I Try to Make Money with Mugs

I’m putting my art on products to expand my customer base.

But first, Ebenezer Emu has become my bestselling artwork ever. His portrait was made when my friend, Rebecca Lynch, of Thieving Otter Farm adopted an emu she found running loose near her property and adopted him (or her). I created the painting, and at Rebecca’s suggestion, embellished it in a way that has really appealed to people. He is now on metal prints, mugs, and greeting cards. The original is with Rebecca, and has been shown to Eb for his approval. Check out my Instagram to see that whole situation!

Also check out the products bearing Eb’s likeness:

Greeting card – Ebenezer Emu (operantartist.com)

Mug – Ebenezer Emu Mug with Color Inside (operantartist.com)

Metal Print – Ebenezer Emu (operantartist.com)

I’ve been arting full time since the fall of 2020 when I was laid off from my job as an animal shelter behavior director. Leaving that job brought enormous relief and made space for me to finally be a real live artist. (If you ever interact with people who work in animal sheltering, be kind. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. I’m not exaggerating.)

This is the beginning of my second year of having enough experience to just begin to collect data and see what works and what doesn’t. What I have learned is that the time right after the winter gift-giving holidays is slow for artists–at least for this one. Getting new commissions that time of year is like pulling teeth. Everyone is relieved that they don’t have to be buying gifts for a while, especially not high-end gifts like original art.

As it turns out, however, artists still have bills to pay after the holidays, so while our collectors can switch gears, we can’t stop hustling for cashola.

I started putting a few pieces of art on products for sale on my website a couple of years back, but didn’t really hustle that gig. I made some sales, but not a ton. In fact, I let it slide toward the end of 2022, but started getting requests as the holidays approached. A few items have had sticking power, namely the Ruth Bader Ginsburg items (Mug – Ruth’s Green Eyes Mug with Color Inside (operantartist.com) and Shirt – Notorious RBG Hoodie in a whole buncha colors and sizes! (operantartist.com) and Shirt – Notorious RBG Women’s short sleeve t-shirt (operantartist.com) The Bees tend to have lasting power, too. Shop (operantartist.com) for what is currently there.

So, I decided that this year it is time to really start pushing printed products. This has led to a couple of decisions. I will still do commissions, but my hustle will be on things I choose to paint that will translate well onto products. I’m going to start replacing items in my house with my own art-based products. I love doing commissions, so I don’t want to let that go, but I want to build a side of my business that will be an ongoing income stream and something to appeal to home-decor lovers. I can build up my offerings, and continue to sell those, while also making new art based on what moves me at the time. I’m currently doing a lot of stuff that is embellished with stencils and metallic additions which is really making me happy. They lend themselves to printing on products like mugs, cards, and shirts. I want to do some cushions and trays, too, in the future.

Going through this process will require some upgrading of my website so that it makes purchasing super easy for my clients, and supports the business side of things, too. I need to hire someone to work on SEO so that my website gets the attention it deserves.

I’ll keep you posted and let you know how things progress!

Onward and upward,


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