What I Learned During My Summer Vacation…

I’m very fortunate to have a father who is also a potter. He found his passion for working with clay many years ago, and he has a small business that he’s made out of what he enjoys doing. My dad works full time in a totally different field. Still, around town, he’s best known for his blueberry dishes and more.

But that’s not exactly what I want to blog about. This post is about how life sometimes intersects with art. I’m lucky enough to have that happen because my father is an artist and knows many others like him. I’m learning that huge crossover exists in different art forms: writing, painting, pottery, and more.

One of the artists he’s become friends with is Judy Shillingburg. They’ve been running into each other at art shows and festivals for quite a while, and my dad has a few of his pieces in her shop. I have one of her paintings of pretty birds on a branch. She does amazing seascapes, jewelry, and much more and is a well-known, respected artist in Destin, Florida and beyond.

Since my parents knew about her shop, Special Touch Gallery in Destin, Florida, which opened in 2010, they suggested we go by there this afternoon.

And am I ever glad we did.

I got to see what a successful career artist looks like in action. And boy, is it ever work–and fun! If you are going for a hobby, that’s fine.

But a hobby in the arts looks pretty different from a business in the arts. So, what is Judy doing that makes her shop so great? Well, it was easy to see what a few of her right steps are. As I was walking around in her gallery, this blog post practically wrote itself. While Judy has had amazing success as a watercolor artist and more, taking a few notes from her playbook will help any writer who treats his or her art like a business endeavor.

1. Judy has a huge shop with a lot of inventory, and much of it is work from other artists. That’s right. The gallery has three display rooms that house paintings, jewelry, pottery, wood carvings, and more. There really is something for any taste there. And while Judy’s work is part of it, it is just one aspect of what’s available.

How it applies to your writing business or artistic endeavor: Working together is better than working alone. Do you have writing buddies whom you build up and/or with whom you collaborate? Is your editor kickass? Wonderful. Do these folks inspire you to go to the next level? Good. They should. Do you have a writing friend who might have just started out or who is struggling a bit whom you encourage to move to greater heights? Great. You should. These partnerships make synergy for us all. An important note: Judy picks and chooses the artists whose work will go in her gallery. Not everyone makes the cut. Associate yourself with those who take their craft–whatever it is–seriously and are doing it well.

2. Judy paints–every day. I talked with her about this for a few minutes. I noticed immediately when I walked over to her prints (just one table of her work) how many were there–hundreds. And more on the walls and jewelry she’d made graced tables. I thought. Wow. She makes art, and she makes a lot of it. I felt a frisson of excitement go down my spine at that realization. I couldn’t resist asking Judy about her process. She told me she paints daily and has multiple stations set up in the shop itself so she is always working on a project. How smart is that?

How it applies to your writing business or artistic endeavor: Want to make your art a business? Engage in it daily. Produce it regularly (and quickly if you can). Don’t rely on one book to make your career or business. It will take many books, paintings…whatever your medium. I have proven that with my own writing. The more books I get out there, the better my business does. Funny, that. 😉 Take your art and business seriously, just as you would any job you get paid for, and then go another step. This is your passion after all. Right?

3. Judy has true fans and co-workers–her daughter and her husband. 

Judy’s daughter is a photographer who helps her with digital images of her work. Judy’s husband helps her run the gallery, now that her success has enabled him to retire from his job.

How it applies to your writing business or artistic endeavor: I thought about this on my way home. Do you have a number one fan(s) who helps you out? It might be your spouse who makes sure you have the time to write when you need it while he or she is cooking or playing with the kids, or it might be a good friend. But you need to have a number one fan or a partner, in my opinion–someone wise who will listen to your struggles and joys and who is truly cheering you on in your pursuits just as you do your fan in his or hers. I have found that most of us only have one or two of these folks. Find that person who is sincerely happy for your success–however great or small, and be sure he or she knows what his support means to you. On the flip side, weed out negativity as much as you can and stop spending tons of time talking with people who mainly whine about not reaching their dreams or who have not even attempted to tap in to the talents that you and others can see in their lives. Believe me, it’s better for you and them if you don’t waste your breath sharing your successes. You won’t get much affirmation, and it will only embitter the whiner. Harsh words, perhaps, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded. If the whiner snaps out of it, you’ll have much to share. If not, there will be others you can build momentum with as you work to achieve your goals.



Posted on June 26, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Food for thought, Lisa. I think if you can make money producing something you love, and enjoy doing it — well, that’s the dream, isn’t it? Good advice. 🙂 – Margaret

  2. Lisa – This is a really great post. It illustrates another example of the whole nature of writing, which is finding a way to represent something in a different manner. In this case, you illustrate the business and art of writing by showing another related art – just a step away to make an interesting point.

  3. Thanks, Matthew. 🙂 And thanks, Margaret. It is the dream.

  4. Barrymore Tebbs

    This is one of your best posts yet, Lis.

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