Linking a media arts festival with a commercial enterprise – it’s been a huge success!
By Tim Leigh, Sales and Marketing Director of Fluxaxis and Stage One and York Mediale Advisory Board
Experimental. Perhaps one of the strongest words in the lexicon of the Creative Industries. It conjures bravery, failure, innovation, despair and surprise. Best of all, it alludes to discovery.
And that was my intention when I commissioned Matthew Plummer-Fernandez to join Fluxaxis as our artist in residence earlier this year. I wanted him to take our 3D printing start-up on a voyage of discovery.
A year before Matthew arrived, Stage One had made a significant investment in digital fabrication. We had spent more than a million pounds on 3D printers, scanners and engineers. We had wrapped all this capability up into a brand we’d named Fluxaxis. It looked awesome and we were proud of it. The future of making was here.
Yet we had no route to market. We were at revenue zero. I was beginning to wonder whether we’d been brave, or just plain foolish.
Sweet spots in the marketplace began to reveal themselves. Some were more lucrative than others. Product Designers were attracted to our arsenal of kit and our knowhow and soon began to engage with us. Conversely, artists seemed harder to hook.
For some time, I’d been mulling over the idea of the digital artisan. The concept wasn’t fully formed in my mind, yet it had provided the seed for a series of fairly robust debates with prospects and colleagues alike. Reaction was polarised. It was either genuinely accepted or quickly derided. My view was that any duffer with enough capital can build an impressive 3D printing capability. But only those who really know how to fix and interpret models, select materials, pack and orient print chambers and then provide suitable finishing options will win. And these are the digital artisans.
Fluxaxis has these digital artisans on its staff. They have learned their craft and arguably created a whole new discipline. However, they are not artists and without a creative spark, will never have the opportunity to refine their craft.
At about the time that I was wrestling with this conundrum, Tom Higham, Creative Director of York Mediale, suggested that we work together to build an ‘Artist in Residence’ opportunity for Fluxaxis. Stage One would benefit from the creative leadership and inspiration that the artist would offer. York Mediale would benefit from the output of a 3D printed artwork, at significant scale, that would form the basis for a modern and thought provoking installation in the city centre.
And so, several months later, Matthew Plummer-Fernandez arrived at our workshops. It was an unusual courtship to begin with. More arranged marriage than Tinder. Expectations and boundaries were tested and managed. Not unusually, there was creative tension along the way. As expected, there was certainly innovation, bravery and despair.
So what of the result? It’s an unprecedented piece of discovery. And that was exactly what I’d hoped for in linking an arts festival with a commercial enterprise. By any measure it’s been a huge success. But perhaps most significantly, it’s provided a platform for us to connect with other artists who are now beginning to use our skills and expertise to deliver their output.
The whole endeavour has been a tremendous opportunity for Fluxaxis and Stage One. And York Mediale has an astonishing installation as a consequence. But don’t take my word for it. Go and see it yourself in Kings Square, York, between 27 September and the 6 October.