The Power of Collaboration / by Stephanie Miller

I’m a big advocate of collaboration. Human society, in fact human survival, is a story of collaborating.  The essential act of collaboration is saying “AND” instead of “OR.” The things we seem to do best we do together. If you take a look around you’ll see many examples of successful collaboration in music, science, technology and filmmaking. You can also find many examples of competition failing as is so abundantly apparent with the current two party competitions in American politics or the winner-take-all failures of Wall Street.

In most studios artists understand the intrinsic value of collaborating as opposed to competition.  Artists often take inspiration from other artists. For centuries artists have studied the works of previous masters and adopted their techniques. Working in a studio environment I find myself inspired and intrigued by the work of other artists. Recently I took a class from Cara Long of Sweet Mud Clay Works to learn the ceramic coil pot technique. This is a picture of the cocoon I made after taking that class,

The clay cocoon I created using the coil pot technique that I learned from Cara Long

The clay cocoon I created using the coil pot technique that I learned from Cara Long

One of the most interesting artistic collaborative projects I know of is Mesoamerica Resiste by the Beehive Design Collective in Maine. A group of artists banded together to create an educational illustration that explains the complex environmental, economic and political impact of globalization. The artists spent nine years working on this project and none of the artists receive individual credit for their work.

Another form of collaboration are the drawings that Jacqueline Myers-Cho and I have created together. I think of it like a visual dialogue. Jacqueline begins a simple line drawing and leaves it for me on clipboard, I respond by finishing her drawing and starting another one. The idea for this came from one of our Play Dates where we first drew and colored a collaborative drawing. Now we are working on creating books from our collaborative drawings.  I’ve posted that first drawing.


Part of every year I work in a corporate office and this morning this little gem was posted on the kitchen wall.  I’ll be coloring in this guerilla artist’s kitty and I’ll post the result later. 


Try this simple exercise today. Replace the words “BUT” and “OR” with “AND.”  Let me know the results.