Friday, 15 August 2014

Addled Monkey Genesis - From Loom Band to Art and Craft community project

California Dream Electric
I guess I have my six year old daughter to thank. Like many children her age, she became drawn into the obsession of her generation - brightly coloured rubber bands and plastic clips, enticing and potentially lethal to siblings under 36 months - constructed on a device that looks like it should be sold in one of those shops in Soho with blacked out windows, and applied like some kind of psychedelic tourniquet to their creators' wrist (or more likely that of a reluctant parent).

I have always had a great passion for arts and crafts, but for the most part kept it suppressed and hidden. The reason behind this personal repression is my acute embarrassment at the fact that I am, and have always been, utterly, catastrophically rubbish at absolutely anything to do with painting, drawing, pottery - basically any kind of manually creative talent is totally absent from my DNA. To be fair, I've never really tried my hand at carpentry or needlework - largely because any exercise involving sharp tools would be more likely to result in an impromptu visit to A&E, rather than the next Bayeux tapestry.

And then came loom bands. Something I felt even I could have a crack at. Even better, I had the perfect cover - a six year old. Armed with my cover story, I hastened to a nearby toy shop and picked up a paddle (sorry, loom) and a bag of bands for £1.99. I then set about manifesting the creative depths of my mind through the medium of latex free silicone.
Crystal Blue Persuasion

My intention, at surface level, was to give the fruits of my labour to my daughter, in a display of parental generosity that would be gratefully remembered until at least the following day when One Direction brought out a new sticker album (fickle creatures, six year olds, as it turns out). However, I alone knew that I was, in fact, satisfying my own inner desire to "make stuff".

Even as a small boy (yes, I'm a bloke) I loved "making stuff", especially Lego. Unfortunately, my conspicuous lack of talent meant that whenever I strayed from the instructions and indulged my inner builder, the result tended to look as if it had been constructed by someone with a love of hallucinogenic intoxicants, and a wholesale lack of appreciation for the laws of physics.

I digress. I continued to churn out more designs, and in my mind, they started to get names - inspired by the music and popular culture icons I love. Jimi Hendrix, Breaking Bad, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd. And then something very strange happened.

People who saw my designs appeared to like them. I started getting asked to make them for friends, colleagues. I'd done it. I was "emerging", as they say in the trade I have for so long wistfully observed as an outsider.

Various "Acoustic" Designs
I decided to put some of my "work" on eBay and Amazon. To my utter astonishment, they sold. Overnight, I became a succesful designer, entrepreneur and "artiste", despite being fundamentally clueless about all things "crafty". 

I know I'm no Stella McArtney or Tracy Emin, but this gave me a genuine sense of accomplishment and elation, previously unknown to me, that I imagine must fuel the arts and crafts community. Other people actually wanted my creations.

The numbers can be made to look seriously impressive. From my humble £1.99 outlay, my loom bracelets returned a 5000% turnover - in the first month. 

Once you've done the maths on that, you realise I won't exactly be hurtling up the gravel driveway of my Beverley Hills mansion in my custom Lambo quite yet, but it's still no small sum to a regular Joe like me. But something was bugging me. I'd had a real struggle listing my work for sale. Unless I paid up front costs, I didn't have full control over how my work was pitched. I also found the commission charges to be eye watering - especially since in some cases the payment processing added additional cost. Furthermore, my money was going to a massive corporate, some of whom perhaps have ethically questionable approaches to tax. And for what? They weren't promoting my work (they would if I paid them more), they weren't passionate about it (I know, they're loom bands, but I'm now an artiste and I am allowed to get a bit diva these days). To all intents and purposes they were just charging me actual rent for a virtual space.

And so, the Addled Monkey project was born, complete with website, founded entirely from the hard gotten gains of my loom band empire.

Lighthouse by Lisle Smith
An online street market, with the focus being the community that it is designed to serve. No listing fees, but crucially free ethical promotion of the work, by people who are passionate about it.

Some friends, infinitely more talented in the arts than I, came forward with their magnificent pieces and bravely allowed me to get started with their work. I have spent the last two weeks wrestling with site templates, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. There have been occassions where I have considered using my tablet as a frisbee. You know that moment when mobile wifi cuts out just when you hit send on something you've spent hours working on? That. But I am finally satisfied with the design. It is "Bagpuss", as I call it - a bit rough round the edges, and held together with a shoestring (or rather latex free silicone band) budget, but it is functional, and it has character.

Heart of the Forest by Kate Collison
Now here is the best bit. There is something else we are going to do. I don't want Addled Monkey to become another marketplace in the mold of the others. I want the community to help each other, to get out there and promote each others work in an ethical manner, in the same passionate way they talk about their own work. So, in the event that Addled Monkey makes a profit this year, SIXTY PERCENT of that profit will be returned to qualifying partners who have listed and sold with us over the year, in the form of dividends. The remaining forty percent will be earmarked to develop the site, always with the best interests of the community it serves. There will be qualifying terms, but these will be reasonable and achievable. The exact details are being finalised, but the decision is made, this is going to happen. It is my intention to repeat this policy for as long as Addled Monkey remains viable and profitable. I will post the full details on the site over the next 24 hours, so stay tuned, and I hope you will join us on our little adventure.



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