Portraits of Animals Has Set Up Shop

photo of shop entrance

Entering my room at the shop.

Literally, I’ve got a room in a shop to display my merchandise, and I’m so happy to be there! Between moving in and setting up a shop on Etsy, that’s where I’ve been the past several days, but it’s so exciting to do this.

I love posting my art and merchandise online in my Marketplace blog and in my online Marketplace, but I’ve always enjoyed being out in the public with my things, talking to people at festivals and events, talking about my work, getting direct feedback and personally thanking the person who decided to buy something from me.

I my “other life” when I’m not blogging about cats and posting daily photos and creating artwork I’m a “visual designer” creating print and web products and layouts; this is pretty much what I do all day long, and I’ve done this for almost 30 years. You can read more about this on my website in Graphic Design and Illustration.

photo of merchandise on display

Greeting cards, notecards and small framed items.

My dream has always been to slip away from this career and open a real bricks and mortar gallery named “Portraits of Animals” featuring my artwork inspired by animals and nature and also featuring and showing the art of others inspired by animals. I had a little shop five years ago but with the demands of graphic design I could never be there, but I was seriously bitten by the bug and have been looking for an opportunity ever since.

Though I’m not selling antiques or even vintage items, I am in a room in Carnegie Antiques at 423 West Main Street in Carnegie, just a few blocks from where I live.

photo of merchandise

A stack of mugs and the poodle cloth on the table.

The owner, the generous and multi-talented Judi Stadler, is a friend of mine, and her set of businesses, including both Carnegie Antiques and J.D. Llama Estate Sales and Appraisals, is one of my customers for design and promotion. I actually designed her website and photographed all the items on it, and I visit regularly for gift items and especially that special vintage necklace or earrings to match one of my outfits.

Judi and I have been discussing this for a while, and decided the time was right as I took down my display after my poetry reading and moved it right into the room.

In this room I’ll have all of my greeting cards, note cards and writing paper, plus small and medium framed and unframed prints of my artwork and photographs.

I’ll also have framed prints of all my block prints and a selection of my block-printed t-shirts and other textiles, and the joy of that is being able to create more of them all the time; these especially don’t like to be folded and packed away for too long!

photo of shop display

The desk and my small Tabbies block prints.

I also carry mugs with my artwork printed on them, and this has always been the best way to sell them—they are more expensive to ship than the average small item, and they are so fragile that I’ve damaged them in carrying from show to show.

This is also where I can try out new items, like my gift bags, which I’ve been experimenting with for a while and think I might finally have a working design. In addition, I will have a few copies of “Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet” for sale, and may carry a few other items by other artists and authors if sales go well.

photo of art display

A few originals, a few prints.

In this case, I’m only personally there one afternoon a week, but the shop is open nearly every day while Judi or a few other friends are there. I am in the third room back on the first floor, right on the path of people cruising all the neat things Judi has packed into the place.

We were both encouraged when, as we moved my things in on a Sunday afternoon while she wasn’t even open, people driving by knocked on the door and, while browsing, purchased a few things from her and some greeting cards from my partially-unpacked display!

photo of window display

Photos and curtains and ceramicware.

During the summer months I participate in local outdoor festivals from city streets to parks and conservation areas, carrying my tent and tables and plastic bins of art and textiles all over the area in my little Ford Escort, unpacking early in the morning, packing up again at dusk and driving home; in fall and winter I find indoor events as well, and at least once a year I’ll host my own event, such as my annual Poetry Reading and Art Exhibit. I’m working on my schedule for this year, and as soon as I have some events scheduled I’ll post them.

In the meantime, my stuff is just packed away in my tiny spare bedroom/studio, and that’s a very sad thing for me—the things I create are meant to be shared, they need to be on display, and I have no room here to display them.

photo of curtains and ceramics

Kelly and Cookie keep watch at the window.

photo of printed valance

Kelly has her morning bath on the valance.

photo of lamp made of driftwood

Driftwood lamp.

photo of collector chickadee plate

Chickadee plate

So this little room and its arrangements are just perfect for right now, just enough space for me to fill, and just enough time for me to be there myself while things are available when I’m not there.

And not only that, I LOVE vintage things, all the imagination and skill that went into creating everything from 18th-century furniture to 1960s glass paperweights and everything in between. I not only get to spend time in the midst of all these things, but I also get to use a fair number as fixtures in my shop!

I can neither fit into my house nor afford all the things I’d like to have, but I can certainly use the green farmhouse stick chair to display a few things, and the turquoise wicker desk is a natural display for my fine art note cards  and writing paper. I’ve had my eye on the driftwood lamp for years, and I also found a black panther lamp with a fringed shade that I have to fit somewhere.

photo of green stick chair

The green farmhouse chair.

photo of cat figurine

The Purdue Cat.

Judi and I have been choosing animal- and nature-oriented items to display in my room, and while feline-themed things actually move pretty quickly (I have to admit I have several from her store), I did manage to find a 1950s-style modern design black cat planter from Purdue University to hold my business cards. Who would know?!

Speaking of vintage pottery, remember all those silly little planters your grandmother had holding philodendrons on her windowsills that were shaped like lambs and cows and pony carts? Those were originally designed to be used to take plants to persons who were ill or in the hospital to cheer them up, and often baby-themed ones were given to new parents (like they needed a plant to take care of). They still work fine for plants, so I’ll be planting all the little spider plant babies and cuttings from my houseplants, plus we’ll be planting herb plants in them to sell on the sidewalk flea market Carnegie hosts during the summer.

photo of poddle printed tablecloth

brown and turquoise poodle cloth, also in brown and salmon

I’m also a fool for vintage table linens from the 30s, 40s and 50s, and while you don’t see too many cat-themed tablecloths (though you do see kittens now and then), poodles were a very popular  theme as in the cloths in vintage color themes.

So if you’re in the area make sure you stop in, and if not you can always visit my Marketplace blog and in my online Marketplace and my shop on Etsy. While Stanley is the feline who watches over my shop as you can see on my Marketplace and on Etsy, Cookie is the enforcer!

photo of shop sign

Cookie says, "Visit, or else!"


My Tenth Anniversary

Ten years ago today, January 1, 2000, I fulfilled a dream I had worked a decade to reach when, for the first time in forever, I stayed home to go to work. Even considering the wild ride this past decade has been, I wouldn’t reconsider my decision. I love everything I’ve had the chance to do, all the people I’ve met, and all the businesses and organizations I’ve helped to succeed. In return they’ve helped me, too, as every assignment has also been a lesson, and every accomplishment another level of confidence and credibility.

Needless to say, my cats also approved of the decision.

desk with six cats

Desk with Six Cats; sometimes my office is not so beautiful! From left it is Stanley, Sophie, Kelly, Namir, Cookie and Peaches. Sadly, three are now gone.

I remember the 1990s after I had bought my little house and done a good bit of fixing-up, and all I wanted to do was stay here and enjoy what I’d accomplished so far. When I left for work each day I’d stop at the door and look at this room with its new windows, new paint, my art on the walls and carry that vision with me as I left for another day of unknown length and content working as a typesetter for a direct mail company.

I don’t have a degree in art—I have a BA in English from Edinboro University, with minors in Graphics and Professional Writing. I had majored in art for a year or two, but looking at my output, decided that I was never going to “get it” while I was in college, honestly, I could not draw to save my life; I didn’t understand that I first needed to see, and this didn’t happen until I was a little more mature.

The story continues, keep reading…