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On the 13th June Nichola from Vortex Creates came to meet Sarah and I. We wanted to meet her as she does really interesting projects which have essences of our interests. The two that really interest me are the Lost Gift and the Travelling Treasury. The Lost Gift was a completely immersive Christmas exhibition, with performers at Warwick Art Centre, it took over the whole gallery. The Travelling Treasury is a beautiful caravan which has an immersive wood setting inside it along with a performer and it travels to a lot of festival.

Our main question for Nichola is simiple, what was your journey? How did you become a full time artist and what are your tips along the way.

Nichola began her life as a visual artist, she studied Fine Art as a degree. After graduating she was commissioned to make a sculpture in Bedford as part of the Year of the Artist. From here she worked part time at the Custard Factory as a receptionist, Nichola kept her portfolio with her and would show it to people as they went by. One day a web designer went by and Nichola said she could be a web designer, even though she’d not done it before. The lady employed her for her creativity, from doing it she learnt a lot of useful skills including photoshop. The lesson from this is to be open, talk to people about your self, don’t be apologetic about your work, be proud, be open to what else is out there, you might think your on one path but there’s no harm in trying another one. 

Straight after graduating Nichola got a studio at Art Space and she was on the board of directors. This again was about talking to right people, it allowed Nichola to use two studio spaces and the community room when she had bigger projects. She continued in this way until 2006 when she took a big jump and took on a barn in Offchurch. The rent was a large jump but she made it happen. This felt very inspirational for me as I work part time and I’m nerves to be a full time artist because I’m not sure I’ll earn enough. Here Nichola trusted her self, got a larger more expensive space and she made it happen. Now she rents a large industrial unit which in terms of studio rent is a bargain and this is because it’s not aimed at artist.

In 2003 she was asked to design a float and costume for Coventry Carnival. It was aesthetically pleasing, it told and story which made it visually appealing. Her work continues this theme now, it tells stories and is visually brilliant. At the Carnival she met Marianne Taviner and they began working together as Vortex Creates and in 2006 and 2007 they made the UK Awards and in 2008 with Zanda Rhodes on the judging panel they won. The phone kept ringing and they became a registered company.

People come to Vortex because they want a unique product, they build relationships with their clients and in turn they come again. Vortex is in constant development, as well as art they also do corporate event dressing, this brings in a good income. This is something for Sarah and I to consider is there anything we can make / do for the corporate world that will help support our artist work?

They often work with Highly Sprung a lot to keep their work developing, Highly Sprung are really trusting and they have a great relationship with them. For each projects they figure out who they need, what skills they need and how much time that is. They are interested in developing other people’s skills and are now looking to employ a graduate one day a week, they want to grow her skills.

Nichola and Maz both have their own companies too, Maz has M Style which does wedding dressing and Nichola does consultancy and education. This is great for their creativity and contacts. Sarah and I do our own things too, it’s good to know it makes a good mix. Sarah is an interior designer and I work on arts projects.

We are interested to know if Nichola has received funding, it was a general no. For the Travelling Treasury they received funding from the NRTF. This was in partnership with Highly Sprung and was a new approach for them. They might apply for Random String as the project they are developing feel like it fits. Nichola feels if the fund fits your project then apply but don’t push it if it doesn’t.

For our Big Knitting we need to make a tour pack and we ask Nichola for any tips of what to include, this was footfall, value, time per visit, cost and the product. Be clear, who are you selling to, what is it? Her advice was a mini tour first to get lots of photos and audience comments to include. I should think about what I want to know when I book an artist at Live & Local. When I’ve got it together I’ll share it.

We need to get a contact list together for festivals first. Later on we might look into a tour booker, they will compile a database for you. We should look at international street art festivals, they are buying commissioning and selling work. Think about where people are that we want to sell to, how can we meet them? Exhibition talks are a good place to go and mini festivals like Random String are great too.

One opportunity to think about is the gallery space in City Arcade, could we install something that fits there? Eaton House also has a dry space.

Nichola advised Sarah and I to put a 1 year, 2 year and 5 year plan together. When we do it think about what we need to know, do we all ready know the answers, ask others, people are generous.

The lesson we kept learning from Nichola, use your voice. Tell people what you do and ask for their help. Make the right conversations. Be in the right places, talk to the right people. Go and seek out, travel all over. Say no! (as well as yes). Be cheeky, ask for discount if your buying a lot.

Take a look at Express Polythene in Digbath and Cheep Rope for materials