Elizabeth (Liz) Marruffo. Image: Geoff VivianDogs, stars and crowds get Liz going

Elizabeth Marruffo by Geoff Vivian
Disappointment at missing out on a grant led Liz Marruffo to an adventure in crowdfunding. Determined to study traditional wood carving in Mexico, where she spent her early childhood, she hit upon an idea after making art about a cherished childhood pet dog.

“I just really didn’t know how I was going to get the money, I was really devastated,” she says. “I thought ‘I’ll do an exhibition with a lot of small things and hope that they would sell’.

“My partner showed me some crowdfunding campaigns and slowly the idea sort of emerged. I went to Scitech with my son, and I knew I wanted to do something with my childhood dog again. I wasn’t sure quite what. We were at Scitech looking at an exhibition about constellations and planets, emphasizing Canus Major and the dog star Sirus. It all kind of came together to form that idea.”

She then spent several weeks making a video. Having already formed a small woollen sculpture of her dog using the traditional craft of needle felting, “that idea” was to make a similar piece for each of her sponsors, suspending each in a silver wire star. The installation “Pup-Pup is Boss of the Stars” would comprise a galaxy of all her stars.

Elizabeth Marruffo, Milk and Sleep (detail) 2009. Pastel, acrylic and oil on canvas.She then loaded the video on to the internet crowdfunding utility Pozible, inviting prospective sponsors to commission portraits of their own pet dogs.

“I want to include the dog from your childhood,” she wrote. “There are 152 stars in the constellation so there are 152 spots for your dogs. I will need you to send me an image of your dog and also a story or memory if you want to share it. I will then needle felt a small sculpture of your dog to include in the constellation. You can follow the progress on my blog and come to the opening of the show.”

To work with Pozible you post a fundraising target with a deadline date, inviting sponsors to pledge an agreed amount of money and lodge their credit card details. If the fundraising target is reached by the deadline date, Pozible deducts the promised funds from all of the credit cards, otherwise no money changes hands.

Liz had an overwhelming response: she reached her target well before the deadline date, and decided to set a new one.

“This new target will mean I can add $1260 for an around the world flight which gets me to Florence as well as Mexico,” she wrote.” I have had a place confirmed at The Angel Academy of Art in Florence which offers a two-week intensive academic painting workshop with an amazing instructor.”

It worked! She is off to Mexico and to Florence later this year.

“What I’ve learned is invaluable,” she says. “I mentioned it to my ex-lecturer. I said: ‘that would be just the best exercise to do when you are in third year, because it gives you so much clarity about what your project is’.”

Geoff Vivian, a former studio artist, is a freelance writer and photojournalist who has also spent more than a decade working in community development for local councils and as the manager of the Aboriginal radio station at Halls Creek.

This article featured in the Artsource Newsletter, Winter 2013.