Monday, November 28, 2011

The Quirky Art Cafe
part 2

One of the first things I did when I got the keys to my new studio, was to spend a night there with my best friend Jan. We brought wine, snacks and slept in sleeping bags on the floor in the fresh, empty space. We wanted to celebrate my studio and coincidentally enough,
it was also the 25th anniversary of our hitch-hiking trip around the South Pacific together.

It was perfect...
you know, since we had spent so many nights sleeping on strange floors during that trip, this was an appropriate way to celebrate.

Spending time there, while it was empty, was really important. I had a lot of ideas of what I wanted it to be but I really didn't have one clear, single vision. However, I found that the more time I spent there, the more I could feel my way into the vision.

Of course, I thought it would be cool if it was a REAL cafe,
but there were TOO many complicated
thoughts in the way...
you know, thoughts like:
  • I still have a preschooler at home and two other young kids in elementary school, how could I possibly be committed to hours at a cafe as well?

  • I didn't have the kind of money to invest into buying all the equipment that would be needed for a real cafe.

  • Besides...who would let me have a "real" cafe together with an ART studio...certainly not the Health Board and Food inspection people.

    And the biggest thought hurdle....

  • I am just an artist... I couldn't possibly do all the business things involved with running a REAL cafe.
So I let that idea go and just worked on what it could be, WITHIN my comfort level. I had been teaching altered book making and art journaling for a number of years and knew that it was something I could offer and that might help pay the bills. I would also do my own painting and caricature commissions there.

As far as the design of the studio, I really wasn't sure until my friend Leanne gave me her old oak dining room table and some wooden chairs, and suddenly I could see it.... it would LOOK like a cafe, even if it couldn't be one. Old dining tables and an eclectic collection of chairs, paintings on the walls, and great music, and of course, tons of art supplies.

So I went to work to set up a "pretend" cafe that would be my art studio....
I managed to find two more second hand dining room tables and things started to take shape. I spent time shopping with my little 4 year old Piper in second hand stores and new stores and quickly things completely fell into place. I found hugely discounted furniture that just happened to look like it was made for my shop. I moved furniture around so much to make sure that the flow felt right and wanted it to be something that my home has never achieved—organized to the point where everything had a place to go away to.

It all just came together so easily.
I began teaching a summer class, 2 months after I rented the studio and had a full teaching calendar starting in September along with my caricature gigs. When people walked in, the most common comment was that it felt like I had been there for years.
For 2 years that is what my studio was....and I loved it.

It was so wonderful to teach without having to cart all my supplies somewhere else and to just have my environment around me. I also loved having birthday parties there. I think in the last two years I celebrated over 25 little girl's birthdays with caricatures and journals.

But the best part was that it was the place where I could go to escape the chaos of the rest of my world.

I must admit that at first, I found it really difficult not having my art supplies at home and felt at a loss, wondering......"What DO people do at home when they don't have art supplies?"

But over time, the separation allowed me to focus more intently on the 2 major elements in my life— my family and my art, without the distraction of the other. It also encouraged me to start sleeping more again (for years I only slept an average of 4 hours a night).

At the studio, I vehemently protected how "open" my studio door was to the world, and in time, I managed to reacquaint myself with all that felt lost from years of giving everything I could to the 3 little people in my life.

In the fall of 2010, when my daughter went to grade 1, I suddenly had days to myself again, for the first time in 14 years. It was a great year! I did whatever I felt like doing. I felt total freedom and loved that I didn't HAVE to be anywhere except where I wanted to be. It was an amazingly creative time and so healing. I did my caricatures, I painted, I managed to have my first solo painting show at the Naess Gallery and then flew off to Girona for another life enhancing caricature convention.

When I got home from Spain, I knew that the time had come for my studio to evolve into something more. I no longer needed the kind of silence and solitude I craved when my days were spent defending my sanity against small children. Plus we really needed to somehow bring more money in our lives.

My trip to Spain with my brother Weston and my son Ry was definitely the precipice for my studio's evolution into a real cafe and thankfully,
I had NO idea what was involved in putting a cafe in my studio....
because IF I would have known then,
I would never have climbed those stairs.

Next, I will tell you about the last 6 months which have changed my approach to business in more ways than any six months prior in my 47 years.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Story of the Quirky Art Cafe...
part 1
When I was a kid, after everyone in my family was asleep, I would pack a big suitcase and sit in the living room pretending to be on an airplane flying to Paris. I had never been on a plane but the thought of travel was exciting and I always pictured myself having a little art studio (something that had the look and feel of a café) somewhere in Paris.

In 2001, after drawing caricatures for 17 years, I finally started my own little art company, offering event caricatures, illustrations and teaching mixed media. I named it the Quirky Art Café because as much as I love drawing live caricatures, I also have strong impulses to paint and doodle in other styles. I thought a company called "Quirky Art" would allow me total artistic freedom. And the "Cafe " part came because I love cafes. On my website, I even had “Deep in my imagination exists a little art studio somewhere in Montmartre in Paris” above my logo.

One day in March 2009, I noticed a little shop for rent. Even though I wasn’t too sure I wanted to move out of my home studio just yet, (or that I could afford it), it was more perfect than I could have imagined! Having a studio in my own neighborhood, with a huge storefront window overlooking the beautiful park and playground of the school my kids attend, seemed almost too good to be true.

Something inside of me knew I had to do it.

I really had no specific plan for it at that time, but I just felt that one day I would. Fortunately, Mark, my husband, is almost as trusting of my intuition as me and together we decided that yes, I should rent it.

The day after signing my rental agreement with my landlords Hans and Gretel (I am not kidding), I was taking some pictures of the building from a distance and I suddenly noticed something I hadn’t realized before…the shop next door to me (which Hans and Gretel own and operate) is called the Salon de Paris and they have a huge Eiffel Tower on their sign.

I guess I finally did have my little art studio in Paris after all.

So, that was 2 and a half years ago.
Next, I will tell you how it evolved into what it is today.