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  • Writer's pictureKaren Ruffles


Regular readers will know that last year was...interesting, with an unplanned relocation to Newcastle halfway through, but as the dust settled on the tail end of '22 I started thinking about how '23 could be better. Less terrifying would be a start. Anyway, I decided to begin as I meant to go on by launching a new project on the very first day of the new year. January 1st saw 'Reflections' go live on Kickstarter and as I'm approaching the end of week 1, I thought this would be a good time to get into the how, the what and the why.

I love Kickstarter, it's a superb platform for artists as it allows us to trial new ideas by getting backing in the early stages, removing a lot of the risk and financial burden of producing new work. I have plans for a monster one in every sense of the word but with things still a bit wild, I needed something I could do to keep things ticking over in the meantime. But what? To launch an art project I obviously need some visuals so people know what they are buying which meant it had to be something I could convert quickly. Cue a rummage in the photos file...

Many years ago, I lived in Cornwall. For reasons I can't recall now, I developed a fixation with water droplets - to be precise, the reflections in water droplets. I do remember the day I decided to go from peering into droplets to staring at things I liked the look of anyhow and working out how to capture That. Chun Quoit was an early example - a neolithic monument on the moors above my village. Surrounded by bracken but open to the skies it was perfectly located and remains one of my favourite images from that time. For the curious, I use a spray bottle outdoors to gently mist the leaves - as the tiny droplets run together, a larger drop forms comparatively slowly so it clears and there's usually enough time to get a few shots before it falls.

I also recently switched drawing paper to Bristol board, so a series of miniature studies was an ideal subject to road test the new materials. I'd been saying for years I'd do something with all those photos and launching a Kickstarter just required getting the first samples done so the whole thing came together very nicely, with minimum fuss. But what's really in it for me? Financial stability in the short term would be nice of course, time to work on some of the things I need to do to get my practice fully back on track. To maximise the possible benefits, I've developed a set of goals for each project rather than a single outcome.

a charcoal pencil drawing by Drawing in Dark of trees reflected upside down in a  droplet of water
charcoal pencil drawing of trees in a droplet

Kickstarters with a lower target tend to do better because backers are more confident the project will be a success, so I have a set of figures I use to work out what is the minimum I need to make to cover the time taken to set it all up and get something worthwhile out of it. I like to offer originals and limited edition prints so my baseline is generally enough to cover the initial drawing and producing a run of signed prints, normally 50 to a batch. Now, that's not all I'm aiming for and this is where it gets a bit trickier - people might think that a project that is funded several times over has more than reached its goal. Reflections for example had an initial target of £600 and is currently sitting at over four times that.

That's why I thought I'd try a Make 100 campaign. Each January, Kickstarter challenges us to create a special project offering, well, 100 of something. Bingo, thought I, 50 prints that's halfway there so let's go for 50 original drawings to match and if I have a sell out, if we achieve all 100 I'll put on a show here in Newcastle. To do that means raising just over ten times my initial target so it's quite a stretch. Which brings me neatly to the subject of stretch goals and rewards. If you're new to Kickstarter, they are exactly what you're thinking, extra goodies offered to encourage backers to keep going and reach new targets. It works for everyone - for each £600 raised, I can afford to do another print run which means I get extra stock paid for and everyone who has pledged for a reward tier gets a free print added to their parcel.

There is of course a creative goal here too - with a possible 50 droplets to create, that opens up all kinds of exciting new ideas. There are a lot of beautiful things right here in Newcastle I'd love to capture, I also want to experiment with composing views in my studio, making good use of my collections of natural objects to create still lifes. There is even a tantalising if extra tricky dream of holding living things frozen for a moment in that weird upside down land, which I'm determined to try though luck is going to be the better part of that one. Regular visitors here will know how hard it is photographing crows the right way up and the right way round. I'm game if you are though and for anyone who hasn't taken part already, you can bag a growing pile of Reflections until January 28th or it's sold out, whichever happens first.

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