Sunday, February 10, 2008

Be inspired by a Collective Project or a Call for Artists - Swimmy

This past week Etsy put out a call for a collective project to create a fish representative of the classic children's book Swimmy, by Leo Leonni. Etsy founder, Rob Kalin, sees this book as an inspiration and sees how it correlates to Etsy. He said this in a recent Storque post about Etsy's future direction:

"So our vision is to be the eye — to be a kind of organizing principle. We do not want Etsy itself to be a big tuna fish. Those tuna are the big companies that all us small businesses are teaming up against."

So if Etsy is the eye, all of the surrounding fish must be the artists/sellers. An Etsy artist,, sent Rob a little black Swimmy fish that she created after reading the article and this inspired the idea to ask Etsy artists to create their version of the surrounding orange fish in their medium of choice to create a larger art piece at the Etsy Labs. They offered up a basic template and parameters and left the rest of the up to the artists.

I was pretty excited to create a fish because I have been very busy over the last couple weeks filling several wholesale orders and I have been craving the chance to create something just for fun. This was my chance. There was no pressure of whether or not is would sell or if anyone would like it. I also didn't have to think very hard about what it would be like since there was a template. I decided to keep it simple and just fill in the details of the scales and fins and add a little interest to the eye. My process creates a relief, so I really wanted to play up the texture of the fish. Since the fish will be combined with the fish of the other artists, I wanted to make it as recognizable as a Block Party Press creation as possible. Here is a slide show showing most of my process:

I will be shipping my fish up to the Etsy Labs tomorrow and will post a picture of the finished collective piece once it is posted. The idea of a collective piece can be very inspiring. I know I loved the idea of having my work included with a bunch of other artists to create a larger piece. The call for "fish" inspired me to create something I may not have created if I hadn't read the article. A call for art or artists can help you when you are in a slump to help you get out of your head and to give you a starting point. I find often times when you have a starting idea, the rest seems to fall into place fairly easily. You don't even have to submit your creation. You can just use the idea and run with it, although submitting for the right project can be very rewarding and some even offer money, prizes and or notoriety (if you are into that sort of thing). You can find local, national and international calls for artists in art and craft magazines, book publisher sites, museums, through your local arts council or art center as well as on the internet. I found quite a few on ,, & I would recommend that you research any call for artists before submitting a piece, and always read the fine print.

If you are an Etsy seller, take some time this week to create a fish for the Swimmy project. It doesn't have to be elaborate, but use it to showcase your medium of choice and to be included in something larger than your own art. Plus, it's just fun! There is a Flickr Group, Underwater Diorama , established to showcase the individual fish. Here are some of my favorites so far:

Swimmy by

Handmade Swimmy Wild by tumboweed

Swimmy I Spy Bag by lindseyrae

Buttoned Swimmy by


Swimmy's Friend by mamazakka


Barbra said...

Thanks so much for for including me,Tamara. I agree-it was great fun just to create something like this,no pressure or judgement>

pollyhyper said...

I love your piece and I also really love seeing the pics of your work in progress. I was never really sure exactly how you did what you do!

Love the Swimmys!

d-c-designs said...

I loved seeing the slide show of your process. I like how you combine paint, polymer clay, and your own hand carved stamps. I'll be making my fishy this weekend.

Liz Smith said...

Very cool post about being inspired outside your regular boundaries, that's how I feel about the PCAGOE challenges. Love the slide big is your Swimmy?

Block Party Press said...

You're welcome Barbra!! Thanks for commenting everyone. It was fun to share how he came to life! I don't think I would have made a big fish on my own!

Liz - He is the required 7" inches long and like 3" wide. He is about 1/4" thick.

BeckyKay said...

Very cool! I wasn't aware of this project, so I'm glad I found your blog! What fun!

Michelle Engel Bencsko said...

Great blog! Love the project concept, too. It's all looking great!


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