Ross Keong is the founder of Shongololo, a Brooklyn-based fabrication, production management, and sourcing consultancy for artists. Shongololo was founded in 2019 to demystify the art production and fabrication process for creators.
Their practice articulates and translates the vision of the artist into a language that fabricators can understand and execute.
They partner with a network of designers, scientists, engineers, special effects houses, CNC machine shops, 3D printing fabricators, and all manner of artisans to execute complex physical and digital sculptures and installations.
Who helped you in your journey as a business owner and how?
The greatest support as a business owner has come from my community – from the beginning to now. My community takes the form of friends who are fellow small business owners, freelancers, fabricators, designers, and practicing artists. I’ve met many of these through NEW INC, the New Museum’s incubator for art, design, and technology, where I’ve served as a mentor since 2019.
From sharing contract templates, to rehearsing negotiations, to recommending fabricators, the collective generosity of knowledge within New York’s arts community is humbling. Almost all new business that Shongololo receives is through referrals, so this community has also helped me sustain and grow my practice to its current form.
“The greatest support as a business owner has come from my community – from the beginning to now”
What does your typical day look like? What is the ideal workday for you?
My typical day depends largely on the type, intensity, and urgency of projects on-hand. There might be calls to discuss the evolving creative direction of a sculpture with an artist, check-ins on production progress with fabricators, 3D model reviews, or drafting of an RFQ brief.
My favorite days, though, are those when I get to meet with people in-person, especially post-pandemic. I love studio visits with artists or tours of fabricators’ facilities, especially those with unique capabilities or specializations, such as finishing, special effects, optics, large-scale 3D printing, or puppetry.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I see myself with a company that looks largely as it does today, but hopefully with a more developed sculptural practice of my own work that sits beside it. My main motivation when starting this company was to enable myself to have independent financial security, but, more importantly, to reclaim and maintain ownership of my time. Scaling, staff expansion, and revenue growth have never really been the goal.
My ultimate dream for Shongololo is that it enables me the time and resources to explore my interests and develop new skills, whether those involve the business or not.
״My main motivation when starting this company was to enable myself to have independent financial security, but, more importantly, to reclaim and maintain ownership of my time.״
What inspires you as a business owner?
As a business owner in my field, I’m constantly inspired by the diversity of ideas of the artists with whom I work. Every single project with which we are engaged is different in subject matter, form, material, aesthetic, function, et al. This means that despite similar processes, each engagement requires its own unique approach, workflow, and collaborators. The result is a daily work experience that is constantly evolving. It simultaneously helps me to continue to learn and to expand the breadth of my practice.
״As a business owner in my field, I’m constantly inspired by the diversity of ideas of the artists with whom I work.״
What advice would you give to your past self before opening your own business?
The main advice I would give to my past self is that good will pays back in dividends. Build relationships anchored in genuine care and interest, rather than just profit potential, and future projects, referrals, and opportunities will materialize themselves.
*The cover image is taken from the artwork ‘peep-o-rama’ installation by the artist Carla Gannis.
Ross Keong is the founder of Shongololo in Brooklyn, NY, founded in 2019