Archives for category: Interpersonal development

tomek archer

Photo: courtesy of Tomahawk Studios 

Having just recently returned from tour in Jakarta, Van She percussionist Tomek Archer is not only a musician but the award-winning creative director of Tomahawk Studios furniture design and practices as an architect for a commercial firm in Sydney. His signature furniture piece, The campfire table is now held in the permanent collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Tomek talks to arts interview about working with others and stress.

 Interview by Lydia Bradshaw

What are the broad stress factors of being a musician on tour?

Well you put a lot of stress on your body, because you’re mostly sitting around waiting, really inactive. Then you have about an hour of really intense activity, and then that’s it. You probably drink too much, and are usually dehydrated, so it’s mainly a stress on your body. It’s more of a physical stress than a mental stress.

I suppose the only time things really would ever get stressful for musicians, or for anyone, is when you have difficulty focusing upon the present and what is straight in front of you. Stress is when you are worried about something that might happen or something you cannot help. So it’s pretty important when doing anything to be able to put all that aside.

How does working across different mediums affect your perception of stress and how would you describe its affect upon wellbeing?

I think of music and design more as being complimentary – as two halves of a whole. But it means that I am always working- one seems to always be the downtime from the other.  All of my breaks from design are on tour and all the down time from touring is filled with design. So it’s pretty rare to have a holiday that isn’t at all design or music related.

It’s common for people working in creative industries to have many projects all going on at once. How important is flexibility when you are working on a number of projects?

Flexibility is the ability to adapt, and sometimes it means that everyone around you who you work with is required to be a bit flexible as well. It can definitely put a strain on other people you’re working with. I have found that everyone I work with has been pretty flexible, other wise I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done.

What do you do to relax?

I’d like to say travelling, but every time I go travelling I’m working so it doesn’t really count. I haven’t been on a long holiday in a while. I’m not that good at sitting still for a very long time. I think it’s different for people who work primarily for money, but I guess I’ve designed a life for myself where I will probably never stop working. I’ll probably never retire. I like watching films. I like going to the snow. But, whatever I’m doing I always keep my eyes open as well. My brain doesn’t turn off. I should probably start meditating. I’m totally in control all the time- like Patrick Bateman.


After roles at Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Casula Powerhouse and recently as the Gallery Manager of Australian Galleries, Will Sturrock has taken residence as the Gallery Manager of the young and uber- contemporary Gallery 9. Will took some time out from his day to chat about the practical realities of working in a commercial gallery and working with artists.

Interview by Alex Bellemore

What are the challenges of working with artists in a commercial gallery context?

There are different challenges faced by different artists according to what stages of their careers they are at. I think one underpinning challenge of recent years has been a sense of frustration with artists simply not selling work, this can be manifested in a bitterness which can end in a dissolution of a good working relationship or friendship. For me personally I haven’t experienced this but there have been some significant departures of artists from galleries who have not supported them and vice versa.

Given the brief of working with younger emerging artists, financial stress can cause unnecessary and unnerving frustration for all involved. This has meant that people have had to become more resourceful, more proactive and in a sense more driven because there are no easy sales for anyone.

How do you balance personal relationships with business relationships?

Honesty is always a virtue which has to be handled and managed properly. I think letting your emotional response to a body of work or the state of an artist’s studio overwhelm a situation can be incredibly detrimental. I haven’t experienced it personally but I have heard absolute disaster stories in this respect and it can be hard not to engage in an emotional response when you work in visual art. I think approaching the profession with objectivity and a desire to fill the needs of the artist, client and gallery is a difficult job and it’s about learning those balances.

You have to also stand back and not allow yourself to be involved in any disputes going on in the highly political and highly sensitive world of artists and studios, and also in talking with artists from other galleries or other gallery workers.

What are the major ‘do not’s for an artist dealing with their representative gallery?

What underpins the entire point of having a gallery represent an artist, or what keeps us afloat is the fact that there is some degree of exclusivity and that commission is maintained. What I mean by that is in this world of high interaction in social media, web sites and online e commerce, the referral in interest from clients should always come back to the gallery. I think it is just too easy for that information to not be handled properly. People in commercial galleries have a degree of expertise in developing client relationships and client management, in the same way that within a company it’s quite distinct that you have different departments. If you could use some essence of that business model and apply it to an artist/ dealer relationship I think it makes sense that the gallery is left in charge of dealing with the commercial activity and the artist remains in control of their artistic careers.

What core skills do you need to develop to work within a gallery?

The ability to approach new art and new artists and their work with completely open eyes and a great sensitivity to the hard work and dedication that they put into their practice is very important. I think remaining objective and critical without necessarily being vocal about it is a skill I am grateful to have acquired early on.

The ability to be able to expand your skill base is vital, once upon a time we could have contractors to do everything and in tougher times you have to be the web designer, print and graphic designer, then jump straight into a conversation with an executive client and then the next minute counsel an artist. There is a degree of psychology involved in it which you have to take in your stride. The ability to multitask and a willingness to learn new skills is potentially the most important skill. I cannot stress how important this is as often there is no one else to do it.

Robin Eley

Photo: Simon Bills

Robin Eley is an Adelaide-based artist represented by Hill Smith Gallery. His painting, Bibliography, was a finalist in the 2012 Archibald Prize. Eley speaks with arts interview about the skills artists need in working with galleries and how to maintain artistic integrity in a commercial art market.

Interview by Heather Jennings

 What are the challenges in working with commercial galleries?

 There are practical and philosophical challenges. The first is finding a gallery that’s right for you – whose own strengths and ambitions are going to help you pursue yours. Establishing trust is one of the most important things, I have to trust the gallery I’m working with is going to provide more than just a wall to hang my work, I also have to trust their business practice is sound and my work and finances will be treated with respect. In return, I instill in them the trust that I will produce work on time and of a high standard. It’s similar to any business transaction in this respect.

One major challenge, especially in producing paintings for an exhibition, is bridging the financial gap between when you start painting for a show and when you eventually get paid. If selling work privately, you can financially move from painting to painting. But in most cases, working with a gallery means receiving chunks of money separated by long periods of nothing, which for obvious reasons is extremely stressful.

How do you balance personal relationships with business relationships?

 You don’t always have to like your gallery owner to have a successful working relationship. But if you get along with your gallery owner, which I do, there’s a very good chance you will become friends. While there’s no problem with that, the area I’m careful with is managing my relationships with people who buy my work. While it’s great to meet and talk to your collectors, I feel there’s a level of respect needed towards a gallery whose client list is the foundation of their business. If a collector contacts me, then I’m more than happy to talk with or meet them, but out of respect to my gallery I don’t actively seek them out. This approach isn’t for everyone, but because I expect the gallery to treat my paintings with care and respect, I do my best to return the consideration.

How do artists balance artistic direction with the expectations of gallery representatives?

 The ideal situation is finding a gallery that supports whatever direction you may wish to take your work. But it’s also important to keep in mind galleries are businesses and it’s not uncommon for a gallery to break ties when an artist’s change in direction causes a drop in sales. Personally, I would not want to be with a gallery that didn’t want my work to evolve over time. As an early career artist, it’s vital to show growth or movement in my work – although I do know that slow turns are, at this stage, more efficacious than wild swings.

Essentially it all boils down to individual choice. A gallery’s approach may work for one artist, but destroy another. The only thing you can do as an artist is always be aware of your situation. Have an eye on the future and be constantly assessing the best way to get there. If you have a plan, you are giving yourself time to change direction should you need to.


Photo: Daniel Boud

Arts festivals are always challenged to deliver a high quality product and customer service, with limited resources.  Consequently volunteers play a crucial role in the success of any event.  The Sydney Writer’s Festival knows that as well as any arts organisation and arts interview spoke to volunteer coordinator Jennie Bradbury about the joys of her role and the challenges she faces. Jennie is responsible for sourcing, recruiting, planning and scheduling over 250 volunteers that help make the festival not only one of the key highlights in the Sydney arts calendar but one of the largest literary festivals in the world.

Interview by Kim Goodwin

What role do volunteers play within the Festival?

 Volunteers are our patrons first point of on site contact and the friendly faces of the festival. They are vital in creating and sustaining a positive and exciting atmosphere. Sydney Writers’ Festival has established a body of volunteer supervisors who are integral to the organizing and running of events. These supervisors have earned their place through previous experience as volunteers and have a solid understand of how the festival operates. They have been key in sharing their past experiences which has allowed me to understand how best to approach my role as volunteer coordinator. These skilled individuals will be overseeing larger groups of volunteers throughout the festival.

What are the key challenges in coordinating volunteers?

This is my first time working at the Sydney Writers’ Festival as the volunteer coordinator, having said that – I envisage the challenges to be:

  • Fulfilling the needs of the volunteers while meeting the needs of the Festival.
  • Ensuring that I’m suitably organised and aware of individual volunteer’s skills in order to utilize them to their full capacity.
  • Coordinating the available shifts whilst offering a variety of roles / tasks.

Why do volunteers come to you?

The Sydney Writers’ Festival has had an excellent and well‐respected volunteer program for many years. Previous volunteer coordinators have put systems in place that work. Year on year we ask for feedback from the volunteers so we can improve and learn from previous Festivals.

We provide volunteers with an opportunity to play an important role in our festival and the benefits include it being a great social opportunity, having an opportunity to meet some of the most exciting writers, opportunity for professional development, feeling good about giving back to the community and the chance to participate within and support a highly prestigious Festival.

What do volunteers expect from you?

Volunteers expect to work for a well‐organised Festival in which they receive training, schedules, clear instructions, roles with responsibilities and due acknowledgement and appreciation. I am interested in ensuring that each volunteer feels individually looked after, their time is used effectively and that they receive a great deal of personal satisfaction through participating.

Most importantly they can expect to be part of a vibrant team who work hard towards the goal of producing a fun, entertaining, prestigious Festival.

How do you keep your volunteers motivated through the course of the Festival?

An important aspect will be to install a sense of teamwork, so they feel empowered within their roles, and that they are representing something important.Many of our volunteers are passionate about literature and taking part in the Writers’ Festival is hugely motivating for them. I want to ensure that they are aware of the positive impact of their contribution.

The volunteers will also have an opportunity to provide feedback to their supervisors and directly to me. In their training they will be encouraged to speak up about both positive and negative experiences, as well as providing us with opinions and advice for future festivals.

Broadly, how important is volunteering to the arts in Australia?

Volunteers in some capacity are absolutely vital to the running of most arts events, both large and small. Arts events in Australia generally run on shoestring budgets. We work in the arts for the love of it. We are passionate, driven and resilient. The amount of work that is needed to be a success is not often reflected in the budgets available.

The Sydney Writers Festival will run from the 14th-20th May, 2012


Pozible is a crowdfunding platform and community for creative projects and ideas. The two founders of Pozible, Alan Crabbe and Rick Chen (pictured together) met on a road trip while travelling around the east coast of Australia and have been friends ever since. They developed Pozible as a platform for artists, musicians, filmmakers, journalists, designers, social change makers, entrepreneurs, inventors, event organisers, software developers and all creative minded people to raise funds for their projects. Rick Chen talks to arts interview about Pozible as a crowdfunding platform and how it assists aspiring creatives in realising their projects.

Interview by Iris Si Yi Shen

Can you tell us how Pozible works and the catalyst behind the start up of this online funding platform?

Pozible is a crowdfunding platform for creative projects; we provide an online platform for these projects to accept financial support from a worldwide audience.

The idea of starting a crowd-funding platform started when all my visual artist friends were caught in a cycle where they couldn’t find money to make their work, so they worked extra hours to fund their projects. But by working extra hours, it meant they didn’t have enough time to work on their projects. We thought it would be great if we created a platform where fans and supporters could pre-purchase their artwork.

There are other online crowdfunding platforms, what is the difference between Pozible and other existing online crowdfunding platforms?

Pozible focuses on the Australian creative industry and our system is specifically tailored to Australian users. We work with a local financial institute to provide a payment service that’s comfortable for Australians. We also work with a lot of local organisations to offer discounts, and to deliver support and education about crowdfunding.

Can you tell us about a project that successfully received funding through Pozible?

We’ve had so many projects that have successfully received funding through Pozible. One of our recent successful projects was The Melbourne Cabaret Festival. They needed funding for their entire festival and if they didn’t make their goal, the festival wasn’t going to happen. The guys behind the project Neville Sice and David Read worked incredibly hard to reach their funding goal. They consulted with us, and really worked their connections in the cabaret scene to their advantage. They ended up raising over $18000, $3000 more than their funding goal, which is just incredible.

We have heard many successful stories of groups and individuals getting funding through Pozible. Can you tell us how Pozible assists with its users’ campaigns?

Whenever a campaign is launched on Pozible, we work with you and give you tailored advice on the set up. We suggest particular articles for you to read and learn about crowdfunding. We even call you on the phone to discuss the campaign and give you suggestions and tips from previous projects.

We feel incredibly proud of what they’re achieving and it’s always fantastic to be a part of their journey.  We are humbled by the generosity and unconditional support of the crowdfunding community every day.

In your experience, what are the benefits and challenges working in an arts organisation in a small team with limited resources?

The benefits are definitely being able to make important decisions thoroughly but quickly, and being able to work really closely with our project creators and give them tailored advice to their projects. The challenges are being too busy. Sometimes it feels like there’s not enough time so we have to sacrifice a few weekends and holidays.