From starving artist to entrepreneur- the story of Celestial Surf Studio.

Ever since I was old enough to walk, my hands have preferred to be caked in dirt. 

Like, literally. Some of my earliest memories involve making mud pies and something I used to refer to as 'dirt stew'. From an early age I quickly gained the nickname "dirt dobber" from my dads circle of friends. 

Once I got older, the mud was (temporarily) put on the back burner while I dabbled in other artistic mediums. Every birthday, Christmas, and other gift-giving holiday almost always guarenteed new art supplies- fresh tablets of drawing paper, pads of bristol board, fresh watercolor tubes, pristine brushes, and all sorts of pencils. 

I always knew I would grow up to be an artist. 

But what I didn't know was how hard it was going to be to convince everyone else I knew that I could make a career out of it. 

Over the years my skills grew. My figures became more realistic, my supplies became more expensive, and I had more patience with the process each time I learned a new skill. 

Then, college happened. 

it was finally time to leave the nest. Fly the coop. Get the heck out. 

And figure out what I wanted to do- what I wanted to be. 

FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. 

Pretty scary, huh?

I'll cut the story short and give it to you in a nutshell- I thought I had my life figured out by the time I received my early admittance letter to Radford University. Thought I was going to go to school, get a teaching degree in English, graduate, and marry my high school sweetheart and live happily ever after. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. 

What a crock. 

Shortly in to my first semester as an English education major, I realized I'd be miserable for the rest of my life if I continued on this same path. The kids in my advanced writing class wrote papers worse than the crap I churned out the night before it was due in middle school. Peer review was killing me slowly and I knew that working in the public school system wouldn't be any more glamorous. 

So I decided to abandon the initial plan and change my major- but to what?

The only other thing I was good at - ART. 

I can't tell you how good it felt to turn in my change of major form at the end of my first semester in college. It was like taking a breath of crispy cool ocean air after being submerged beneath the waves for so long that your lungs were starting to burn. 

I actually enjoyed my classes, I was eager to get the next assignment, I felt like I stood out from my colleagues. 

I loved it. 

My family... not so much. 

But how? How could they not support me after all those years of buying me cool art supplies? After cheering me on, and asking for commissioned pieces? Are you freaking kidding me?

So I caved. I listened to them. I thought they knew what I should be doing better than I did. 

They all encouraged me to change my major to Art education.

"You need something stable to pay the bills. You'll never make it as an artist alone"

So I did it. I conformed to the pressures of society.

To ease my families fear of me turning into a burn-out starving artist. 

The first few semesters were cool, I still got to take beginner classes in all the art making categories. 

Photography, sculpture, drawing, watercolor, painting, and ceramics. 

Oh how I loved ceramics. I definitely wasn't great- my work was like all other beginners work

lop-sided, shallow, simple. 

But I loved it.  

I loved how the clay felt in my hands. I loved how messy I got while creating. I loved the sense of purpose making something you could utilize gave me. 

I wanted to grow. 

 

So I took more classes. My forms improved, but I couldn't devote more time to my pieces than the class time allowed- I had to use my out-of-class time to work on my lesson plans and research for becoming a teacher. 

I even got so far into the art education program that I started teaching classes with the other girls in the program at a local elementary school. 

Don't get me wrong, the kids were so awesome. Their love for the creating process is enthralling. Their innocense and sheer uninhibited desire to express themselves made me think that doing what I didn't want to do with my life was worth it. 

But I was wrong. 

There was an emptyness inside of me. I had gotten past the beginner art classes- the fun ones- and quickly found myself doing nothing but writing lesson plans, having to justify every move I made in the classroom. 

Caught in a riptide of assessment techniques, linking my lessons to the standards of learning in each grade level, learning about how little funding I would have from the school board, knowing I'd have little to no time for my own personal art endeavors- it sucked the life out of me. 

I'd stay up at night dreading my next test, worrying about the next lesson plan, and wishing I could just quit it all and become a potter. 

It all became so much that I cracked. I failed the math Praxis test and decided that enough was enough. This was a sign from the universe. I gave up on teaching in public schools during the first semester of my senior year and marched my little tush down to the art advisors office to see what it would take to get my BFA in ceramics and get the heck out of the education department. 

That was the best decision I had made for myself at that time in my life. 

Even though I had only taken a few classes in ceramics and my forms were still simple, I knew I could pull it off. 

With a lot of determination, an extra year tacked on to my collegic experience, and a renewed spark of passion in my heart, I designed a collection of ocean inspired vessels. 

They were all pedestal pieces, incorporating functionality and sculptural additions that reflected oceanic life that I had always admired. 

Corals and kelp adorned the surfaces of my vessels, arms of octopi climbed the necks of vases, and my sculpting tools fell into the grooves of larger-than-life shells. 

Some of the art faculty said my stuff was "pretty" - intending for that to be an insult. Implying that my work was only about looking nice and didnt have any depth. 

Whatever. 

I wanted my work to be bright and poppy. I wanted my pieces to look like they'd fit right in a mermaid's kitchen. 

I'm pretty sure I crushed it seeing as how I sold all but two pieces on opening night.

Anyone else in my graduating class sell their pieces on opening night? 

No? 

Ok then, pretty isn't such a bad thing then, is it?

Flash forward to a year from graduating...

The family still isn't happy. I haven't done anything with my art career since I've graduated other than a few shows a month or two after college let out. 

But I didn't give up on myself. 

I knew I needed to relocate to be more successful. 

So I moved to the place that I've always loved and wanted to live in. 

Wilmington, North Carolina. 

This seaside city held the key to the next step. 

It only took a month or two after moving here to find the cutest  studio I could ever dream of.  

Not even gonna lie, I totally stalked their website months in advance of moving. 

The clean, minimal layout of the website and beachy yet simple feel of the work that came from this studio gripped me. I felt a kinship to this place before even finding it in person. 

What was this place?

Pineapple Studios. 

The. Coolest. Art. Studio. Ever. 

Being shy and intimidated at first, I decided to shoot the owner, Jess, an email at first to test the waters. 

I told her about my BFA and my preference of clay body and glazes and asked about using the studio space. 

To my sheer delight she replied cheerfully and welcomed me to come check the studio out. 

It was destiny. They even used the same clay body and glazes that I used in college. It couldn't have gone better. 

So I sign up for the six-week class series and use the open studio time to work on my own stuff. 

Even after a year of not throwing it came back to me in just a few hours. 

Just like riding a bike. 

A few months go by...

and I'm inspired by my surroundings and the success Jess and Lauren were having  as ceramic artists in the area. 

I started making miniature versions of the big stuff I made in school. I knew that smaller, more affordable pieces like mugs and dinnerware would sell better than big art pieces 

I decided to create a name for myself. But what would it be? I needed something edgy, something not too restricting. Something that would reflect what I love. 

 

It came to me lying on the beach one day, watching the waves lap against the shell- lined shore. 

Celestial Surf Studio. 

Thats it! I freaking love it. 

I reached out to my good friend Erika who is killer with calligraphy and asked her to design me a logo. 

So I started an Instagram 

Then an Etsy

Got involved in a festival called Craft and Draft that my good friend and owner of Green Heron Arts Center put together. 

Things were starting to take off, and fast. 

People were actually impressed with what I was making and wanted more! 

My second bedroom in my apartment quickly turned into my home office for my etsy business. 

Before I knew it I was bringing in actual income selling art. 

Who knew?

Things were going so well, in fact, that Jess, who had become one of my best friends in Wilmington, even asked me to start teaching some of the classes and private lessons at Pineapple. 

I almost died. (of happiness of course).

Was this for real? Someone really believed in me enough to offer me a job? Doing what I love? WOAH. 

A few months pass before I even know it, and I gain another gig from my friend and coworker Lauren. She tells me about a teaching position at a community art center in town and I decided to jump on it quicker than The Sugarhill Gang.

So here I am, writing my first blog post on my brand new website for my (almost one year old) ceramics business. 

Woah, that escellated quickly.

Since that day on the beach, when I decided who/ what I wanted to be as an artist, I've had such amazing luck. 

I've had countless opportunities show up on my door step. 

Being invited and admitted to sales, becoming a part of different teaching communities, being sought out by locals for my work to be featured in photoshoots and exclusive shows. 

Finally, the family was starting to see that I actually have the grit and drive it's going to take to actually do this. Theyre starting to loosen up and be more supportive and encouraging. THANK GOODNESS. 

I couldn't be more grateful. 

Even here and now, I can't give up. 

Theres so much more I want to accomplish. New things I want to try. 

So I keep pushing. I keep making new designs and playing "what worked and what didn't" to make sure I don't fall in a slump. 

I keep reaching out to local businesses and applying to festivals to make sure my name stays relevant and my work is seen. 

I hand out business cards to strangers all the time and write love letters to people who order my goods offline. 

I make stickers of my lovely logo (thanks, Erika!) to slap on shipping boxes and bags to look more professional. 

I always strive to take better quality pictures of my work. 

And upload time-lapse videos to mesmerize my audience and remind them that everything is handmade with love.

I can't say that I really have a game plan, or know what I'm doing. I just try to look to my colleagues and see what works for them and make small, obtainable goals for myself and conquer them. 

One day I'll look back on this first blog post, and smile, knowing that this was just the start and that I've taken leaps and bounds since. 

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