Collaboration Challenge

Collaboration is the foundation of society. People interact, share ideas and form relationships in order to better their lives and the lives of those around them. Art and the creative process of an artist was once a very solitary endeavor. The Internet and social networking has allowed artists to collaborate on a single work together like they never would have been able to before. As our Arts In RI street team has gotten to know one another and seen the amazing talent of each member we began making links between things in each other's work. It became apparent that seeing the work of others on the team sparked ideas for our own art and thus creative connections began to form. It made sense to create a challenge, asking members to formalize these ideas and create collaborative projects. Well, the challenge has been a success. The members who have participated report enjoying this challenge very much and the projects speak for themselves. They are beautiful! We will be doing a series of interviews of each team that outlines the process and shows the reader the finished collaborative works. Most of these works are or were available in our Etsy shops.

The team that outlined this challenge for the group was that of Tracy Prince of Sea Find Designs and Stepping Stones and Paula McDonough of The Venerable Bead.

Paula and Tracy please tell us a little about yourself and what kind of art you make:

Paula: My name is Paula McDonough and I am The Venerable Bead. I am a wife and mother of two beautiful children, Thomas and Emma. I am a clinical social worker by day but at night I melt borosilicate glass rods in the flame of a torch to create one of a kind beads and pendants.

Tracy: My name is Tracy Prince. I am attached to Matt, we made Matthew and Emma! I've been called a "Jayne of all trades" I think it's because of my ADHD. I just haven't decided what I want to do when I grow up yet! Right now I make things out of stuff I find on my Rhode Island coast..... sea glass, stones, shells, reusable trash! I make mostly jewelry, but a lot of stuff for your home too!!

Can you tell us how you got started on this project and how it has evolved?

Paula: Tracy and I thought it would be fun to challenge our group to collaborate with one another. This challenge came at a time when our group was starting to get to know one another and learning about each other’s art. It seemed like a great way to cross promote as well as grow and develop as artists and as a team.

Tracy: Paula and I pretty much think the same on a lot of subjects. This evolved from brainstorming together. Paula pretty much came up with the idea and it grew from there! I wanted to collaborate with Paula first because I loved her mix with the old and new. It's pretty much the same as my art.... making something old new again!

What inspired you about your partner's art?

Paula: I have always loved sea glass and stones. From the time I was very little I could not resist a shiny pebble or piece of glass tumbled by the sea. There’s a funny story that happened to me in second grade. I was in the school yard crouched down collecting tiny white shiny pebbles and one of my classmates tried to hurdle me. Well she missed and stepped right on my head sending my forehead into the pavement. I received 4 stitches for my love of stones!
I don’t think I ever told Tracy that story. Anyway when I saw Tracy’s work, that early love for stones and glass was rekindled in me and I knew I wanted to somehow incorporate her work into mine.
Tracy: The mix of old and new! I'm not a bling kind of gal. I love the rustic feeling of Paula's jewelry. I knew simplicity of my glass and stones would work well with her art!

How did you ultimately decide to make what you did?

Paula: Well I think we both tried to over think this one. The key with charms seemed like a no brainer so I tried to go beyond that and think way outside the box. At first I wanted Tracy to carve a stone for me that I could set a glass cabochon into. I was inspired by Jesse Demoss’s Finder's Keepers series where he has set his boro glass cabochons into stone and released them back to the world for unsuspecting humans to find. I really thought Tracy and I could achieve the look of this in a piece of jewelry. It didn’t happen. Tracy’s stones are a lot smaller in person and my cabs are honking big. When we both really talked about what we wanted to see in a finished piece it came right back to the beaded keys for me and for Tracy, the cluster necklaces. We settled right into a groove once we went back to what we know and love most.

Tracy: Trial and error I think! We passed a few ideas around, and what we ultimately decide to make just seemed right. I wanted to incorporate each others work into our own instead of making something new that didn't feel like "Us".

Can you give us some insight into your brainstorming process?

Paula: Tracy and I are like the comedy team of collaborators. Picture 2 ADHD kids in a candy store trying to decide what they want. “Make me a red one …no a blue one…. oh heck let’s do both.” Once Tracy suggested a theme Earth and Sea (despite me trying to change it to Fire and Ice.. doh…) we ultimately decided to make two sets of items based on that theme. The final projects are absolutely spot on. We nailed them!

Tracy: Yes. Me saying "Let's do this!!!" and Paula saying "You can do that with glass!!!!"

Did this collaboration stretch your creative limits?

Paula: Well I think I tried to make more of it than it needed to be. Tracy said it best. “Our creations are simple and elegant”. That’s exactly what most women want in a piece of jewelry. There’s just enough sparkle and lots of originality and fun and each of our personalities are represented.

Tracy: Did I mention the ADHD! I always feel stretched!! It was fun!! I really like Paula and enjoyed working with her!

Were there any roadblocks or setbacks?

Paula: Well besides our first misstep with the cab idea and some serious scheduling issues on both our parts, things really came together well in the end. I think our projects were supposed to be delayed because I think mine were meant to have PMC and Bronzclay charms on them and that couldn’t have happened until after we serendipitously took a PMC class together in September. I found Tracy and I work well together which is quite funny because when we get going on our group message board we are like the Desi and Lucy show. Verbal sparring over early morning coffee and Diet Coke is our favorite past time. Sometimes the one liners are flying so fast I get whiplash. Ahh but it’s all good fun. I so enjoy her.

Tracy: See the ADHD disclaimer above! No, just schedules I guess. We work pretty well together.

Did you find this to be a rewarding experience and why?

Paula: Yes very much so. Not only was it fun to create something with Tracy but it has also been rewarding seeing how other teams have worked together and the wonderful things they created. It’s kind of like being a mama and papa of art. Sniff...

Tracy: Yup! How often to you get to meet a bunch of great people, play together, make stuff, and feel good about it!!?? Not often past the age of 11..... And I never had to take my ball and go home once!!!





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3 Responses
  1. Julie Beck Says:

    that finders keepers thing is cool...but I love your collaboration items more. you guys are hilarious!


  2. Lea Avroch Says:

    I love the mix of textures in your collaborative work....shiny & matte. Lovely!


  3. Christy Says:

    Amazing work here! I am so impressed and motivated to get my butt working!