We talk a lot about boxes, don’t we? Time after time we speak about being stuck in boxes and the need to step outside, to think outside of the box, to draw and paint outside of the box, to search for ideas that are definitely outside of the box — that figurative box being conventional wisdom, traditional practices, and all that’s comfortable to us. And, of course, Facebook is filled with boxes, those boxes usually being filled by cats with captions that “If I fits, I sits.”
I personally find boxes quite comforting. Another popular meme — one of my favorites — tells us that one thing about being an adult that we never talk about is how much time we spend debating with ourselves on whether or not to keep a cardboard box because “…it’s, like, a really good box.” I can relate. I have dozens of really good boxes around the studio.
But many of the boxes I have are subscription boxes, and surprise, surprise! That’s what this post is actually about. It’s not about getting out of our comfort zone, it’s not about cute cats, and it’s not about whether or not we should keep all that cardboard. It’s about those delightful boxes filled with luscious art supplies that we can sign up for and receive every month.
While we’ve long been accustomed to the idea of magazine subscriptions, or “clubs” such as the Book of the Month Club, subscription boxes are relatively new. Some of the early ones featured beauty products. Each month a box of random cosmetics would be shipped out, along with a bill. If you liked what you got, you paid the bill. If not, you returned it.
Many of the first subscription service boxes featured items that customers used and replaced on a regular basis, such as Gevalia’s monthly coffee shipments. For a long time I was a customer of HCA — the Hosiery Corporation of America — and looked forward to receiving my monthly order of stockings. The link I’ve provided tells about the company’s problems, claims of deceptive advertising, its losses and bankruptcy. I loved the service it provided and never had any problems. Such is life.
Today we can receive monthly shipments of clothing, razors, cheese, and other items, and with Amazon’s “subscription service” we can place a standing order for a large variety of products we use on a regular basis, knowing that what we need will arrive at our doorstep each and every month.
These type of “subscription” boxes allow us to choose what we receive. When my Amazon subscription box arrives, I know exactly what’s in it. With other subscription programs, however — as with the early cosmetic boxes — what we get might be a big surprise. Therein lies the fun of it all… or therein lies the downfall of subscription boxes, depending upon whether or not you’re getting what you want.
Subscription boxes are fun. They’re tempting. They’re exciting. If you find the right box and it’s at a price you can afford, by all means do yourself a favor, sign up, and start watching for those monthly deliveries to arrive.
The art world offers many subscription boxes from which to choose. Although different companies offer different products at different price ranges, most operate along similar lines.
- When you subscribe, you are “enrolled” in the program.
- Your credit card will be billed each month.
- Your subscription will automatically renew unless you cancel.
In addition, some companies allow you to save a few dollars by selecting a quarterly billing or yearly billing plan. And, by the way, some companies — such as Let’s Make Art — also offer gift subscriptions.
Since Let’s Make Art is the company and art box subscription service I’m most familiar with, let’s start there. The company provides not one but several different subscriptions. These are Watercolor, Kid’s Art, and Art Journaling. I signed up for the Art Journaling Box, and I’ve enjoyed receiving my monthly shipments. Recently, however, I did cancel my enrollment, but not because of any problems with the company or the subscription service.
What I liked best with my monthly subscription box was the eager anticipation of its arrival. Just knowing that I’d have new art goodies coming always made me happy. One thing I liked was that I could go online to the website and see — in advance — what items I would be receiving. I never skipped any shipments, but this is an option that’s available, so if a box doesn’t appeal, you can skip that one and wait for the next. The photo here shows what’s coming up in the July Art Journal box.
The products I received from my LMA subscription were top quality. During the months I subscribed I received gelatos, acrylics, watercolors, inks, Exacto knives, markers, pens, gel medium, and more. I also received a variety of collage papers. Instructional videos on the site featured various art journaling projects using the supplies each month. There are, of course, additional videos for the Kid’s Art boxes, and for the Watercolor boxes.
NOTE: Even if you don’t subscribe, you’ll enjoy watching the project videos. You don’t have to have the exact same supplies featured. I love doing projects with our grandsons from the Kid’s Art series.
So why did I recently choose to cancel my subscription? As much as I enjoyed getting my subscription box each month, I wasn’t taking full advantage of all it offered. If you’ve read about my art journaling experiences, you know already that, even now, I have mixed feelings about the process. I found that I wasn’t using the journal I received each month. I wasn’t watching the videos and following along. And, after dealing with the flooding in the studio and that “unplanned hiatus”, I got away from doing much visual journaling. I stepped back, looked at the supplies I had, and decided that I no longer needed to continue the subscription. I have enough art journaling and mixed media supplies to keep me happy.
But, having cancelled that subscription, I’m now considering others. I might choose to sign up for the LMA Watercolor subscription service, or I might choose a different box from a different company. To help me make the right choice, I went browsing around a bit. Here are some of the top art subscription boxes available.
This subscription has two plans — a basic box ($25.00 per month) or a premium box ($35.00 per month). It features “hand-picked art supplies” and an inspirational piece of art. In browsing around, I wasn’t able to see what the current boxes contain, but I did find this information for a previous “premium” box. The theme for that particular box was “Unique Watercolor”, and the products have a retail value of over $50.00. There’s also a link to an instructional video.
Here’s an illustration from the “Premier” Box:
Although this subscription box looks good, the price is a bit higher than most of the boxes I’ve looked at. The monthly charge is $49.95. Each box features a single project. You can view the contents of previous boxes here. There is also a video showing the products included in the current box.
Being a food lover and cooking enthusiast, I’m drawn to anything that talks about “snacks”. For what it’s worth, however, I found the site difficult to navigate. I did locate two subscription plans — a regular “snack” for $24.00 a month, which includes “4-5 full size art products” and an art challenge. For $39.00 per month, you can subscribe to the “Plus” version and receive a surface on which you can use your supplies. There is also supposed to be a lettering box available, but I wasn’t able to locate it at the website.
This subscription service says it is “great for beginners, teens, and all aspiring artists who want to try something new.” In other words, it’s a bit of an “art starter” kit. The price for their monthly box is $24.00. What’s included? According to their website: “What you see is what you get”, and “what you get” includes “an awesome selection of hand-picked art supplies that are all related to one another for you to create a project.” Their site also say the “recommended age” for the box is 7+, so again, this is geared more to young artists who want to try a few new things.
I did, however, read a bit more and was impressed by all they include. Here is information on the current “You Made Me Ink” box. They apparently do have different “levels” available, and you can also purchase “Extras”. One added benefit — you might be able to select your own colors.
But then, after a bit more browsing, I don’t think this is really a subscription service — unless I’m missing something. It looks as though you have to order each box individually, choosing either “awesome” “super awesome” or “crazy super awesome” — with upgrades costing more. And they do not offer any refunds.
This one is intriguing, I think. The company offers three different subscription boxes. There is the “Petite Pack” for $24.00 per month, the “Premier Pack” for $35.00, and a “Young Artist Pack” for $30.00. You’ll find a lot of information about what’s included here.
Here’s a sample illustration of a “Petite Pack.”
This is a UK-based art company, although they do ship worldwide. If you’re outside the UK, you’ll have to cover shipping costs, so that might make it a bit impractical. As for what’s in the box? Hmmm… they’re not telling. From their website: “It’s a surprise! Part of the excitement of ScrawlrBox is that you never know what’s going to arrive. All I can say is, we make sure each box is filled with things we know you’ll love.” Well, I think I’ll pass on this one, but if you’re in the United Kingdom, this might be the perfect art box for you.
I did find this photo showing the contents of one box:
There are other subscription services in addition to the ones I’ve listed here. Some are designed especially for children. Some send “art” — not art supplies, and some feature “grown-up coloring books” for those who enjoy relaxing and coloring.
Do you currently subscribe to an art subscription box? If so, which one? What do you like or dislike?