Monday, February 24, 2014

A Forest that Keeps on Growing ~ Forest Foundry

To continue this new series of articles on artistic collaborations, I am happy to have this team of creatives as our guests this week.

To introduce them, I asked them to tell us about their story on how they formed up. "We are eight artists from around the world who met online during the first Make Art That Sells e-course by Lilla Rogers. We consist of Katy Tanis, Victoria Weiss, Neiko Ng (United States), Kat Kalindi Cameron, Zoe Ingram, Karma Voce (Australia), Ine Beerten (Belgium), and Miriam Bos (The Netherlands)."

After the course finished they started to talk about going to Surtex and "how hard that is, as individual artists," especially for those from overseas. "Some of us had been thinking about forming a group but didn't know where to start, and this was when all the seeds of ideas sprouted.

Before we knew it, our collective Forest Foundry was up and growing! We loved the idea of forming a supportive creative tribe with like-minded artists to share experiences, to push and positively challenge each other when we need it, and to help us celebrate our successes."

What's your creative process about, I asked? "That's a tricky one to answer as a group. We all work quite differently. I guess the one thing that we all learned and agree with wholeheartedly is the message we learned from Lilla Rogers, our teacher and an art agent extraordinaire - and that is that people buy your joy. If you love what you are working on then that will seep into your work and effect the people who see it in a positive way. If you are laboring over something or just not feeling it, or doing it purely for the money, it shows. So our process as a group definitely encompasses that notion. Create what you love and it will sell itself."

They develop a product as a team by doing most of their artwork individually. Recently they collaborated on their first product, an illustrated calendar combining artwork from all eight of them. "It was a great success so we plan more for the future. Everything is done very democratically, even things that don't necessarily have anything to do with product development. We usually all come up with several ideas and then try to come to a consensus by voting and discussing the pros and cons. There's eight of us so we have lots of different opinions, but so far we've always been able to get to a consensus pretty easily."

Then they add, "It's been really inspiring and incredibly motivating to see how everyone works. Everybody has their own energy, rhythm, process and rituals. And it's just so much fun to be able to share this with people who are not only on the same journey, but are also as equally driven. We are like a self-propelling machine that constantly creates its own momentum! Or, better said, a forest that keeps on growing from its own eco-system. ;)"

"We started a private Facebook group and we still use that as our main communication tool. We also use e-mail, Skype, Dropbox, and recently introduced Asana for project management. Asana is a great free tool in which you can put your projects, add tasks and assign them to people, set reminders, comment on things, upload pictures ... it's very useful to keep a good overview of what needs to happen and who's working on what. Some of us also use ToDoist."

Before they started Forest Foundry they were all working solo at home and that can be hard, they said. "It's very easy to feel cut off and lonely and unsure of how to do things. We've found that working together is much easier. We've all got our own talents, experience and resources and we pool it all together now. We support and motivate each other, help out when help is needed, keep each other accountable to make sure things get done, and bring our artwork into the world together which seems to lessen the work load and seems less scary than when you're doing it all by yourself. Together we are much stronger than when we are each working alone (just like a forest)."

What excites them to work together is that they are fans of each others work! "How cool is that, to be in the same group with each other. To share resources and to grow our personal art practices through a group dynamic. Its like sharing a virtual studio space too, with seven other cool, dynamic creatives! :)"

Please tell us any suggestions or tips for other artists interested in starting up a group, I asked. "We would definitely encourage people to start collaborating with others. A good place to look for other artists would be through a course, online or not. Don't let geography get in the way, it's really not that important, you can do almost everything online now. Just find people you connect with and who you can share your passion with."

The Forest Foundry Art Collective:

Artist Ine Beerten
© Ine Beeten - Quote from Alice in Wonderland, Hand Lettered

Artist Karma Voce
© Karma Voce - Vintage Playground, GTS Competition Entry

Artist Kat Kalindi Cameron

© Kat Kalindi Cameron

Artist Katy Tanis
© Katy Tanis - Bear

Artist Miriam Bos
© Miriam Bos - Girls Want to Have Fun 

Artist Neiko NG
© Neiko NG

Artist Victoria Weiss
© Victoria Weiss - Journal

Artist Zoe Ingram
© Zoe Ingram - Folk Birds

Monday, February 17, 2014

Artists, Artisans and Crafts People Working Collaboratively - Boston Handmade

I have been experimenting with different type of mediums and styles for the past few months. I have found it to be a good mental and spiritual exercise, to explore art from different points of view. It has allowed me to revive a style that I used for hand painting textile designs many years ago. It's a fresh new look for me in the field of commercial art. You can see a few of my conceptual paintings here on my Behance portfolio.

While I embark on this adventure into a whole new world of possibilities, I want to continue the intentional exploration of collaborative work amongst artists from around the world that I started last week.

It's a very strong direction to partner with another artist or a group. It allows people to establish a larger creative and marketing platform in addition to building and nurturing long-lasting friendships. Even large corporations like Target are partnering now with bloggers and artists, although they are not the first or the last to undertake this marketing concept.

Take a look at this group of artists called Boston Handmade, with over 1,600 followers. What's their back story? Just how did they decide to partner together? Boston Handmade was founded in 2007 by Boston artist Jessica Burko who had a vision of seeing artists, artisans, and crafts people working collaboratively and not competitively towards the goal of sharing their skills with each other and the community. Jessica states it best when she says, "Boston Handmade sponsors creative and business opportunities for its members and strives to increase visibility for local handmade art and craft in the greater Boston area."

One of their core principles is that they believe in the value of handmade. "We are active in the Boston maker community and host several shows throughout the year. Our blog has become a go-to resource for artists and crafters outside our group and we also send out a monthly Arts Opportunities e-newsletter. We periodically provide free crafting workshops to the public such as our Earth Day event at the Jamaica Plain Public Library. And lastly, we created a local shopping guide to promote stores and shows that sell handmade items."

What does each member bring to the group, I asked? "Our members work in a variety of media and join the group at different points in their professional careers. We help each other by sharing business and marketing skills, art and craft techniques, and networking activities to increase one another's sales and market exposure." Lynn also adds, "Each member takes on a special role in the group. Very quickly, I found myself writing a weekly column for Boston Handmade to keep our blog interesting and fresh." These roles give everyone the chance to actively participate in Boston Handmade as well as have an impact on their own direction.

My next question was what online or other tools do they use as a team to keep coordinated and in the loop on common projects? She answered, "we have a private Facebook group where members can propose ideas, ask for feedback, and share helpful resources. It also helps us keep in touch in between our monthly meet ups. Google docs has been indispensable when coordinating our various projects and creating charts of information that we constantly refer to."

Dana explains the advantages of working together: "I believe it's that we're able to plan and participate in things that we couldn't do as individuals. For example, this past year we opened and ran a pop up shop from Black Friday through Christmas Eve. There was so much to do to make this happen, from renovating the space to coordinating a staffing schedule, merchandising the products, and marketing the shop. Everyone pitched in and it was a big success!"

Bev sums up nicely how the members of the group enjoy themselves. In addition to communicating with each other online nearly every day, sharing information about upcoming shows, personal and professional successes, and sometimes just to have a good laugh, they also have monthly meet ups where they do more of the same in person.

Any suggestion or tip for other artists interested in starting up a group? Jessica's advice is, "spend some time brainstorming your goals for the group before you gather members. Think about what you'd like to accomplish together, what individual members might contribute, and what benefits they can gain. Also consider your organizational structure and what ideal size you'd like the group to be. These things can change over time of course, but it helps to start off with some preliminary ideas in place."

Boston Handmade Members

Abby Bohn
Abigail Leigh Handbags

Bev Feldman

Cristina Hurley
Cristina Hurley Jewelry

Dana Garczewski
The Patterned Peacock

Diane Ivey
Lady Dye Fiber Arts & Design

Jessica Burko

Jill Burns
Early Bird Designs

Kerrie Beck
Cody’s Creations

Laurie Berezin

Leanne Tremblay
Leanne Tremblay Fine Handwovens

Lida Brooke
Lida Brooke Designs

Liz Stewart
Lush Beads

Lucie Wicker
Lucie Wicker Photography

Lynn Mohney
Prunella’s Workshop

Shannon McDonald
McDonald Mixed Media

Sharon Fischer
Stray Notions

Stephanie Cave
Stephanie Cave Design Studio

Susanne Guirakhoo
Enchanted Hue

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Inspired by Each Other's Work - Lila Ruby King

As I mentioned in earlier posts, we are starting a new series of interviews and articles called Artist Collaborations and Business Partnerships.

More and more artists are getting together and teaming up on design projects and business ventures. Their friendships are forged through online forums united by common goals.

I myself love to collaborate with other designers and artists and explore more opportunities to forward my basic purpose of partnering to make the world a better place through art. So, I joined in an exciting project hosted by artist Nicole Piar, called Lovely Ink ~ its mission is to uplift, to awaken a sense of wonder, and to sprinkle inspiration around the world. You'll hear more about this collaboration in upcoming months, so look out for more news!

To begin this new series of interviews and stories about collaborative work, I asked Anna and Mitsy at Lila Ruby King about their adventure. Anna says: "I'm not sure group or team is quite the right word for Mitsy and I, both seem to imply something much more expansive than what we really are. We're just two independent artists, who work together on some projects.

Anna and Mitsy working in Mitsy's studio in Belgium
We had been friends for a few years before we ever started creating anything together, Mitsy is a ceramic artist and I am an illustrator and jewelry maker. Mitsy was the one who came up with the idea of us creating a series of work together, that was a few years ago now, and since then we've worked together on many projects because we enjoy it so much."

The subsequent logical question was about inspiration. What makes them collaborate so closely on some projects? Anna: "Very basically, what inspired the whole joining forces way at the beginning is that we were both inspired by each other's work. We both have a lot of similar ideas and aesthetics, so when we started working together both our ideas and techniques fit together really well and easily. We also picked themes that interested us both. I draw my inspiration mostly from the natural world and clay is a wonderful material for expressing that."

Sea Level 2 Collection
She then continued to explain that usually they start sharing ideas back and forth over email, having the basic idea of what they want the end product to be. "The early stages might involve working out what raw materials and supplies have to be sourced and working out who will have what role in the making process.

We also think about an end product price so we can decide if it's going to be a feasible project to even begin. Once everything is decided, we can get started. With our decal work on ceramics, this would mean I get started working on the illustrations and preparing them in the format required for the printers. Then Mitsy does the liaising with the printers and when they're ready, she does all the ceramic work."

North Story 9 Decal Collection
Mitsy has a whole different skill set. Anna has always loved ceramics but never thought it would be something she could have her designs on "without a heap of new knowledge and a miraculous increase in studio space," she tells. "So now, working together, I get to see my work on bowls and mugs and on porcelain for small accessories. It's very exciting, Mitsy gets a whole collection of images at her disposal and my graphic design abilities to create the sheets she needs for getting decals printed. We also benefit from cross promotion. I have one set of customers and followers as does Mitsy, so each of us get to connect with a whole new group of people."

Some decaled accessories being made
Mitsy and Anna communicate mostly through email, with the odd phone call here and there they say. "I suppose Mitsy and I both love what the other is doing in terms of their work. I've always loved her ceramic work, especially her 99 feelings project, and I've always been a fan of the ceramic arts in all its forms so it's exciting to get to have the opportunity to work with Mitsy and have some clay based adventures. Plus Mitsy and I have been friends for a long time, so it's great to get to work with a friend on some projects together."

Any advice or tips you can give to other artists who want to collaborate one with another? "I think what works best for Mitsy and I is that we are friends and had been for a few years before we started working together. It means that we have a good understanding of what the other likes and dislikes, and we know each others work and their capabilities. It also means that we can trust the other person, both to keep up their end of the arrangement and carry out their workload, and have trust that when it comes to pricing and selling that everything is going to be fair.

Of course it's not always possible to work with friends, so if I was starting a project with someone I didn't know so well, I'd probably start with a small project so you can get to know how the other person works, and if that person is going to be reliable on their end of the project before moving on to anything bigger."

Find out more about Anna and Mitsy:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Inspired by Beauty ~ Artist Kathleen Hill

"Change the world with your ideas" ~ is a nice quote I read somewhere and thought to share. In upcoming weeks I will publish a new series of articles and interviews of artists who have been collaborating with one another in various endeavors. They've come together from all walks, became friends and joined in as part of a team or formed a tight partnership.

I myself will be collaborating with various artists and groups on exciting art projects in the months to come. Another exciting and fun endeavor is this publishing project by my friend Matteo Grilli. He illustrated this wonderful book and I want to share it with you: Watercolour Explorations on Australian Wildlife Vol.1 with 90 pages of beautiful paintings.

I also want to share with you artist Kathleen Hill's story - I met Kathleen online during the holidays as part of a group of artists who shared a Secret Santa ornament. She paints beautiful realistic art and it is "always about the animals," she says.

Artist Kathleen Hill
"My very first adventure was escaping from my yard at the age of three and walking down to the corner fire station to visit with the Dalmation dog that lived there. When I got a little older I was bitten by the 'horse bug' that so many little girls experience," she continues. Kathleen's school time was spent doodling horses on all of her papers and she became known as "the girl who could draw horses." Her teachers noted that she had artistic ability that should be cultivated.

"Unfortunately, the other side of my brain that was trying to do the math lost out in my education! I wanted to be a veterinarian and my biological sciences studies were excellent, but, again, the math and chemistry skills were woefully behind! I am grateful now because I think as a vet, I would have died of a broken heart! When we moved from Chicago to Walnut Creek, California, one of the most heavily populated horse areas at the time, I secured a job with a horse trainer. I got to be around them every day, clean their stalls, feed them, turn them out; it was absolute Heaven!! (And I got paid for it!!)."

© Kathleen Hill
Eventually, Kathleen got to assist the trainer and was, in essence, a groom for him, she adds. "More touching and feeling the beauty of the horses. This is where I learned the unique qualities, bone structures, and personalities that made each and every one as individual as a snowflake. I started painting portraits on decoupage wood plaques and my business was born! The people who owned the horses in training were thrilled and also paid me money!"

So after graduating from high school, she had a choice as to what to do with her earnings that she had saved: take flying lessons or go to art school in San Francisco? "Art school was the practical choice," she concluded. "Long bus rides to the city twice a day for two weeks, all for the joy of doing figure drawing and fashion design. After two weeks, I went to my counselor and asked if I could just take the course on drawing and painting animals? When he looked at me like I was nuts and said 'no!' I left never to return. Now, I can add a lot of stuff about what happened in between then and now, like being married to a wonderful man and raising two amazing children, but I am supposed to be brief!"

© Kathleen Hill
Kathleen, can you give us a description of your art and style, I asked? She replied, "I am definitely a realist. I want my critters to look so real they can almost breathe. I want you to see the softness of the fur and feathers and how it flows, the glimmer of life in each eye. As a main art theme I'd say I am a portraitist first and foremost. That has always been my focus, the unique qualities that make each one unique." This hasn’t necessarily been a benefit for licensing, she says. "The licensing industry needs to lean toward appealing to masses. While I've done okay in niche markets, the art needs to do more than just be a portrait, it should tell some sort of story."

She continues to say: "I work in oils and also in colored pencil. My ideal way of working is to see an animal and be able to take photos of it, render a pencil sketch of how I want it to be done, transfer the drawing to either canvas or mat board, and then start blocking it in with the desired medium. Then it is just a matter of working until I get the desired detailing which can take many layers. The preliminary drawing is an important step because it familiarizes me with the individuality of that bird or animal and the things that are particular to it."

© Kathleen Hill
What's exciting about her creative work, she says, is seeing the critters come alive and then "seeing the emotion on people's faces when they pick up their portraits, especially if it is an animal that has meant the world to them and has crossed the Rainbow Bridge."

Birds and animals are her inspiration. "I love them in every sense of the word. They connect with my heart, and my way of expressing that deep feeling is through my art. I am inspired by beauty, from a delicate flower to an expansive sunrise or sunset. I hear about artists having creative blocks, but for me, I just need to go outside, breathe, and I always find something to be inspired by!"

She goes on saying: "I just finished my first, and probably last, mural. I had always wanted to do that for one of the animal shelters in the area. One day I saw an article in the paper about a Girl Scout who was working on her Gold project and was looking for artists to do a mural representing one of the five towns that the shelter serviced. Eureka! I was scared to death that it would literally take me the rest of my life to do it because I am used to working on small pieces in my studio. This was 5 feet by 7 feet and had to be done on location! Well, I have to say, it was one of the most exciting and rewarding things I have done. I felt that it literally painted itself. I was so concerned that when I got down to rendering the dog and cat, I would get so nit-picky, and that getting detail on a textured wall would be so impossible that I'd get totally frustrated. It all worked out and it is one of the highlights in my artistic career!"

 © Kathleen Hill
What are your future aspirations and goals, I asked. She immediately said, "my biggest goal for this year is to paint one hundred paintings (and/or drawings) and to improve my abilities with the sheer practice that this would command. I took a workshop with Kevin MacPhearson a long time ago and he, referring to the art of plein air painting, said that you had to get 100 paintings under your belt and then you would get it. There is so much effort spent on marketing and social media, the business side of art, that I feel like my easel time has really suffered over the last few years. So now my goal is to practice, do some experimentation, and see what I can learn.

Find out more about Kathleen Hill here: