Gathered brings personality to buying art online.
Elizabeth Kairys Allspaw
Even as art becomes more accessible online, the gap grows between people who can afford to buy and those who pin feverishly to their “Someday” Pinterest board. To help bridge the two, Elizabeth Kairys Allspaw founded Gathered.com, a site that aims to connect artists with art lovers at an affordable price. Elizabeth curates the entire site, choosing artists who sell one-of-a-kind works, not prints. Prices range from $60 to $5400 (for a 40 by 60” watercolor), though most works fall under $1000. The Gathered shop currently hosts eleven artists whose talents range from illustration to watercolor, collage to predetermined systems. Dave Eggers’ selection includes a naked man in a lake (ink on paper), part of a series: “Lost Panels From a Weekly Cartoon Never Seriously Attempted.” Many of Svetlana Rabey’s watercolors resemble giant dripping ice cream scoops, while Helen Booth’s snowy paintings are inspired by the winter light in Wales. Elizabeth trusts her instincts when it comes to selecting the right artists for Gathered. “If I want this piece for myself, I’ll put it on the site,” she says. “It’s that simple.” Basing the site on her own tastes results in a smaller selection. Elizabeth recognizes that might mean a narrower audience, but she thinks that’s the draw of Gathered. “I’m really trying to stick to the advantages of a highly curated experience,” she says. “I think that goes hand in hand with having a small group.”
Elizabeth sees the site as an extension of herself both artistically and charitably. When Elizabeth left her world of art directing and design in order to pursue entrepreneurship, she thought hard about the ideal direction for her new company. Curating art was front and center, but “it felt kind of empty and soulless in a way to just be selling art online and making a profit,” Elizabeth says. “Something was missing, and I really wanted it to feel more meaningful.” She created the charitable component of Gathered to include an element of generosity in her business. A percentage of each Gathered sale goes to an arts-related non-profit organization, depending on the collector’s preference. In addition to doing her own research, Elizabeth asks Gathered artists if they feel passionate about a particular non-profit. Materials for the Arts, CUE Art Foundation and Chashama all came recommended by artists.
Besides benefitting the larger creative community, buying art becomes more than a transaction when artists and collectors feel connected. Elizabeth facilitates camaraderie by asking each artist to include a note to the collector when they send off a piece. When Elizabeth was posting new work by Helen Booth, she couldn’t resist buying one of the paintings for herself. The art arrived with a letter, pictures of Helen’s studio, and a photo of Helen holding the package on the beach in Wales. It’s that kind of tender personality that Elizabeth wants to instill throughout Gathered. “That’s what really gets me excited,” she says. “This piece is one-of-a-kind. The passion and personal experience which the artist puts into each piece gets transferred to the collector, who gets to live with it and love it forever.” Gathered’s blog also features studio tours and notes on Elizabeth’s inspiration so collectors can learn more about each artists’ process online. Her business may rely on technology, but the quality Elizabeth hopes to convey is an authentic humanness. Gathered isn’t just art online, it’s a place where artists and collectors find home.