Thursday, August 19, 2010

Opportunities Knocking: Collaboration

"Let's you and I conjure together. You watch me and I'll watch you and I will show you how to show me how to show you how to do our marvelous human tricks together."

I sell my work through a local art gallery called Gallery Q. They bugged me for months to put in a proposal to do an exhibit of my work. Truthfully, I balked at the idea that I would have enough of a body of work to fill a gallery show. {That might be also why I don't do more than one art show a year, coming in October.} I still can't believe that I filled up as much of this space as I did.

While working my shift at the Gallery Q one day I realized that I was vastly inspired by the artists whose work was hanging on the walls all around me. There were landscapes and still lifes. Watercolors and oil. There were sculptures and pottery. There was saturated hues and stark contrasts. This was the seed of inspiration for my show.

So I took the plunge in January and put in a proposal {and that is a nerve-wracking event in and of itself}. But it was contingent on getting the other artists to collaborate with me. And that took a lot of trust on my part. Trust that the Board of Directors would want to give me this space. Trust that the artists would be intrigued enough to surrender a piece of art for my show that was eight months away.

This was a huge leap of faith.

Any good collaboration starts out this way. You might not know what to expect from the person who approaches you and you don't know if you want to give up control. What if you don't like what they make in the collaboration? A great part of collaboration is learning to let go, to trust the other person, to believe that they will do great things in this partnership. I am well aware of collaborations that can go horribly wrong. I have been in them. But if you trust and believe, I think a collaboration can be a truly liberating growth experience.

There were seven local artists who gave me eleven pieces of their art to be inspired by. Then in turn I took a leap of faith and sought out bead artists from around the world and asked them to be inspired by the paintings and art that I chose. This was another instance of blind faith.

I did not tell them what to make for me - what color, shape, size, amount - because if I did, that would only be a straight commission and then they would give me exactly what I asked for. I was hoping that they would be inspired by this collaboration, to give me more than what I asked for and the fact that I put no limits on them led to some outstanding works of beady art. And if I was going to ask the local artists to collaborate with me and trust me, I had to do the same with the bead artists. After all, they are all tops in their respective mediums: lampwork glass from Kerry Bogert, Dora Schubert and Julianna Cannon; ceramic from Melanie Brooks, Nancy Schindler and Jennifer Heynen; polymer clay from Heather Powers, Kate Clawson, Lynn Davis and Christine Damm; enamel from Barbara Lewis; metal clay from Beth Hemmila; mixed media from Mary Jane Dodd. So I trusted them and their creative instincts. And what I got from these 13 artists was nothing short of brilliant.

These bead artists told me that this collaboration pushed them in new directions. Some examples:
  • Kerry Bogert pushed through her doubt and came up with a new technique to add those bubbles to the hollows. Each took her 45 minutes to make.
  • Dora Schubert normally doesn't take custom orders. But she was inspired by what I was doing and wanted to challenge herself. The results are breathtaking.
  • Julianna Cannon made me five sets of beads based on the inspiration monoprint. Each different from the last.
  • Heather Powers told me that she was seeking some new inspiration for a fall botanical motif and found it in the bittersweet vines.
  • Mary Jane Dodd knows just how to pick the right words for any occasion and selected some very poetic ones for the two inspiration pieces she interpreted.
  • Christine Damm tried out a new technique with inks to add depth the the color palettes of her clay beads.
The fact that I could inspire them is a wonder to me.

I thought that I would test out my mad skillz at videography and take you on a virtual tour of the Gallery Q and my exhibit and point out what I learned through this collaboration. {Note: I have quite a loud voice, but in this video I am very soft spoken. Must be my inner librarian coming out to play. Turn up the volume a tad!}

The best part about collaborations for me is the fact that by letting go you can fly to heights you may never have imagined. When you allow yourself to relinquish some of the control you have the capacity to transcend what you even thought possible, to do something better together than you could have done apart.

I would really love to hear your thoughts about collaborations.
Do you seek them out?
Or do you shy away from working with other artists?
Would you like the chance to do something like this in your own community?
What's stopping you?
If so, what art bead artists would you most like to collaborate with you?
Do tell!

How about a giveaway? For each comment recorded here - one comment per person please! - I will draw a random winner to receive a few of the art beads that were created just for me for this exhibit, some of which were made expressly for me and exist nowhere else in the world! {Deadline: August 25}

* * * * *

Erin Prais-Hintz writes about all things that inspire her at Treasures Found::Inspiration Is Everywhere. Her jewelry designs are one-of-a-kind made one-at-a-time. She collects quotes and dust and invites you to send her your favorite (quote - not dust!) to
Check out her brand spankin' new website at


EB Bead and Metal Works, LLC said...

Thank you Erin for sharing your video story of your "Inspired by..." work! This was truly wonderful to watch and see what was created from the beads you collected based on the art work.
Mom and I have never thought about doing a collaboration before, but I have been toying with the idea of basing our jewelry off of some of the most wonderful watercolor paintings by our favorite artist Rena Bruwer here in Indiana (we have our own art gallery of her work). I think this would be a fun thing to do, but I am not sure we would be ready to do something like that on a large scale, but this is something I would love to do in the future.
I would love, love, love to have Juls, from Julsbeads, collaborate with us along with Kelley from Kelly's beads, Melanie Brooks from Earthenwood Studios, Dora Schubert would be wonderful to collaborate with (love her stringer work), Laura from Beads by Laura, Barbara Lewis for her wonderful enamels, Donna from Beadology, My Life & Times. Oh, the list is endless!
Thank you again Erin for sharing your beautiful work!

Alice said...

I've been inspired by your collaborations with these wonderful artists and the pieces they created as a result.

I've never had the chance to do anything similar, but the idea of working with another artist sounds like a lot of fun!

Sally Mack said...

Erin -
First of all congratulations on the exhibit and brava! for bringing it together in such an awesome and beautiful way.

I have not done a collaboration with another artist - yet- but I hope it is in my future. So far my collaborations are with nature... it is always in my work.

What is stopping me? Me - I am still trying to work out who I am as an artist... so that I will have something to share. Most of my work is sold or gifted to friends who incorporate my beads into their jewelry. Okay, that's a collaboration of sorts... but not on the same scale of your concept of collaboration.

I would like to work with artists who work in different a way that doesn't always add up to jewelry. Just for a change.

Who would I like to collaborate with .. oooh, so many fabulous fellow beadmakers! You tapped into some of my favorites... but I would also like to work with Gail Crossman-Moore, Joanne Morash and Holly Cooper as well.

What a thought-provoking challenge!


Anonymous said...

Great show! Congratulations, lovely work by all.

SummersStudio said...

This is a truly amazing exhibit! I am more than inspired. Simply put, I am in awe of all of the many and varied pieces you drew together and made your own. Beautiful.

Mellisa said...

My situation is reversed-collaborating with jewelry artists to use my beads. I love working with other artists and have sought it out on a few occasions...twice resulting in quite a letdown when the other person didn't follow through with their end, but oh how wonderful when it has worked!

Unknown said...

What a great exhibit! I've been looking for some new inspiration lately, I guess I will have to spend some time in my local galleries.

beautifullybrokenme said...

What an amazing experience - thanks so much for sharing it in such detail. It must have been tough to trust the bead artists with your vision, but the results are fantastic. I love how you were able to use their interpretations of the art pieces to guide you in how you interpreted the finished pieces.

Congratulations - you absolutely deserve it!

:-) Molly

Susan Marling said...

Your gallery exhibt is absolutely wonderful. I never would have thought of doing that. I hope the exhibt is doing well. I have never done any collaborations with jewelry but have with quilts. My experiences have been wonderful and really stretched me.

Cynthia said...

I have been following you blog, so I seen your exhibit - It is stunning. I also am in a small local artist's cooperative, and I am thinking of approaching the members with your idea, but with a twist. We could pair artists with each other, and each will create something inspired by the other. So, pottery inspiring a photo, or jewelry inspiring a painting, etc. I think it's a great way to stir our imaginations.
Thanks for the inspiration! And thanks for a chance to win some of your special beads.

Jeannie said...

WOW! ERIN! I would be pinching myself every minute. What an accomplishment. All your designs compliment the artists work perfectly. Like peanut butter and jelly.

I do more art work collaborations and I have done a few jewelry to. I would love to do more jewelry, but I'll just wait to be asked.


Stacey said...

The fact that this idea came to you - collaborating with other artists - is truly perfect - I would love to work on pieces like that - trusting the artists and being suprised by what they give you....such unique pieces would have to come of this.
What a great much inspiration to be offered, pushing your boundaries in that brave and it turned out to be so worth it - what beautiful pieces of art you created. Like I said before you are a true inspiration for the rest of us! Bravo Erin...

Nicki said...

It is as impressive as I thought it would be. A big wow to you.
I would absolutely love to do some collaboration projects, but over here it is not so easy as there are so few artists that make beads, and the whole bead scene is so far behind. Who knows, maybe in a few years.

Lance said...

You are truly wonderful and unique and amazing and a beautiful and shining soul in this world!!

Erin S said...

These are beautiful pieces, Erin! By far the best way to work is to have trust in the artists you select to work with you and let them be free to fly. I know I do my best work when people don't put too many restrictions on me. I would love to work collaboratively with other artists--but it would have to be someone I really trusted. I'd love to win those beads, too!
Erin S (the other Erin)

Pretty Things said...

I just started a collaboration type of thing on my blog, calling it Cup of Bead Soup (in relation to the Bead Soup Blog Party) and it's really been a great way for me to learn new techniques using one artist's beads throughout the month and blog about it.

Congratulations on your show! That's huge to do a gallery show!

mairedodd said...

a wonderful tour erin - i loved every minute... and you know i love collaborating - they hold surprises, growth and energy...

Karyn said...

Congratulations on your show - how exciting.

I haven't actually considered a collaboration before but have been stuck in a rut as far as my creative side is concerned and have approached other beaders to a ''challenge'' to get us creating outside of our comfort zones again.

I think this is a wonderful idea!


Unknown said...

This is amazing and beautiful and thought provoking and deeply moving to me. Thank you so much for sharing.

Betty said...

This is truly awe inspiring and amazing! I am blown away by this show. Thanks so much for sharing your work. A collaboration sounds like fun.

sandi m said...

Again, congratulations on your exhibit. Yes, there is a lot of collaborative trust that must take place to really pull something like this off.
I've been thinking of another sort of collaboration in that I have two collections of artwork from two very different artisans; I have many, many lampwork beads from some well know artisans (including some in your exhibit) and I keep thinking "what if".
As soon as my new studio room is completed, I plan to take this thought to the bead board and see where it may take me.

dining table said...

I am not so surprised in this news because I know that your show is great. This is not impossible to happen. I want to congratulate you for your success.

Hazel Ward said...

I would love to collaborate with someone in theory, but at the moment I know I'd just get incredibly stressed about letting the other person down somehow :(

Congratulations, by the way :)

Heather said...

Erin, Your show is wonderful and so inspiring. I love collaborating with others. I volunteered to be on the board for our new HandmadeInVegas Etsy Team and I am planning to have meet ups with other jewelry artists. I will be speaking at our next meeting about a guerilla art challenge and your show was great inspiration to include other types of artists in this effort too. Thank you for sharing, the work is all so unique and beautiful!!

Artisan Clay said...

Since deciding to offer my beads to other artists almost 2 years ago I have sought out collaborations.

I think it is freeing to see how other artists use the things I make. I usually have a certain style or design in mind when I am making a bead and I am always thrilled to see how differently other artists think!

and on the other side-- when someone asks me to make something specifically for them it usually spurs new ideas.

Shai Williams said...

What an accomplishment! And thank you so much for showing it off in your video. I was kinda bummed that I wouldn't be able go so this video is really the next best thing.

I don't think that my skill level is up to collaboration yet. But it will get there. In fact you experiences have inspired me to add that to my list of goals

Stories They Tell said...

Hi Erin, Great video and now I know what you really look and sound like and it's wonderful! I love collaborating with other artists and it just gets better with each one. I don't like round robin projects at all-- I just like to go one on one. Yours was very interesting because I was interpreting a piece of art and you were interpreting the same piece with what I created. Brilliant! Thanks for the opportunity!