An Artistic Success Story

I’m often fascinated by life’s journeys. The twists, turns, and road bumps that direct and redirect us often lead us exactly where we need to go. I’m especially drawn to the journeys of artists. Unfortunately, many people today still question whether artists have viable paths to career success.

The SmitheryAnne Holman and Jen Townsend are two artistic success stories merged into one. Their individual winding paths are full of life’s hiccups and misdirection, but those paths led them to CCAD and each other. The serendipity of it all has built a friendship, a business partnership, and The Smithery a unique and welcoming retail store, artist’s studio, and workshop in Columbus, Ohio. Clearly, they’ve landed in the right place at the right time.

I was fortunate to meet Anne and Jen earlier this summer, and learn their story of how they got to here and now. Each had a passion for making art growing up. And they each pursued a creative college education, but neither in the medium of metalsmithing that they’ve come to love. Anne combined studies of printmaking and sculpture into her own jewelry major before CCAD had one. Jen’s path included transferring from a regional state university where she wasn’t being artistically challenged.

The two met when Anne was a guest lecturer in Jen’s Studio Professions course. Anne’s suggestions for the different ways artists could make a living after college – including working in industry or selling at art and craft fairs – were spoken from personal experience. And they struck a chord with Jen.

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

Their paths crisscrossed a number of times again before they recognized a similar work ethic and began sharing studio space and a passion for creating a place where they could sell art, make art, and teach making. “We wanted it all in one space,” Jen explained. “To make stuff, teach, have our studio, sell, and support other people making things – all in one building.”

Timing is everything in life, and when Anne was trying to sell her handmade jewelry at an East Coast trade show in January of 2014 she turned her downtime into recruitment time, researching and networking with other artisans who could someday sell their handmade art at her dream store. With little personal business experience, the two found an out-of-town entrepreneurial business course for creatives, requiring weekly late night drives to Cincinnati. They wrote a savvy business plan and secured funding, then obtained a prime location for their creative endeavor, beating out other companies with solid reputations in competing for the same storefront.

The Smithery opened in October of 2014. “The idea all along was to open a place where we could showcase our own work and that of other artists,” Anne affirmed. And that’s just what they’ve done. Thanks to the relationships they’d built over time the store is filled with curated artwork representing artists at all different stages of their creative careers. The majority is jewelry, but it also includes textiles, ceramics, and hand-made prints. “A lot of these artists don’t sell in Ohio, many don’t sell in the Midwest, and some international artists don’t sell in the United States at all,” added Jen.

make artAnne explained that the part of making she enjoys most is having her “hands in the material.” Unfortunately, running a new business allows less time for that, although she and Jen do make time to design custom jewelry. Workshops seem to be the most fun because that’s when they can teach their craft to other burgeoning artists and get the next generation of designers excited about making.

Which brings things full circle. Art school taught them “the practicality of being in the studio every day and just making, making, making constantly; and realizing how much time goes into figuring things out,” explained Jen with excitement in her voice. That is where it came together for these two artists. I wonder where their paths will lead them next.

More information about The Smithery can be found on their website.

A Day in the Life: Art at a University

OSU Welcome WeekAudrey Quinn Galat is a junior currently majoring in Painting and Drawing at The Ohio State University (OSU). I interviewed her for Art.College.Life’s A Day in the Life series to give you a peek inside a large university. Here are her insights:

I personally think attending a school with a large variety of majors is a must, especially if you are an art major. If you are taught in an art school and the environment is just art and art related things how are you supposed to function in the “real world” where there is obviously a lot more then art surrounding you? Attending a well-rounded school like OSU lets you see perspectives of other “non-art” people, giving you fresh ideas for your work, and allowing you to better understand what your future employers will want from you. Many engineers attend OSU. Art students end up incorporating engineering into their art to make it more unique and more interesting. Also, many future artist employers will be non-artists. One story that comes to mind is of a photography major who was also very interested in skateboarding. He started working for a skateboard magazine just editing a few stories and eventually started taking photos for the magazine. He now makes more than his professors. His job was non-art related, but he was able to turn it into his major. I’d advise young artists to take their passion for art and their passion for whatever else, and combine them if you are able. Being in a diverse school opens up tons of job opportunities to the “real world” where you can add your own artistic twist.

Audrey Galat - OSU student 10.14.15 copyAs you know I love your wire motorcycle goggles. Was that for a class?
The motorcycle goggles were for my sculpture class. We had to draw in space with wire. Don’t always think of drawing like that, do you?

Can you describe a typical day?
– Wake up at 6:30am, get ready for classes; take the bus to Hopkins (the art building)
– Drawing class 8–11am
(eat a granola bar to hold off my stomach because I can’t eat lunch until 2:30pm)

– Anthropology class and English class 11:30am–2:05pm
– Take the bus home to eat lunch (don’t have money to eat out all the time)
– Work 4–8pm
– Eat dinner at 8pm
– Hang out with friends or do homework
– SLEEP!
– Wake up at 6:30am again and repeat!
Weekends are for catching up on school, hanging out with friends, and for relaxing.

Tell us about one of your favorite classes, and why it’s your favorite?
My favorite classes right now are my painting II class and my sculpture class. My painting class is fairly fast-paced has about 20 students in it. Sometimes we work on two paintings at once!

My sculpture class is just as fast paced; it also has about 20 students in it, which is a ton for a sculpture class. It can be a little challenging because sometimes we have to share power tools. I like to show up to class early and selfishly claim the best tools for myself. Part of what is so great about this class is that I learn how to use so many different tools in different ways. Right now I’m teaching myself how to carve into a tree truck with a chainsaw, it’s pretty cool!

painting studioMany people (including some parents) think that majoring in art is easy, with few demands on your time and abilities. How’d you like to dispel that misconception?
It is interesting how often people will say being an art major is “easy” – but then they take a studio class and they hate it because it’s “too much” work. With that being said an art major will take about three and sometimes a crazy four studio classes plus about two general education classes per semester. Each studio class is about three hours long, twice a week (sometimes three times a week) and you are expected to work at least an additional nine hours each week outside of class for each class. Being an art major might not be “hard” mentally, but it will be time-consuming. You can avoid all-nighters and rushing if you just use time management. I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds. Because you are doing what you love and are passionate about art, time seems to fly by. And, because art is already what you do in your free time it isn’t a chore to work on homework.

Are you involved in any on- or off-campus non-class activities?
I am involved in a church small group that meets once a week. Other than that I don’t have much time for anything else. However, I think it’s great to be involved in groups other than art! Adds culture and character to your work!

What’s your favorite place to eat off campus?
My favorite place is Fabians Deep Dish Pizza. I love pizza and this is literally the BEST pizza I have ever had. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Clearly you’ve thought about life after graduation. So what are you thinking, career-wise? You told me “being an art major is already a daring move.” I love that because it’s true yet your passion for it still comes through loud and clear. Have you considered an internship to help you “try out” one or two paths?
As of right now I am open to internships, but am unsure where to apply. I think internships are a great way to get involved with the “real world” and they would defiantly help with job opportunities.

Want to learn more about what Audrey’s up to? Make sure to check out her website and facebook pages. You can always find more up-to-date tips and information on our facebook and twitter pages.

 

Art School Alumni Speak Out

cameraSami Harthoorn and Ari Gabel traveled different roads to arrive at Ringling College of Art & Design. A native of Sarasota, Florida, Sami almost stumbled out her backdoor to get there. Ringling was a good school, and she could save money by living at home.

Ari grew up a short distance from another strong art school, the Columbus College of Art & Design. He developed a love for photography as a sophomore in high school, and considered attending CCAD, but really wanted that “away from home” experience. He was contemplating a state school, but with guidance from an attentive high school art teacher and the support of his parents, he landed at Ringling.

Ari and Sami graduated in 2012 and 2013 respectively, each with a BFA in Photography. Both now reside in Columbus, Ohio. They agreed to sit down and talk with me recently, to share college experiences and recommendations for future art students. The result was a diverse list of suggestions for those wanting to major in the fine arts. Derived from the good, the bad, and the ugly, here is what I heard – with some of my own suggestions piled on top of theirs.

Before you go…

          Research individual programs within a school, not just the school itself. Why? Sometimes the money and resources are focused in a program other than the one you find the most interesting. (Art.College.Life.) How? Start with the admissions office; they’ll have the most up-to-date information about each department, and can put you in contact with current students or recent grads.

          If a big school experience is what you crave, think twice before you sign up to attend a small art school. (ACL) A liberal arts college or university will offer a broader range of coursework to complement your art studies, but you won’t get as focused of an art education. That’s the tradeoff.

          Paying back loans after graduation can feel daunting and overwhelming. Make sure you’re truly aware of how much your education will cost you, and how much you’ll be borrowing before you sign that acceptance letter.

During your time on campus…

          Choose to live on campus! Living elsewhere might be more economical, but you’ll meet more people and feel more connected to the school when you’re there 24/7.

          Experiment! Try new things. You can’t make a mistake.

          HAVE PATIENCE. (ACL) Learning your art/craft takes time and lots of practice.

          “Major in a something that will make you money; minor in something you’re passionate about.” Meaning: it’s not easy getting a job as a fine artist.

          Start networking as soon as you land on campus. Easier said than done, especially since most students won’t have an artistic style developed yet and a related direction, but it’s still a worthwhile goal. Make contacts and try to build relationships with people of all ages and stages of their careers; students, faculty, community members. (ACL) It’ll pay off in the long run.

          “Learn something you can’t teach yourself.”

          Take art history seriously. (ACL) Learning about artists who came before you is eye-opening and inspirational.

          Find your niche. (ACL) Again, easier said than done, but start by doing what you love and applying your unique perspective to it. Your niche will follow.

          Pursue an internship. (ACL) And then apply yourself. You’ll be surprised what you learn about the world, and yourself.

So what’s it like After graduation…?

Shifting to life after college is an adventure all its own. Both Ari and Sami spoke about further developing their networks, and missing the fact that they used to live among other artists and “talk art” at all hours of the day. And of course they miss having access to the great equipment and tools available to them at Ringling. But both seemed ready to actively jump into their art. Sami’s direction has shifted a bit since graduation. She’s sculpting in wood these days, and is interested in store front and set design. She’s also contemplating an MFA. Her recent submission to an open call for artists landed her a spot in Surthrive in the Heartland at The Ohio State University Urban Arts Space. The exhibit runs through September 21st.

Ari hopes to continue his focus on photography. His interests lie in historical anthropology. Check out his website and flickr pages. You’ll see his passion, loud and clear. He is currently looking to assist well established photographers to further his own craft, and continue to build his network and portfolio. He gave me one other recommendation to pass along to burgeoning fine arts photographers. Join the American Society of Media Photographers. Membership for students and those just one year out is just $45/year. Put up a profile and you’ll find consistent job leads.

Sami and Ari clearly enjoyed their time at Ringling, and they both seem interested in the independence that a career in the fine arts can bring. They love their art, and craft, and they are beginning to grasp the business side of working in creative fields – something that Ringling knows how to teach.