Friday, 7 June 2013

Working with a Creative Business Mentor - Anna Krystyna Casey

As you know I've been writing a series of blog posts about working with a creative business mentor and the benefits I have seens for me and my business. It's been great to reflect on what my mentor and I talked about and how I put the things I have learned into practice. I've also talked to lots of Creative Practitioners and Mentors who are experts in the field and they have given us a valuable insight into their views and opinions of mentoring as well as telling us all about their experiences and services they provide. I thought I would ask one of the other Design Factory mentees and fellow EMERGE exhibitor, Anna Krystyna Casey about her experiences of the Mentoring Programme and what she feels she gained from it. This is what she had to say.....

'When applying for the mentoring scheme, I was in the very early days of my business, looking back, I had no direction, was floating a little bit and needed a shove! I decided to apply for the mentoring scheme as it seemed like a great opportunity, I was determined to get as many benefits from my Design Factory membership as I could, and this was a brilliant one. I didn’t have distinctive targets to begin with; I was looking more for general help in getting going with my business, a fresh set of eyes. I was really only 6 months into attempting this ‘job’ and wanted as much input as I could get. I knew people thought my work was interesting and beautiful. I knew people thought my work had potential. I knew I loved making it and if I could make a career making it, I would be very very lucky. But what I didn’t know was how to do that.

I requested Stuart Akroyd as my mentor. I didn’t think I’d be lucky enough to work with him! As someone whose work I had admired for years, I knew Stuart knows how to run a creative business; he’s been doing it for a long time! I also wanted to improve my knowledge of glass as a material. As a textiles artist, my knowledge of glass was limited; despite the fact its use within my work had attracted lots of attention.

Our approach to the mentoring scheme was a lot more relaxed and unstructured than others, and I think this suited both Stuart and me; it was more organic, and centred on lots of conversations. In our first meeting we concluded our main aim was to help me decide what I wanted my creative focus to be within my practice, and how I could go about making a viable business from that. One of the most helpful sessions involved meeting Anna French, of Fizgig glass, who also works in Fused Glass. Visiting her studio, with Stuart, I was inspired by how she’d made the most of the space available to her, and fitted so much in! I thought her work was absolutely beautiful, but visiting Anna gave me a big realisation. I love fused glass as a material, but I realised I do not want to focus my business on products, or solely on fused glass. I very much want my sculptures and art pieces to be my main practice. It sounds a simple statement, but realising that had a big impact.

Since the mentoring scheme, I have continued to make the product pieces I had begun to develop. However, I have shifted focus and feel a lot happier concentrating on developing my art works. The mentoring program gave me the confidence to pursue a solo exhibition, which opens 8th June at the NCCD, and I am really proud of what I have achieved. I still do not have a formula, but I don’t think there really is one. I have learnt to be adaptable and creative, and use one side of my business (functional products and jewellery) to support the other. Now I am focused on what I want to be known for, I am able to look for ways to build my reputation. I also have the confidence to plan for the future, and am now looking forward to exhibiting at BCTF next year (with lots of advice from Sue too of course!!)'

Many thanks to Anna for sharing her experiences of being a Mentee. I'm sure you'll agree it has been great to hear how other creatives benefit from the process. If you want to find out more about Anna and her fascinating work you can check out her website here, her facebook page here and her blog here.

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