Our names are Mollie & Rebekah, and we are Co-Directors of Short Supply, based in Salford. We’re really interested in getting involved with your interview segment, and learning more about Orbit as a project as well!
A bit about us and Short Supply:
“Short Supply is an artist-led initiative and curatorial collective operating in Salford, directed by Mollie Balshaw and Rebekah Beasley.
Short Supply was established for the purpose of generating creative opportunities, and facilitating and curating collaborative events specifically for artists in the North West. Particular emphasis is placed on ensuring emerging artists and recent graduates have the chance to put themselves out there, but Short Supply is a platform for all creatives, and aims to try and cultivate a supportive network across the board.”
Through Short Supply we’ve established an art prize, curated exhibitions, staged collaborative events, done various talks and other miscellaneous gubbins, and that’s all fed into our own understanding of the art world and how to survive in this competitive crazy industry. We can’t remember if you asked for images – but we’ve attached some just in case!
Our personal websites are linked in the above description if you’re interested in finding out more about us as artists, we juggle individual art practice’s as well as Co-Directing Short Supply, but we sort of see it as a collaborative identity for us and an extension of our interests as artists!
Thank you for offering this opportunity, we look forward to hearing back from you and hopefully getting a chinwag going!
Mollie & Rebekah
Co-Directors, Short Supplywww.shortsupply.org
That’s great news! I’ve loved watching all the work yous have been doing over Instagram, they’ve looked really good! My friend Beth showed some work with you in your graduate exhibition last year, and she’s gave nothing but glowing reviews since!!
Where did the idea for Short Supply come from, & how did you start getting it up and running at the beginning? I know for myself, I started ORBIT because I was/am working full time and not really making any of my own work, so it was something that I didn’t have to dive in headfirst with. Do you still have your own individual practises alongside Short Supply, & if so, do you think you’ve got much of a balance between them?
Just a lil FYI, there’s no time limit or deadline for these interviews, so take as long as you need to reply!
Ah Beth she’s a good’un, she spoke highly of you too in an interview we did with her catching up on the grad show, so we were chuffed to see you doing some call outs for a collaboration!
We do have individual art practices as well, and we know getting that balance is really difficult. It kind of varies between the two, some months Short Supply takes priority and other months we try to spend most of our time focusing on our own work, it’s rare the two sing together harmoniously because as well as this we both have jobs too, so you’re forced to make a choice day by day week by week and run with it. Sometimes it’s exciting and it works out and you feel you’ve got a flow going, and other times it’s a nightmare and we wonder why we do this to ourselves!
Orbit is a great project, we just wanted to ask you how your experience of running a platform meant for others is, being an artist yourself? We know that sometimes on bad days we wish we’d taken a more selfish route!
I decided to start Orbit because my own practise was becoming pretty stagnant. I had to move back home and work full time, so I wasn’t really finding the time to dedicate to my own practise, especially cos my work was primarily just massive, time-consuming installations, so I was just really struggling to actually make work. I’ve always been more interested in (& generally just preferred) running projects and curating anyway, and Orbit was a good way to still stay a bit connected and keep my foot in the door, even if I wasn’t moving forward with my own practise. I’ve found that I really prefer focusing my energy on trying to support other artists instead of focusing on my own practise.
Do you find that running Short Supply and working with all these different artists helps to inform/inspire your own practises? Are your own individual practises quite similar to each other, or is your work like complete miles apart?
Where did you come up for the idea of Short Supply? It’s such a successful project, did it take a lot of planning and organisation, or were you able to literally just get up and go with it?
That’s fair enough, sometimes it takes a bit of time to figure out where your interests really lie, uni isn’t the best at teaching that! It’s important work too, artists are always going to need supportive networks, so those who stick their necks out and do their best to provide that are so crucial to the survival of everyone in the sector.
Working with loads of different artists doesn’t always inspire our individual practices, sometimes it does, but mainly it inspires us to keep at it if that makes sense? It’s inspiring to see artists doing their thing and to feel their energy in a project, it’s so easy to get bogged down with it all and sharing that experience with others breaks us out of those dark head spaces.
Our individual practices are quite different in terms of process and material, but thematically we share many similarities. We both make work about our own queerness and identity, and how that defines the way we navigate the world. At first we were a bit tentative to share about our own work because the foundation of Short Supply’s aim isn’t about us, but we’ve realised that people are actually interested in knowing more about us as people, and the more of ourselves we put into it the closer people can feel to it. It’s that authenticity that makes people more able to relate to the goal, and more keen to get involved and show a bit of themselves too. There’s a bit of a disconnect sometimes between many bigger organisations and the people they want to support from our observation. For the most part it’s definitely not intentional, it just comes with the territory, but the value of the artist-led for us is you can maintain those more personal relationships and work really closely with people without institutional rules and pressure hanging over your decision-making.
Short Supply started out as our way of preempting the problems we knew we were going to face when we got out of uni, namely lack of quality and accessible opportunities and losing our support network. It was also a way for us to continue collaborating and supporting each other, and explore our shared interest in curation. It did take a couple of months of planning and thinking through what we wanted it to be and how we wanted to present that, but we also knew that the best thing to do was just start it, and let it develop on it’s own. Starting is the hard part because nobody knows you, you don’t even really know you yet, and you’re pretty much blindfolded trying to navigating all the new experiences. In a nutshell it was a bit of both, and we’ve carried that throughout the project so far. Planning is important, but a little bit of chance is too. Magical things happen outside of the lines!
Exactly! Like especially in my uni, it was constantly drummed into is that the only way to keep your practise moving forward is to just always be constantly making work and to continue doing so, but they don’t really mention anything about trying to sustain your practise while trying to balance a full time job/general life at the same time, and I think that big shift in lifestyle is a huge shock to the system to a lot of people.
Yes that totally makes sense! Like you get to feel the joy of helping artists move forward and reach milestones with their work, and I think it just feels quite refreshing to be able to see people really excited about their work.
I think allowing people the insight into your own practises really helps to bring Short Supply onto a personal level, it makes it feel a bit more friendly approachable, and I think that’s what makes people keen to get involved. Has running short supply given yous more opportunities for your own individual practises, or do you try and keep the two separate from each other?
Do you think it’s easier running Short Supply having two of you working on the projects? Do you both share the responsibilities between you, or do you both focus on different areas of the project?
Same for us! We had a little bit of warning from uni what it was going to be like, but not very much at all is done to ensure you are making relevant adjustments to your practice to make it sustainable in any way. Uni is great but it’s not realistic. More graduates would be able to maintain their practice if the way uni’s prepared us was in any way grounded in real experience, and not the fantasy of unlimited time extra cash and readily available support networks and resources as and when you need them. Some don’t even provide that. On one hand, it’s definitely an experience you have to go through and find your own way of navigating and you can’t be ready for everything, but it’s also the uni’s responsibility to prepare you, and we think they should be doing more about that.
Generally we try and keep the two separate, but it’s much easier to get your work out there when you’re running a collaborative platform becuase you reach more people, so it has brought interest to our individual practices too even though this isn’t necessarily the goal. Our show Material Concerns at PAPER Gallery for example, was a show of our own work that came from interest in our relationship with one another as artists from our collaboration as Short Supply. We were dead nervous about it at first because we don’t ever want to push the focus of the platform away from the audience we want to support, but actually as you said we think it does help create a more personal relationship, because sharing your art is giving a bit of yourself away to be judged and opening up a dialogue, and you’re able to get more on a persons level when you see their art and feel that vulnerability.
We definitely couldn’t run the project alone, we’d go mental for one thing because being an artist is already a pretty isolating experience a lot of the time, and if we had to juggle Short Supply individually as well it would be a nightmare! We’re lucky to have a really good dynamic in that what one of us isn’t so good at the other is, for example I (Mollie) do most of the written stuff for press releases, interviews, website statements and replying to emails and that, but Bek is super techy and so she designed the website and sorts our photography and events promo and things like that. It lightens the load of responsibility a bit so we’re able to focus on getting everything as spot on as we possibly can. With that being said we can’t do everything, so we’re trying to spend time at the moment investing time in the right places and asking for help more in those places we fall short so we can keep getting better.
Oh definitely! I think it’s because people go about their work so differently post-uni that it’s hard to point people in one specific direction too, I think the most important thing is to not judge your own success on the same levels as others, cos I think that’s something that definitely puts a lot of people off.
Do you have a specific aim you’re trying to achieve with Short Supply, or is that something you try and figure out with each new project? What’s been tour favourite project you’ve done so far? Do they all follow a similar route, or do you try and make them all stand out differently?
Do you have any plans for any future projects or shows? How are you planning on pushing your platform further?
For sure, that’s a big thing too. Even though everyone may have a relatively similar goal in a broad sense when leaving uni, getting into those nitty gritty details you realise just how different everyone really is, even comparing those who want to become artists. What being an artist means for one person may be completely different from another.
Expectations are a big part of it as well, some people just wanna get their degree and that’s the finish line for them, and that’s totally fair enough. You’re definitely right that it doesn’t make sense to compare your success to others. If we compared ourselves to the artists and organisations we look up to I don’t know how we’d get out of bed in a morning, probs wouldn’t, especially being in Manchester where there are so many artist-led projects that are mad successful and in our eyes making serious waves. We try really hard not to measure our success or set our goals based on what we see others doing, but rather get our heads down and focus on what we want to achieve in a really personal sense, and let that guide us. We take inspiration from around us, but when me and Bek knock our heads together and come up with ideas for shows or collaborations or projects, it comes from a desire to do better than we ourselves have done before, rather than how can we do better than this person or that group. For example when we established the art prize, we did that because we’d worked together on and curated a couple of more basic exhibitions prior, and thought “okay we’ve got the gist of this exhibition thing, now how can we elevate it a bit?”. We’re really critical of ourselves and we always want each project to be better than the last, even if it’s just like “we promoted this one better” or “we had more challenging feedback for this one”.
We don’t have one specific aim necessarily; we have long term goals and places we’d like it to go, but for now we’re just working with what we’ve got and trying to take those baby steps towards the bigger stuff. We have really big ambitious plans for it that we hope it will get to one day, but between then and now, we have to hit our marks with all those intermediate stepping stones and give them our fullest attention. Don’t try to run before you can walk sort of thing.
Our favourite project so far is a tough one because they are all so different, but actually, we really enjoyed P-ART-Y! Working with Chris Bailkoski from PROFORMA was like the smoothest easiest collaboration ever, and we love Soup Kitchen as a venue, so getting to put something arty together in there was a real privilege honestly. The artists who performed on the night and who had stalls for the event are some of our all time favourite people, and those who we didn’t know so well beforehand we’ve kept in touch with, and they’re some of our closest mates now. The performances were rich and insightful, and most of them were brand new works debuted that night, which is always a pleasure to facilitate. It was a mega busy evening as well which is the icing on the cake. That’s just what it’s all about isn’t it? Making mates, supporting each other and putting on sick events that people enjoy.
We do have a few exciting things in the works; shows and alternative projects which aim to play on our strengths and our collaborators strengths. That’s what has worked so well and is the common denominator in our projects so far I think; we’ve worked closely with others and crafted the idea around what we can bring to it and what they can bring to it, rather than proposing and carrying out a polished idea. This is also how we plan on pushing the project further, by identifying these strengths and weaknesses we can better evaluate that balance between ability and risk. We said in an earlier question that we don’t always want things to be so organised to a point that there’s no room for a bit of nuance and surprise, which is definitely important to us, but also when you don’t have any funding or a “safety net” to fall back on I suppose, it can be a big risk putting so much time and money into projects if we don’t take them seriously enough too. Basically, we’re trying to be a bit more introspective now we’ve got a better idea of what we want to achieve, and the upcoming projects will hopefully reflect that better understanding. We aren’t able to give specifics because obviously the lock down is trifling with our plans as it is for everyone atm, but we’re looking forward to what the future holds even through that uncertainty.
What advice would you give to people who are aspiring to start up their own art/curatorial projects like yours?
We would say to do your research; find out what’s already going on in your area, and try to respond to what’s needed, missing or that you yourself would perhaps like to see more of. Short Supply for us as well as being a platform for collaboration is also about being the change we want to see. If somebody else isn’t doing it, see if it’s possible for you to have a stab at it so to speak.
You may not have the resources, money or time to do every project perfectly, but that’s what artist-led is all about in our opinion. It’s about go-getting, not being polished. If you’re running anything artist-led, chances are you’re not doing that for the fun of it, it’s because you’re a bit strapped for cash or time, and you want to try and make something happen anyway with what you’ve got. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.
Thank you for taking the time to ask us questions and involve us in this project – we know how time consuming it can be just having a conversation in this way particularly when you have to initiate questions and juggle other things, and we appreciate you working so hard. We’re looking forward to seeing the interview on the site!
Best, Mollie & Bek