Local potter Claire Atkins at work in her studio. Photo credit : Megan Kinninment
Local potter Claire Atkins at work in her studio. Photo credit : Megan Kinninment

Northern Rivers artists are thriving in a digital landscape

ART is constantly reinventing itself, and over the centuries artists have reshaped themselves too, from apprentice craftsman; to artisan, to solitary genius and to the artist as creative entrepreneur.

During the 1960's Andy Warhol would become famous as the supreme businessman artist and his New York studio 'The Factory' provided the backdrop for happenings with Hollywood celebrities and rock stars.

The entrepreneurial artist is hardly a new beast, however, the internet and social media has meant the exponential rise of a breed of artist who are not only makers, but increasingly they're also the salespeople and chief publicists behind the works they create.

I'm a potter and you'd be hard pressed to find a material that is more earthy and removed from the digital age as clay.

However rapid advances in technology and the internet not only helps me to produce works of art, it also allows me to speak directly with large audiences at lightning speeds.

Although I meet up occasionally with a small community of local makers, the life of a studio artist remains, for the most part, solitary.

Digital apps like Instagram and Facebook have become a valued part of my practice that enable me to be part of an enormous community of makers and art appreciators whom I have never met, but with whom I share and discuss creative processes daily online.

Although social media is often criticised for creating a generation of attention-seeking narcissists, for most potters at least, social media is less about the likes and more about finding and engaging with a fellow tribe who are interested in cultural products and how they're made.

That said, the friendships and connections I have made on social media have also become economic relationships, and if I was not on social media I simply would not enjoy the constant flow of commissioned work that I do.

Recently I caught up with Northern Rivers artist Ellie Beck on my blog. Ellie is a textile artist and director of Deadwood Creative, a business she operates with her husband Sam, that sees them transform salvaged skateboard decks into contemporary art wearables.

Ceramics artist Claire Atkins: Ceramics artist Claire Atkins demonstrates how she creates a bowl using liquid porcelain "slip".
Ceramics artist Claire Atkins: Ceramics artist Claire Atkins demonstrates how she creates a bowl using liquid porcelain "slip".

Ellie says she has forged strong connections with almost 13,000 followers on social media and it has helped her small business thrive.

"In terms of business, Instagram has made it possible for us to run an online business from a rainforest home outside a major city or large town. It has also made marketing fun and accessible," she said.

For Australian kids' author Tristan Bancks, technology enables him to get away from the writing desk. Bancks is well known for typing and recording whole chapters of his latest books into his notes app while he walks for hours on the beach and says that he has written his most honest stories in nature.

"Regular readers of my blog would know that I am a big fan of writing outdoors. I'm also a fan of feeding creativity with video, maps, music the web and so on," he said.

"I would argue that Nature is the key to accessing the richest stories that lie within us. However, technology can assist in making that storytelling process a less static one," Tristan said.

From April to June I'm running workshops in my studio that look at ways artists and business owners can use technology creatively effectively in their practice. I'll be joined by Tristan and Ellie along with some inspiring journalists, animators and ceramic designers.

The workshop series commences on Thursday April 9 with holiday workshops in claymation with children's author Tristan Bancks and young animator Raph Atkins.

Workshops continue until June with sessions in Social Media with Ellie Beck on April 11, Creative Blogging with journalist Megan Kinninment on May 16 and Creative Business and Concept Development with ceramic designer Ingrid Tufts on June 20.

To see the full list of workshops and more detail about the guest hosts please visit my website www.pinkyandmaurice.com or contact 0420 985 670.