Back in 2018 I had a solo exhibition SOLDIER at Sandham Memorial Chapel. The venue is a National Trust property in Burghclere, near Newbury, that is famous for its cycle of paintings by Stanley Spencer. At that time a good friend of mine, James Dunnett, who is both a sculptor and architect, visited the exhibition and the idea that we could perhaps stage a two-person exhibition in the future was discussed.
In the months that followed further ideas about what this show would be about soon turned into questions of what would be technically possible. Eventually things fell into place and early in 2019 we confirmed exhibition dates of 08-26 April 2020.
This blog is not an attempt to chronicle all that happened up to today. I thought it would be of most benefit to a-n audiences to focus upon one particular challenge that is still ongoing: the creation of a large scale bronze for one of the lawns to the rear of the chapel.
As well as sharing images of work in progress I will be updating this blog with entries that describe my experiences in using crowdfunding and seeking sponsorship in advance of my application to Arts Council England.
Look out for part one of the blog in the near future.
So farewell, penguin. Metaphors, having served their purpose, should not hang around, especially when another one is needed.
My first campaign raised funds for my exhibition ‘Companion Pieces’ at no format Gallery, Deptford in 2018.
In this short post I want to summarise what I learnt from that campaign. This is not to suggest any kind of ‘do this to get that’ checklist, or imply that how I proceeded be used as any kind of template. My aim here is simply to share what I learnt to help others reach a decision about whether crowdfunding is right for them.
In our professional life the support we get from our partner, family and friends stands alongside that we receive from our peers. Such support is special and quite different in nature from the support given when someone decides to back you. The fundamental different is of course monetary. These two forms of supporter operate side by side. The first cheers you on, is there for you when you feel low, and provides honest feedback when asked, and sometimes even without warning! The second type of supporter, which crowdfunding reveals, is an enabler. Someone who understands what it is you re trying to achieve and is in a position to help you get there.
Are you thinking about crowdfunding for the first time? I suggest you would be wise to start by working out what it is you need help with. Not broadly, specifically. Write a short statement to describe what success will look like and what it will mean to you. Then work out the things you need to happen to reach that goal. What resources are involved? These could be materials, people, access or services but will be particular to your project.
You need to be clear on objectives and scope so you can get your message across to complete strangers. Do all this before rushing in to create a profile on a crowdfunding platform then start browsing those to see which one feels right for you.
Crowdfunding impels you. In advance, during, and after a campaign you need to commit to the plan you created and provide people who have backed you with regular updates.
And this is the point: crowdfunding is both matrix and mirror. What it tells you about others is finely balanced with what it tells you about yourself.
‘Like a penguin in the desert’ is how I would describe my first experience of crowdfunding. It was in 2018 and I was in the final week of one solo exhibition and just three months away from another. It has to be said that the wisdom of grabbing every opportunity that comes along deserves looking at in another post.
Time was a major self-inflicted pressure but a body of new work was underway and it was cash-flow that bothered me most. Since going full-time as an artist in 2015 I’d been funding my artistic career by a mixture of sales, my work pension and pot of money from the voluntary redundancy. Though I was getting sales they were not enough to counter the gradual erosion of capital.
I’d seen other artists turn to crowdfunding so I decided to give it a go to. I settled on GoFundMe and made my pitch. It felt awkward and odd at first, especially to be just one of so many voices earnestly asking for help for this or that cause. Some of the causes would often be heartbreaking sad, yet alongside those stories there were other people with bright ideas, inventors, entrepreneurs and dreamers. Gradually I realised the platform is a just like a roving lens showing the world in all its complexity, sorrow and glory.
So how did I get on as a rookie crowdfunder? That’s for next time.