How to put your hands, hearts and heads together and collaborate

Missing those creative play dates from your childhood where you and your partner in crime collaborated with ease and created something great by accident? It came so easy back then. But, oh, aimless, playful collaboration where have you gone in my adult days? 

I just recently re-discovered this easiness in creative co-creation and I'm sharing my insights with you in the hope to inspire you to go wild.


Seems like a pretty obvious one when you set out to have some fun, but it's often forgotten. Figuring our what you like to do, what sparks your inspiration, which material makes your heart beat faster and what questions you have about life is a pretty good base from which you can build. Not only does it help you finding other people whose definition of fun is the same as yours, but you also have a unique mix of skills and knowledge to offer. 


My very first collaboration happened very unexpected. I was having lunch in the park with my friend Hanna Pordzik . We met at a goldsmithing class (hint to point one) a few years back and kept in touch. I always had a thing for her sleek and effortless designs and so when she inquired if I could also braid a loop I took the opportunity and said, "Theoretically yes, let's try it out!" We spend a day in her studio, amusing ourselves and creating a beautiful set of circles. 

Martin Poot, the rock star of cotton candy jewelry, is my recent partner in crime. We met last year at the SIERAAD Art fair in Amsterdam. Like a little kid I was drawn to her colorful and raw creations exhibited at her stand. I'm not an avid socialite, but somehow we got in contact and exchanged emails later that year. Things fell into place. I was planning a creative summer break in Amsterdam, she asked if we wanted to exhibit together at this year's fair, I said yes. And now here we are: we just spend a week producing our first and only collection under our alter-ego-collab-pop-up brand Paul et Martin . 

A collaboration does not always have to be of professional nature. It can also be your scarf knitting brother that inspires you to do a christmas present collaboration. And there is nothing bad about going for someone you consider prestigious or aiming for an prestigious outcome, just don't make it your highest priority if you want to experience some fun.

On the left: Hanna and I making circles. On the right: Martine Poot with a veil of freshly made cotton candy


Just stop it. It's your insecurity playing tricks on you. I do it from time to time, you do it from time to time. It most likely happens when I'm trying on my "I'm-not-good-enough" comparison suit. Turns out it is always at least two sizes too small. See what you are doing there, accept it and rise above it. You are equals. And who knows, maybe one day you collaborate. No hard feelings if it doesn't happen though. Sometimes there is just no window of opportunity to hop through. Dommage, don't let that stop you to ask again another time. 


"Doing" comes easy when you are curious about the other person's work. Try to not spoil the innocence of creating by weighing it down with great expectations. It's damn hard for most of us. Our mind likes to make assumptions on possible outcomes, calculating risks and so on. Sometimes it helps telling yourself "Okay, thanks for trying to take care of me. I got this. I'm here to play. I get back to you later."  And sometimes it doesn't. Be courageous, goofy and allow for an imperfect outcome to happen. In the course of Martine's and my collaboration we had fun and frustrating moments. When things didn't work out quite as easy as we imagined they would. Our materials have a mind of their own and we had to find a way to work with their limitations. We didn't know what our pieces would look like in the end. We experimented and moved baby step by baby step.   


The secret bonus is that you merge your knowledge and pass on skills. We never stop learning and the person you work with might ask questions about your material and work you have never asked yourself. Or they have a way of doing things that is more efficient. The loop Hanna and I created is still very present in my designs and whatever goldsmithing impro skills I learned from her, I passed on to Martine. Circle closed ;)

What are your experiences with collaborations? Do you have anything to add to my list? Who's a person you would like to co-create with? And why haven't you done it yet?

Sybille PaulsenComment