Be Smart About Art

Ever feel like you're swimming in a sea of sharks? Find a friendly school of fish

written by: Susan Mumford Dec. 7, 2014 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 4706 views

Ever feel like you're swimming in a sea of sharks? Find a friendly school of fish

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)

It was the opening night of an art fair. Crowds were amassing, music was chiming and champers was flowing. Happily, it was a profitable evening for many of the exhibitors.

While strolling down an aisle in the midst of the hubbub, a woman enthusiastically exclaimed, “Susan!” She came charging across and gave me a huge hug.

As a culturally British dealer, her approach was extraordinarily outgoing. (Had this been in the USA, the exclamation would have been a most everyday encounter.) We enjoyed a brief exchange before she carried on greeting guests and I proceeded browsing and chitchatting. What on earth elicited such a warm welcome?

The answer was straightforward.  She is an established and respected dealer who had been trading for many decades. Having been working for many moons by herself, she had joined a peer networking group of my creation. At long last, she had a sense of belonging.

For she and many others, the group is a professional ‘home’ for otherwise on-their-own micro-business* owners. Keen to bounce an idea off someone? Want to find a recommended supplier? Seeking support from professional peers?

You needn’t do it solo, no matter how tempting it is to be a one-person wonder. You can (and probably will) still be a fiercely independent person who makes things happen, too! Consider this internal voice, which might sound familiar: “Oh nevermind, I’ll just do it myself (again).” Rather than go out to sea on your own and be surrounded by sharks that are after everything you’ve got, venture on voyages with a like-minded variety.

Consider a common scenario: You open up to someone and confess that not everything is going as swimmingly as it appears on your ‘public’ (online) profile. Rather than that someone snapping you up and swallowing you whole for their own financial gain (like a shark), imagine that they instead make introductions, suggest a mutually-beneficial collaboration and the like. You’ll take the latter any day, right?

By swimming in a friendly school of fish, individuals are there to help one another as and when the need arises. The reality is that most of the time, gentle ongoing exchanges is all that’s needed to keep you going in the right direction.

How do you find the school of fish for you? They’re doing social media, art fairs, symposiums, festivals – you name it. What do you like, and how? Go to the places you like going, physically and/or virtually speaking, and seek out your kind. By putting multiple minds on the matter, who knows what will result.

*Micro businesses operate on a very small scale. They are most often comprised of 1 – 5 employees, and can take the form of self-employed, sole proprietorship, limited company, non-profit and the like.
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Photographs © Chris King.

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Posted by : Simon de Pinna 08/12/2014 19:27

I echo Julia's endorsement of the BSAA 'shoal' (school? pod?). Great to meet and to know the likes of Susan, Mara...Julia herself! And many others...all keen to make me welcome and share the adventure that is the art business.

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I have found my friendly school of fish here! With many thanks to all those I meet, and especially Susan and Mara.