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

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