There are many different attitudes towards collectives, to get a more accurate idea of how they function and succeed, Allie Oldfield talks to UK based and overseas collectives asking what they think are the key elements that make a collective successful.
Forming a collective can be the easy part, but how do you make a lasting impact? Here’s what Peep Show, Nous Vous, Spring Magazine Collective and more have to say about creating success:
Compromise is a key part of success, as well as being open to new directions. Allowing yourself to evolve and not get stuck ‘working’. All of us agree that we don’t really want a job as such, or to make a job out of our practice. We’d all prefer to do something else, like work as a gardener or labourer if that happened. Milton Glaser wrote an interesting take on this in his ‘ten things I have learned’ essay – sub-heading ‘If you have a choice never have a job’. Also keep working in ways that excite you. Keep finding new things to keep you interested. Work hard at finding ways of converting those interests into something accessible and appealing for others and share it.
Our success is based on our longtime friendship and on our eclectic visions of art.
Another important element is dialogue, which is always direct and pro-positive.
LÖK Zine #05 “ID”
I think the key things are being friends in real life, embracing everybody’s role and strengths in the collective, and just genuinely liking each others work, even when having different but complementary styles and ways of working,
A democratic structure providing a sense of ownership for all, a beautiful and functional workspace and a great bunch of inspiring artists providing community.
Sensitivity and honesty in the group, as well as finding inspiration together besides looking at illustration and design.
The large variety of styles, the blooming creativity, the perceptible pleasure we have in our work, the continuity, the willingness to experiment, to invest time and energy in our project.
Illustrators trade off their own personal visual language, which has often taken years to craft. As a result it can be very hard to let go of or let someone else pull it apart. One of the main strengths of Peepshow is that everyone is willing to step away from what they normally do and undertake a different role. In some ways that was a big motivation to start with – to learn from each other and be able to try out something new.
It’s also important that as a collective we recognise that we all have very different approaches to our individual practices so it’s also about understanding and giving each other space and encouragement. When we started back in 2000 their wasn’t any real expectations of getting work as there was no clear ‘career’ path so really we had nothing to lose.
In our next ‘Collectives’ article, we discuss the future of illustration and design collectives. Go here.
With thanks to Tim Blann for his research and contribution to this article. Special thanks to Paul Paetzel of Biografiktion, Luke Best of Peepshow, Stephanie Wunderlich of Spring Magazine Collective, Math and Jana of Tieten Met Haar, Jay Cover of Nous Vous, Elisa Caroli of LÖK Zine, and Sophie and Emma of Clay Collective for their responses and insight.