The ideal of the suffering artist who stays faithful to his vision is misleading. An interview with Frank Lemloh

Published: 26.03.2024
Loukia Richards
Edited by:
ZLR Betriebsimperium
Edited at:
Hamburg / Athens
Edited on:
Frank Lemloh at work. Photo:​.
Frank Lemloh at work. Photo:​

© By the author. Read Copyright.

In art universities, the subject of “how to earn money from art” including “how to earn money from designing beautiful and meaningful objects, such as textiles, ceramics, glass, and jewelry, for customers” is a huge taboo. A country's economy and image can benefit from creatives' work when artists abandon limiting beliefs. Loukia Richards/SMCK Magazine interviewed Frank Lemloh, founder and managing director of the consultancy and coaching firm Fink & Zeisig in Leipzig, on how artists can design a successful career.

The article is an exclusive interview published in SMCK Magazine's latest issue (3/2024).
It is important to understand the market and how to navigate it.

Frank Lemloh at work. Photo:​

SMCK: In art universities or schools students are not taught how to earn a living from art or design. The market is often demonized. Artists do not come into contact with or receive commissioned work from established houses or luxury brands. Often, young graduates feel helpless when they must leave the protective nest of the school or university. Why is the artist's work still idealized in a way that does not reflect current reality, and what can we do to set aside stereotypes and ‘limiting beliefs’?

Frank Lemloh: The idealism and romanticism regarding the artist's existence that often rule in art universities and schools can indeed lead to an unrealistic perception of the professional's reality.  

The artist's integrity and making art for art's sake is emphasized, while practical aspects such as earning money, navigating the market, and working on assignment are neglected. This attitude can leave young artists and designers unprepared for the challenges that await in the real world after graduation.
I can see one reason for this attitude in the deep-rooted conviction that commercial success and art excellency cannot match. This conviction perpetuates the stereotype of the suffering artist who stays faithful to his vision independent of financial considerations. This attitude can indeed hinder artists' careers, especially in a world where self marketing and entrepreneurial thinking are decisive for success.

The following measures can help us overcome those limiting stereotypes:

1. Curriculum-integration and consulting on founding an artist's studio: Only five out of thirty art schools in Germany teach skills on founding an artist's studio, instead of integrating obligatory courses in their curriculum on art management, marketing, self-branding, copyright legislation, and other relevant subjects. This would not only give students the necessary tools to assert themselves in the art world, but also underline the importance of understanding the market and navigating it.

2. Guest lectures and workshops: Inviting successful artists, designers, and art market experts as guest lecturers or to chair workshops can give students a realistic view of the art world. These experts could share valuable information on the market, assignment work, and how to develop a successful career.

3. Internships and partnerships: Funding internships and partnerships with established houses, luxury brands, and other relevant organizations can build a bridge between studies and professional life. Such experiences allow students to make experiences in the field, to extend their network, and to explore potential career paths.

4. Mentorship Program: Establishing a Mentorship Program with experienced artists and designers as students' and graduates' mentors can offer individual support and direction. Those contacts can help young creatives plan their career strategy and overcome challenges more effectively.

5. Public discussion and enlightenment: Initiating public discussions on the economic realities of the artist’s profession can contribute to changing the perception of the art vocation. By informing the artist community and the broader public on what it means to be an entrepreneur and earn your living through art can change persistent stereotypes and beliefs.

By combining these approaches, art universities and schools can offer a more realistic and comprehensive education that includes both the development of the artist's skills and the knowledge on how to navigate one's professional environment. Not only would graduates benefit from this approach, but the art world would be enriched by facilitating more artists to experience success and to share their work.

Design, crafts, and applied art can boost a country's economy and cultural image​

SMCK: Are there strategies to change the mentality that considers design, applied art, and crafts second-class disciplines?

Frank Lemloh: Germany's rich history in design, applied art, and crafts is internationally recognized and respected. The tradition of Made in Germany stands for quality, innovation, and unpretentious aesthetics. Nevertheless, it looks like the creatives in those sectors, compared to other European countries, have not yet reached the limit of their potential.

We could guess that this attitude comes from the fact that the German state is not fully aware of the significance of design, applied art, crafts; in particular, this becomes obvious when we compare this attitude with the generous campaigns to support fine art like Documenta – or Art Basel in the case of Switzerland. Often the state generously funds technological innovations or start-ups that could generate jobs and does not see the use of applied art.

The following strategies could help us change this mentality and develop a more active approach to support these creative sectors:

1. Increase awareness and appreciation: It is imperative to increase the government's and the public's awareness of and appreciation for design, crafts, and applied art. Campaigns that inform the public of the economic and cultural contributions of these disciplines could also emphasize their significance.

2. Targeted funding programs: The visibility of the designers', crafters', and artists' work could be enhanced by introducing specific funding programs including grants, artists studios, exhibition venues, and mentoring.

3. Funding of participation in international exhibitions: As is already the case with fine art, funding the participation of creatives in international shows and fairs could strengthen their profile. Partnerships with foreign institutions and active participation in international events is a key strategy.

4. Cooperation with the industry: A stronger cooperation between designers, crafters, and artists working with applied art and industry could lead to innovative products that are valuable for the economy and culture. This strategy would also increase the visibility and the prestige of those disciplines.

5. Funding of education and research: Integrating design, crafts and applied art in educational programs, and funding research could contribute to inspire and support the next generation of artists.

6. Adjust the conditions of the political framework: It is also necessary that political decision-makers recognize the specific needs and challenges of design, crafts, and applied art and create the framework accordingly. This could include customization of copyright laws, deployment of funding resources, and providing networking possibilities.

If Germany applies these six strategies, it could strengthen its engagement for design, crafts, and applied art and visibly increase the contributions of those sectors to the country's economy and cultural image.

Frank Lemloh at work. Photo:

Abandon your ‘inside the box thinking’!

SMCK: Is there a specific attitude or a certain way of thinking that makes the results of coaching and consulting easier or more difficult?

Frank Lemloh: Through my long experience of working with professionals of the cultural and creative sectors – and more specifically through the co-operation with supporting organizations and initiatives in Hamburg, Basel (Switzerland), and Leipzig but also in Flensburg, Lübeck, Kiel, Husum, Wismar, Rostock, Schwerin, Greifswald, and Neubrandenburg – I gained insight into how many ways we have to approach consulting, encouraging, and coaching. The differences in consulting and coaching creatives do not only depend on the city, federal state, or country but are also very strongly influenced by the local mentality and the so-called inside-the-box thinking.

Professionals in the creative sector who are ready to abandon their ‘inside the box thinking’ and organizations that support innovative approaches can achieve their targets with great success. The challenge lies in finding a balance between the preservation of local culture and traditions and in supporting and funding innovation and creativity.

Frank Lemloh at work. Photo:

Who Is Who
Frank Lemloh is a graduate of the Applied Cultural Sciences department of Leuphana Universität Lüneburg in Germany. He is an experienced systemic consultant, supervisor, and Agile coach. At the beginning of his career, he founded Artist Teams, an agency that acted at the edge between the music industry and digitalization. For over fourteen years, he supported leading music firms and artists with web design, text editing, and technical services.

As a former managing director of Interessengemeinschaft Hamburger Musikwirtschaft, contact person for the German federal government initiative Kultur-und Kreativwirtschaft, and key person for the first creative economy business incubator in Basel, Frank Lemloh has a wide spectrum of experience. His engagement in social innovation is particularly prominent in his work in Leipzig, where he advises young people of unprivileged background how to obtain financial independence and follows up with them.

Through his agency Fink & Zeisig, Frank Lemloh offers start-up support services, career coaching, and artist coaching. He is a guest lecturer at renowned art schools.

/Interview by Loukia Richards for SMCK Magazine.

Download SMCK Magazine's 10th issue SCHMUCK ON THE GO for free, and read the full text of the interview with Frank Lemloh here!


Download Issue #10 Website:
Instagram SMCK Magazine:
Frank Lemloh / Fink & Zeisig Website:
Fink & Zeisg Instagram: