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The art of a Well Made practice

Richard Watts

From connecting artists with potential buyers to providing interest-free loans, membership of Guildhouse has enormous value.
The art of a Well Made practice

Dan Withey, Stringybark Creek (Dan Withey’s Sidney Nolan appropriation) 2017, Acrylic on Canvas. Dan Withey is represented by Hill Smith Gallery and is an Accredited member of Guildhouse.

For the casual gallery-goer, the myth often endures that the majority of artists are dead white males. A related myth is that collecting and commissioning art is the exclusive domain of the super-rich. The truth is very different – the opportunity to commission an artist or purchase a bespoke work is just a mouse click away.

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‘You can be a collector by buying a contemporary jewellery piece, something that’s made by an exceptional artist working out of a studio in the suburb next to yours,’ explained Emma Fey, Executive Director of South Australia’s Guildhouse.

Established in 1966, and originally known as the Craft Association of South Australia, Guildhouse is a member-based organisation which exists to promote and support the careers of living South Australian artists, art students, curators, installers and arts workers.

‘We’ve always worked with artists and practitioners outside of the narrow confines of craft ... [as well as with] artists working in what might be very traditional art forms but with a very contemporary, conceptual approach. And so whether it’s craft, design or contemporary visual art, Guildhouse is the peak industry body in South Australia for such artists,’ said Fey. 

One of the organisation’s most important roles is as a promoter and champion of artists and their work.

‘Artists are often working on their own, or working in quite an isolated environment, perhaps without a huge amount of know-how or time to invest in marketing and promoting themselves – which is why sometimes it’s easier to work with another, independent voice to help tell your story,’ Fey explained 

Well Made is a new Guildhouse initiative that does just that; a website, along with social and traditional media and exhibition opportunities, where artists, designers and craftspeople can showcase their work, while also providing members of the public with the means to commission work from artists directly.

‘There’s such value in buying someone’s work that you absolutely love and treasure, and the flow-on effect of that is that you’re supporting an artist’s practice so they can go on to make more work. Starting a relationship with an artist and getting to know their practice and their work can be an incredibly enriching experience,’ Fey said.

Visit wellmade.com.au

Guildhouse also runs a variety of programs focused on career development, including workshops, tailored artist-specific insurance, and – thanks to some generous donors – an interest-free loan service.

‘We know that artists aren’t often in a position to be able to get loans, or to get them quickly from banks, and then they also have the issue of the associated interest. And we don’t want to see any of our artists under financial duress, so this is a way that we have been able to provide some relief, as well as an avenue for people to be able to pursue important elements of their practice.’

Glass artist and Guildhouse member Clare Belfrage said the organisation also made artists ‘feel part of a community.’

Clare Belfrage, Brown Russet Collection, 2014, Blown glass with cane drawing, hand sanded and polished. Photographer Pippy Mount.

‘I’ve been a member for a long time, probably 25 years or so, and as a younger artist I had received very, very practical benefits from my membership – help with writing grant applications, help with career advice,’ she said.

Guildhouse has assisted Belfrage arrange public liability insurance in the past through her accredited membership, while more recently she has benefited from the organisation’s interest-free loan service.

‘I applied for an interest-free loan a couple of years ago. In any small business cash flow can be difficult, and I found myself in a tricky spot with a fantastic travel opportunity before me – an exhibition in Denmark. I was able to get a loan within a week just to cover that shortfall, which was great. I think that’s a fantastic program,’ Belfrage said.

Although Guildhouse is based in South Australia, membership, including insurance, is open to artists Australia-wide, Fey explained.

‘The more members we have, the more services we can offer as an organisation – the bigger the opportunities we can pursue to nurture the sector and to be bold and be ambitious. It’s important to me and it’s important to the team that we foster excellence and we’re ambitious in what we’re trying to achieve,’ she concluded.

Visit guildhouse.org.au to learn more about the benefits of a Guildhouse membership.

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's national performing arts editor and Deputy Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R. The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the boards of La Mama Theatre and the journal Going Down Swinging; he is a former member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, and a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts

 

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