Artists look to online markets to sell work


Jabez Berniard

Jill Odom displays her orginal artwork and custom jewelery at an art market held at Bratz Yall in New Orleans, La. Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. During the pandemic, Odom left her job in the food industry and is now pursuring art full-time.

Jabez Berniard

A few months into the pandemic, Jill Odom let her responsible vendor card expire, a choice she said felt like burning a bra, dangerous but freeing.

Odom, a veteran in the service industry with over 30 years of experience as a bartender, said the current work climate for restaurant and bar employees isn’t safe or friendly. So when she was asked to return to work after the lockdown, she chose not to. Since quitting, Odom has immersed herself in the New Orleans’ art scene, where she works alongside other artists trying to balance their creative whims with their business needs.

“At 50 years old, I have put most of my life into that industry, and I don’t want to go back to it the way it is right now,” Odom said. “I like doing the fun stuff so much more.”

Odom moved to New Orleans from the Chicago area 16 years ago. She said she has embraced the lively culture and wants to incorporate its major themes into her work. She describes her art as spooky-like: fun, cute, and a little witchy.

At her home, Odom makes handcrafted voodoo dolls, costume accessories, original artwork, and custom jewelry. She relies on art markets around the city to network and find customers.

“The community here is strong and it sticks together,” Odom said. “Whether you’re at an art pop-up or a food pop-up or whatever, they’ll come out to support.”

Michelle Agosto has sold at local art markets for over ten years.

Agosto said she has seen a shift in the scene during the pandemic as more people search for a career in art.

“The markets are flooded with new sellers and so you really have to stand out,” Agosto said. “I try to stay original by doing my own funky, psychedelic thing.”

Having grown up in South Florida, Agosto said she is inspired by Caribbean culture. Her work features bright colors and flowers. She designs resin jewelry, fun headpieces, and original paintings, many of which feature crows in honor of her pet crow named Jude.

Both Odom and Agosto said they want to expand their businesses across digital platforms so that they can find new customers and continue to support themselves financially through their art.

Ellen Brenneman, an Indiana-based working artist, has built a following across multiple online sites. She sells nature-inspired art including prints, stickers, phone cases, and coffee mugs.

Brenneman said “the last couple of years have certainly been uncharted territory,” but she has still managed to bring in sales on Facebook and Etsy by remaining active. She said she utilizes tools that allow her to analyze her sites’ visits, sales, and other customer activity.

Brenneman said the best advice she can give to someone looking to pursue art full-time is to take advantage of the completely free platforms where they can promote and sell their work, such as Facebook Marketplace, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube.

Odom and Agosto have both created business accounts on Facebook called Raven Bone Creations and The Laughing Crow Studio, respectively. Throughout the day they post pictures of their most recent work and respond to questions and comments.

Odom said the Facebook account is the first step in her plan to build her customer base. She has said she eventually wants to transition to an e-commerce site like Etsy.

“I’m just gonna wait to see how it happens,” said Odom. “At this point, art is certainly a lot more enjoyable than the service industry.”

Similarly, Agosto said she is currently working on a website where she will sell her work under the brand The Laughing Crow Studio.

“This is what I do. This is what keeps me alive,” Agosto said. “I just want to continue to spread smiles, positive vibes, and appreciation for crows.”