Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Artist FAQs

Every week I receive lots of emails from other artists and business owners asking about inspiration, running a business, daily workload, etc., so today I thought I would share some of those answers here for anyone else who is curious.

This is a selection of my favorite questions I've been asked in the last few months, in no particular order. If you are out there working as an artist or running a business, I hope the answers can be of some help to you! Accompanied by some messy studio photos to set the scene:

 



What inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by stepping out of my studio. It can be easy to get stuck doing the same thing or focusing too much on little details, so I find that the best way to think of new ideas is to step away, whether that means taking a walk for ten minutes or going on a vacation and really stepping away. When I sit back down again, I find that the ideas flow much more easily than before.

Do you ever suffer from creative block? If so, how do you tackle it?
I have to say I don't really believe in creative block. If ideas aren't coming to me, it usually means there is something else that needs to be done first, like shipping orders or focusing on accounting for a few hours. Once I take care of those other projects, it's much easier to focus on making new work. If it's still not happening, I refer to the above advice and step away for a little bit.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started your business? Or what advice would you give to an art major?
Take classes in digital art/Photoshop/Illustrator/Web design! In my opinion, it is impossible to be an artist today without knowing those skills, since slef-promotion and having a web presence are so important today. So no matter what kind of art you do, you will need to be able to put together brochures, postcards, websites etc. to sell that work. I've taught myself some of that, but I wish I had learned it more formally while in school!

What is your favorite thing about creating greeting cards?
I love that it is an affordable piece of art work. I've sold big pieces of art before and it's sad to see people really admire what you do but no be able to afford it. I love that people can frame a $5 greeting card and get the same joy from it.

How did your business come about (and when did you start)?
I studied printmaking in college, and also studied block printing while studying abroad in India. After college I worked in a paper store, and began combining printmaking and stationery. I started to sell it at a few art fairs and to friends, and eventually it grew in to a larger business. After about a year of a heavier workload I quit my job to focus on printmaking full time, and it grew exponentially from there.

What has been the hardest single obstacle to your life in design (apart from a shortage of time, which seems to be universal amongst creatives!)?
There hasn't been one single obstacle, but running a business has been all about little obstacles. Suppliers with products out of stock, orders with emergency deadlines, mistakes on the press, packages delayed in the mail. All of these little challenges are incredibly frustrating at the time but help in the long run as you develop strategies to get around them.

How do you stay motivated? What inspires you?
Paying the bills is a big motivator! If I ever don't feel like working, I remember that there are customers waiting for their orders and other administrative things that need to be finished. That is a good motivator to stop procrastinating. It's also easy to stay motivated when you love what you do!

Who do you admire (other artists/designers; other people generally) and what/who are your biggest influences, past or present?
I really admire people who create work and don't get to put their name on it: textile artists, weavers, printmakers, folk artists from around the world. That is the kind of work that inspires me.

Describe your creative space.
I have a studio in my garage with work benches, my printing press, my massive paper cutter, and my desk where I answer emails, sketch new designs and carve linoleum blocks. It is usually in some state of "creative" chaos.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Find your niche. Do what you are best at, find your own style and you will stand out. I think what has made me successful is having such a narrow focus.

Are there other artistic projects you like to do around the house or that you'd like to introduce to your existing business?
Before I started my business, I was constantly working on side projects for fun. Now that I spend so much of my time printmaking and running my business, I don't have much energy left for side projects! I try and keep lots of different business projects going though, from new designs to custom work to wedding invitations, so I always have something new and interesting going on.

What sort of pitfalls/challenges have you run into along the way and how did you tackle them?
There are pitfalls and challenges every day! Everything from problems with the press, packages lost in the mail, not being able to get the image right on a certain print, to problems getting the right ink color. Running a business is like tackling a constant stream of challenges, but that is what makes it so satisfying! I think the most important thing is to realize that the challenges are usually small and it's important not to get discouraged since there is always a solution, no matter how difficult it is to find.

What advice would you to give to other women aspiring to start their own business?
Work hard! And choose something you really love, which makes it easy to get through those challenging days. It's just like any other job, you have to put in the time in order to grow. Even if you are feeling stuck, keep showing up, making new products, writing those emails. Eventually hard work pays off! 


3 comments:

  1. I just finished my first printmaking fundamentals for my visual arts minor and i am completely in love with relief printing! I am so glad I came across your blog, your work is beautiful, i love it!!

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  2. It's really nice to finally see what is it that keeps you going. I think a lot of artists are interested to know how a fellow artist stood their ground to achieve a successful business. Making art is difficult to pursue, but it helps to know that there are artists like you who never gave up on the dream. Thanks for sharing that with us! I'm inlove with your cards. Wishing you all the best! :)

    Carlene Schnitzer @ Stewart Technologies, Inc.

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  3. Businesses that are firm on a creative foundation are huge hits these days. Art businesses are flourishing, and though it might seem like they only require the founder to have a creative mind, that is mostly not the case. Businesses like The Printing Press also require a working plan and marketing strategy for them to bloom around our overly-flexible economy. For you to have successfully attained a business by yourself is wonderfully incredible, Katharine. I know how much The Printing Press is thriving nowadays, and I'm so proud of you. You never fail to astound me. More power to you! :)

    Daryl Cross @ Nahi Gazal

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