I’m excited today to participate in the Let’s Talk Process Blog Hop, hosted by Wendi Gratz. There are eight of us sharing stories about how we approach the journey of design. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find links to the other participants’ posts!
Interestingly, our collaboration on the book was a pretty independent affair – Christina took care of the “Quilting,” and I took care of the “Happiness.” But we did get a chance to collaborate more closely recently, when we produced a free Quilting Happiness webinar for Quilting Daily. First I led a creative exercise that resulted in patchwork, and then Christina showed how to make a project from that patchwork.
I think many people believe that having a collaborator means having less work. But actually, it can be a whole lot more work, if you don’t forge a good working relationship together. Here are some ways Christina and I did that for this webinar project….
Here’s the sketchbook cover Christina designed for the webinar.
Blending our two halves of the webinar was the easy part. We had a specific creative exercise we wanted to feature – one that had been cut from our book due to space limitations. So Christina just did the exercise herself, taking a bunch of photos in her back yard and then using those to design a modern patchwork block. Then she designed a project that would incorporate that patchwork. It needed to be a fairly simple project to construct, and one that quilters might be likely to use. A removable sketchbook cover fit the bill nicely.
So now we had the raw material for our webinar, but we still had to organize ourselves so we could get Christina’s “Quilting” part and my “Happiness” part into the same presentation. We each had design, photography, and writing to do, we’d be passing the same Powerpoint file back and forth, and the finished webinar needed to look like it all belonged together. Plus, we had a deadline!
Image by Tom Adamson, via Flickr
I think it’s wise, in a collaborative situation, for each person to understand and respect how the other likes to work. It’s one thing to choose a collaborator because you like what she makes, but quite another to understand your own style and your partner’s well enough that you can blend them successfully.
I knew, for example, that Christina’s designs are always highly refined, and she needs enough time to try lots of variations and make a number of iterations to arrive at the right solution. And I also knew that, since I run a packed calendar all the time, I have to be able to plan my time well in advance.
So, we set up a compromise that worked for both our styles. Christina worked on her part of the webinar first, and we agreed on a date when she’d pass the file back to me. That allowed me to plan my days, because I knew specifically when I could work on my section. And it allowed Christina to have the lion’s share of the production time to refine her design. We also agreed beforehand that her section of the presentation would run about 20 minutes, and mine about ten. That way, we didn’t create any timing surprises for each other!
It made sense for Christina’s visual style to carry this webinar project, since it’s the prominent part of our book.
Christina and I have very different design styles, too, which we had to blend for this project. Since we were doing the webinar to market our book, and Christina’s quilts are the main visuals there, it made sense for me to emulate her style as much as I could in this case.
That’s another important element of collaboration, actually: figuring out each person’s “sovereign spaces” for a project – areas where it’s logical for one person to take the lead most of the time. Christina is definitely the design brain of our little operation. I’m strong in logistics and communication, so my “sovereign space” here was being the main point of contact with Quilting Daily, organizing all the details of the project and keeping everyone on the same page.
(Is the design part way more fun? Yes. But in a good collaboration, you take the role that needs your skills most.)
Some process shots from the creative exercise part of the webinar.
When I got the presentation back from Christina, then, I set to work photographing the steps of the creative exercise. In case you’re wondering, they go like this:
- Go on a quick little photo safari to someplace you visit a lot. Take pictures of whatever interests your eye.
- Trace the shapes you see in those photos. I demonstrated three ways to do this.
- Think about the intersection point between the shapes in your sketches and your current cutting/sewing/color-choosing skills. Choose sketches where you can easily see how you’ll translate them to patchwork.
- Start making patchwork! I demonstrated three different methods.
That was a lot to cover in a ten-minute presentation! It was really about creating exaggerated examples of each of those points. I chose casual photos that had really pronounced shapes, so it was easier to represent them being sketched or traced. And I represented the processes of translating sketches to fabric in very simple, literal ways. The design of the patchwork here was less important than my being able to create a demo that people could “see themselves in.”
Image by Nicola Corboy, via Flickr
…And that brings up one last engine of a good collaboration: sticking to your agreements. I was able to give my part of the project my best effort because Christina turned the presentation back over to me when she said she would. If she hadn’t, it would have created a time-crunch for me, and I wouldn’t have been able to work at the level I wanted to.
One of the best ways to care for your collaborators, whether you’re working on a huge project like a book or a smaller one, is to simply be reliable for them.
All in all, our webinar was a success, with just over 3,000 people signing up. (Woo-Hoo!) You can watch it for free, too – right over here.