Behind the scenes at The Monster Mash

A recent monster-themed exhibition at a small gallery in Bristol proved to be a masterstroke of self-promotion for Peskimo, a talented Cheltenham-based design duo. We find out what all the growling was about.

It may seem that we at Computer Arts shamelessly bang on about self-promotion, but if you're really serious about a career in visual design there's no point in being modest. Nowadays, with the world and his wife registering a .com for their business, sewing circle or pet goldfish, just having a website isn't enough. So, to ensure they get noticed, designers are increasingly looking for ever more inventive solutions to showcase their work.

The Monster Mash: A Tournament and Exhibition of Monsters was the brainchild of Peskimo (also known as Jodie Davis and David Partington), a design agency that creates an eccentric array of illustrations and cartoons, as well as toys of its characters. The duo's exhibition had a simple but intriguing premise: artists were invited to design their own monsters for inclusion in a presentation to be held in Bristol, where visitors to the gallery would be given the chance to vote for their favourite in a series of heats, leading to an overall winner.

As an accompaniment to the exhibition, Peskimo created a set of gaming cards featuring the monsters. These recorded the monsters' ferocity, size, appetite, agility and intelligence, enabling visitors to play them off against one another.

Based in Cheltenham, Peskimo has previously been involved in exhibitions in London, but after becoming frustrated with all the travelling, Davis came up with the idea of Partington and herself curating their own exhibition. She found gallery space in the basement of Here - a small arts and crafts boutique in Bristol. When it came to deciding on a theme, Peskimo knew it wanted to make the exhibition interactive. "Once we had the idea of the vote, the idea of monsters popped into our heads and stuck," says Partington.

Attention to detail
Planning for the exhibition began in July 2005, with the gallery space booked for January this year. Artists invited to submit work were given strict guidelines and a deadline of 1 November. To create a tournament, Peskimo decided to invite 32 entrants, a number that would be whittled down with each round until a final winner was decided. This put Peskimo in a tricky situation: "We knew we were restricted to 32 artists, so we didn't want to allow too many in because that would mean turning people away," says Partington. "On the other hand, we didn't want too few artists."

Peskimo realised it could attract a bigger audience by expanding the exhibition to run simultaneously at a second venue, and contacted Playlounge, a London-based company known for its designer toys. It was decided that its shop would be too small to host the whole exhibition, so instead Peskimo decided to use it to host the final few stages of the tournament.

The final task was to drum up some interest. Peskimo designed a flyer to distribute around bars, clich and clubs in Bristol, attracted media interest by sending out press releases to print publications and design websites, and created an online presence at www.themonstermash.co.uk.

The opening night was well attended by many of the artists and was hailed as one of the best exhibitions the gallery had seen. "It served as a good way for us to gain exposure and to showcase our talents as well," says Partington, reflecting on his and Davis's success. "It was also beneficial in helping us to approach people and organisations that we had wanted to contact. We feel that it has given us a great deal of confidence in our ideas and our organisational skills and we look forward to putting on other events and producing other products in the future."