Molly Phoenix isn't the kind of artist who buys into the idea of starving and suffering: This glass artist likes paying bills through her art. Over the summer, Phoenix and several other local artists started the Tucson Banditas Art Brigade and Exchange (BABE) to help artists sell their work and, at the same time, create a community. They've organized their first Shop-A-Do to sell work on Saturdays, Dec. 6 and 20, behind the Surly Wench at 422 N. Hoff Ave. Check out the Banditas Web site for more information.
How many artists belong to Tucson Banditas?
We have eight now, but we feel like we just started. We began to organize over the summer. We are going to continue to ask people to join and tell people to join ... It's a great resource to tell more people about your work.
And it's only women?
We're not exclusive to females, but it just turned out that way, which is why we went with Banditas. But we figured any guy who wants to join up with us isn't going to mind being called a Banditas. If (he does mind), we're open to change. (Laughs.)
How does the group help other artists sell their work?
It started with that in mind after a couple of artists ran into each other at Bohemia, dropping things off or picking things up, and they were talking about where they were going next. It turned out they were all going to Phoenix, and they realized they should organize something so (the art-sales process) could be more streamlined. It is also difficult to know what shops your work would be appropriate in. I'm still new to this part of the country, so my approach has been to go to a town and walk around and show people my work. But shop owners aren't always thrilled about that. It's a lot easier when an established artist who has their work in a lot of different places and does wholesale says to you, "Hey, there's this fabulous shop in Santa Fe or Scottsdale who would love to have your work. You should get in touch with them." It brings you to the source instead of just having to wade through this whole sea of shops.
Do members have to be at a certain place in their work before they join?
I think if you're interested in being successful and playing a role in that ... we're not picky about what you're making, but we want you to be creating a quality product for your customers.
Do you have meetings?
We've been meeting twice a month right now. We have so much going on, and we've been doing shows together. Because we are all at the same show and helping each other, it is great to feel like you have co-workers now. It's so cool to feel camaraderie instead of feeling like you have to do everything on your own.
I imagine when you're an artist, it does get lonely.
I'll work 17-hour days in the studio, and I'll try to do that as long as I can. I work part-time at Feast on Speedway (Boulevard), and I'll go there, and I'm like, "Wow. That's right: There are humans out there." I think I've gotten a little better since I've been in the group. Now I have this group of women who call every once in a while to see if I'm still alive.
What other benefits have you experienced with the Banditas?
Sharing resources. We want to help artists find materials, exchange information and exchange (materials). One artist now gets all of my glass scraps, and when she is done, all of her scraps go to another mosaic artist. Before, they were just sitting in my studio. I'd recycle them eventually, but that was because I had no idea someone else could use them.
Are you worried about the downtown in economy?
Personally, I'm not giving any power to this economy thing. Once you start thinking, "People aren't buying my stuff," people stop buying my stuff. Everyday when I wake up, I say, "I am going to sell my work today. Someone is going to hire me to make something for them." I think there are artists who think they have to be emotional, starving, sad and lonely. I was there once, but it's so much more fabulous to not be. I'd rather be happy-go-lucky and always say, "I'm going sell some work today, and I'm not going to starve." That's a big thing for me, because I love to eat. It's not going to be ramen.