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Marketing the creative sum

Architects and designers look for what's different, and Rudy Collective's members can oblige

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The Rudy Collective's first event, called “The First Supper” gallery exhibition, took place last week at 38 North on North Beaver Street in York. The namesake of the collective is York-based Rudy Art Glass Studio, owned by Steve Mitchell, fifth from left. Photo/Seth Nenstiel, The Susquehanna Photographic
The Rudy Collective's first event, called “The First Supper” gallery exhibition, took place last week at 38 North on North Beaver Street in York. The namesake of the collective is York-based Rudy Art Glass Studio, owned by Steve Mitchell, fifth from left. Photo/Seth Nenstiel, The Susquehanna Photographic

Artists and artisans in the York area are beginning to market themselves as the Rudy Collective — a way to raise their profiles, and the community's, to architectural and design clients.

The namesake of the collective is York-based Rudy Art Glass Studio, a business tracing its roots to the 1890s and acquired most recently by Steve Mitchell.

The collective is best described as a network of members from the community who can partner with others with complementary skills, talents and creativity to add to projects, Mitchell said.

"We can have metalworkers that complement the glass (and) there are woodworkers involved with this. As a group, it's what I consider a unique flexibility in going out to the architectural and design community," Mitchell said. "These (architects and designers) are always looking for something that differentiates them and makes them special."

He and his family, who run the Rudy Art Studio business, will be using the firm's network of customers and prospects for marketing purposes to help get the word out about the members, Mitchell said.

"I've always thought that this business would benefit from having a group of artistic talent around it," he said.

The collective also is displaying works by its members this summer in the community. Because they tend to defy categorization, the best way to market themselves is through examples of their work, Mitchell said.

Examples prove the creativity that architectural and design players are looking for when they pick people to help on projects, he said.

The first event, called "The First Supper" gallery exhibition, took place last week at 38 North on North Beaver Street in York.

Sculptor and collective member Gale Jamieson had set up shop there for work space and didn't intend to have a gallery, but the front room just lent itself to it, she said. Her main studio is in a barn where she lives in southern York County, but she decided to come to the city for the collaborative potential.

"I'm used to doing all the making myself, so there is a giving up of control," Jamieson said. But the result is bigger than the sum of its parts, she said.

The members are not new to working together, which is a strength of the collective, said Patrick Sells, co-owner of York-based Salvaging Creativity.

"We have these years of experience working with each other," he said. "So we know each other and how these things come together, so that's what we bring to a job, whereas others can only bring one thing to the table."

The idea is not unique, Sells said. His business is also a member of a collective in the Washington, D.C., area.

But what sets this one apart is that it is a partnership between artisans and a manufacturing company and its capabilities, Sells said.

The result is a great group resource that architects or interior designers can come to if they are seeking something totally different as opposed to leafing through a corporate catalogue to identify unique carpet colors, for example.

Mitchell had left the packaging industry, found out about Rudy Art Glass when it was just "a shell of a business" and acquired it, he said.

"I just figured out where the need was and developed the products and developed the concepts," Mitchell said. "There was no master plan. I was just hustling to make a living."

Expense made it prohibitive for churches to have stained glass windows designed and installed they way they used to, and that is a business in decline, Mitchell said.

But the firm developed some techniques for laminating stained glass windows and for taking existing products and making them meet safety codes, he said.

It got the attention of architects and designers, which it works with on large-scale decorative glass projects, Mitchell said. Rudy Art Glass does custom fabrication in York and ships all over the world.

Mitchell said his wife, Ena, brought disciplines to the business ranging from marketing and sampling to databases. They will serve as conduits to help get the word out about the collective.

The Rudy business will continue as its own firm, as will the operations of the others in the collective, Mitchell said.

But the new joint marketing effort will show that, if an architect or designer brings one member on board for a project, he or she is getting a broader set of creative and intellectual resources by way of other collective members, Mitchell said.

"I think there is a creative momentum building that I can see being very beneficial for this town," he said.

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey

Brent Burkey covers York County, agribusiness, energy and environment, and workforce issues. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at brentb@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @brentburkey.

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