Owning an original piece of art used to be something only the very wealthy could do, "but now it's available to anyone who would like to put something beautiful in their homes," said Kerri Blackman, an Oregon City artist.
The rise of the internet has allowed artists to get national exposure in venues like UGallery, a curated online gallery that Blackman began working with three years ago.
Now, Crate and Barrel, a retailer selling everything from indoor and outdoor furniture to kitchen utensils, has partnered with UGallery to offer customers original art at affordable prices.
Blackman was chosen to be one of the featured artists, she said, because her artwork seemed to be a good fit with the company's offerings.
"It's the first time, I am told, that Crate and Barrel has offered handmade things as a part of their inventory," Blackman said.
She added, "I'm excited because, of course, it gives me greater visibility. I think it's really an honor to be trusted to represent a name that is associated with quality like Crate and Barrel."
At any given time, Blackman has about 30 paintings of various sizes available on the UGallery website, with prices starting at $350.
Exploding with color, the pieces sometimes reflect the scenery of the Pacific Northwest.
"I love abstract art, and I usually start my paintings as abstracts. I especially love the movement of gestural abstract painting," Blackman said. "But sometimes an image will present itself, and sometimes I like to chase that."
Art for everyone
The partnership between UGallery and Crate and Barrel is strictly an online venture at the moment, said Alex Farkas, UGallery's co-founder and gallery director, although, some of the artwork will be featured in an upcoming Crate and Barrel catalog later this year.
"From Day One, our mission has been to support emerging artists while spreading the joy of living with original art. When
we are able to connect passionate artists with new art buyers, everyone wins," Farkas said.
"We recruit artists we see online and in physical shows that we think are unique and viable on our platform," he said, adding that the gallery receives many applications each week. "Of those, we select about 5 percent to exhibit on the site. Ultimately, we only show artists we feel strongly about."
The advantages to artists and UGallery are mutual.
"We see our relationships with artists as equal partnerships; when artists succeed, we succeed as well," Farkas said.
"This partnership is a fantastic opportunity to reach a large audience of interested art buyers, many of whom have never considered original artwork to be an accessible purchase. We're thrilled to be opening up access to original art."
Farkas described Crate and Barrel as a great partner, noting that the company understands "the energy inherent to an original work of art."
He added, "For Crate and Barrel, this is an opportunity to offer their customers something truly unique and one-of-a-kind. To highlight the point, this is the first time in Crate and Barrel's 65 years in business to sell one-of-a-kind goods."
Farkas said that when he and his team started discussing artists to include in the partnership, Blackman was one of the first people to come to mind.
"It's been thrilling to see her painting evolve over that time," he said. "Her style is a unique reflection of the Pacific Northwest, and she imbues her work with a wonderful sense of light and the joy of nature."
To see Kerri Blackman's artwork for Crate and Barrel, visit crateandbarrel.com, then click on Décor, then Original Art.
Her artwork may also be seen at ugallery.com.