Michelle Davis Petelinz, Kindred Spirit Studios
Facebook Business Page: http://www.facebook.com/KindredSpiritStudios
What inspired you to become a creative entrepreneur?
Like most artists I know, I’ve always been creative. I credit my father with encouraging my initial creative endeavors as a child. He bought me my first box of 64 Crayola crayons, and once I opened it, inhaled that unmistakable aroma, and made my first marks on paper with cornflower blue, I was hooked!
My first foray into creative entrepreneurship was as a jewelry designer; when women began asking me where I’d bought the necklaces I wore, I figured it was time to go into business. Later, after the birth of my son, it was the lack of children’s furniture with any sort of Afrocentric flair which propelled me back into painting, which is my first love, creatively.
Share one business goal:
One business goal is to have my work in a gallery which understands, appreciates, values, and enthusiastically promotes it. I have had six unsuccessful gallery experiences, each one either a disappointment or a disaster, so the next gallery venture will come only after a great deal of research and deliberation.
What would you say contributes to your success?
My collaboration with my husband, who is also an artist, has a great deal to do with my success. We bounce ideas off each other, and he takes care of the mechanical aspects of my work. We have side-by-side studios which he built in our basement, and the ability to work in such a great space gives me the freedom to create.
I also believe the uniqueness of my product contributes to my success. Of course, everyone thinks her products are unique, but I can truthfully say that in all the years I’ve been doing juried art shows and festivals, I’ve never encountered anyone who does exactly what I do, which is combining mixed media elements with bamboo and recycled wood to create wall hangings, clocks, mirrors and shadow boxes.
What is a typical working day like for you?
Since I am a part-time art teacher as well as an artist who does art festivals, a typical day would include: teaching a class in the morning to children between the ages of 18-months to 5 years old, running errands after class, then returning to my studio to respond to calls for artists, complete show applications or work on an ongoing art project. Weekends are my favorite time to begin new projects; the uninterrupted stretches of time provide the focus I need to bring my design ideas to fruition.
What has been your biggest struggle as a professional artist?
Finding the right audiences and outlets for showing and selling my work; it’s an ongoing process.
What has been your biggest accomplishment with your business?
Becoming known for my art in my local area, and being able to share my talents with others. I’ve been asked to sit on art show juries, teach workshops, develop art curricula for summer camps, and I’ve won awards for my work.
Most recently, I was selected to be the artist-in-residence at our local Kids Museum, which allowed me to do what I love: teaching children about art, while creating art myself. It was a fantastic month-long series, and the collaborative projects I did with the children will become a permanent part of the Museum’s decor.
What resources would you recommend to help other creative people stay organized?
Find a good inventory software program; you’ll need it to keep track of what you’ve created, and where it is.
Begin blogging or revitalize a languishing blog. It’s the cheapest (free!) way to connect with fellow artists, potential buyers and your collectors. Posting every day is not really necessary, but you’ve got to post often enough, and with interesting enough content (images are always a good idea), to make your readers return again and again.
Blogging is also a great way to stay organized; writing about upcoming show application deadlines keeps you aware of what’s ahead, reporting about shows can remind you later about ones you’d do again, and looking back over the year’s posts can remind you about just how much you’ve accomplished (which comes in handy for writing that Artist Statement you dread!).
Read I’d Rather Be in the Studio!by Alyson Stanfield with highlighter in hand. It’s the best book I’ve found on the business of being an artist. Subscribe to Alyson’s ArtBiz blog, (www.artbizblog.com) and you’ll get daily posts (yes, she does post daily!) about topics of great interest to artists. Alyson’s book led me to begin my blog in 2007, run an Art Salon in 2008, and write a really good Artist Statement and Bio. I was thrilled to be able to invite her to speak to my Carolina Mixed Media Art Guild (a.k.a. my tribe) here in Raleigh about the revised edition of her book in 2011.
What piece of advice would you offer to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
1. Develop a cohesive body of work before presenting it to the world.
2. Be open to opportunities, and be willing to venture outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes, taking a leap into the unknown is exactly the right direction, but you’ll never know that if you don’t try.
3. Find your “tribe,” people whose work inspires you, and upon whom you can depend for honest critiques, advice, and friendship. We artists are often solitary folks, so finding like-minded others is important.
4. Use social media to network and find new audiences for your work.
What are you currently working on?
My show season is quickly approaching, so I’m developing a new series of wall hangings which will debut at my first event in Maryland, in mid-June. We’re also in the process of redesigning our website, and putting out a newsletter. And, I’ll still be doing adult workshops and teaching children throughout the summer, so there’ll be new projects, lessons and samples to prepare…I’ve got a very full plate!
For more information on Michelle and her artwork - visit www.kindredspiritstudios.com
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