Today’s post is a guest blogger post by Melanie Schow, a friend and fellow Sanger artist of amazing wire work with her own blog and website at Read on to learn Melanie’s thoughts regarding the benefits of collaborative work with other artists. Thank you, Melanie, for guest posting this informative article and for collaborating on several past projects. I’m looking forward to continuing on several more in the future!

5 benefits of collaborating with other fine artists
Imagine blending one artistic style with several others to produce a completely new style. That’s collaboration!
When I moved to the Fresno area four years ago, I became connected with some great local artists with styles complimentary to my own. Out of that connection grew a collaboration of like minds. A few times a year, we co-create works of art for special occasions, and all three of us benefit in many ways.
      My collaborators
Kathleen Mattox is a mixed media artist and painter. She owns “Mixed Messages” Art, a colorful and whimsical gallery in the heart of Sanger’s downtown area. Her work with its signature bright colors, inspirational sayings, and unique designs is beautiful and highly collectible.
Paul Parichan works in several mediums. For our collaborations he uses heavy-gauge wire, the same as he uses for his unique sculpture and home decor. He is an accomplished painter. He curates The Art Shop in The Vintage Market at 601 where he showcases not only his own work, but lots of local artists (Kathleen and myself included).
Our pieces are limited editions, one of a kind and usually focused around a holiday or other gallery event. They are announced with some fanfare and then on display at Mixed Messages Art. The first time we did the collaboration was for Valentine’s Day, and it was a big hit. We almost always sell out. Our separate styles combine to create entirely unique, original pieces.

Our process
Decide on goal and timeline Since we collaborate only for holidays, we begin by deciding on a theme and shape. For example, hearts for Valentine’s Day, 4th of July stars, and Christmas trees. In future collaborations, we plan to create one over-the-top piece with the proceeds going to a charitable organization to give back some of the joy we have found in collaboration.
Shape Paul begins the process by making wire armature in a series of variations on our chosen shape. He likes to play with ideas so each one is unique.
Color When the wire pieces get to Kathleen, she picks out quotes or a word picture. Our Mother’s Day flowers had quotes, for example. Then she paints a background, and backs her painting and quote with a second piece of art paper to reinforce. She then stitches her work onto the armature.
Whimsy I receive the pieces last. Since my medium is fine-gauge art wire and beads, I add forged wire shapes and bead drops that accentuate the piece. For one piece I made “fireworks” with with wire springs and scrolls coming from an Independence Day star. On the flower collaboration, I chose wire butterflies or tiny Lucite flowers and leaves. I also add the hook for hanging.

      5 benefits of collaborating with other artists
Fun: Since the goal is production on a timeline, collaborating gets me into my stash. And I love playing with my materials! I get to use colors I don’t normally work with. The synergy of the group makes it more dynamic than working alone in my studio. There’s lots of energy. Just like writing prompts spark writers, collaborations get the juices flowing.
Artistic stretching: Since our designs are a result of collaborating, the work pushes me to try a different or new approach. I often bring these skills back to my own work. Our pieces are small and relatively fast, and they lead me in new directions I haven’t tried before. This is true for the collaborations too. They have evolved, and each round is unique and special.
High-quality work: Both Paul and Kathleen are talented, professional artists. Working with them pushes me to keep the bar high. When I receive their pieces, they are already 66{4f86029e69041cfab8e98ec255636cc6bf95f7ca465f2597e3be597778d080c6} finished, so I am inspired to keep the momentum going and make the art shine.
Accountability: I start projects of my own that I never finish. Many artists do! However, you can’t abandon a collaboration and do something else. If something isn’t working, you have to deal with it. In a collaboration, your partners have already done a lot of work, and you must find a way to hold up your part. This is really motivating.
Giving back: Part of our collaboration will soon include creating one piece in the collection that is larger and more detailed–a “show-stopper,” so to speak. When we sell this piece, we will donate the proceeds to charity.
      Collaboration is a great practice
I often find that when a season of collaboration ends, I have new energy and ideas for my own projects.

Do you collaborate (or know someone who does)? I’d like to hear about your experiences with this idea in the comment section!

Melanie Schow