After last years hit show at London's Kid Robot store, Anna Mullin is back with an army of artists for a festive show at the same venue. We caught up with her to talk about what she learnt from her last show, her approach on Twitter, and plans she has for the forthcoming show.
JC: So what gave you the idea to do a festive custom toy show?
AM: "After the success of last years show (Tales from the Sneaky Crypt) I decided that it would be fun to run another event. I really enjoyed hosting the event and working with all the artists involved but of course raising over £1,000 for MacMillan Cancer was the highlight of all our efforts. As the previous show fell around Halloween and my personal 5th year Anniversary, I thought that it would be good to do something different in terms of theme. I know that Christmas seems to start earlier as each year passes us by, but the Sneaky Snow Ball aims to be more about being festive in the broader sense of the word by being even more magical, imaginative and with an open interpretation for artists to work with. From folklore and myths to darker notes on the festive season — there will be something for everyone to enjoy."
JC: What did you do differently after the first show? Did you learn any mistakes from previous shows, and what were they?
AM: "My first show was hosted in a gallery bar space in East London, which was great because the venue could be altered to accommodate the large number or works that we had to display. The downside was that I didn't live in Central London at the time and so I had to wheel everything there in three large suitcases onto trains and the tube on my own — which at my tiny size was a feat in itself! A friend met me half way to help and he was gob-smacked into silence by how I'd managed to get it all there! Whatever you do, there will always be something that doesn't go accordingly whether it's the space itself or a typo on name tags or something worse like artwork delayed in the post or worse, broken. You have to take it all in your stride — so planning is key and I use spreadsheets to keep track of everyone, the artwork, and all information needed on the night. Even using power tools and setting up the show can't always be done on my own so I enlist friends to help on the day. The greatest lesson i've learnt is that you can never have enough time. This goes for window props, flyers, advertising, name tags and merchandise. Everything needs to be thought about in advance — and having an open line of communication with the venue and your artists is so important. The more effort you put in now lessens the chance of mistakes later and allows unexpected hiccups to be rectified as best possible."
JC: You always appear to accumulate the best artists, what's the secret behind your incredible contacts book
AM: "I guess it's because of time and pre-Twitter social networks. When I first began making character based work back in 2006 I was using Flickr and there was a great and growing community of artists on there who I got to know online and offline, which led to me being involved in group shows and going to events where I would meet these artists and bigger household names. Having an online presence where people could find my work enabled artists to trust in the work that I was doing so it made inviting them into my first show a lot easier a task. I was effectively asking them to take a chance on my abilities and it paid off, and in return they invited me to take part in their shows. I even met my best friend in the same way — Gavin of Jamfactory and Fixie bike project Boikzmoind. In the creative industry it really is about who you know — and genuinely being a nice person opens up new avenues and projects as a direct result. As for this years show, I've decided to bring in artists that i've wanted to work with for a while but haven't had the chance to, sacrificing bigger artists to make way for new artists whose work impressed me. There is no point in having shows where only the well-known artists take part — it becomes formulaic and almost predictable. There are so many artists out there making great work, but I feel it's important to highlight new blood and rotate bigger artists to refresh the scene and excite the visitors who come to see the work. Networking both online and in the real world has been my greatest asset in making and providing opportunities."
JC: Do you find social media a useful tool for promotion, and how do you utilise it to your best advantage without getting drawn into lots of irrelevant procrastination?
AM: "Without a doubt. Everyone is online nowadays which makes it easier to advertise events. The wonderful thing about real time social networks is that it's easy to share news and announcements to a wide audience in an instant. Twitter is so fast and it's very connectable nature enables you to interact with other people and gain their attention immediately and for them to pass this information on to their own personal networks and audience. I don't really use Twitter every day, and I try to post only updates about my work and life that I feel relevant, more to me than anyone else. It's like a diary of diaries where I can source information from other users or learn from their habits or career path. I would definitely say that it is my preferred social media tool because of it's immediacy as well as allowing me to relay news and information to the general public and 'followers' and friends who I want to come along to the event. Of course, flyers and printed materials should not be overlooked because cleverly placed advertising and personal mail can target other avenues of opportunity. This year, the flyers double as advertising on one side and on the other but a drawing competition to with a winning incentive — one of three goodie bags!"
JC: After speaking briefly last time, we touched on the importance of the date – how did you arrive on this date for your show opening?
AM: "At this time of the year Christmas has already begun creeping into our shopping stores and into our homes by way of seasonal advertising despite Christmas still being a good few weeks away. So the reason for making the date the 30th of November and a Friday is for a couple of reasons. It goes without saying that Christmas is a busy time of year with everyone going to office parties and events, but the Friday evening at a central location is going to be easier for people to either come down after work or book the day off as holiday. I also want to draw in as many people as possible to visit the store and show over the first weekend of Christmas and hope that this will generate both happy visitors as well as sales for the artists involved. This year the show will celebrate the artists and their work instead of a chosen charity because as great as it is to give generously to charity, I feel that as a graphic artist myself, we should rightly reap the rewards of our efforts, minus store commission for the use of their venue.
We will be counting down the hours to the first day of Christmas together and I hope that the show brings a little bit of the right kind of magic to the festive air for you all. Please come along and join us if you can on the opening night or visit the show over the weekend while out shopping. You might even find a unique artwork, print or other items as the perfect gift for your nearest and dearest!"