I recently got a chance to catch up with Emma Lang, the creator of SOTA Marketplace, an online gallery for affordable art.

Aside from selling my work through my own website shop, I also partner with a few online galleries. After recently attending a webinar hosted by The Curator’s Salon‘s Gita Joshi and Emma Lang from SOTA Marketplace, I was intrigued to find out more about the business. I am pleased to announce that, shortly afterwards, I joined Emma’s roster of artists, on sotamarketplace.co.

My interview with Emma

What’s your earliest art memory?

It’s a good question! I suffer from dissociative anxiety disorder and PTSD which means my earliest memories come from my late teens/ early twenties. So, my first real memories of art come from sixth form and my amazing teachers. Being an artist helped me to cope with so much trauma, and helped me to understand who I was and what I liked doing.

You’re described as an artist, curator and entrepreneur – I’d love to hear about your art. Did you study art?

I did art A-Level and was on my way to studying art at University until several professional artists I knew advised me not to. They advised me to study a subject that would help me get a ‘normal job’ which could then financially support my art career as the art world is so competitive. I took their advice onboard and continued to create artworks in my free time. It wasn’t until I built up a body of work which I wanted to sell, that I realised there was no trusted, accessible platform for artists to sell their work other than Etsy. Hence, the idea of SOTA was born! I also realised how crazy it is that art isn’t a career path that is supported by mainstream society. I wanted to change this.   

Can you talk about your early career and what led you to set up an online gallery? 

I worked for a business development community for three years. This involved working with tech start-ups to accelerate their businesses, introduce partnerships and investors. Working with so many different companies and business leaders gave me incredible foundations to start and grow my own business.

What does SOTA stand for?

State Of The Art!

One of your mission statements is to only offer affordable artwork. What is the price range of art on the site and can you talk a bit about your decision to put a ceiling on the prices?

We sell works between £10-£1000 because we are on a mission to redefine ‘affordable art.’ Many well-known companies claim to sell affordable art, however, if you walk around their fairs or search through their websites, the average price tends to sit around £3000. This is not affordable for a typical household. So, SOTA caps the price limit at £1000 to re-claim the affordable art space and to encourage a new generation of art buyers. The £1000 mark is significant as I tend to find there is a large jump from £900 artworks to £1500 artworks.

SOTA’s purpose is to democratise the arts by providing a fair and trustworthy platform for artists to sell their work and by selling genuinely affordable art.

What mediums can artists sell, using SOTA marketplace?

Our current categories of artworks include paintings; prints; original prints; textiles; ceramics; photography; sculpture; drawings; illustrations; collages; and mixed media. However, if there is a category that we don’t have, we love creating new collections to accommodate artists’ works!

How many artists do you have on the site? 

We are currently around the 350 mark which is fantastic. We get sign-ups every day from artists around the world which is brilliant. SOTA aims to become the go-to global, ethical directory for genuinely affordable art. The more artists the merrier as this allows for a wider pool of customers and attracts more opportunities for our artists.

How does the site work, what happens if someone purchases through the website?

When a piece is ordered, artists receive an email notifying them of the order. Artists are prompted to accept the order and input delivery details once the order is fulfilled. All delivery information is then sent to the customer. Once the order has been received, customers can submit reviews and feedback to the artist via their SOTA profile. It takes around 3 working days for payment to come through via Shopify Payments.

I read that part of your business is to offer art consultancy. Is that with business or individuals? Tell me how that works?

We work across a variety of art projects with businesses and individuals. SOTA works with office design and build firms on corporate projects, interior designers on corporate and private client projects, hotels, art galleries and many more. We offer bespoke art curation and procurement services to our clients all whilst accelerating our artists’ careers.

Do you have a typical working day?

I do indeed! Typically, when I have no meetings, I get up at 8:45pm as I am annoyingly one of those people who need 8-10 hours sleep (which never happens). I work until 1:30pm and run to the gym for a 25 minute cross-training session. I get back for lunch and usually work until 7pm. I might work later if I am not meeting up with friends. I like to plan meetings on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays if possible so I know that Mondays and Fridays are free for solid work at my desk. Although I am usually running around London pitching for consulting projects, meeting with potential partners and selling artwork!

I’m noticing a growing network of women entrepreneurs in the art world. Have you had a big support network around you building the business?

I was lucky to build an incredible network at my previous job which has opened so many doors for me. I also advise another business network and training community solely focussed on diversifying the entrepreneurial landscape. This has been incredible and I have met so many talented businesswomen and men. I would say that building and maintaining a network is much harder than it looks, but the fellow female entrepreneurs that I have met in the art world have been incredibly supportive.

What is your ambition for the business?

To become the global directory for affordable art, whilst empowering artists across the globe. I aim to completely flip the antiquated art world on its head and make buying art as common as buying furniture or plants or clothes.

Artists generally work as solopreneurs, wearing many business hats as well as creating art. What advice would you give to women thinking of
starting a business, whether as an artist or otherwise? 

Back yourself. Be open to learn, follow the money and ask for help when you need it!

Have you read any inspiration books that have been pivotal in your business? 

Yes definitely. A book I would recommend to anyone is ‘How To Own The World’ by Andrew Craig. I don’t know why schools don’t teach you about money or how the capitalist world works, but this book was the best starter to understanding finance. You need to have a basis of financial literacy to run a business, whether you are an artist or business owner, so this book is incredible for learning the basics e.g. how interest rates work.

Do you have a favourite artist, from any time, living or dead?

That is such a TOUGH question! The first person who ever spoke to me with their art was Grayson Perry. It was the first time I felt seen by an artist. Grayson has always been proud to be disruptive and challenge traditional art stereotypes. It’s a shame that most of the artists I was first exposed to were white men. When I educated myself more about the industry, I found a lot of incredible female artists. In particular, I studied Lubaina Himid in depth at University, as I was (and still am) completely obsessed with her artworks and installations.

A big thank you to Emma for giving me her time. I found it really interesting to find out more her and about SOTA Marketplace. Do hop over to the SOTA Marketplace site to browse through the artwork, and also consider following the social media pages on Instagram @sota_marketplace and Facebook @stateoftheartmarketplace.

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