I try to be cool sometimes and go there. The place is buzzing with creatives left, right and centre. Street art emerges from the ground, creeping its way onto the sides of buildings, whilst contemporary hubs showcasing new and upcoming artists sit proudly in quaint locations.
Karen Shidlo, an author and painter, has co-created her own company with her brother to showcase artists. But it really is one step ahead of the rest. Jester Jacques. Brilliant name right? A goal to support young, emerging artists to help really promote who and what they do. Through selling prints, annual pop up shows, regular updates from their online shop and the participation of art fairs you could say they’ve done extremely well having started only in 2011.
How do they do it?! Exactly my question…
Nicola Manuel: Tell us a little about Jester Jacques and the reason you’re a keen bean to work with other artists alongside your brother?
Karen Shidlo (Jester Jacques): Jester Jacques was born out of my desire to work in the arts, which isn’t easy nowadays. Although I wanted to be a painter, I was overwhelmed with the amount of excellent artists I came across when I moved to London in 2011 and decided to focus on giving them a platform to show their work.
I love working with artists because I know how much passion goes into what they do and how fulfilling it is when you can make money out of your creations.
NM: Thinking back to the very beginning of Jester Jacques, how did the idea come about and how did you make it happen?
KS: My brother, at the time of the conception of the gallery idea, was really starting to get into street art and I felt that out different tastes in art could combine to create a unique mixture of work to sell.
The first 6 months or so was spent doing research, reading books and meeting artists in their studios. Then we built a website and the ball got rolling from there. We held our first exhibition in November 2012 and that was the greatest learning experience!
NM: You’re brilliant on social media, from your regular tweets to the update of the website. Oh but not only that, all the events you do. What I want to know is how do you manage your time? It seems like you do so much!
KS: I have never been one to do anything in half measures in any aspect of my life and I do feel a great sense of responsibility to the artists I work with, so I must admit to being a workaholic. I work at it 7 days a week.
I think the only way to stay on top of everything is to make lists with goals and set yourself deadlines. I also have my brother and a couple of artists who very kindly help out with whatever needs to be done. Rob Bellman and Ben Rider are stars and have been there with us since the beginning!
NM: What is your favourite type of work and are you still a practicing artist?
KS: I have been in love with painting for a very long time, especially abstract work. My favorite painters include Philip Taaffe, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella and Lee Krasner.
I haven’t painted in almost a year and I suppose that it’s because once I do find quiet time, I want to relax…I always found painting to require as much thought and consideration as any job or task. I will definitely get back into it though.
Launch Party at Box Park
NM: If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
KS: Painting or another job in the arts. It is the only thing I want to do. Art has played such an important part of my life; I really don’t see myself doing anything else.
NM: How do you go about finding your artists?
KS: We do get approached a lot by artists, but usually it is through word of mouth, if someone I know suggests an artist they think I might like, I always take the time to check out their work. I also go on Axis http://www.axisweb.org/ and Saatchi online to search their databases of artists.
I am always reading blogs about art in London and looking at various other art websites, so whenever I see an artist I like online, I email them!
NM: What are the pros and cons of working in London?
KS: London is full of opportunities. There is no shortage of places to do pop ups and hold exhibitions, it is a city brimming over with amazing artists. The art scene in general is exciting, from contemporary galleries and museums to the local street art scene. Those are the pros.
The main con for us is the exorbitant prices of rent…we would love to have a gallery space/venue/retail shop, but I think we are still a year or so away from being able to do that. Other than that, London is an absolutely wonderful place to work.
NM: What has been your greatest achievement to date?
KS: I like to bask in the little, daily achievements, as they are what keep me going and believing in myself and the gallery. I suppose the greatest achievement so far has to be a tie between the success of our Box Park pop up shop and being invited by FAD to participate in The Other Art Fair with them.
We had been discussing, my brother and I, about doing an art fair and we were so honoured when Mark Westall asked us if we would like to share a booth with him. It is incredible and we cannot wait for the 4 days of madness there in April!
Box Park Pop Up Shop
Sounds really exciting! Oh gosh, it’s time for those quick round questions…
Contemporary or traditional? Contemporary!
City or country? Country!
Food or drink? Drink!
So if you’re a creative, whether it be in study or freelance, then I’m here to tell you that you’re not short of people wanting to showcase your fresh talent. Jump on board and speak to Karen for more information, follow their showcases online both via their website and twitter and keep writing those lists (it’s the way forward).