I am so excited to be back with an new Art Biz Mama interview. This time we have lovely Cathy Nichols.
Cathy's art just makes me happy looking at it. I love her thoughts on motherhood, art and business. I am sure you will agree. Enjoy!
Could you please share a bit about you, your family and your business?
I am a wife and mother of two young children as well as a stepdaughter. My two little ones are (brace yourself) 2 and 3 years old, while my stepdaughter is 8. My business started out as selling just my original paintings, but I have branched out into selling all kinds of things based on my designs: prints, giclees, calendars, illustrations, greeting cards and most recently, jewelry.
When did you make the decision to start your art business?
This is a great question because there was a distinct moment in my life when I made this decision. It was about 8 years ago. I had been studying to become a teacher and was about to enter an intensive internship program in Los Angeles when I had this epiphany: 'I want to be an artist!!' Having made this announcement to myself, I did what my entrepreneurial mom always taught me to do -- printed up some business cards. They said: "Cathy Nichols: Artist." lol. Then I bought some huge canvases and started painting. After a few months, I was lucky enough to join a fabulous artists' co-op called Ten Women in Venice, CA, and it was there that my business really blossomed. We had tons of foot traffic, and it was an amazing thing to sell my work to the public in such a creative, supportive venue. When I moved to New York in 2007, I reinvented my business as an online presence -- primarily through Etsy - and branched out again in my local community. My art business has been an ongoing process of re-invention for me, but once I made the decision to be "Cathy Nichols: Artist," I have never looked back.
How has having children affected your business and creativity?
Well, they ARE time-consuming, those adorable little bundles of joy. So on the one hand, I have much less time than I did before they were born, but on the other hand, I feel like, through them, I have learned to be much more efficient in my creative process. I've also developed a piece-work kind of working style because my time has become so segmented into shorter creative blocks. I feel a bit like a quilter -- stitching together pieces of creative work over chunks of time into a larger whole.
Would you please share what a “typical day” is like for you? Is there school or childcare, etc. while you are working?
Typically, I wake up at 6:30 am, take care of the kids until they start preschool at 9:15, then from 9:30-11:30, I have a glorious block of creative time for myself. This is when I actually make new paintings. I will brainstorm for a new painting and design the piece one morning, then I will start painting it the next and finish/scan it for printing that evening or the next day. Of course, longer paintings take more days, but this is how I work. After the kids get home from school, they get my attention until bedtime at 7 pm. After they go to sleep, I can do more mundane work like processing orders or setting jewelry. If I want to fit in something else, I need to get up at 5 am (like did today to do this interview!).
How many hours do you give to your business each week? Are you working during the days/evenings/weekends?
I devote about 8-15 hours a week to my business. I rarely work on the weekends, and I never do actual paintings at night because I need to do the encaustic work with lots of ventillation, and it's just too dark to paint in the evenings on my sun porch. Plus it's a tad chilly!
Balance seems to be a myth for many women. Do you feel you have a healthy balance between your work life and your family life?
Right now I think I do have a healthy balance between work and family, but there is a real deficit on the side of other things... like exercise or just plain fun time for myself. And since I'm always thinking about either my work or my children, I find that I am a little too forgetful in other areas. Like paperwork. And school functions. And just plain ordinary life maintenance. But I have to remind myself that being a mom is still new to me. I have only had children for 3 years. I'm still a novice. Maybe in time, I will become more organized. Hopefully. And, of course, I would love to have more creative time for my business. This is something, too, that I hope will come in the future.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us today? Any words of wisdom for other artists/moms out there who wish to create a business out of their art?
I think, of course, the most important advice anyone can give is to believe in your art and keep making it despite the 'odds' against you - whether they be financial struggles, childcare, geography or even technology. It's important to put those logistics to one side of your mind in order to make space for the freedom to create. Yes, as moms we know more than anyone that limitless freedom is a myth, but I think just making a space for this romantic notion allows us, as artists, to create the kind of work that will inspire others (and ultimately sell!). So it's a little mind trick. And don't underestimate the power of making a new business card that says "ARTIST." :)
Here are the links to Cathy and her art-