This summer I marked (but not really celebrated) 15 years of running my own creative business. I was hoping to bring out a new book this year covering what I’ve done in those years but this year has of course not gone remotely according to plan! I should have it ready next year. In the meantime, every month, I share a 10 page PDF letter / mini magazine with my Patreon supporters which covers a lot of the same behind-the-scenes studio insider stories as the book eventually will. The September issue is a focus on those 15 years of working as an artist /maker. I love writing my Patreon letters and twice-monthly blog posts as I selfishly get to focus on my own practice and share behind the scenes in my studio (and often my office) life. If you would like to delve more into my life and practice, Patreon is the place to do it. Over the last 6 months I’ve written about creative collaborations, fabric manipulation, my 2019 solo exhibition work, self-publishing, work in progress, behind the scenes at a photo shoot and much more. Every subscriber gets a discount for my online shop too and over the summer I gave away tickets to my online Criminal Quilts talk. All the previous content is free for new subscribers too, so there’s masses to explore which should keep you going until my new book is finally ready!
Today I went to the launch of Leicester City Council’s cultural prospectus and strategy. It turns out that this wasn’t the launch of the actual strategy, it was the launch of the work to consult leading towards the strategy, which actually is good as there’s still chance to input in to the decision-making for how the city moves forward. I have so many hats when it comes to things like this. I am an independent artist and this event was not aimed at me but I am also Chair of Leicester Society of Artists (an unpaid role) and occasional consultant and project lead for Creative Leicestershire. I choose to get involved in events and conversations and activities around artist development and arts policy as I am professionally and personally engaged with the outcomes of them. And I LOVE a good strategy!
I was delighted to see that one of the key frameworks they are aiming to develop in the strategy is Workforce and Talent Development. From my perspective as an independent artist & cultural freelancer, I am mostly interested in how organisations and councils support and develop the creative talent of artists. But I am concerned that artists are expected to input their ideas (which is of course our means of making a living) into a consultation for which they won’t get paid, and won’t necessarily get credit.
Last year I completed a lengthy consultancy project called Made in Leicestershire looking at market development, networks and professional development for visual artists in the city and county.
This work has led directly into a new project for me, again working with Creative Leicestershire on their innovative professional development programme WebinArt, which will restart this spring (subject, as always to funding success). My element will be focussed on co-ordinating peer mentoring groups for mid-career and established artists in Leicestershire and surrounding areas. WebinArt is now taking expressions of interest for artists who would like to be part of the network and benefit from the professional development we will be offering. There’s no commitment required at this stage, you will be sent information about applying once its up and running. It really is a fantastic programme and I am really looking forward to getting artist together to do great things!
I loved working on Made in Leicestershire, getting to speak to artists and help create ideas and proposals to better promote and support them. The majority of the project funding was provided by ERDF, the European Regional Development Fund, just one of the ways in which being part of the EU was great, and is very much missed. I hope to continue developing artist support programmes, enabling creative people to thrive and to support their work in communities alongside their own creative practice.
I’m running a professional development day for artist and makers at Llantarnam Grange Art Centre on Saturday 20th October. 10am-3pm. £20.
Join artist Ruth Singer to explore research-led craft making; about creating original work with a meaningful narrative behind it. Find out about Ruth’s research and development process; explore, develop and test your own ideas and take part in creative planning and group making activities. This workshop will also include ways of working with museums, heritage and archive collections. This session is designed for makers of all levels of practice who want to stretch their creative horizons and develop new ways of working. Ruth works predominantly in textiles but this session is suitable for all makers, whatever material or method you use.
The workshop runs alongside Suffrage exhibition which includes a newly commissioned piece made for this exhibition. The workshop is just £20 for the whole day 10am-3pm and can be booked online here. Please note: We regret that due due to the nature of our building the artists workshops will be taking place in our first floor workshops rooms which do not have disabled access.
I’ve long been fascinated by Bethany’s combination of textiles and cement; the contrasting soft and hard materials, the transformation of cloth from malleable to solid objects and the potential her innovative techniques would hold for my kind of manipulated textiles.
Last year I applied to a-n’s collaboration bursary to fund our travel and expenses to develop a collaboration and we started working together in January 2014.
Our aim is to create work suitable for public art commissions, large-scale installations and projects. I wanted to explore Bethany’s techniques and she wanted to look at more organic forms, moving away from her usual square-format.
We started by simply setting a whole series of my textile and paper samples into cement to see how they worked and then moved on to making specific samples to test based on what worked best and looked most interesting.
Plenty was simply scrapped as uninteresting, or not sufficiently exciting to stand out. I wanted to make sure what I made was sufficiently different to Bethany’s existing work too. A new set of samples worked much better and gave us new avenues to explore.
At this stage I was struggling to find a theme which worked for me, beyond simply exploring interesting shapes. Our discussions lead to the idea of growth and renewal and eventually to mould, lichen, moss and fungus. We also worked on colour palettes; looking for something that contrasted well with the grey of the cement but would also work with my quite subtle-coloured work. We used Pinterest to share ideas, much like I did with my collaboration with Alys Power. Our palette became delicate pink. Bethany continued to work on new shapes and forms while I experimented with fungus-inspired growths made in textile using fabrics I dyed with elderberry.
Their success was limited but other pieces definitely worked and we have finally hit upon the perfect combination of form, textile structure, colour-palette, type of fabric and display concept which we are really happy with.
The finished work is a series of smaller pieces; potentially a lot of small pieces, so we are busy making more and more. Our aim is to exhibit the work in 2015 and use it as a basis for joint application for projects and commissions.
I recently attended “Making it in the fine art market” a Cockpit Arts Making It seminar and made the following notes.
Breaking into the fine art market
Clear, consistent body of work, suitable for the market. Pricing should reflect fine art market not craft market (considerably higher)
Work on a strategy and research your potential gallery market. Where do you want to sell? Which galleries suit your work best? What about outside of London, where can work for you?
Create a broader strategy / plan of where you want your work to be, what museum collections do you want to be in, what countries might you do well in.
Before considering overseas markets, establish yourself in your own and your gallery might well introduce you to overseas galleries.
Collect is a key event for selling in the fine art market, therefore getting into a gallery which show at Collect would be a key target in strategy.
No problem to approach galleries direct but be very targeted and only approach ones that really show your type of work. Ask for feedback if rejected and keep in touch with them. Things change and they might find your new work suitable for them.
Getting your work seen is vital. Top tip is to apply for all sorts of opportunities (that are relevant) where your images will be seen by a selection panel. Even if not selected for the opportunity, your work is seen by influential people who will remember it next time.
New and established collectors are happily spending thousands of pounds buying art online (degreeart.com). More traditional galleries prefer to market to bring people into the gallery and buy in person. Two distinct markets. The art-buying market are particularly interested in small editions (around 10) and exclusive works. (not applicable to objects which are one-off anyway).
Being represented by a gallery
Usually an artist is represented by just one gallery in a city or area, particularly only one in London
Gallery will take work for specific exhibitions and art fairs, potentially internationally
Commission is usually 50% of retail price. Give galleries retail price and negotiate commission. Ensure consistent market price wherever you are selling. You must not undercut gallery price.
Out-of-gallery sales. If someone buys direct from you after seeing you at a gallery, the gallery has the right to demand commission. Openness and communication with your gallery are essential to create a supportive relationship. Important to find out where your buyers have found you.Nowadays many artists have an exclusive body of work represented by each gallery rather than an exclusive relationship with just one gallery.
Artist needs to work as a team with gallery to avoid mixed messages and confusing buyers
Role of galleries: to put work in context, give credibility, to expose your work to the right buyers. Your commission helps them do more marketing.
Keep your gallery informed of everything you are doing, even with other galleries. This helps with their marketing of your work and helps build a productive relationship.