As we get closer and closer to the opening of the Institute For Arts Entrepreneurship in Fall 2010, we wanted to spotlight some artistic entrepreneurs who have found success in their field. In our new series, Questions and Artists, weâ€™ll pose a few burning questions to these brave artists who have set off down their own path to gain some insight into the entrepreneurial mindset.
For more Questions and Artists entries, click here.
In this edition of Questions and Artists, we talked with Jennifer Ann Bowers, a former massage therapist who found enough inspiration in her artwork to turn it into a full time business.Â Now she owns Rose Bridge Creations and is facing the challenges and excitement of being creative for a living.
1) What are your artistic field/your product/your service?
I offer photography with macro photography as a specialty, photo editing, digital art, graphic design, custom art commissions, pet portraits and private art instruction in a variety of media. I work in oil pastels, acrylics, watercolor, color pencils and textiles which include hand spinning, natural dyes, embroidery, crochet and beading. When the tools are available I love to work with wood and silver. I willingly work with any other media as long as it holds my attention or provides an adequate challenge.
2) When or how was it that you realized you wanted to turn your artistry into a business?
When I was in Junior High School I first ventured into being an entrepreneur. My friend and I made and sold pom-pom pets with the intent to donate some of the money to a school charity. It did not go so well. In High School I was taking industrial art classes. I earned extra spending money making custom instillation gifts for International Order of Rainbow for Girls Worthy Advisors and Order of Eastern Star Worthy Matrons. I realized to a very small degree that I may be able to use my talents to earn money. The experience did encourage me to look at going to college to get a degree in art. However, I could not get beyond the â€œstarving artistâ€ stereotype. I do not consider myself a studio or traditional artist and have never taken a traditional art class beyond what I learned in Junior High.
In 1997 I again flirted with trying to sell my artwork at a very small Renaissance Faire in Des Moines Iowa with no success. I had resigned myself to the reality that my artwork would only be of use for self healing and volunteer projects. I saw myself forever giving away my talent. In 2008 after much soul searching and being very bored with my massage business, my passion for art could no longer be quelled. It was no longer willing to be a behind the scenes part of my life. After speaking with a friend who is a small business consultant I decided to expand my bodywork business to include art. My life and business had become unfulfilling. When I asked myself what I wanted to spend my days doing I realized that I love creating things that bring more beauty into the world. I love the challenge of a new project, stretching my skills and imagination. I was finally ready to commit myself to accepting who I have always been- an artist (of course all my friends already knew this).
3) When was the “first time you got paid for it”?Â (i.e. when was the first time you were able to make money off of your craft)
In the late 60â€™s to early 70â€™s my father owned a small drug store with a soda fountain and lunch counter in it. I was about four or five years old spending some time there drawing at the counter. One of the regular customers came up to me and watched me draw. He asked me to draw a picture for him and said that he would pay me. I thought he was being silly or just humoring me. True to his word he gave me 25 or 50 cents for it. I did not make any more money from my talent until High School.
4) What is the biggest obstacle you faced as a developing artistic entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?Â Or did you?
The biggest obstacle for me has been in believing in myself, my talent and that people would want what I have created. Low self esteem has been a major issue for me for most of my life especially when it comes to my artwork. I have seen so many people doing what I want to do and being successful at it, oh how I want that to be me. I have spent so many hours wondering and doubting if there is a place for me in the art world.
Do I still feel this way now? Yes, to an extent; there are lingering doubts about my abilities. They may always be there to some degree. I now do believe in myself and my place in the universe thanks in part to my friends loving support. I also had to heal wounds from childhood and early adulthood. In the last few years as I realized what art has meant to me; always being there like a trusted friend, I began to view art and my personal connection to it very differently. I had to have the courage to look deep within and be willing to see what was there. What I saw was my talent as an artist being an integral part of my soul, it is who I am, what makes me special, my unique gift to the world and my soulâ€™s purpose. I did not want to acknowledge this. I did not want to show everyone who I truly am: Jennifer the artist. There is great vulnerability in doing this. There is also great power and freedom. It is this power and freedom that has allowed me to take the next step and turn my talent into an entrepreneurial adventure. I am now willing to accept all that comes with being an art entrepreneur; the success, failure, challenge, frustration, joy and freedom.
5) What’s something you had to learn on your own that you wish you’d been taught about how to entrepreneur your art?
I would have liked to have had someone tell me it was ok to work â€œout of the boxâ€ with regard to how I market my talent; to show me how to create and utilize nontraditional business methods. I have had to learn how to run my business in a way that is in alignment with my personal ethics. I find that the old school way of doing business, i.e. dog eat dog, does not work for me.
Jennifer Ann Bowers Bio
My love of art began very early. My mother quickly discovered that if she put me somewhere out of the way with paper and crayons I would keep myself occupied for hours. This also kept me from coloring on the walls. In high school I won several awards at the Colorado State Industrial Arts Fair 1982-84. While I majored in History in college I longed for something more interactive. I switched to Interior Design and received my Associates in Art Degree in 1992. While getting my degree I refined my skills as an artist; brining in water colors, oil pastels and architectural rendering. I give this training credit for the artistic style I have today. The use of a black base and bright colors I owe to a nighttime rendering of the Guggenheim Museum by Frank Lloyd Wright. The moment I saw this drawing I fell in love with the dynamic contrast of black and color.
After attending Massage school in 2002 I stared an in home massage business Rose Bridge Healing Center. As a small business owner I use all of my art skills gained from Interior Design combined with computer technology and digital photography to do all my graphic design work including my website, business cards, logo and promotional materials. I take great pride in doing all this work myself. In 2008 I expanded my integrated bodywork business to include my artistic talent. I changed the business name to Rose Bridge Creations and created a logo to match my new image.
Current art projects include volunteer teaching art to special needs students and creating a coffee table book series â€œPictorial History of Colorado Amaranthâ€ that includes digital photography, digital design and layout work. I frequently volunteer my artistic skills to local not for profit groups. I enjoy the diversity and challenges this brings. Art is an integral part of my life and I am looking forward to experiencing what artistic adventures lay ahead.