One Year In…Our Membership Journey

One year ago we launched our membership for professional artists and makers, to create a community which offers support, promotion and new connections. Founder Rebecca Maddox reflects on the journey so far and shares a little of what’s in store for the year ahead. 

What inspired you to set up the Artful Collective Membership?

The Collective was a development that came about during lockdown. Until that point we had been creating pop up events for artists and makers to exhibit, sell and teach. Our vision had always been to become the go-to brand for anyone looking for locally made, high quality art and contemporary craft. We had identified a need for a curated approach to local art & craft, particularly to support those makers with years of experience in their craft. 

Lockdown made us all think about how to improve our online presence and we realised that we could apply the same principles of local, curated art & craft to create an online Directory where people could discover and buy directly from the makers. By making it easier for buyers to browse for what they like, we could help artists to drive traffic to their own websites and make sales. 

Was community an important part of the membership initially?

Absolutely. It’s also the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect. We wanted to create an environment for members to experience peer support where they could share ideas and feedback via a remote community – all the best bits about studying at art college or uni, or working in a shared environment, for artists who worked from a home setting and wanted a way to connect with others regularly.

Zoom meet up Artful

What kind of things have you done in the first year?

Pandemic life has meant that until recently our community has been mainly a virtual one, with regular zoom meet ups, SEO and social media workshops and Drop in & Draw sessions. Our recent exhibition at SpudWORKS in Sway was for many of our members the first time they had met in person, and many commented on how wonderful it was to have the chance for extended conversations and to work collaboratively together. 

We’ve had to do more online, and support our members to do the same. In 2020 we replaced our annual Christmas event with online Christmas Gift Guide ‘The 12 Days of Artful Christmas’ which was a great success.

What have been some of the highlights?

It has to be our recent exhibition for Hampshire Open Studios, after seeing certain pieces of work repeatedly on social media and on a screen it was amazing to see them in real life. There really is no substitute! Of course it was lovely to see and meet some members for the first time too!

Another highlight was having the the opportunity for one of our members to teach an art workshop for a corporate client in London. As the world starts to return to normal, we want to get back to doing more workshops, using our members unique skillset and experience to offer quality experiences.

HOS exhibition

Who can become a member?

We accept applications from all disciplines of art & craft – Fine art, ceramics, jewellery, textiles, furniture, illustration, photography, sculpture, wood, glass, metal, printmaking…I’ve probably missed something! To be eligible for membership you must be a practising artist, designer or maker, living or working in Hampshire & IOW, Wiltshire, Berkshire or Dorset. The Directory is carefully curated and not overcrowded, which means our membership has to be selective, we always try to give feedback if a membership application is not successful.

What’s in store for 2022?

Moving forward, like many others we will adopt a hybrid model of both online and offline events. Being able to work together in person is one of the highlights of being a regional organisation. It’s harder for national organisations to make that happen.

I’m sure we’ll continue with some online meet ups, just for convenience. In 2022 we also want to set up a peer mentoring programme which will help members who are working towards similar goals to support each other.