Q&A with Jenny Theolin curator of the first Lolcat exhibition

Jenny Theolin is the director of collaborative agency Soapbox & Sons. In January she curated the world’s first lolcat exhibition and art sale, in aid of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. What started with a challenge to a friend turned into an online lolcatalogue, which the Swedish creative brought to the real world with her LOLCAT – Teh Exhibishun. 4m people shared the story on Twitter and the BBC came down with a film crew. Her community even turned Grumpy Cat on The Independent’s Tom Peck after an unfavourable review.
Q) What is Soapbox & Sons and why did you found it?
Soapbox & Sons is a very different entity.
It’s essentially a creative, collaborative network founded, organised and managed by me, Jenny Theolin.
I believe that to deliver the best work, you work with the best people. So, over the past decade, I’ve gathered together a pool of talent made up of dozens of brilliant individuals. Their skills span disciplines from design and copywriting to illustration, fine art, film-making, event management, PR and more.
Like any creative agency, Soapbox & Sons has a range of services it offers.
Some of these, such as events, PR, advertising, marketing and digital mirror those offered by traditional marketing agencies. Yet Soapbox & Sons is also happy to take a leap into the unknown. Sometimes I’ve taken on projects to earn a living. Other times, I’ve done them just for the hell of challenging convention.
And underneath these projects I’ve held a very successful career as an award-winning art director in advertising and marketing agencies.
Soapbox & Sons is designed to be portable. Literally, an agency in a box (well, suitcase).
I can run and organize projects from almost anywhere. So if you need someone on site, or working alongside you in your office, I can be there.
Modern communications, from video conferencing, mobile technology, collaborative working practices and file transfer sites enable me to manage the team picked for you with ease, from anywhere.
Which also brings to life my vision of doing interesting things, in interesting places, with interesting people.
Q) What project have you done that you are most proud of?
I think ‘LOLCAT – Teh Exhibishun’ was one of my biggest successes. This exhibition was a 4-week long group art show exploring the weird and wonderful world of this popular internet meme.
Q) Are you fur real?
Yes. I brought together an array of cool cats and witty kitties – including graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, animators, and writers. Ignoring the crudely makeshift LOLCAT aesthetic, each of these artists came up with their unique take on the theme to create a piece of beautiful, amusing and exquisitely crafted LOLCAT art. The exhibition took place at The Framers Gallery and was held in aid of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
I am particularly proud of the results, the exhibition links were shared with over 4m Twitter users, BBC came with their film crew to cover it, and we ended up on the BBC Homepage. Plus we had amazing coverage, both national and international!
Q) How important is independent thinking and doing and where do you get it from?
Independent thinking is just important as collaborative thinking. If you manage to find like-minded individuals/businesses to partner up with; Bob’s your uncle!
My work is quite risky since one of my aims is to keep doing things I have never done before. So, my independent thinking combined with collaborator and client trust is essential.
I have a never-ending resource of enthusiasm for everything I do, it comes natural. And I definitely feed on my collaborators passion and expertise. That definitely propels me forward.
Q) What is the key issue for you right now?
My business has only been a limited company for a couple of months, so my biggest hurdles are learning all the business side of things as well as finding new clients.
Most of them come through personal recommendations from the network I have managed to build over the last decade, but because I am independent, brand new business is definitely competitive. Fortunately, my work is built on collaboration, so clients I find I share, and vice versa.
Q) What’s next? 
I have a few big projects in the pipeline; an experiential food/music event, branding and launching a couple new businesses – and am working very hard on the Soapbox & Sons launch event, ‘Beatbox & Sun’, this summer. Keep an eye on Twitter to find out more!
::
Jenny Theolin’s Q&A is part of the State of Independence series
State of Independence Pop-up Island | 22-28th July 2013
Unit 17 | Boxpark Shoreditch | 2-4 Bethnal Green Rd | London | E1 6GY
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