amazing if you would like to submit something.” Or sometimes, people come up to me and say “I’d like to submit something.” I will then go through their art work – and I usually take the pictures and mock it up to what it looks like on the website. I will actually make the mock-up and send it to the artist and tell them that this is how it will look, and ask them what they think.
At that point, I’ve already picked the photos I think are going to go in the gallery. From there it’s the process of “is it going to work or not?” So, from there they either agree or they don’t. At that point, I have already asked them to review a contract that basically states that their art work still is exclusive and whatever they sell, they will get 75 per cent and basically I will ask their permission to use their art work to promote the website, ArtSocket.
7. What do you see next for this? Do you have anything you’re working on to improve the current interface or the process of receiving the artwork?
Basically, the way I see it right now is like a solid exhibit online. It’s a place to go and kind of be entertained in a certain way; it’s similar to going to an art gallery at your fingertips. It’s like a recipe for thinking beyond concrete terms.
8. How do you contend with legal issues when concerning the artwork? Does the artwork remain under the artist’s possession once they post it on your site?
I don’t agree with taking ownership; if you do this, this is your work that you did in your own time. I’m selling the right to print it and make money off it. I’m just kind of renting it.
Thanks to Dmitri and ArtSocket! If you want to be featured on our site, please get in touch with us at anita (@) devTO.ca.