If you're an artist, the thought of collaborating with another artist whose work you love is something you've entertained from time to time. As with most great ideas, it's not the "if" questions, but the "how" questions that can end up in lots of head scratching! Let me share 5 things I think are super important when collaborating with another artist.
1) Make Sure You Like Each Other's Work
This might go without saying, but when you're collaborating with another artist, it's important that you're into each other's work. Don't be nice. Don't just say yes to a collaborative relationship if it's not ringing your artistic bell. Otherwise, you'll be sorry!
2) Share a Common Point of View in a Different Medium
Obviously, any artists could collaborate with each other, but knowing that you both come from the same point of view regarding your art can be really helpful. Are you both into natural forms? What about things that inspire and inform your work. This commonality makes it a bit easier to speak each other's language.
3) Dream, Plan, Execute
Usually, collaborative ideas begin as a dream in the mind of one or both of the artists. Compare your thoughts, push the ideas and get them down on paper. Once you do, start to plan and figure out what it's actually going to take to make this project happen. Who's responsible for what? What's the timeframe? Costs involved? Who's gonna sell the pieces? Marketing? Once you make the plan, execute well and make sure you honor the other person's participation by doing an excellent job and honoring your commitments.
4) Be Honest
Ok, so at some point during your collaborative jaunt, you're going to not agree about something; a color, finish, shape, scale, feature. Don't dance around the issues. Remember, this is just as much your piece as it is your creative partners. Share your concerns quickly, openly, honestly and with kindness. Always ask questions. Don't accuse or judge. These are the times that can kill or feed your collaborative relationship.
5) Celebrate Each Other
All along the way, celebrate your partners work. Tell them how much fun it is to work with them. Tell them you love what they're doing, that you appreciate them, that you're glad you chose to work together. And once you're finished, share the heck out of the project on social media, your email list and with everyone you know. The more buzz you create, the sooner a piece is likely to sell and then you can get on to your next collaborative success!
I hope these tips help you in your next or first creative collaboration! By the way, the piece featured in the image above is my most recent collaboration with South Carolina ceramicist, Margie Bibb Johnson. You can find more of her work at
Matt Tommey is a sculptural basketry artist working in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District.