Collab Fever

Collabs (a shortened version of Collaborations) are taking the internet by storm.  For any caker out there who doesn’t know what a collab is, it is a virtual gathering of cake artists who get together and each design an edible creation centering around a particular theme.

                In the beginning, there were just a few collabs out there, and they were well done and very organized.  In an industry where the two sides of the fence are very defined (the sharing side and the very “mean girl” side),  it is easy to see how feelings about collabs could also be divided.

                I remember seeing collabs early on and thinking to myself, “Wow!  Some of these pieces are amazing….I would love to be part of that”.  And that is all it stayed….wishful thinking and hoping one day I could be part of a great merging of artists.

                On the other side of things, feelings of insecurity (“am I not good enough?”) or spitefulness (“only people in that clique were asked”) could easily ensue.  One shouldn’t get discouraged they weren’t asked….the number of people participating in any given collab should only be kept to a number of participants that the organizer feels comfortable handling.  The organizer has a lot of work from setting deadlines, tracking who is doing what so that duplicates are avoided, setting everything up to be published online, and even sometimes coordinating with a magazine to get the collab in print.  Their job is not an easy one.

                What we have seen arise from all of these feelings, in my honest opinion, is an over saturation of collaborations.  This is by no means coming from a place of jealousy or contempt – I have joined two collabs and have declined many others (simply because I do not want to stretch myself too thin – I want my submissions to be the best I can make them).  What I and a few people I have spoken with (some avid collaborators and some who have yet to partake in one) are noticing is an increased decline in the quality and resulting excitement about a collab being unveiled.  What seems to be happening is groups of people throwing a collab together just for the sake of saying they were part of one.  The resulting work tends not to really fit the “theme” and the quality is not as good as what some of these artists are truly capable of.  I was asked by someone recently if I knew a certain artist, and when I said I did, their reply was, “I thought they were really good, but their piece in the XYZ collab was disappointing”.  It turned out this person was asked to participate, agreed and when they were advised they had one month, didn’t have the heart to back down.

                If we want to see collaborations continue to thrive, as artists, we need to be selective when agreeing on which ones to join.  Before agreeing, find  out what the deadlines are and be sure you will have enough time to devote to making a piece you are truly capable of.  Also, only sign on to those collabs you truly have a personal tie to and can be sure you have the time to meet the deadline (most collabs are planned months to a year in advance).  The two that I am currently working on involve things I am truly interested in – one incorporates  my passion for sugar flowers, and the other is something based from my younger years.

                Another way we can ensure collaborations are successful, is as organizers, be sure that it kept manageable.  Invite those artists you feel will be able to commit to a contribution and keep the number of participants at a manageable level.  The people organizing my two collabs are phenomenal at this – I know as a collab newbie, I am in good hands.  Months ago, when I was really looking to be part of a collab, I very easily could have thrown one together.  I have a few ideas of great themes, and I know enough artists that would likely take part.  Why didn’t I, you ask?  Simple – I didn’t have the time to devote to keeping everything in order.  I am a very organised person, but truth be told – I knew my limits and didn’t want other projects to suffer.  Perhaps one day I will have time to devote to organizing one, but until then, I am happy being part of the collabs I am in and having my timelines mapped out. 

                If you have been asked to join one but it isn’t something you are interested in, don’t be afraid to respectfully decline.  If you know someone who may want to do that particular collab, let the organizer(s) know that so and so may be interested.  And if you are part of a collab, enjoy the artistic process!  Pour yourself into the piece you are working on an put as much of yourself into  it as you can!

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