Fresh from our Art of Collaboration Business Masterclass, we’ve put together the top tips from all the experts who spoke at the event for you to absorb! We heard from some incredible speakers with varying approaches, the first being artist and pro collaborator Debbie Davies.

After coming from a business background with no experience of working in tandem with groups, Debbie’s introduction into collaborative projects began when her work was seen by the ICA and she was offered a position. With limited direction, she had to use her initiative and literally grabbed interesting people off the street to get them to part take in her projects. From coders to software engineers Debbie built a team of people who wouldn’t normally be associated with an art instillation and the results were fascinating. “One of the great things about collaboration is that you get to work with people you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to meet.” She found this type of collaboration challenging in some aspects due to the various backgrounds of the team and the way their minds worked. From analytical engineers to creatively minded artists, each collaborator had a different approach.

Her first tip on collaborating with a diverse group was to meet in a completely neutral space so all parties involved are out of their comfort zone and on a level playing field. This could be a coffee shop or a rented studio just not in one of the collaborators offices or homes. Before starting a collaboration she would ask the team the question “What are you going to get out of this?” because in the middle of a project when the going gets tough people can lose focus and it’s important to remember why you started it in the first place. Everyone needs to be focused and working towards one goal because if you fall out with your teammates, you still have one common fixed point to be working towards. Choosing the right team is so important, Debbie’s main point that she could not stress enough is that “collaboration is all about trust and respect and that will determine how successful your project will be”. Get every member to write down what they want to get out of the project and what they will and will not do, and list it in order. Leadership in a collaboration is a mixed blessing. Ideally everyone has an equal say, but before you get going you also need to make sure all of the responsibilities have been sorted out before starting the project. People can be quite territorial too so you have to be mindful of that when it gets personal or possessive.

Another key point that Debbie highlighted is that people work in completely different ways, people have different creative processes and just because people spend 3 weeks planning before they start the work doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to get it done, it just might be different to what you’re used to. As a general rule, not every collaborative member needs to come to the meeting you have, but they should always be given the choice to attend if they want to. However, everyone should definitely know what their responsibilities are and if they need something they must ask so not to be left behind.

Another great point that was raised by Photographer JC Candanedo was that before you see other people’s work, make sure you always find something positive to say in the first instance. Don’t pull someone’s work apart because it’s not your vision - it may be theirs. When it comes to fashion collaboration, Matt Dowling and Ian Patrick Hartley both felt that finding a like-minded team is essential. Should there be a mix of talents and styles it can often lead to frustration. Respect was a word that was brought up from all the panelist including Joel Adebayo from Utter Couture who emphasised the importance of allowing all team members to express themselves.  

Most importantly, it’s about getting out there and doing it. Get an idea, find a team and see what happens. To make life a little easier, you can build your team by using the Test Shoot tool .