Ghost Store

Instead of a ghost story, my latest creation is a ghost store, actually three of them.   I have created my own invisible mall to wander through. Here is the sign that would hang outside, if this were a ghost store in a virtual reality environment.

storefront sign 1 A ghost store sounds spooky, a little lonely. “Build it and they will come”—Not true. I could wander in there forever by myself because attracting customers in the age of Print-on- Demand still takes work. You still have to build contacts, and some of that work has to happen in person. Social media can widen the pool but it’s not without drawbacks. In our bid for the attention of strangers, we risk losing control over images and words because they can be re-posted and re-tweeted in different, sometimes troubling, contexts. The kindness of strangers is not always kind.

Then why resort to a ghost store to sell my artwork? I LIKE the concept of a ghost store. And I enjoy working with a print-on-demand platform like Redbubble.

RB Portfolio1

It originated in Australia in 2006. Much of the art could be called pop surrealism, lowbrow, or new brow. It is strong on graphic design and millennial pop culture cues. There are skulls and ghouls and fairies, some goth and some anime, whimsy and popsicle colors. Some of my art fits here. It often has a satirical edge, but I can see its decorative quality. With the touch of a button, I can put an image of mine on tote bags and smart phone cases and scarves and leggings.

scarf 2screen shot 4scarf 1

Here are some examples of  “trial” purchases I made to test for quality:


Creating digital versions brings me instant gratification that doesn’t cost me anything other than my time and absolute control over the images. Print-on-demand is a way to make multiples, but it is not like fine-art printmaking. First, these multiples are printed by remote control by people who choose how they want to see the art displayed and how much they want to pay. The artist shares creative rights with the viewer to some extent. Second, and regardless of the purchaser’s choice, print-on-demand lacks the handmade appeal of original work. There’s an unavoidable quality of sameness, even if a POD site allows me to see how an image looks in different colors and arrangements, at different scales.

handmade booksPOD books

A pang of regret hits every time I compare a handmade book to a Lulu print job. But when I think about how many hours it takes me to make a handmade book, and how little I can charge for those hours of labor, I realize that POD is one way to connect with people who like to spend a little money on original art but don’t want to make big investments. You may get less, but you also take less of a risk. Regardless, the artist still has to get out there and shake hands. So—that comes next.

In the meantime: here are my three “ghost stores”:




SCreen shot 3

About Lillian-Trettin

I grew up in the Appalachian "Bible Belt" of East Tennessee in the southern United States, listening to banjo music and gospel lyrics as well as the Beatles. As a kid, I was curious about religious rituals like speaking in tongues and snake handling but resistant to the fundamentalist thinking they involved. Flannery O'Connor's tales of religious fanatics, con men, bigots, and the spiritually bereft or ambivalent resonate for me. Despite having traveled widely and lived in other places, I am (as so many Southerners claim to be) permanently "South haunted." I returned to making art full time in 2011, following a career as a teacher, researcher, and consultant and after raising two sons. I’m convinced the delay enriched rather than impeded my growth as an artist.
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