Earlier this year, Sanlam was the lead sponsor of the prestigious 2020 Collect Open Award at the International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design. Afterwards, we caught up with Margo Selby – winner of the Collect Open Award – who explained why weaving became her passion and told us about the challenges of combining art with business.
Collect – the International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design – was launched in 2004 by the Crafts Council and aims to promote the very best galleries and artists in modern craft and design. This year’s event was held in the beautiful surroundings of Somerset House in London, where artists from around the world gathered to showcase their designs.
Within the exhibition, just a small number of individual artists are given the opportunity to exhibit alongside the world-class collections as part of the Collect Open exhibition. As a key sponsor of the event, we were honoured and delighted to present Margo Selby with the 2020 Collect Open Award for her outstanding series of handwoven artworks.
Margo developed her passion for weaving in 1996 when she studied textile design at the Chelsea College of Art. She followed that with an MA at the Royal College of Art, specialising in woven textiles, before taking her skills into industry where she worked for several years as a woven textile designer for industrial mills. She said: “I decided early on that I wanted to master one craft, then apply it in real life.”
Turning her passion into a commercial reality
Not many people can say they have turned their passion into a career, but Margo has gone one step further. In 2003, she received a grant from the Crafts Council to set up her own business. Margo explains: “Not only did the Crafts Council give me a grant to enable me to buy a loom, they also gave me business mentoring to help me set up and run my own company. It was an incredible opportunity.”
She went on to collaborate with the likes of Osborne and Little, Tate Galleries, the British Museum, Fine Cell Work, the Royal Opera House, the London Transport Museum, Habitat, John Lewis, West Elm, Alternative Flooring, Decca Furniture, and Casa Bothelo. Their experts came to her with product ideas, and she focused on supplying unique and striking fabric.
Inevitably, the mechanics of running a business can be time consuming, and Margo works hard not to let this side take over. She says: “I have to remind myself how important it is to keep weaving. When I get back on the loom, it reignites my excitement and passion for the business.”
Collect Open: an opportunity to produce large scale, immersive art
Margo’s passion has always been for the fabric, rather than the products it fashions. She tries to devote as much time as she can to making beautiful fabric with no constraints, thus giving it centre stage and enabling it to become a piece of art in itself.
Margo explained: “Winning a space at Collect Open gave me the opportunity to scale up. I set out to design and produce artwork that had presence in larger galleries and architectural spaces, which was a huge departure from anything I had done before. Not least because the looms are not designed to produce such large pieces.
“To go on and win the award meant so much to me. I had to put the commercial side of my business on hold for five months, and there was an enormous amount of thought, planning and work that went into it. I proved that I could produce larger scale, immersive work, and that was enormously rewarding.”
The secret of her success
A celebrated artist and successful business owner, we wondered what the secret is to Margo’s success, and what advice she would give budding artists who might want to follow in her footsteps. She said: “I think it’s important to keep making and creating. Be hands on – it’s the best way to stay connected to the business. And always follow your own voice – it will keep you original and unique.
“And when you are creating a new piece, it’s important to have a clear vision. The result won’t necessarily match that vision. It may not always go to plan. But the outcome will be stronger if you have clear goals in the first place.”
There is a lot to be said for that approach – in many aspects of life. As wealth managers, having a clear vision of what our clients are trying to achieve is crucial to the planning process. Things rarely go to plan, whether it’s a change in personal circumstances, or unusual market conditions. But when life goes a little off course, it’s easier to get back on track when you have a clear vision of where you were heading in the first place.
For more information on Margo Selby, please visit https://www.margoselby.com/