Today’s interview is actually with a collective of talented artists from around the world, who ‘met’ each other through our Make Art That Sells course (with Lilla Rogers) and have gone on to form a business relationship which allows them to pool resources, access a wider audience and support each other. We love this idea, and were intrigued to find out more about the artists behind ‘Forest Foundry’.
This is how they describe themselves: “Forest Foundry is an art collective of eight artists from around the world, who believe that beautiful art should be accessible to everyone. We create art that is colourful, and evokes the imagination. We try to make sustainable choices whenever we can, to help the future of our planet.”
The Forest Foundry consists of Katy Tanis (KT), Karma Voce (KV), Ine Beerten (IB), Victoria Weiss (VW), Zoe Ingram (ZI), Miriam Bos (MB), Neiko Ng (NN) and Kat Kalindi Cameron (KKC).
1. How are you leading a life ‘doing what you love’?
KKC – My life at the moment is a bit of a juggling act. I have two small children (aged 5 and 3) so I have to balance the school run and home stuff with my love of designing and illustrating. I am working on a few licensing projects at the moment which is my main goal as an artist.
MB – It’s pretty easy doing what you love when the thing you love doing the most is creating. I get up, start a doodle in my sketchbook while having breakfast. Then I get behind my computer to check emails and social media, and when I have had my cup of tea I start working on whatever project I have at that particular moment. My days are like this almost every day. Even on the weekends. It’s hard to stop.
ZI – When I realised I was about to hit 40 this year I decided to take the bull by the horns and do Lilla Rogers’ Make Art That Sells e-Course which was absolutely amazing, and following on from that I entered the Global Talent Search, which I won! I am now doing something that I absolutely love with a passion and I believe that Lilla’s course came at the right time for me.
VW – I think for most of us that are also mothers, it is a real test of how deep do you love what you do creatively. Every time my day is about to go downhill I ask myself why I am doing what I am doing, and this gets me back on track. It is simply so much fun. It’s magical and mysterious and I can’t imagine my life otherwise.
2. What did you do before this?
IB – I graduated as a graphic designer in 2004 and worked in this field for many years, but the job did not give me much creative fulfillment, so I started with surface pattern design in my free time just for fun. I loved it so much that I decided I wanted to earn my living by doing this.
KV – Before becoming a Graphic Artist/Designer I tried a bunch of things, from sales/ admin/customer service roles, to designing and making clothes and selling at markets, to selling Greenpeace memberships!
VW – I worked as a graphic and web designer freelancing for the last 6 years, and painted and illustrated on the side. I also ran a co-working style studio in Hong Kong and before that I worked in NYC at an animation and licensing studio founded by Joanna Ferrone and Sue Rose, creators of Fido Dido Inc and Angela Anaconda (hit Fox Kids series in the late nineties). I did everything. Wore a lot of hats, from art direction, to illustration and design. Owning your own business also means you get to wear technology and marketing hats as well. It’s a lovely mess. Somehow everything worked out and led me to this point.
NN – I was enrolled in art school and shortly after I graduated I was luckily able to acquire an art agent to help me get my career off the ground. I’ve been a full time freelance artist since then. I have also worked at a social media game company and interned in a greeting card company.
KKC – I worked for a large fashion company doing textile design and packaging. It was great fun working with other creatives and it was across womens, mens and accessories.
3. You all met during the first ever Make Art That Sells e-course? What was it about the course that helped you move forward in your design career?
VW – I was at the point of burning out actually, right before I took the class. I was not interested in anything I was doing even though I was creating and drawing a lot of art. That was all I wanted to do – I was escaping. The course really helped me get focused on the art of selling and licensing in different markets. The art I did was varied and I wasn’t sure if I was going to strictly target galleries, indie style selling on Etsy or go back to grad school for more practice. I wanted to explore, get clear, get inspired, make money and move forward with a bit more speed. What I got back that was a nice surprise was a tremendous global network of friends, and love and support of my work. That is priceless, and Lilla is amazing. Her assignments are so much fun!
NN – The advice and wisdom that Lilla gave us was priceless. I love how she encouraged and motivated each of us to move forward as an artist.
MB – During the course you work together with some amazingly talented (and kind) people. Some are already professional artists, while others are just starting their careers. I think the course gave us all a boost creatively. I got lots of new energy and ideas from it. And it helps you to think outside of the box too.
KKC – Just learning the finer details about what makes certain art more appealing and how to approach manufacturers. Each week there were many tidbits of information, some I knew but then I would have ‘aha’ moments and I would approach my next assignment or client work differently the next time.
KT – For me, I feel like it was mostly about having a strong artistic community of people with similar goals. That is something I was really missing in my everyday life. The support and feedback was invaluable.
KV – The course attracted a massive amount of really high calibre motivated artists, who were all in varying stages of the same journey, wanting to have a successful and fulfilling career. The motivation and support found were completely unanticipated, and I think it just helped create a real momentum for everyone to grow and move forward together.
Artwork by Victoria Weiss
4. Can you pinpoint the particular moment that inspired you to combine your talents for the sake of a common goal?
KT – I had actually been thinking about doing something like this for a few years. I was really missing that artistic community. I just never came upon the right people until Make Art That Sells. It was great to find people at a similar place in their career as me who had similar goals and made amazing work! I also had been wanting to exhibit at Surtex for a while. I knew I could never create enough work on my own. Plus emotionally & financially it helps to work with other artists.
IB – A couple of us already had the idea separately to form a collective for a while, then after the class had finished Kat started a discussion in the class community about how we could go to Surtex and before we knew it we had set up this collective. It all went very fast from there.
NN – It is always nice to collaborate with different artists, so when Karma contacted me about the idea, I was so excited as I believe we are going to make something amazing! For me tis is also part of “doing what you love” – sharing ideas with fellow artists, learning from each other and growing together!
5. How do you support one another?
KV – We communicate via a private facebook group, and it is tricky at times, due to us being scattered across the globe, but that also means that there is always someone else awake at the same time, and so we share our ideas, our work, and occasional frustrations. It’s very nurturing and supportive. There’s a lot of love in the ‘room’! It will be overwhelming when we all finally meet in person! We did just have our first video skype conference, which was fraught with tech problems, but we will endevour to do that on a regular basis now.
VW – Staying positive, being real and keeping integrity with our creativity everyday.
MB – We talk about all kinds of things, varying from: ‘What bus do I take to Surtex?’ to ‘How would I respond to this client for this kind of commission?’ It’s really a great experience because I know that a lot of artists here in the Netherlands are not very fond of sharing that kind of information with their colleagues. I never really understood why because I think we would all profit from it. This group is the opposite, and it’s lovely.
Journal cover by Karma Voce
6. When combining so many different styles and identities how did you decide on the collective name and look?
ZI – We think that although our styles are all very different that they all work really well together. Our website is very simple which allows the work to speak. The logo and collective name was very much a joint decision. We all voted and threw ideas around until we got to something that we all loved.
KT – We have done everything very democratically with everyone suggesting ideas, discussing and voting. The thing I was most worried about was anyone feeling slighted or upset with how things are going. It is never easy to keep an entire group of people happy. And since this is a goal we all had for a long time I knew it could get emotional. I think just being upfront with each other about everything and trying to keep it as fair as possible is the key. The forest idea came about because we liked the analogy of the individual trees coming together and creating something magical.
Artwork by Zoe Ingram
7. As a collective what do you hope to achieve and why do you think there is strength in numbers?
KT -I find when smart creative people come together you can create so much more than you can on your own. Everyone has different strengths and working as a collective will let us capitalise on that.
IB – Our first big goal is Surtex 2014, but we would like to do more than just go to this trade show together. I think most of us would love to have an agent, but the reality is that it’s not so easy to find a good agent, so for now we would like to grow Forest Foundry into something similar to an agent, except without the agent. This means that we would like to send group newsletters to potential clients, do marketing together, go to trade shows etc – anything that agents do but without the middle man. And because we are doing it together we can share responsibilities, the workload is less and we can motivate each other to keep at it.
ZI – We now have a platform to showcase our work as a strong group of designers and illustrators. Since we speak to each other daily, we also have a built-in virtual studio which is great as most people who work alone can find that it can be quite a lonely profession.
8. As a collective how formal is your arrangement with one another? Are costs split, are their contracts, is there a nominated leader etc?
KT – As of now I think we are trying to keep everything very even, splitting costs evenly and having equal say in decision making. As of now we plan on keeping contracts separate. We will see how things go and it can evolve from there. There could be potential for more collaboration on artwork and such in the future.
IB – We really are still eight businesses who have decided to join forces but still operate separately, mostly because we are located in different countries. Maybe in the future we will change this set up, but it’s still early days so we will see how things develop.
9. As individual designers where do you find your inspiration?
KV – I personally love using Pinterest as a collection point, and have been using it since it began. I am drawn to vintage and contemporary illustration, and pattern design mostly. I also have a love of different exotic cultures from around the world, and nature will always be an inspiration for me. I am drawn to anything bohemian, in the true sense of the word, and I also love fashion, so I get a nice cross-section of references.
VW – For me, it is doing art with my daughter, nature walks, rest, magazines and sketching at coffee shops, yoga, eating a great dinner with friends and family, visiting antique shops, travelling, and journaling. I try to just go with it, and not force it too much.
ZI – I am inspired by my children when they say funny things or when they are using their imaginations (which is most of the time!) I also love nature and colour. Thoughtful messages, poems and quotes also inspire me.
MB – I am mostly inspired by colours, textures/ patterns and floral elements. And I surround myself with all kinds of pretty and colourful things, varying from art cards, books, pretty illustrations, great sayings with pretty typography, flowers, funny objects, dolls and so on. My wall next to my computer is my inspiration wall. I stick all kinds of stuff on it.
KKC – Home life, children, my surroundings, vintage books and fabrics.
Plate by Katy Tanis
10. What advice would you give other artists to inspire them to achieve their dreams?
KV – Work at it. Stop dreaming, and start doing! It is as simple as that! And continue to learn new skills, and mediums. And never stop learning.
IB – No dream is ever too big! Think about what steps you need to take to achieve your dream. Don’t try to take steps that are too big, just do it at your own pace. And if you feel unsure if you can do it by yourself, find your tribe, people with the same interests and dreams and help each other. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
VW – Trust. Listen to those inner desires. Something magical happens when I do that.
ZI – Keep at it. It doesn’t happen overnight. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am now and it does sometimes feel like it’s never going to happen but just keep doing what you love. Even if you have to do it in your spare time. That’s how things get better and you find out what makes you tick.
NN – Work, work and work! There’s no shortcut to being an artist.
MB – Work hard, be dedicated, and if there are moments when you experience a drawback, try to find comfort. It often helps to vent and talk about it to someone. It can be anybody, as long as this person wants to listen. Don’t be afraid, think out of the box and try new things every now and then. Explore your style and don’t settle with what you have. Stay positive.