I am a big fan of artist Barbara Smith, I have her giant size painting Keep Calm and Carry On in my hallway and have most recently purchased LOOK ! UP IN THE SKY ! // Bye bye “Superman” from her which now proudly hangs on my double height wall. The idea being when I sit at my desk having one of my many conundrums I can glance across to a superhero and get inspiration to never give up!
I asked Barbara if she fancied contributing to my Biz feature as making your way as an artist in an economy that hasn’t been easy is inspirational to all of us.
Barbara studied at Goldsmith’s College in London and you’ll see from the slide show why I am such a fan of her work. She uses techniques which I am particularly drawn to such as drip-painting and often times references popular culture, art history and comics.
Over to Barbara:
What led you to start your own business?
Though I studied design at Goldsmith’s college, London and had great tutors, I found myself spending most of my time in the art department, and still today I love crossing over from art to design. Part of my studies involved working in the Estudio Mariscal in Barcelona, alongside Javier Mariscal a successful multi-disciplinary artist-designer who works on a multitude of creative projects including architecture, furniture, textile, ceramics, graphics and so on. His approach to art, design and business is an inspiration. These experiences were essential before setting myself up, I didn’t rush into starting my own business, it happened naturally.
What has been most difficult?
Getting to grips with the French paperwork involved in setting up a business. There are so many different possibilities here that it can be a bit overwhelming.
How do you get your work seen by galleries or customers?
Today, the Internet and social networks are a must for getting noticed globally. My website and Facebook art page are essential now and it’s a great way of engaging with people who follow my work, customers and galleries. I was recently contacted via Facebook by a few galleries including curator Cindy Lisica (Revision Space Art Gallery director, also curator-archivist at Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh). She told me how excited she was to discover my work and invited me to take part in a group show called “The Enduring Skull” with four other artists, this took place last month in Pittsburgh USA. I loved her approach and accepted her proposal. Cindy Lisica also featured my work in the exhibition catalogue and its cover, alongside Andy Warhol and Damian Hirst’s works, which is wonderful.
Simultaneously, I exhibited my work in Quimper, France in “Ma Première Galerie”, the team organized a fabulous opening for my solo show with hundreds of people attending the opening night. Good communication is a must if you want your work to be seen, this includes press articles, posters, flyers, social networking. The gallery printed my artwork onto one hundred tote style bags and gave them away as freebies with info and contacts that is a good idea too.
Exhibiting my work has definitely opened doors to a variety of creative projects and collaborations. I’m lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of very talented people with great skills: artists, musicians, photographers, sculptors, filmmakers and different kinds of designers, I sometimes work with them on different mediums (sculptures in ceramics, screen-prints in limited edition, textile, 3D printing, art direction).
I co-organized a major traveling T-shirt exhibition “Peninsul’ART” with nearly 200 artists involved from France, St Ives Cornwall UK and Germany, this is a one-day event takes place once a year. Last year it took place in St Ives with 350 artworks displayed in art galleries and different venues were involved including the St Ives Tate. The idea behind this project is to connect artists together from their twinned towns, to get the works seen and develop artists’ residencies and cultural exchanges between the towns. So far this event has attracted thousands of visitors on the day.
As well as contemporary art galleries, I now have my work in some great interior design boutiques, including your home Abi ! It is very rewarding to see a space come together which includes my artwork. An article about your design work was recently published in a French magazine that also featured my artwork; all this visibility helps get noticed.Other projects I’m currently working on is a capsule collection with jewellery designer Lenaklax and I’m also working on an exciting project with a French culinary designer. The possibilities are endless.
Any tips/advice to people starting out?
Social networking is essential but also get out there and meet people, get the work seen in galleries and boutiques. Participate in pop up galleries or quality events that can often lead to other projects. Hand out your visit cards whenever you meet people. Organize events, surround yourself with positive people. Persist and stay focused, be patient, plan your business, good marketing, manage your money well, keep on top of things…
What has been most successful about the business?
It’s still early days yet and a lot has happened in the last year, exciting collaborations are happening which I believe is a good sign. What makes this venture rewarding is meeting great people along the way and receiving amazing feedback from customers telling me how excited they are about owning my artwork and how good it makes them feel. It’s encouraging!
Thank you so much Barbara for taking the time to answer the questions, I wish you much success.