Big Heads, Funky Women, My Art, Oh My ....
I just returned from the One Of A Kind Show in Toronto
where I met some wonderful artisans and artists.
Returning from the show inspired me to remember
starting Priscilla Mae et al over 10 years ago. These
photos were from that first year running my shop.
From earlier posts, I mentioned that I had never painted
except as a child. Starting Priscilla Mae was initially like play.
I had this idea of painting large women pillow heads
because the idea made me laugh thinking of them
sitting on couches, beds, etc. I thought,
I could then give them real earrings and hats and for a moment,
I was transported back to a young girl making paper dolls.
Starting my business was scary but fun and a welcome change
from my executive search business. At my first art show, I sold
a few of these "big" heads but it was the little hand
painted woman pillows with fun quotes on the back
that sold out. So, I followed the customers' likes and
put the big head ladies back on the top shelf of my studio
and concentrated on their smaller sisters.
I still have this lady. And I must admit that I think
about going back to making the larger heads again but
in a different way. They were so much fun to have
around and it felt like a slew of girlfriends sitting
on my studio couch.
When I started, there was no Etsy or artisan websites.
I would wrap my women pillows in cello, tulle and bright
colored ribbons and put them in baskets.
I wanted to sell wholesale as an option, so I would fill the
back of my car with the "girl" pillows and "we" would drive to
high-end gift shops in Toronto where I would walk into stores with
my baskets of "goodies." Baskets, colorful pillows and sparkly
packaging always guaranteed sales to women. It was these
little trips that kicked off my idea into a business.
(I was a tulle freak one Spring show .. overkill)
I participated in my first gift show the beginning of my second year
in business. One of the Canadian banks sponsored 20 of us
from across Canada to be a part of this big buyers show.
Those 4 days changed my business immediately.
I got over 600 orders of pillows from that show and
had only 2 months to paint and deliver them
to the stores in time for the Christmas season.
I was very grateful for those orders but I have never worked
so hard in my life. I was painting 15 hours a day for
two months and I was totally exhausted.
It was a great experience but it wasn't a lot of fun.
I participated in lots of art shows, had my own studio parties
and was selected to be in the One Of A Kind
Christmas show. Shows mean lots of work and
planning but having customer feedback was invaluable
to future designs and business practices.
The one aspect that is fun about running your own artisan
business is that you are your own boss. I was free
to create what I wanted. Sometimes in boredom
I painted chairs instead of re-upholstering them
and painted larger pillows when the idea
moved me. I was always looking for new ideas.
Marketing becomes really important to the artisan
small business. There has to be a true balance between
creating your product and then, selling it. I remember
putting together expensive websites and marketing
materials before the days of Etsy.
Thank goodness for companies like Etsy. I got
rid of my website and used Etsy as my go-to
place. I decided to write a blog as one of my
new tools for driving sales and expressing
another creative outlet.
As I spoke to many of the younger artisans, I
so appreciated their love of their craft and the
dedication they make to their business. Creating their
art, photographing it, setting up shows and the actual
day-to-day running of their businesses doesn't always
produce a great deal of income.
It's the love of creating that propels them.
Many of the products at the One Of A Kind show
took my breathe away but what was even more
inspiring were the people who created them.
I will be featuring some of my favorite
artisans from the OOAK show and Etsy
in upcoming posts.
My business has changed a great deal
from those days 10 years ago.
Some ideas I might bring back ...
some will be just another memory.
This is Clare and she was one of my
first ladies. She's an old friend.
Her quote on the back of the pillow says:
"The beginning, middle and end of love is ...
So true, n'est-ce pas?
I love hearing what my "girls" have to say.