Written by: Gary M. Kenny, CC2K Comics Editor
I didn’t realize when I asked the question: “what is Redbubble?” How loaded of a question it was, especially at the New York Comic Con. Being just a company is one thing, but “Redbubble is a community of more then 220,000 artists who have uploaded a combined 9,000,000 works of art.” Their mission: “to create a global platform for artists and designers to sell their work more easily and more often.”
Again, what is RedBubble? Like a said before it’s a loaded question, but let’s break it down. First, RB is an illustration distribution company built around a retail website. They started in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia and was founded by artists for artists. The company hasn’t changed their goals as much as they globally expended. At the NYCC, I had the pleasure to speak with RedBubble’s own Peter Tomassi. I asked Peter: “What is the mission or rather the role of RedBubble?”
Peter began with how RedBubble’s main “role” is to act as a facilitator for the artist. “To help them get their work printed on over 60 different products.” Products such as Iphone cases (4&5), t-shirts (American Apparel standard), stickers, all the way to canvas prints. RedBubble does all the hard labor. If the artist sells a print, RB facilitates the shipping and handling of the item to the seller. The artist gets a percentage of the proceeds, which they determine with RedBubble before the site offers the item. “They (artist) set up a margin as they upload the image (artwork). They can determine if they want to sell a $20 t-shirt, a $25 t-shirt, all the way up to a $35 t-shirt, all depending what the market will bare.”
Let’s break this down. If you are an artist, photographer, etc. You set up an account on RedBubble.com , you then upload an image (photograph) that would either make a cool shirt or an awesome poster. You set the price of said image, RedBubble on their end handles all the labor. If the work sells you and RB split (by percentage) the proceeds. Not a bad deal right?
But why couldn’t the “artist” just do this themselves? Peter states that ” We maintain the community. We encourage the artist to submit new designs.” RedBubble isn’t just a housing website but it’s a place to promote, get encouraged, and build within a sense of community. Most corporations lack that sense, for RB to keep the community in their mission statement is a big deal. “We have over 5.5 million visitors a month and a huge international presence.”
Talking with Peter, I expressed how cool one of the shirts they had on display were. Holding the fabric in my hands, I felt the quality of the shirt. It was superior to what I was expecting. When I flipped the label I saw it was American Apparel. One of the softest, high calibre clothing companies. I asked Peter about RB products and their quality. “The main criteria (of RB) is that we want our products to really honor the art, so the artists will feel good about it. Obviously we are always thinking of new products for the artist to sell their prints on as we find them.” One really cool new idea they have are skateboard decks (though only a prototype at the moment). “We tend to have a new product every month or two. You can print on anything these days, mugs to mouse pads, our artists want to have quality material that expresses the art.” Hence why American Apparel was their t-shirt company. It’s that old saying “you get out of it what you put into it.” If i’m giving my soul to my art, I need a quality canvas. RB understands that. “We tell everyone to put their best work onto the site, the best quality work tends to get rewarded in lots of different ways. Usually an artist’s best work gets noticed by google based on comments. If it’s really good RB will put and promote the art on their homepage.”
“As we progressed we aim for our company to have a zero carbon footprint. Our booth at the con is all cardboard and recyclable. Some fans are taking some of the booth home with them. We sized parts of our station so you could fit record albums in them. If you look around the con, most of the boots are made of metal and glass and will be going into landfills in the next week. We made sure that we wouldn’t be. We try to have the same philosophy with the shipping and the products we use.” Being green isn’t just amazing for the world, it’s a belief. RedBubble is a great example on how you can expand and grow while always keeping your principles.
To further stay within the community, RedBubble hosts “artist meet ups.” They invite the best sellers or up and comers within different parts of the world. For instance, the top 10 New York RB artists will be invited to meet up. At this conference each artist will be shown their work on various different protypes (skate deck, Ipad case, etc). If the artist gets excited about it, they’ll support the new product and then there is a good chance that product will start being made at RedBubble.
To answer my load question “What is RedBubble?” I believe I can answer it with this statement. RedBubble is a green company that’s run by artists for artists. RedBubble is what the community makes it. If you want to succeed within RedBubble, then RB wants you to succeed. It started as an amazing little company from Australia and became a global sensation that never lost its roots. Now that i’ve signed up, wait till the RB community gets a load of me.
Please take a second and check out the site and all the great works of art.
Also listen to this quick clip of Peter talking about copywrite problems and stealing within RedBubble.
Here is a small list of the cool artists RedBubble promotes:
CHICAGO, UNITED STATES
SAN FRANCISCO, UNITED STATES
Gary is a husband, father, fireman, comic reader, gamer, body builder, and rocker. He also is a co-owner of a bakery in upstate NY. He likes to tell everyone his favorite band is the Beatles, when his actual favorite band is the Alkaline Trio.