Collaboration Boundaries

Like many a good art prompt, collaborative projects have guidelines and boundaries, but I tend to avoid them. I’ve made a serious effort to use only my own photographs, but as soon as you’re in collage fodder territory, the lines get blurry. How do you credit the work, follow fair use guidelines, and keep track of your own sense of composition? If it’s not all my work, how do I show it? Well, despite those pitfalls, I have occasionally succumbed to joint projects.

Early on, my friend Becky Brooks & I ventured to create pieces for a fundraiser. We’d both been working to support artEAST in Issaquah, and loved their annual fundraiser of square, 12″x12″ work. So when they called for collaborative pieces, we swapped work sessions on two pieces, to come up with Depends on the Month and Healthy Tension. I wrote the story up here, showing that good constraints and partners always help, and of course, we hade an outlet for our pieces, a good cause.

Similar to collaboration, commissions can have far more direction than the usual artist-as-lone-wolf scenario. I’ve done these only rarely, and only as favors to dear friends, with whom I was confident I could communicate, and hopefully, please. One such piece, Away, has its story here; another, for a wonderful friend sadly no longer with us, commemorated her family’s heritage in the Pacific Northwest. Commissions have their own destiny in the homes of the client, and the constraints are workable with — yes! — the right people.

Recently, with my weekly group, collaborations have been springing up like weeds, and I’m trying to avoid them too! But one, with shared imagery, led to a good discussion of how to credit collaborative work, and I was pulled in. While most people exchanged physical collage fodder through the mail, I shared digital images with another photographer, Sue Burke Harrington, and came up with these pieces. To work with someone else who understood my layering process right away was a treat, and I was happy to use her work with mine to create surreal landscapes. These will live only within the SLMM website, but that’s just fine.

As usual, with anything I resist, there’s always something worth learning hiding in the nooks & crannies. Joint projects continue to erupt from our lively SLMM discussions (see the tea bag project on Nancy Nikkal‘s blog) and the latest one to catch my eye involves sewing pattern tissue from a SLMM member’s mother. Now that has a sense of history I might need to explore!

Chime in!