This time last week I was frantically spray mounting name tags onto foam core whilst simultaneously cutting prints for my portfolio, cleaning a glass cabinet and writing thank you cards.
Friday May 22nd was the opening night of an exhibition I took part in held at North Wales School of Art & Design. The exhibition is on in Wrexham 9am till 5pm every day until June 10th and is a collection of fine art, applied arts, game art/animation, film, photography, graphic design and illustration.
As if I didn't have enough on my plate setting up my work to exhibit I also spent the week entertaining my parents and grandparents who came to stay, packing up all my belongings ready to move and making endless trips to the tip because someone kindly stole my wheely bin-cheers guys.
Whilst I've exhibited before in school, on my foundation course etc this was the first exhibition that felt a bit more serious. There was an official opening night, a catalogue of work, wine-it was all a fancy affair and I learnt a lot from working on it.
Here is my take on things to consider next time, with a little hindsight:
1. It's flipping hard work. You might be forgiven for thinking the hard graft comes with producing the work for an exhibition and whilst this is true, I was not prepared for the hours it would take to print, mount and hang everything. It took 4 full days, working 8.30am until 5.30pm plus a frantic few hours on the day to get it all done and I was left with 2 hours before opening to run home, grab a bite to eat and change. It was truly exhausting.
2. Everything that can go wrong will. I was told this, I absolutely believed this and even I still wasn't prepared enough. Things were changed last minute, things were moved without permission, people were stressed and to top it all off with 4 hours to go my work fell off the wall.
3. Measuring is difficult. Making sure everything is evenly placed is crucial. Having a good border around your work is crucial. Making sure everything is straight is crucial. All of this requires measuring and it has come to my attention that a lot of creative types arent all that good at maths.
4. You need to consider everyone. In our little corner we had 7 illustrators who ranged from children's book artists, graphic novellists, graphic designers, textile designers and editorial illustrators. It is so important to work out who you are next to, how your work looks next to theirs, whether your work is too similar or too different and who needs what amount of space.
5. Be consistent. On a similar note, whether your work is similar or vastly different to the people around you, it is still crucial there is some consistency. Make sure the work is all hung at the same eyeline, make sure you have equal space between them and make sure your name labels or information blocks are positioned the same next to each person's work.
6. Keep something secret. Whilst you might not have much space on the wall at exhibition you should still be able to fully promote what you do ib your portfolio. We had our portfolios laid out on small display racks underneath each illustrators work and this allowed people to look at what else we'd been up to other than what was on the wall. Reserve the best work for the wall, include other work in your portfolio and keep a bit more for your website.
7. Be prepared to put in extra hours and extra work. Working with lots of other people on an exhibition is a team effort. You can't just turn up, hang your work and leave again. Being show ready is not a one man job, everyones work has to be finished, ready and hung and if that means you need to put in more time and effort to help other people then so be it.
8. Really consider how you will display your work. Hanging prints on the walls is pretty straight forward, there are very few options to hang something on a wall, it's just choosing the best thing for your work. It is displaying things like books, products, calendars etc that need to be considered. Some people I worked with on the exhibition displayed their books a on shelves below or next to their work which allowed people to interact with their illustrations, pick things up, read the books whilst I displayed mine in a shut glass cabinet. There are pros and cons to both ways of displaying. Whilst having the products out on display made them tangible, the books got dropped, knocked off, pages became grubby from too many hands-someone even had some of their products taken during the night. With my work in a shiny glass cabinet it kept them safe, it looked glossy and professional but it meant people couldn't read my books so I was required to put more of my page spreads on the wall.
9. Find a happy balance. Displaying at a big exhibition full of different disciplines is exciting and invigorating and really inspiring to look around. I found I wanted to walk round the exhibition looking at everything everyone had to offer but was torn between exploring and staying with my work waiting for potential customers or contacts to speak to me. Finding a middle ground was difficult and in the end I stayed around my work for the first half of the evening when most people were showing up, nipped through the rest of the show to look at the talent on offer and then returned to my corner toward the end.
I had a wonderful opening night after a hard week of preparing and I thoroughly recommend anyone in the Wrexham locality or simply passing to pop into 49 Regent Street and have a gander.