Thursday, 28 March 2013
The biggest egg hunt in the UK is back with 101 giant Easter eggs, each a work of original art, hidden in cities across the country as a part of the Lindt Big Egg Hunt, on tour until Easter Monday.
Artists, Natasha Chambers and Oliver Clegg blog about the whole project.
The idea for the egg was really a collaborative effort between me and my wife…We decided from the outset that we were going to do something together so immediately split to the roles in the process. Natasha is an exceptional illustrator so it was left to me to conceive a design and basic concept behind the piece. For the Egg Hunt in 2012, I had made a transparent egg in which a lightbulb seemed to float within the inside. I decided it would be interesting to continue this floating idea and with drawings that Natasha had found from anatomical image libraries, we conceived the idea of a brain floating inside a smashed egg.
From the outset, we had wanted to make something different in the same way that the transparent egg had drawn attention due to its unique transparent form. So we decided it could be fun to play with the idea of a 3D egg in which the viewer had to use 3D spectacles in order to view it. We particularly liked the idea of the 3D image coming from something so basic and analogue as opposed to all these wonderful yet hyper digital creations that you see in the cinemas. With a few quick online YouTube lessons, we developed Natasha’s beautiful drawing into a 3D image and were then ready for the subsequent stages of production.
When making sculptural work there are always more logistical problems than say doing a painting or a two-dimensional work. The problem with this piece in particular was that we wanted to print something 2D onto a 3D surface and in this case, a curved surface. Fortunately we were able to find somewhere in east London that specialised in vinyl printing and as the actual area of the print was small enough that it didn’t need to curve so much around the egg, we were able to print it flat and stick it onto the surface with minimal bubbling. Any deficiencies in the sticking were then homogenised by the fact that the egg was given a smooth and beautiful transparent lacquer. The glasses were then bought from a specific 3D retailer in California (we are based in NYC) and we created a basic mechanism for keeping the glasses attached to the plinth so that the general public wouldn’t run away with the glasses and not allow the other passers-by to revel in the enjoyment of the 3D image!
When it was suggested that Natasha and I make something together for this year's Egg Hunt, we were both inspired by the experience to make something together as we had recently become married last September in Cornwall…We were anxious to see if we were able to collaborate artistically as we both have very clear opinions on our work but we quickly settled into our roles and realised what strengths we could both bring to the table. I am more of a quick ideas person and Natasha is very good a labour intensive illustrator who puts immaculate and perfect detail into everything she does. I don’t have the patience and like to get immediate creative satisfaction from short and sharp decisions. The balance worked and after a shaky start the project concluded harmoniously.
The design phase took about a week and involved the sketching of the work and subsequently the illustrative work by Natasha.
At this stage it has been rewarding to see our work as a couple become something concrete and unified for the public to see. From previous experience I know how rewarding the auction sale of the egg is. Last year my egg sold for £17,000, which is an amount of money that I would never be in a position to give directly to charity so to be able to contribute this kind of donation is obviously a wonderful experience and something we look forward to over the next month.
Everything that you do is a highlight and rewarding for very different reasons. I have shown at the Venice, Prague and Busan Biennales and at various different museum across the world ranging from the Reykjavik Museum of Modern Art to the Saatchi Gallery in London. Natasha has similarly shown extensively and most recently launched her new scarf collection at the uber-hip NYC store American Two Shot. The Egg Hunt is, however, a great and interesting project and the benefit is for other people as opposed to many other career events that are really about you and you only.
Natasha Chambers is a British artist and designer based in New York. For more information, visit natashachambers.co.uk and oliverclegg.com.
You can bid for your one-of-a-kind egg art on the Lindt Big Egg Hunt website, where supporters will also be able to take part in online egg searches and other fun and games. The eggstravaganza supports Action for Children, helping the UK's most vulnerable and neglected children transform their lives.
Wednesday, 20 March 2013
One of the challenges anyone aspiring to run a lean startup is acquiring the ability to pose and answer two questions when faced with a business or technical requirement.
1. Is it really necessary?
2. At what cost?
In my case, I had to achieve three business objectives:
1. Give customers a chance to see myMzone's website and product listings online.
2. Encourage them to click through and come to the listing page.
3. Create the best possible environment where a sale can occur.
I considered the requirements carefully and realised that the answers to the lean startup questions were 'yes' and 'minimal'. Challenging, yes?
Time is money - I agree. For sake of argument, I am only considering the amount of money spent - in pounds, pennies and shillings as 'cost'. But stay with me, it gets better.
What is the best way to attract customers to your website without spending money upfront? By the way, I can already feel the PPC experts cringing in their chairs mumbling that it does not cost anything to display an ad; you only pay when a customer clicks through. I agree with them and encourage readers to try PPC campaigns if you have a budget. Don't get me wrong; I had a budget. Unfortunately, it was £0.
So, what did I do on myMzone? I did 4 things.
1. Set up with a kickAss website (take a look at it, you'll like it ;) ).
2. More importantly, I built the website search engine friendly and made pages optimised for keywords that we wanted to target.
3. Just like all eCommerce websites, we had to face challenges around shallow content. So, to balance that out, I set up a blogging platform and leveraged the London Ambassador program to create an engaging environment for enthusiastic bloggers to submit content to the blog. This really strengthened the content on the domain and improved the domain rank, page rank for pages that we targetted. Additionally, it allowed to use rich content pages of the blog to bring browsers from the internet (landing on a blog post) and then give them an opportunity to click through to become visitors on myMzone increasing chances of them becomes shoppers and myMzone customers.
4. We paid equal attention to primary social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The trick was to play to our strengths - the availability of quality multi-media collateral which had a better uptake from customers on Pinterest (who doesn't love good looking images?). Yes, we played to our core strengths. Additionally, we established a presence on Instagram and Tumblr.Take a look at our social media platforms and feel free to give me your take on how things are run.
By the way, I cannot stress this enough. Blogging and social media platforms are tools that you can use to announce you presence to your customers. Clearly, it increases your reach in the online world; allows you to reach customers in Sweden, Japan, US, Australia and tap into their social circle giving yourself a chance to get the word out there with the ripple effect. SEO and Social media acumen remain the most cost effective means to date but it is up to you to create and maintain a marketing environment within your website to facilitate sales.
To summarise, blog content and social media efforts are responsible for about 54% of myMzone traffic and account for about 70% of the sales. This has given us an opportunity to use the profits for paid marketing. Yes, we are still in the boot-strapping mode but it will not be long before we add paid marketing portfolio to our blogging and social media efforts.
Ravi Jay is one of the co-founders of myMzone.com, a platform where small businesses trading in local markets can sell their wares online. The website brings together hundreds of merchants from local markets in London like Camden Town, Portobello, Brick Lane, Greenwich and is soon listing sellers from other parts of UK. The website offers shoppers a chance to place an order for a listed item, use myMzone services (free) to look an unlisted item from the market or compare products from different merchants. There are segments for daily deals and offers from the markets on the website. You can follow Ravi on Twitter @mymzoneltd
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
You’re booked! Matthew Steeples of The Steeple Times argues against the idea of bookshops charging customers to browse ...
What is going on in the world of bookselling?
First, in January 2012, the last remaining chain of bookstores in Britain, Waterstone’s, dropped the apostrophe in their name and became Waterstones as they consider it “a more practical and versatile spelling”. Now, bookshops are being urged to charge their customers to browse by Victoria Barnsley, the CEO of HarperCollins and the founder of the Fourth Estate publishing house.
Barnsley is of the belief that physical bookshops won’t survive in an era when so many readers are moving to Kindle’s and other electronic reading devices. In conversation on Radio 4’s The Bottom Line programme, she cited a reported figure that just 35% of fiction is bought in a physical bookshop and argued that as a result such businesses are under “enormous pressure”.
In this regard, Barnsley is quite right but her suggestion that the solution would be to make customers “pay for the privilege of browsing” is just ludicrous. Could you imagine going into Waitrose and being charged to look at their selection of coffee or being asked for a pound just to look at sandwiches in Pret?
I would argue that charging a fee to enter bookshops would signal the death knell for them. Tim Huggins, a former bookshop owner turned industry consultant, also agrees and when questioned by The Washington Post stated that the idea made him “laugh then cringe”. Another bookseller, Mark Laframboise, added: “If it comes to charging admission for customers to browse, we’re done”.
The purpose and reason I love bookshops is that they are places for bilbliophiles to enjoy and explore at leisure and in peace. The ability to leaf through a book is all part of the pleasure of experience of finding something new to read and bookstores should encourage customers to come in rather than putting them off.
Barnsley concluded by stating that her idea was actually “not that insane”. She, rather like the fat cat banking chiefs the nation has come to loathe, shows herself as utterly out of touch. The comfort of her chief executive’s chair has plainly gone to her head. She ought to browse a little more.
Matthew Steeples is the publisher of The Steeple Times: http://thesteepletimes.com
Wednesday, 6 March 2013
I first wanted to be a cartoonist nearly two decades ago. Back then I had no idea how to get published and, as there was no Google to ask, my seminal strip ‘Temp Bitch’ never saw the light of day. Instead, I got a ‘proper job’ and spent the next 20 years practising my drawing in every meeting I went to (there were many).
When I finally came back to the ambition a couple of years ago the world had entirely changed. While there seemed to be fewer publications taking in cartoons, in return I realised that in today’s world, anyone can develop their own audience and talk to them directly.
I’ve spent the last year or so doing just that. I began by re-establishing and honing my style, building up a portfolio of content and testing my material on friends, family and my social media connections. I started appealing to businesses, showing them how they could use cartoons to help get their message across in a way hits you between the eyes, and that’s truly memorable. (It didn’t hurt that I’d spent many years in marketing roles).
The cartoon below was created to help promote a time management programme:
I also got the chance to illustrate a couple of books for people in the personal development field. By this time I’d spent a lot of time (and money) coaching myself out of being a life coach, and into being a cartoonist.
Out of all this I’ve now developed my own three-pronged strategy to keep me focused on steadily building my business. It goes like this:
ONE: Create. And keep on creating. Just keep drawing strips, gags and illustrations. Set goals. Keep to them. Keep on moving forward.
TWO: Build an audience. Use social media. Reach out and touch... well, people’s hearts, hopefully.
THREE: Get my name out there. Online and in the real world. Both are important.
Point one is the most important as good quality work will always find its audience (as long as you put the effort in). When you love what you do, the chances are other people will too. You just have to keep on creating and improving on your output. One part of my brain is now on a permanent alert for ideas (making me annoying company).
BUILDING AN AUDIENCE
I have learnt that social media does indeed rock. I’ve created cartoons across many different interest groups, from NLP and personal development to sexy businesses such as financial investing.
Social media gives me the chance to reach out to all those different communities. Within a week of following and sending my cartoons to NLP trainers, I got a book-illustration offer.
GETTING MY NAME OUT THERE
No amount of social media makes up for real-life relationship building. Much to my own surprise, I attend a weekly business-breakfast group. It really works for me and means I now have 15 other people helping me get the word out, and a safe place to test out ideas. It also means I have to stand up on a weekly basis and affirm that I am a cartoonist. I know from my NLP work that regular reinforcement can have a big impact.
For all the work involved, I love what I do now. I feel driven to keep improving and I get a ridiculous pleasure from someone in a country far away laughing at something I’ve drawn – or giving it a humble ‘like’.
So I say hooray to the modern world. It’s allowed me to take an old love and make new friends to share it with. The world, as they have yet to say, is my kitten.
Caroline Chapple is the creator of Chapple Cartoons, which creates cartoons and cartoon illustrations for businesses, authors, publishers and anyone who wants to put their message across in a humorous, memorable way. You can also find her blog at the same site.