20 January 2012

Arts & Upstarts: Marina Guglielmi, Maker Technical Sculpture Services & Box 47 Sculpture Studio

Artist/Business Owner: Marina Guglielmi with partners Andy Stretch and Aleks Bozovic
This is a special post of Arts & Upstarts. I know it's wrong to have favourites but Marina Guglielmi is perhaps just that. We met through the first instalment of my Don't Get Good at What You Don't Want to Be Doing business course in the spring of 2010 and I knew right away that she would just kick it. Here is an interview with an unbelievably talented artist and awesome business owner whose go get attitude just makes me smile every time I think of her.


Maker Technical Sculpture Services
Providing specialized skills for the production, maintenance and restoration of sculptural work.

Box 47 Sculpture Studio
A unique co-sharing 3D studio.
Both started: 2011

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a practicing sculptor, principal of Maker Technical Sculpture Services and the studio manager of Box 47 Sculpture Studio. I studied fine art at The Art Centre in Toronto, with a focus on sculpture under the direction of Canadian sculptor Richard McNeil. I currently run my business, co-sharing studio, personal artistic practice and reside in Toronto.

My technical skills have been utilized in the sculpture service industry for private and public work in Canada and abroad for close to 10 years. In 2010, I formally established Maker Technical Sculpture Services (MTSS), which provides specialized skills for the production, maintenance and restoration of sculptural works. In starting up the workspace for MTSS, I joined forces with Andrew Stretch (principal, Push Design Studios) and Aleksandar Bozovic (architect) and we created Box 47 Sculpture Studios, a unique co-sharing 3D studio in the heart of the vibrant King West Art District.

ARTIST: Marina Guglielmi, Madre Moderna,
lost wax cast silicon bronze, anodized aluminum, stainless steel, copper plating, brass, mokume gane, 42 x 22 x 11 inches (wall mounted)

My personal body of sculptural work combines metals and natural items to create one of a kind pieces based on ritualistic or ceremonial objects and ideas. My work has been exhibited extensively, including showing in New York, Las Vegas, at the Canadian Sculpture Centre and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Some of my personal sculptural achievements include receiving the John Chadwich Award for Sculpture in 2004, Manhattan Arts International Best in Sculpture in 2007, becoming an elected member of the Sculptors Society of Canada in 2009, and holding the cover and feature article in the January 2011 issue of MAGazine, published by the Metal Arts Guild of Canada.

What was life like for you as a sculptor before you ventured into your business?

I had this sort of "dual" relationship in my practice — I had my own body of work, as well as providing sculptural service assistance to others as a source of income.

During school, I began volunteering my time as a sculpture technician in the school studio and then was offered a position as technician for night school classes. There I assisted students with mould making and casting wet clay figurative sculptures they produced off of live models. Many of the students in those classes preferred to utilize their time to sculpt directly off of the model, so they asked me to make moulds and cast their final pieces for them so they could continue sculpting the next piece. This was the start of me providing freelance technical sculpture services.

Upon graduation I was asked to work at a fine art metal casting foundry, where I was employed for five years. During that time I became aware of a huge number of "would be" clients that were turned away because they didn't have the funds to produce their work in bronze, or the set skills or knowledge base to create pieces suited for the process. It was really sad to see because I knew that there were other options for these people, but in Ontario there are few venues for them to turn to, and so sculptors became hostage to the foundries.

I decided it was time to provide an alternative to the market. I would utilize my knowledge, ability and experience to provide a wide range of options for sculptors allowing them choice based on budget, need and aesthetic. Thus the concept for Maker Technical Sculpture Services was born.

Did your idea for Maker Sculpture Technical Services change as you developed the business?

Maker Technical Sculpture Services provides specialized skills for the production, maintenance and restoration of sculptural work.

The original idea is no different than the business model MTSS operates on today. What has developed that was unaware to me at the time of its conception, is how much our services are utilized outside of the artistic field, or with direct contact with the original artist, such as in restoration projects. My initial idea was that 90% of the business would be to individual artists needing their sculptures produces for their clients, the other 10% going to other clients that were not artists, such as our lifecasting and funerary casting clients, and other business. Though the business still primarily works directly with artists, I am finding that my original identified market is much larger than first thought.

What steps did you take to make your business idea happen?

Well, I never thought of myself as business savvy, so my first move before start up was to get a basic business understanding. I took courses (such as Don't Get Good...) and utilized entreprenurial programs so that I had an operating knowledge base for my business. I knew I could do the work, but as any small business owner can tell you, producing the actual project is a only a fraction of what is required to run a business — and that new area scared me. So I did everything I could to arm myself in preparation. I produced a business plan, identified target markets, created business alliances and more. I spent months defining my idea — creating possible scenarios, reading and re-doing my plan — until I felt that all the kinks were worked out.

Box47 Sculpture Studio

During this investigational planning time I developed a concept for a co-sharing studio space. This came out of the need for a studio space larger, bigger and better than my budget, as well as a personal need to work around and with other artists. I partnered up with Andy and Aleks, and we created Box 47 Sculpture Studios. It is now home to an amazing membership of artists and creative 3D businesses, including Maker Technical Sculpture Services.

Deciding to create a business on your own was one process. Were there any challenges or unexpected compromises that came about when your business developed into a partnership?

Maker Sculpture is my own business, but the co-sharing studio — Box 47 — is a partnership. The biggest challenge with that is simply that it takes us a lot longer to make decisions, as we have to confer with all three of us, and the conversation goes back and forth through discussion. However, that minor challenge comes with a HUGE benefit, as we have three different perspectives on the same issue and are able to make more strategic choices than if it were just one of us. Each of us brings something different to the table.

What has the response been like from the sculpture community to your businesses? Were there any responses that were unexpected?

The response has been great from the sculpture community and beyond. As I had done much market research before engaging in this endeavour, nothing from my target market (artists) was really unexpected. What has surprised and delighted me is the need from outside the sculpture community — retail, design, etc. The range and requirements there are vast, and the projects unique and exciting.

Maker Technical Sculpture Services and Box 47 Sculpture Studio
launch and exhibition, October 2011, Toronto

What is your day-to-day life like now as a business owner? How has your life changed now that you're independent?

This new life is somewhat chaotic, but I enjoy that very much. My life has changed in that it is even more jam packed than ever before.

One has to really be quick and on the ball, you never know what the day/week/month is going to bring you. I started out organizing every detail (almost down to the hour), scheduled allotments of my time management, and realized very quickly the effort was futile, as things changed too fast — new things come up, expected things get delayed. I still am extremely organized, as one must be, and make plans on what I expect to do and slot in time for everything. I've just learned to be more adaptable and flexible. The idea that someone who is self-employed is "free" to set their own schedule is greatly exaggerated, if not entirely untrue. Your clients and business responsibilities set your schedule. The only thing you're master of is the art of the juggle.

ARTIST: Marina Guglielmi, Icon 2 — Journey to Utopia
lost wax cast silicon bronze, lost wax cast anodized aluminum, birch, copper, bronze wire,
24 x 24 x 8 inches (wall mounted)

In what ways does running your own art business impact your personal art practice?

My business was created as a way to support myself and my personal practice, through work that was exciting, engaging for me, related to my field and utilized my strengths. The businesses affect my own sculptural practice in a number of ways.

ARTIST: Marina Guglielmi, Icon 3 — Lament for Honey
lost wax cast silicon bronze, patinated copper, ostrich egg, nickel, silver, gold leaf, resin, brass,
18 x 9.25 x 5.75 inches (wall mounted)

The biggest is, again, in time management. I rarely have a large block of time to donate to my work anymore (unless I have a deadline, in which case I book it in). So I find myself working on my pieces as a break or refresher in between business responsibilities.

I also find that as my business puts me in contact with other creative people, which allows for engaging discussion and exciting interaction, it acts as a stimulus for my practice. On a technical level, it doesn't really matter as I'm working on my own projects or someone else's. I'm constantly growing through hands on or problem solving, which benefits both my practice and my business.

Running your own business is hugely greater than "full time." Something in your life has got to give. For some artist entrepreneurs it is their work. For me it is vital to continue my practice, so I give in other ways. I no longer have the luxury of "free time" and my social life, by choice, has dwindled. Luckily I've got great friends at the studio, and extremely supportive friends outside of it, that visit me while I work, or understand when I drop in momentarily on an occasion just to go back to the studio. The point is, this juggle is a give and take relationship. Understand and accept that something has to give.

Based on your experience, what key pieces of advice would you give to other artists who also want to venture into being business owners?

First — research and plan as much as possible. Take the time to create a proper business plan, whether you require financing or not. Even though the moment you launch you can throw that plan out the window, it gives you a grasp on the reality of your venture and prepares you for most eventualities. It also gives you a guide to refer back to when things get overwhelming, or off track (which it will). It seems strange, and I would never have thought this previously, but creating the business plan is like a soldier training to go on tour. You may never encounter what you plan on, but you have developed your mind to be able to analyze and react efficiently to what may come.

Second — don't romanticize the idea of being an artist entrepreneur. There aren't any cake and roses, unless your business caters to bakers and florists....

Marina Guglielmi

Maker Sculpture Technical Services
109 Niagara Street, F3, Box 47
(416) 203-9154

Box 47 Sculpture Studio

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...