The Art of Asking

What does a blog about cheap collectable artwork for sale have to do with asking? Well the sale is for charity and I have asked everyone who made art for Age UK Barnet to donate.

I have a lot of experience of asking for things, and it is not an easy thing to do.

As a single parent of twins I asked for, and received, help from friends and family, for which I will always be grateful.

When I worked for a voluntary sector organisation I would round and the main fundraising evening, a gala dinner, and invite people to buy tokens to play Scalectrix or casino chips, with a smile and explain “This pays for my salary”, which is as close to begging as it is possible to get, but it worked. People gave.

In the course of organising this sale I have probably made 1,000 requests in emails, letters, and telephone calls; that doesn’t include the  tweets. So I have been asking a lot, from a lot of people.  In many ways it is easier to ask for something for someone else, except it hasn’t really felt like that. At the time I started this project, I was the chair of Age UK Barnet and I knew that part of the motivation for doing this was because I did not want to be the person who looked our clients in the eye and said we had no more money for a particular service. I certainly did not want to do that knowing there might have been something more I could have done. But I couldn’t quite bring myself to say that, because that is my problem, not the problem of the person I was asking. I only feel comfortable asking if people feel comfortable saying no.

So I want to thank Amanda Palmer, who says everything I want to say about asking and giving in this TED talk. Watch it, listen to it. I agree with every word.

I know that it is much easier for me to ask for support for Age UK Barnet than for clients to ask for support from them.  There is a stigma attached to receiving charity, an often-restated belief that there are people who are worse off or more deserving. People, even when involved in planning new services, moderate their requests. As Amanda Palmer says, asking makes you vulnerable.

I wanted to raise money in a way which would allow people to contribute if they wanted to. I wanted clients who usually receive help to be empowered by making postcards which raise money, something which would not necessarily be possible if I had chosen to organise a sponsored run. I wanted people of all ages to feel they could give something, even if they cannot afford to give money. I wanted everyone, artists and buyers, famous or not, to feel they are coming together in a community of support.

Amanda Palmer again “Through the very act of asking people, I connected to them. And when you connect with them, people want to help you.” People want to help, because they enjoyed making the cards, because it made them feel they had done something good, because it let them show that they care. It is a fair exchange.

So back to the postcards, and some more of the artists who have donated cards. I’ve focused here on storytellers.

Magnus Irvin has been a professional artist for 25 years. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers and his work is held in the collections of the V&A and the British Museum. The author of the Daily Twit, says of himself “I consider myself to be a traditional British artist whose work often reflects my interest in institutions such as the seaside, music hall, pub culture, street furniture, sex, ectoplasm and lunatics. I do silly things seriously”.

Orly Orbach is an artist who is interested in stories and how we connect to them. Examples of her work, which show how her interest in participation and interactive narratives work, include the Olympic Ripples Memory Bench and can be seen here

Alex Tracy paints tiny minatures on the labels of tea bags and discarded sugar packets; little moments of work and beauty on paper that would be discarded as used. You can follow him on Twitter as @ayjaytrashy.

Sonia Boue is another artist who focuses on objects, included discarded objects, and the stories they inspire. She is the co-founder of the Museum of Objectology at MRS Oxford.

Sarah Lightman’s work tells the story of her life in a diary of pictures and animations. Widely exhibited and a frequent speaker, most recently at the new JW3 Centre, her work is intensely personal.

Sarah Bridgland makes work which sits between sculpture and collage. Made from delicately folded and cut paper, often using ephemera from junk shops and printed material, her work explores the link between object and memory, loss and preservation.

Her work is held in the Philmore Museum USA and Sir Terence Conran’s private collection, amongst others.

See her work and find out more about her here

To return to Amanda Palmer, I am asking you, without shame, to come to the Secret Postcard Sale, spread the word and, if you want, take part in your own way by making a donation or buying a card.

Saturday 23 November in Mr Simms, 781 High Road, North Finchley, N12 8JY.

Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s