Sunday, 26 January 2014

Collaboration is in the Air

Has anyone else noticed?  Collaboration is one of the new buzzwords in both the arts and business worlds.  It is a rare instance when we really accomplish anything by ourselves. Although in the self-employed sphere it often feels that way because we are forced to wear so many hats.  We don't get the luxury of saying, "that's not my job".  Faced with a shortage of financial, human, and even inspiration resources, the solution seems to be:  collaborate.

Collaboration is usually based on the principle of each player bringing a mutually exclusive skill to the table.  It is not unusual for example, to find potters, sometimes life partners, who divide labour according to skills such as throwing, decorating, and firing and let's not forget marketing, promotion and retailing.  Often one partner prefers the isolation of the studio and technical challenges to the social world of networking and people.  I have said of Lucky Rabbit Pottery that each does what the other cannot.  I have marvelled over how little husband and wife Ray Mackie and Debra Kuzyk talk during their working hours.  We have even joked that may be the secret to their success (and how few arguments they have).

This February 1st, collaboration will cross generations in the instance of potters Isabella St. John and her niece Erin Callahan St. John.  I am looking forward tomorrow to getting an up close look at the pottery they have created in collaboration.  (Yes, I am lucky I get a preview.) Their shared inspiration has been the bird population in the Battery of St. John's Harbour, which is the world outside the window of their studio in Blue Moon Pottery.

This is from Culture Hall and shows Robyn collaborating with a member of the public.  The piece, SpinCycle, was presented at The Brooklyn Museum.

Robyn Love, a textile artist who divides her time between New York and Newfoundland often harnesses wider or less controlled sources of collaboration.  Volunteers, members of the public and social groups help her create installations such as the Knitted Mile.  Check out her latest presence on an interesting new curated

 Artist co-operatives are a form of collaboration that intrigue me because they come up with cutting edge art that might take years to percolate through to the exhibition calendars of conventional institutions.  Co-ops are not usually hamstrung by naysayers or bureaucracy.  I love them for their excitement and can-do attitudes; the creativity and fun does not get strangled by laws and concerns about liability.  

I admit that in these sentiments I am betraying myself and my affection for the days of Gertrude Stein and Picasso.  If we could only recreate a little of the creative and intellectual energy that must have animated the exchanges between the minds at Stein's artistic and literary salons!  There's a neat little video on that might help inspire you.

"Gertrude Stein," The Biography Channel website, (accessed Jan 26, 2014).

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