Successful artistic collaborations can take many forms, but the core similarity is that they all result in stronger bonds between the participants and an outcome (whether an object, event, exhibition, or a new organization) that would not have been created by any one party working alone. The whole is different and, in the best cases, greater than the sum of its parts.
Collaborations between artists are not easy. They require open communication, trust in the other parties’ abilities and commitment to the project, flexibility to work through and reconcile different opinions and perspectives, and confidence to get past the worry that your contribution may ruin the finished piece. These new concerns are added to the usual issues surrounding making something different, from refining the initial idea to solving technical and logistical problems.
The challenge of working collaboratively with others can change our patterns of thinking, open us up to new friendships, show us new possibilities for our own work, and not only give us permission, but also compel us to explore and experiment in the studio. These opportunities for growth are as much of a reward as the final outcome.
In this issue we feature several different types of collaborations. Chef David Levi, who owns Vinland in Portland, Maine, incorporates handmade tableware from local potters in the restaurant. His ideas and approaches to plating various menu items have evolved as he responds to the opportunities and variety offered by the potters’ handmade plates, bowls, cups, and mugs.
Three potters living in a rural part of Missouri worked together to form a clay club that now includes a dozen members and has evolved into a guild focused on support and creative inspiration, feedback, and learning. Together, they tackled the isolation and lack of camaraderie that many artists in less populated areas experience.
Justin Rothshank and Eric Botbyl collaborated a few times with their personal work, then discussed how this could evolve into a collaboration-focused exhibition. The first “Collaborative Companions” exhibition they organized for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, included 28 artists working in pairs. One artist made a form, and the second artist responded with the surface decoration. The pieces created as part of a second series of collaborations with new parameters and new artists can be seen in an exhibition during the upcoming NCECA conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota (for details, see Collaborative Companions).
Päivi Rintaniemi started her line of functional work soon after she completed her studies. While she also produces a body of sculptural work on her own, she and her husband, Markku work together in their studio in Helsinki, Finland, to make the tableware. Päivi makes the models, Markku makes the molds (as well as customizing some of the studio equipment), and they work together on production tasks. This teamwork allows them to create a remarkable volume of tableware for shops and customers in Asia, Europe, and in the US.
Cross pollination led this issue’s Tips and Tools authors, E. Preston Rice and Madeleine Coomey, to MacGyver a battery-powered caulk gun to make a hand-held extruder that is easy to use for those with arthritic joints.
When Lindsay Rogers, who contributed the Spotlight for this issue, wanted to create a series of work that reflected on agricultural practices, she turned to Sow True Seeds, a small seed company producing open pollinated seeds in support of sustainable, regenerative agriculture. She made and exhibited unfired pieces that incorporated seeds donated by the company, and explored the concepts of cover crop, companion, and succession planting as alternatives to current commercial agricultural practices.
If you have a project you can’t tackle on your own, want to see your work from a different perspective, or want to bond with other artists, the most rewarding approach may be to collaborate.