Sometimes there's nothing better than having someone else give you an idea. I've always been a fan of collaborative work, whether it's two artists working together, or one person taking input and running with it.
I've worked a lot with other artists and theatre directors, so I've had plenty of experience meshing my personality with the ideas and creativity of others. I like to think I have a pretty open mind when it comes to collaboration - I try not to let my ego get in the way of progress, and I always try to give the customer or client as much creative input as they feel comfortable with. On either side of the spectrum, I'm happy to have complete control and interpret their thoughts into a finished product, but I'm also very comfortable receiving every detail they want out of their head and in front of them. In those cases, I don't care if it's not what I would do, or how I would work, I'm always curious to walk in someone else's shoes in case it informs my own directions.
Saying that, my favourite questions to ask a client usually go like this:
Who is it for, what do they mean to you?
What kind of mood do you want to convey?
What details about them, or the toy, do you want the focus on?
I mean, of course I also find out the basics like their favourites colours, but you often find that you get the most interesting information with open ended questions that you can't just answer in one or two words. For example, this comes in very handy when I'm making quilts. The Green quilt I made was trying to communicate the feeling of a vintage shop, and long walks on an English coastline. Not only in the colours - tan, brown, emerald, mustard, navy - but in the spaces in the fabrics, and the clusters of patterns all mismatched together.
So that brings us to this latest big project I was working on! I ended up calling them my Gem Stone Pigs, as the colours kept reminding me of polished stones and the roundness of the pigs definitely adds to that mental image! I was contacted by a customer who wanted a series of pigs made custom for special people in her life, each one to match and compliment their intended human. At first she gave me their occupations, but delving a little deeper, we were able to fill out these pigs with colours, moods and passions.
I think working with a client in any medium - paint, glass, textiles - you have to take as much of them as possible into your work and use them as the starting point of your visual interpretation, but at the end of the day it's still your process, your style, your artwork.
I have a lot of thoughts on the creation process, and the instincts behind it, but I'm moving away from the point: the pigs!
I had a lot of fun making this series of pigs, and translating the personalities of these nine people into my nine little creations! Unfortunately for me, what with the weather turning so rotten in England and me lacking as a photographer, I only have a handful of scattered photographs of them!
This first pig was for a feminine woman who likes parks, so I chose this very beautiful and delicate cream with cherry blossoms and leaves picked out in gold.
The second pig was for a teacher who spends her own day with children, and loves the sunshine. I thought she might appreciate the Very Hungry Caterpillar!
The third pig was for a little girl with a big personality and a wind up key in her back! A child like that needs a lot of safari animals to keep up with them.
The fourth pig was for an actress who loves everything pink and purple, and isn't shy about it!
The fifth pig was for someone who loves flowers and block colours, but doesn't wear a lot of patterns. So instead I found my favourite fabric with flowers made with block colours. This might have been my favourite pig, but don't tell the others.
The sixth pig was a bit of a wild card - a punk pig made of this amazing mermaid coral fabric, and offset with grey tones and a wicked nose ring. That would make anyone smile!
The seventh pig was for a child of nature and magic, someone who loves the Green man and shades of wizard purple. I have this beautiful greenstone fabric from New Zealand that was both bold and organic.
The eighth pig was for scientist who lives in black and grey, with tiny specks of colour and a love of flowers. Of course, that speaks perfectly to this gorgeous grey fabric with little red blossoms.
The ninth pig was for an engineer who loves sci fi and Russian nesting dolls - and lucky me, I have the exact fabric for that!
Seeing all these little pigs together was lovely, they formed a gradient of colour and patterns. I packaged them up in a box, each one with a handwritten tag and wrapped in tissue paper and off they went! My nine little gem stone pigs, ready for Christmas!