Artists have long made the decision to turn their artistic practice into successful enterprises and far from being worlds apart, creativity and entrepreneurialism go hand-in-hand.
Sculptor Paul Cox is one such artist who has managed to transform compelling ideas into a successful business.
Creativity is an organised, structured business. You can still have a great creative atmosphere, but also have a business model similar to any other business.Paul CoxOwner
Paul Cox is one in a long line of artists who use commercial techniques in their art practice. Since being awarded one of the most prestigious Henry Moore scholarships to study postgraduate sculpture at the Royal Academy in the mid-nineties, his work is represented worldwide in major public and private collections.
Paul Cox employs a team of workers, many of whom are artists and students from North Brook College and Brighton University, but also technicians. In this sense, his studio, located amid the industrial buildings, warehouses and rail yards of Newhaven, reflects theme’s around Warhol’s Factory, Damian Hirst and Banksy.
Over the years, he has worked in a variety of materials, including ceramics, metals, resin, blacksmithing and printmaking. Paul has also held various teaching and lecturing posts where he also teaches many of these materials.
My work is not far away from my experience with working with Antony Gormley. Materials come in, the product is made. That showed me that artists can use commercial techniques.
His unique creations are inspired by the beautiful East Sussex countryside that surrounds the industrial heartland of Newhaven. They exude an air of great mischief, joy and a light-hearted attitude to life. In his own words, he states, in an increasingly serious world ‘being an artist is a form of constant play and enquiry in many forms and on many levels’ and ‘I recognise that play is important, physical or intellectual play is involved in anything that is created.”
'Kaleidoscope', a series of ceramic blue butterflies that were put onto stems and placed in the middle of a floral bed in Hampshire. When it debuted, ‘it caused a stir’, finding buyers were not interested in the collection, but their favourite singular pieces. ‘I knew there was a demand for this work.
‘A lot of our pieces are similar and unique. Nothing like a machine assembly line, pretty much artistic and hand-made.’ His new collection allowed him the confidence to successfully approach the National Trust and soon found the orders started to increase rapidly. He now has a number of large clients such as the Kew Gardens, English Heritage and Royal Horticulture Society.
Since working with a new streamlined system I have been able to take on more clients and have even started an online shop
‘I can remember thinking a while back, what happens if fifteen orders came through at the same time? I had my head in the sand; it started to accelerate, the more they sold, the more they (the customer) wanted it. How do I grow this thing and keep in control?’
Paul approached Locate East Sussex for specialist manufacturing advice and support. Jim Fletcher, Former CEO of Marshall Tufflex and Emily Wright, Locate East Sussex business managers, helped Paul to develop a business plan to ensure his business is sustainable in the long term.
Jim introduced Paul to LEAN manufacturing techniques, ‘We used to work just on order, but while it was quicker to make the required amount, we realised wouldn’t have to invest much more to create additional stock’.
They looked at his top-selling products, creating a timeline from order to delivery and created a rotating stock system and adapting their techniques, resulting in improved invoicing and cash flow.
‘I took it as far as I could, but you’ve got to be open to new ideas. I am happy that Jim and Emily gave me a new perspective and it has already made an impact.’
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