Tim Harper's Laws of Collaboration

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Collaborations (or as the cool kids say, collab’s) can be THE BEST way to build your brand, find a new audience, learn from others and provide an opportunity to combine the skills of experienced makers. But how do you know when to say, “YES!” and when to say, “thanks but, no thanks” instead of ending up saying “I wish I NEVER said yes to this!”. Have you ever been burnt from a collaboration? Have you ever overcommitted and let the other person down? I bet you’ve been scrolling on Instagram before and seen two people collab, being AMAZED at what they made, double tapped but then also been damn jealous! You and I have both wondered how they landed that opportunity?!

Bringing creative people together can be incredible, but it can also be chaos. So how do you make it work? 

Feature Garden by    Tim Harper   . Artwork by Leah Grant. Photo by   bianca de marchi  photography   .

Feature Garden by Tim Harper. Artwork by Leah Grant. Photo by bianca de marchi photography.

At the beginning of the year I was painting in Walkerville and one of the many people that stopped to chat was Tim Harper from Space Capsule Garden Co. He complimented my mural and asked for a business card (which I totally forgot to bring with me), so instead we connected on Instagram (so much easier!).

From my first encounter with Tim, I could sense he was full of enthusiasm for all things creative, specifically plant related!

He’s got an eye for detail, is a pro at combining textures and building all sorts of awesome stuff. For example – look at this ginormous easel he built for this project!

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Feature Garden by    Tim Harper   . Photo by   bianca de marchi  photography   .

Feature Garden by Tim Harper. Photo by bianca de marchi photography.

When I begin a new collaborative project, I go through so many stages. There’s excitement, scepticism and if I’m really honest, there’s a bit more judgement trying to figure out what we can both bring to the table. A lot of it comes down to money as well, what do we both get out of this in the end and who is covering the costs? Is this for “promotion” (oh the dreaded word for all creative people!) or is there payment involved? My latest collaboration with Tim taught me so much! So I wanted to write all these thoughts down and interview Tim about his experience.

I actually felt a bit shocked during the making of the 2018 Adelaide Show Garden Display, because I just didn’t know why this had worked so well! It took me a while to figure it out and this interview with Tim made it even clearer. Allow me to tell you more about the guy who is 18 months post taking the huge leap, of running his own landscaping business.

NUMBER 1: I HAVE A DREAM!

You’ve got to have a vision. And your new buddy you’re working with needs to also believe in your vision. When Tim contacted me about his garden show project, he had a clear vision in mind and was able to verbalise it, and it was also clear he was very passionate and excited. His advice is to,

“have a clear understanding for who is doing what. Someone needs to coordinate the entire process and you can only succeed if someone is in charge and keeping it all on track.”

Feature Garden by    Tim Harper   . Photo by   bianca de marchi  photography   .

Feature Garden by Tim Harper. Photo by bianca de marchi photography.

 NUMBER 2: MIX IT UP BABY!

“Collaborate with someone completely different!”

Tim was able to have his own clear vision for this project, yet he was also able to see the potential and value of working with other people to create something that he isn’t able to do on his own. For the Adelaide Show project he not only collaborated with me, but also with Pete from Adelaide Plant Recovery to build the entire garden offsite and transport it to the Showgrounds. He purposefully sought me out because he wanted to work with an artist.

Feature Garden by    Tim Harper   . Photo by   bianca de marchi  photography   .

Feature Garden by Tim Harper. Photo by bianca de marchi photography.

Tim was very careful not to tell me what I had to paint, he didn’t even limit my colours! He’d seen my work and just loved the style and provided photos of the plants he was using. He gave me the specific details I needed including the measurements for the artwork. He provided me with just the right amount of boundaries to be creative.

Pete, Leah and Tim at the Royal Adelaide Show. Photo by   bianca de marchi  photography   .

Pete, Leah and Tim at the Royal Adelaide Show. Photo by bianca de marchi photography.

Feature Garden by    Tim Harper   . Photo by   bianca de marchi  photography   .

Feature Garden by Tim Harper. Photo by bianca de marchi photography.

NUMBER 3: OH, LET IT GROW!

 Tim very wisely advises, you need to

“allow your project to evolve organically. While keeping on track, be open to suggestions and ideas from other collaborators. Some of the quirkiest, most interesting parts of a project come from a fusion of creative minds. Make sure you take time away for yourself to think about how the project is evolving”.

I think working with someone else on any creative venture involves a number of risks. To avoid the collab regret (what have I got myself into?!) Tim’s approach makes perfect sense!

Feature Garden by    Tim Harper    at Royal Adelaide Show 2018. Photo by   bianca de marchi  photography   .

Feature Garden by Tim Harper at Royal Adelaide Show 2018. Photo by bianca de marchi photography.

NUMBER 4: DIE COLLAB, DIE!

 Tim’s favourite two things about his work are plants and people. However he’s quite aware that people can be, as he says….

“a double-edged sword”.

He loves sharing ideas, creating, learning, talking about gardens and when he has the opportunity to collaborate, it can be the most rewarding experience. Tim’s found that as fabulous as it can be, it can also be a total nightmare when all the parties don’t understand their role. His advice is to take control, but do it politely. He explains,

“The best way to kill any collaboration is to shut someone down or even worse do it in front of other people. Be a leader, not a boss. On the flip side if you’ve been invited to work with someone else, respect the opportunity and know your role.”

Feature Garden by    Tim Harper   . Artwork by Leah Grant. Photo by   Photo by   bianca de marchi  photography   .

Feature Garden by Tim Harper. Artwork by Leah Grant. Photo by Photo by bianca de marchi photography.

So all you creative beasts out there; hear this loud and clear! Live by Tim’s Collab Laws and go on, take the risk, work with someone new. Learn and inspire each other but do it the right way.

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Tell me about your collaboration experience. What have you found makes the best combo for it all to work?!