Mike Schwed, owner of Genie Canvas, shared with Canopy Gallery exciting news about his innovative canvases and how this new technology supports artists. He can be directly reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
I grew up in the Hudson Valley of upstate NY and graduated from the State University of NY at Binghamton with a degree in Physics. After school, I lived in NYC, then Aspen and Nantucket with a wide variety of occupations – Bike messenger, movie crew and accounting, before settling down to jewelry making with my wife, Kim. Perhaps all this moving around motivated me to solve problems for people who move and ship things from place to place! I am now settled back in upstate NY, which, thankfully feels like home.
Please tell us about your training and how you transitioned to professional work.
I’ve always been mechanically inclined. I learned to work on cars with my father, did construction during summers in high school and college and worked for several years with a cabinet and furniture maker. I also joined my wife in her jewelry-making business on Nantucket for more than 10 years. Nice to finally put my Physics degree to some use!
Where do you derive your inspiration from?
I’ve watched my sister, Patty Baker, develop her online Art career over the years, starting out on Ebay back in the 90’s. I watched the excitement of bidding wars and all the ways selling art online is rewarding and, at times, thrilling. But I was also able to see the not so thrilling aspect of shipping artwork. The larger her piece, the more headaches in packaging, expense and risk of damage. When I reached a point in my life that I had time to find a way to help, I started working on what has become Genie Canvas.
What can you tell us about the ideas behind your work?
My sister told me that if I could find out how to ship large artwork safely and affordably, I’d make a LOT of people happy. My first few trials were very complicated affairs. They worked, but were not simple enough for the everyday person to use comfortably. As I moved through various prototypes, the framing got simpler and simpler – to the point that children can now put it together reliably. Over time, I’ve also discovered improvements to packaging. Canvases are shipped to artists with completely reusable tubes, padding and plastic sleeves, so shipping your finished piece requires no additional packaging. We even include a hanging wire with screws and a drywall hook.
How are your personal traditions alive in your work?
I’m a very pragmatic person. I don’t like unnecessary small talk. I’m trying to solve a problem, not sell something that people don’t need or want. I understand that if my product isn’t working for artists, it’s not working for me.
In what ways has your work been innovative and pioneering?
My patent-pending collapsible canvas helps artists sell to a much broader market. I believe the art market will change for the better as more patrons are introduced to art from greater distances without the fear and expense of moving pieces great distances.
What’s coming up for your company and how do you see your work evolving?
Genie Canvas was started with a shoestring budget, but has grown slowly and steadily over the past 3 years. I have been transitioning into prints and larger sizes (up to 8×9 feet). As more and more know it is available, more issues with transporting artwork come to light.
How do you see the art market and the art world changing?
I am hopeful that Genie Canvas can open up new markets for artists. It allows those who only sell locally to ship globally, as well as freeing many who limit their sizes due to shipping to paint larger. I am hopeful that fewer artists will lose sales due to shipping costs and re-stretching fees. A truly open international Art market benefits all.
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