PRINT OF THE WEEK Josh Keyes’s Evacuation.
Jon Buonaccorsi stands alongside a large, rectangular table and plays with a series of flat, wooden pieces that, when assembled, make for an arty little pizza shop that might look sharp on your mantle.
This is the future for Tiny Showcase, on-line purveyor of small, cheap, hipster prints and — as the market for such things grows crowded — new amusements of all sorts.
Earlier this year, the Providence company sold 50 small, custom-made wire guitar sculptures by local artist C.W. Roelle. In a couple of weeks: "Living Things," an odd and alluring illustrated booklet by Jo Dery focused on animals and human scents.
"When we started, we were the only people doing this," says Buonaccorsi, sitting in Tiny Showcase's modest, powder blue studio above Empire Beauty School on Broadway. "And now, there are a million competitors."
The Tiny Showcase story begins seven years ago.
Buonaccorsi was a web developer at American Power Conversion at the time. And one day, as he sat through another interminable business meeting, he began doodling a little dog and thinking about all of his artist friends who had trouble getting their work out into the world.
It was at that moment the idea struck: a web site that would offer limited-run prints — a new one each week — for the price of a book or CD. Buonaccorsi and partner Shea'la Finch launched the business in March 2005. And they added a vital little twist shortly thereafter.
One night, Buonaccorsi snuck into the WaterFire courtesy tent with a friend, Jesse LeDoux, and engaged in a liquor-fueled chat on this question: how might artists — low-wage, but generous of spirit — find a way to chip in for worthy causes?
LeDoux suggested a sales model that built in a charitable element. And Tiny Showcase ran with it: raising its prices a bit and dedicating a portion of each sale to the charity of the artist's choice.
The model has worked quite well, to date, attracting a number of well-regarded artists, LeDoux among them. He was, for a time, the art director at Sub Pop Records — creating cover art and posters for the Shins, Iron and Wine, and Death Cab for Cutie, among others. Most recently, he did a print modeled on the Japanese flag to raise money for earthquake and tsunami relief.
Others who have appeared on the site (tinyshowcase.com): Providence's Jen Corace, a RISD graduate and illustrator of the books Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink; Jay Howell, concept artist behind the Bob's Burgers cartoon on Fox Sunday nights; and Ryan McLennan, a Virginia artist with a penchant for zebras and rhinoceroses who was grand recipient of the prestigious West Prize last year.
Growing sales — last year, Tiny Showcase shipped out about 20,000 prints — forced Buonaccorsi to move the business out of his Riverside house a couple of years ago. He still has a picture on his smart phone of boxes stacked high in his living room, blotting out any, well, living one might want to do in such a space.
"It was mostly shipping materials," he says. "It generates this weird craft-paper dust."