What is mentoring?
Mentoring, at its most simple, is a relationship between two people where the more-experienced one helps and advises the less-experienced one. In a professional context, an artist or maker with some years of practice (me) is able to support someone starting out or changing direction (you) with helping you get where you want to be. A mentor should never tell you what they think you should do, they should help you work it out for yourself in a way that is right for you.
Is mentoring right for me?
If you are wanting to develop your work (in whatever way) then mentoring is a good choice. Mentoring is most successful when you have a challenge you want to overcome, like a creative block or a change in direction or if you are just starting out and have a lot to learn. I work with artists, makers, creative freelancers and small business owners. I can work with people anywhere in the world online as long as we can find a suitable time of day.
What is a mentoring session like?
I like to keep my mentoring sessions really informal. If you live near me we will meet up, drink tea and chat about what you are doing and what your aspirations are. I want to know about your work and your motivations and where you would like to get to. I will sometimes send a short questionnaire in advance if I don’t already know your practice. You will do most of the talking, I will be asking questions.
If it’s at a distance, we can talk by Skype or FaceTime at a time to suit us both. I will ask questions to explore your practice and professional issues further. One or both of us will need to keep notes, or we can record the conversation for you to listen to later.
A first session is usually 1.5 hours which gives me time to get to know you and your work and discuss the issue you are working out. Later sessions can be 45-60 minutes focussing in on specific areas.
Is one session enough?
It very much depends on what you want to get out if it. Mentoring can be a one-off creative boost for you to talk through things and get re-energised which works well for specific, targeted issues like writing an exhibition proposal.
When you need to really reconsider your practice and need to take time to think things through a slower, ongoing process of regular meetings over several months would work better for you.
Is it scary?
I hope not! I don’t ever want mentoring to be scary. I am not there to judge you or criticise. A mentor is a supportive role, helping you work out where you want to be and how best to get there. I might ask some difficult questions about why you are doing or making something, which can be hard to explain, but I am there to support and nurture your ideas and help you make the best decisions. All conversations are confidential too.
Is mentoring about practical stuff or bigger picture stuff?
It can be either or both. If what you need is practical advice on making and marketing your work I will help you based on my nearly 15 years experience and what I have learned from working with and mentoring lots of other makers too.
I often advise and support on writing funding applications such as Arts Council which can be very practical including working on the actual wording and content of your application as well as the bigger picture.
You might want to explore the bigger picture of your practice, what your work is really about, moving through creative blocks or starting afresh. In these kind of sessions we will cover a mixture of practical steps and the softer side of confidence and creativity, and finding space in your life for your own practice.
How does it make a difference?
Having someone on your side, listening and reflecting back to you is a very rewarding experience. Often a mentor can see through the things you are stuck with and will help you work out what you need to do.
What kind of things can you help me with?
My particular area of interest is in developing your practice; assessing and evaluating where you are now and where you would like to get to. This can be practical issues of promoting and presenting your work or fundamental stuff about channeling your creative energy into making new work.
I also have lots of expertise and experience in
- Writing funding applications
- Publications / writing books
- Running workshops or public programmes
What kind of mentoring have you done before?
I have worked with lots of different makers (there are some case studies below) over a number of years. I have also worked with creative freelancers and small business owners who aren’t artists or makers. I have also provided mentoring, professional development and training for artists through my work as a consultant and collaborator with lots of different organisations. I also mentor and support artists informally on a small scale through my role as Chair of Leicester Society of Artists and through Creative Leicestershire Made in Leicestershire programme. I recently developed a training course on peer mentoring and supported two groups of makers to work together to mentor each other.
How much does it cost?
A one-off creative boost session with me costs £75 for 1.5 hours focussed time, a pre-meeting questionnaire and notes from the session afterwards. You can also have a recording of the discussion if you want.
Further sessions cost £50 per hour. Payment will be in advance for the first session then invoiced for sessions afterwards. I can take payment in stages if needed too. I am working on mentoring packages which will work out slightly cheaper, these will be available in the new year.
If you would like me to visit your studio then additional costs will apply for travel expenses and travel time.
I appreciate that this is a major investment for small businesses and artists. It can feel hard to justify spending money on mentoring when there are other pressing needs on your income. But think of it as a way of making space to make more money by getting your practice up to scratch.
You might want to look at funding to make a longer-term mentoring relationship possible. There are small pots of money available from professional bodies such as A-N or Curatorspace, as well as many technique or material-specific groups such as the Textile Society. Some of these may be suitable for mentoring, or as part of a package of professional development or other projects. You might also want to apply for Arts Council grants, though you may need to pay up front for my advice and support putting tother the application and then hopefully it will fund further mentoring.
Are you ready to invest in yourself? Fill in the enquiry form and we’ll get going!
Ruth Singer has 14 years experience at making a living as a designer-maker and several more years before that working in museum education. She has a wide range of skills and knowledge about working in the creative sector and experience of both mentoring and being mentored herself. She has also worked as a project manager and workshop leader as well as exhibiting and creating work to commission.
Mentoring case studies
Hayley Mills-Styles. Artist practice mentoring 2018
“I’d been working as a freelance artist for a few years when I decided to approach Ruth about some mentoring. I wanted to get some guidance on career goals and how to make the most of the opportunities I was working on. Ruth’s mentoring helped me to create an action plan with a list of my goals with ideas and action points for how I could achieve them. Her extensive experience as a creative practitioner was invaluable, and it helped me to focus my creative energy on opportunities that would help me to move forward in my practice.”
Vicki Aimers, supported by Creative Kernow, 2019
“My time with Ruth made me focus on what is important for nurturing my business and for myself as an artist. Simple things such as taking time out of my day for quiet reflective moments, to applying for Arts Council funding. Meeting regularly allowed us to build a valuable mentoring relationship. We discussed many aspects of my practice. Ruth was always very generous with knowledge of what worked and didn’t worked for her. She also really understands the contemporary textiles world, which I found interesting and useful for my own work. I would highly recommend Ruth’s mentoring program for others who feel they need guidance and focus for their business.”
Sunflower Seedlings: Creative Business Development, 2015.
“My mentoring experience with Ruth has been exceptional. Ruth is full of ideas and her advice is concise . Her expertise and passion made the whole experience, and my time with her, engaging. As a small business in Leicester, it’s difficult to get creative business advice in regards to textiles in business but seeing Ruth has given me a different and more confident approach to the way I am working. I will definately turn to Ruth for future advice and I highly recommend her for mentoring.”
Louise West : Publishing Opportunities, 2014.
“Great mentoring session with Ruth, addressing individual issues regarding future planning for my practice. It was really interesting and informative to talk to someone so knowledgeable.”
Laura Millen : Running Workshops. 2014
“Working with Ruth has given me the confidence to get things moving to enable me to start running creative workshops. We covered many topics including target market, marketing, costing & heath and safely. Ruth also showed an example of a risk assessment and advised me on what I need to include in my own risk assessment. I’m clear on the goals that I need to achieve before I begin running workshops.”
Elizabeth Dyer: Teaching Skills
Learn how to plan for and present a workshop
Gain experience and confidence in delivering workshops
Learn about practical and legal planning for craft based workshops
Consideration of marketing and advertising
“Ruth managed to cover all these topics and more in our meetings. I learned about writing a risk assessment, what insurance I would need and other legal and safety matters. I also enjoyed the creative marketing that we discussed. I felt that Ruth’s advice helped me to develop a clear view of my marketing strategy for my own workshops business. I also gained confidence and understanding of delivering workshops by standing in with Ruth in her own workshops and helping Ruth and her students as and where I could. It was helpful to be able to watch Ruth teaching, in order to produce my own formula for teaching my own workshops. We talked about pricing workshops and how to advertise my services. Ruth was happy to attend my first trial workshop and gave me excellent, practical feedback, which was most helpful and really gave my confidence in teaching a boost.I really enjoyed the programme and Ruth was a helpful, knowledgeable and understanding mentor.”
“Working with Ruth has helped me to put into perspective many aspects of my creative business. Her optimistic approach to mentoring has allowed me to establish realistic targets for the business, and by identifying my strengths and weaknesses, greatly increased my motivation and confidence in areas where I was lacking knowledge. Throughout the mentoring, Ruth has given consistently positive, inspiring and relevant input and ideas based on her broad knowledge and experience of running a successful creative business.”