Tonbridge High Street

A great team - The ArtSpring Gallery

There is nothing quite as magical as working with a good team of people.

In team sport a good team is what succeeds – the ball moves quickly, nobody is trying to play the whole game on their own, or sitting on the side lines watching. There is a flow between the group so that each team member knows their job and is ready to perform to the best of their ability. There is passion and enjoyment as they are all on the same trajectory. This is what I felt when I was first invited to exhibit my work at the ArtSpring Gallery in Tonbridge.

The ArtSpring Gallery is run by a group of artists who are all based in the Tonbridge area. The initial members were inspired to get together as a group as they were frustrated that there were no local spaces to exhibit art work. They started back in early 2016 meeting regularly in Hildegard Pax’s kitchen to plan out what they would like to do and how to go about it. In July 2016 the collective opened their gallery at 167 High Street, Tonbridge, TN9 1BX. With eighteen members they had to split into teams with responsibilities such as fit-out, opening event, publicity, processes and finance. Whilst this created its own communication challenges it was much more efficient than trying to work as a large group.

Hildegard says “Some people were fulfilling roles outside their comfort zone, but it was also surprising what diverse skills and knowledge we did have amongst the group. We were still very much feeling our way, and working out what it means to operate as a collective. Understanding which decisions can be taken by individuals or teams and which need to be referred to the whole group.” She then goes on to say that “Everyone gets to take a turn at stewarding. New ideas come and unexpected challenges will arise. Differences have been resolved amicably and it feels as though we are achieving the goals of our collective, which is not only to operate the gallery but to create a mutually supportive network of local artists.“

I was first invited to exhibit with the ArtSpring Gallery in 2019 after being introduced to them by the Sussex Guild. I had a great time showing and selling my work in their gallery. They organized fun ‘meet the maker’ events where I was invited to come along and chat to visitors about my work – talking about my inspiration and techniques. This was great publicity for me and lots of fun as well. I also got to meet like - minded creative people who were willing to share information and ideas that they thought might help me.  

So this year when Hildegard phoned and said they wanted me to show my work again and would I be interested, despite the covid restrictions, I leapt at the chance. Their set up is so professional and organized I can’t quite believe that they have only been running for 5 years. This year I have large porcelain lamps displayed in the window and pendant shades hanging in the back of the gallery (waiting for next weeks re-opening). The ArtSpring gallery is a great place to buy gifts, I have sold lots of coasters, tealight-vases and soap dishes. As well as more expensive pieces like my large lamps to clients who are looking for a one off item for their home.

I feel that whilst working with the ArtSpring gallery I have been inspired to do things that I might normally shy away from. If there is something that I have found difficult (eg: the technicalities of preparing images for the website) there is always someone stepping forward to help show me the way – to show me how it can be achieved easily. This in turn makes me want to be useful too. It makes me want to share my skills and knowledge.

My wish would be that there were more models like this in society – where we naturally support someone next to us, where they in turn are able to support someone else and there is a democratic process that takes place within the group and subgroups.

It has been a joy working with this group of artists and I hope many more will have the opportunity to experience working with such a supportive group of people.

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