“The Secret Lab” was what we called my first studio space. It was the second story space of an outbuilding on our property. While it took business out of my home, it was never truly big enough. I think the real challenge was a lack of large, open wall space for paintings. Over time, it turned into an over-crowded storage space and left me little room for creative work.
My new space is comprised of the top two floors within a historic 1890s icehouse in a neighboring town. It’s quite a building, laden with charm and the most wonderful light from vaulted ceilings and skylights. One floor is set up as a gallery and salon space where I host ever-changing displays and events to promote my artists and the new projects of my business. The other plays host to a storage area and a studio for our artist in residence. Having such a large amount of open storage will help keep the decorated space in-check! With this space, I can also plan and host my own intimate events on a schedule that suits my family. Now as a mom with three teenagers, these kids need me more than ever, so I want to be closer to home. I will say I am beyond thrilled to have finally found a building that works for me! It took years to find something not far from home, with good bones, plenty of natural light, and the functionality to serve as an event space with adequate parking too!
I enjoy learning and pride myself on being dynamic; change is a constant for me. In the ten years since Jo first featured me, my business and I have both evolved and grown. Both my personal style and business offerings have absorbed new layers and an appreciation for what’s emerged in handmade. There are always trends and new talent surfacing. Being open-minded to the newness and challenging myself to evolve has kept my business healthy and solvent. I went from doing a multitude of small collector shows and spaces for pop-ups to larger national shows like The Country Living Fair, and also cultivating the European market via my connections in toy collecting and the Blythe community.
I’ve always loved seeing how things are made. I’m fascinated with production processes and how a creative person can apply their training and talent to make something beautiful, useful, or boldly singular in style. As a creative myself, I feel I am more open to new ideas and innovative ways to solve problems. I consistently see opportunities for my business. I’m also grateful for the good friends that have enabled me to carve out a niche for Earth Angels Studios over time. I owe a debt of that to my friend, Paul Dunn, a web developer. He created an early website for me in 1999 which helped to authenticate my business in the vastly emerging e-commerce marketplace. There have been many iterations of my site since then, but it was his generosity and faith in the business that got me started so early online.
Over the years, maintaining the core of the Earth Angels Studios brand, while allowing it to grow has been a challenge. Back in 1994, I began attending doll and teddy bear shows. There were quite a few small collectors’ shows to choose from in the pre-internet days. I picked up clients at each show and through my being an early e-mail user, many of these contacts and customers have continued to be with me.
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
– Roald Dahl
While my collecting and decorating passions have evolved over time; the look of what I sell and my personal style have directed the brand. This has allowed a consistent look and quality to emerge in all that I offer for sale. It has also helped me to attract the artists that are the best match for my brand.
While I do something very similar in spirit to what I did when I had started, the content, of course, has changed with time and is now very different. Taste and buying habits change, and as a retailer, you have to keep up. I have made sure over the years, while Earth Angels Studios evolves, it continues to always sell the things that I love and want in my own home, made by the artists that I respect and admire.
Like most creative-preneurs, the biggest challenge to owning and growing a small business is having balance. As a working mom, I have to balance the demands of home with my goals for Earth Angels Studios. I never think of this as a struggle; I prefer to think of it as a privilege. It is a challenge to grow responsibly. Sales can ebb and flow in the retail environment. There’s magic in managing the challenges of purchasing good art and handmade when it is available and then to establish and cultivate a market for those goods within the timeframe of seasons and shows.
I have regularly been dedicated to bringing attention to the talented artists with whom I work, and my role in empowering artists to create has been my biggest accomplishment. Celebrating them, their talents, and finding an appreciative customer for the artists’ work, is a joy. Sometimes, however, my focus on the artists backfires! There have been the times that I work to establish a market for artists’ work. I coach them on how to better tailor their goods to the marketplace, and I introduce them to customers. Sometimes, they stop selling to me and decide to just sell on their own, cutting me out of the transaction. That’s when I am pushed to find new artists and invest time and effort into growing a market for their goods. There is so much talent in our community, however, that this is not a major issue. In all, it keeps my offerings fresh and ever-changing and keeps me on my toes!
I have been in business for a long time, and I love that my new studio space is helping me work smarter, not harder. The push financially, the physical effort of moving, the logistics of re-thinking business and selling patterns, are all welcome challenges that the new building has served up my way. I love that my business is still growing. I am excited that Earth Angels Studios is a meaningful source for handmade in the U.S. and abroad.
I know with this new space I have new opportunities to cultivate the artful community and dynamic that exists between my clients and the artists with whom I work.
There are times that customers think I am running a “group” site because my website is so big! “No,” I tell them, “It’s just my store’s offerings”. I buy and sell and have the responsibilities to stock and ship like any storefront that offers goods at a retail show or for mail order.
Sometimes I look at my professional training and all the work and study I did before I launched Earth Angels and think, “Is this connected; Is this what I love?; Is this why I studied?” I always answer with a resounding, “Yes!” Somehow, it all got me to where I needed to be right now. I am in this new space and am productive. This is where I want to be.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Where Women Create community for the past decade and working as a contributor to the magazines, as it has been amazing for me. I love that I have had the opportunity to write and photograph so many artists and fellow creative-preneurs. I have learned so much from them, and it is an honor to work to celebrate their style and to help readers make room for beauty in their lives. It seems like a forever ago that I was featured in the first issue of WWC. Since then, I have been proud to call upon the magazine and its alumnae for constant inspiration.