Featured Image above by Laurie Provost
Season 3 – epiBLOG 19:
One of my favorite aspects about writing this blog is that I get to share useful content with others who are hungry to get that information. Specifically, I enjoy the interviews that I get to do within my Professional and Successful Artists series that I recently started this year.
For this month, we are featuring a phenomenal artist who is taking both the art and business world by storm!
There are artists… and there are business men and women… but how many can combine the two and create a beautiful life for themselves? I would love to get the statistic on that.
Sometimes we feel lost and confused within our careers. There are times when we feel like we’ve done everything that we possibly know to do, and simply aren’t sure what there is left to attempt.
We’ve all been there. Where we’ve felt like we’ve turned over every stone in the hopes of finding our buried diamond known as success. We stop seeing the stones. And worst… we stop believing that the success is anywhere to be found.
We start questioning whether or not we’ve wasted the last decade of our lives looking for our very own Wizard of Oz. The truth is… the answer really is within you, but if you don’t know how to unlock that greatness to live up to your full potential, that greatness is simply left untapped. And what a shame that is to never live out your greatness in its full expression.
I’m hoping the content that follows will help you to unlock that greatness that is within you.
Today’s topic covers my interview with the talented, skilled, and successful artist Kristine Kollasch.
I was introduced to Kristine through a mutual friend, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her through this interview process…
It’s a Monday afternoon in sunny San Diego. Birds are chirping. The sky is a powder blue, yet somehow seems strikingly bold. The green palm trees outside of my home office window contrast wonderfully with the blue sky and the birds flying overhead. I then take a call from the talented Kristine Kollasch…
Nitara O: You mentioned that “It’s a Monday, and we’re able to have a conversation in the middle of the afternoon.” From one artist to another, I know exactly how you feel. You’re an entrepreneurial artist and you control your day. What does that feel like to you? What does that mean to you?
Kristine K: Being self-employed does have a certain degree of freedom, like being able to break on a Monday for an afternoon interview. (chuckling) There is also a lot of pressure with that freedom. It’s easy to get distracted watering the yard or fixing a house problem, lunching with friends, volunteering for great causes, etc., but those don’t pay the bills. I do get to set my own schedule, but often it’s the workload that sets the schedule. When there are deadlines and lots to get done, there’s no clocking out.
Nitara O: I find I have the same issue. I get up early in the morning, 6:30 most days. I take short breaks, but oftentimes find myself working till late at night.
Kristine K: Right. You do what you have to do.
Nitara O: Yeah. Well, I don’t know if you know this, but you are a true inspiration to artists everywhere with your talent as an artist and your business acumen. How do you balance both your “creative right brain” and your “analytical left brain?”
Kristine K: (chuckling) Who said I was balanced?
Nitara O: (chuckling) Well, you definitely seem to be.
Kristine K: No, I’m just kidding. We have two sides to our brains. Two equal hemispheres. I suppose using them both is how I am wired. Or perhaps my deep desire to break stereotypes and push boundaries would not allow me to settle with only using part of my brain… Who wants to be a starving artist or a business person lacking creativity?
Nitara O: (getting excited) Exactly! And that right there is the foundation of my entire blog. Bridging the gap between art and business.
Kristine K: Both are equally important. We live in this world where we have to make money to survive and thrive. Why not do what you enjoy doing in order to make the money that you need?
Nitara O: Agreed. You’re preaching to the choir here. (chuckling) Now, I understand that you had a very humble upbringing, but it was also a very happy one at the same time. You and your mom use to make Christmas ornaments out of tuna fish cans. And your mom also handmade a lot of your clothes when you were young. Do you feel that this had any influence on your artistic endeavors later in life?
Kristine K: My parents started a family very young, and they worked very hard to provide for my brother and me. My Dad was a photographer and then became a mason and had his own business. And even though my Mom claims to not be very creative, she’s always been one to sew or knit, making clothes and quilts and blankets.
As kids we made due with our imaginations and a card board box… there were no video games or 24hr TV programming. All of this influenced me… strong work ethic, recycling and repurposing, waste not/want not… making things instead of always just buying them.
Nitara O: Sounds like a very loving, supportive, and giving upbringing.
Kristine K: It was.
Nitara O: That’s wonderful. I, um, I love the story about your adventures to the senior center as a little girl. What drew you to working at the senior center? Describe that entire experience in detail.
Kristine K: Well, I was only seven, so it was definitely playing, not working. As a kid there was a place – it still exists – a place on the far end of the grounds where my elementary school was. Pittman Square Elementary School in Gary, Indiana. It’s where I went to First through Fourth grade. During the summers there was a wading pool and often there would be “crafts days” for kids. It was right by the tennis courts and the playground, and only a few blocks from our house, so all the kids in the neighborhood would go there.
Nitara O: Sounds like heaven for a kid.
Kristine K: Yeah, it was… I remember getting plaster figurines and painting them. And one time they had a button maker… I still have mine. It has a Snoopy on his dog house with my name hand written on the paper before it was pressed to become a button. As I can recall, the rest of the year it [the recreation center] must have been used more as a senior center.
Nitara O: That’s super cute about Snoopy… and a resourceful use of the senior center.
Kristine K: (nostalgic) Down at the end of our street in the green house lived an older woman named Toni. I mostly remember her voice, like someone who drank straight gin and smoked a lot, but I don’t know that for sure… that was just her voice. She’d let me hang out in her yard sometimes and I think it was her who let me go to the senior center with her from time to time.
Nitara O: That’s sweet. It sounds like you have the best memories.
Kristine K: I do. What memory I have left. Ha. Good times.
Nitara O: What truly inspires me personally about you is when you told me that artists should “take jobs that will teach them something.” That advice basically went along with my blog post on “Day Jobs” back in January. Usually artists take whatever job they can get that will allow them to go to that random audition in the middle of the day or that will allow them to paint in the middle of the night. Is this the advice that you would give to all up and coming artists? To take a job that will give them the skills to complement their artwork?
Kristine K: Yes, I think so. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a LOT from working at Arby’s and McDonalds and other assorted food service jobs… my Godfather’s Pizza gig in college paid some bills and kept me fed. But I also had a job at an art gallery/frame shop where I learned about precision and customer service. And a wood working shop where I learned about tools, woods, and finishes… and then at a design firm where I learned so many skills that helped me transition successfully into self-employment.
Nitara O: Basically, all of our experiences in life can contribute to our success as an entrepreneurial artist.
Kristine K: That’s exactly what I’m saying. So, don’t discount the day job.
Nitara O: Who are some of your favorite influential artists who impacted your career and why?
Kristine K: Leonardo Da Vinci… he used all of his brain. Ed Mell, a local artist whose work has always inspired me, has continued to stay on top of his game. And he’s philanthropic with his work. I actually think I’ve been more impacted by business leaders in the Phoenix area.
Nitara O: That’s interesting. You mentioned that there was a time that you loved your job so much that you knew you had to give it up and had to start your own business. Most people who love their job would never give up the security of something they “loved.” Why did you HAVE to give up what you loved doing?
Kristine K: I have always wanted to be an artist. I’ve wanted to make a living selling my own work. This had been my goal all through college. As I graduated and took a job at a design firm, it was still my goal. On the weekends and in the evenings I would make art, and from time to time, participate in an art show or festival to sell my art. I always had a studio space where ever I lived.
Nitara O: This dream kept burning on the inside of you. Almost like if you didn’t create any longer or couldn’t find more time in your schedule to create more, you would explode.
Kristine K: Precisely. The longer I worked at the design firm, heading up a department where we built architectural and topographical scale models, and building large dimensional displays and signage, the more time and energy it took. As head of the department, I had meetings, contracts and estimating, ordering materials, and people to manage. We were making really cool things, a lot like I do now, I suppose. But it was all to create something for someone else’s profit. I did love what I did. I was learning new skills, new products and materials, but I was getting further and further from my own hands on the end product and there wasn’t much energy to do any of my own work when the day was done.
Nitara O: That does become the issue for artists with “day jobs.”
Kristine K: I know. I lived that. I was no longer using the job as a means to becoming an artist. It was consuming me. So I had to refocus. I had to quit and use all the knowledge and relationships I had gained to get back on track to doing what it is I really want to do: be an artist and making a living selling my art. It is a continual adjustment, refocus, making sure I’m making the time to spend creating my own art, and not only site specific or client specific commissioned work.
Nitara O: That is a challenging transition to make for many artists. Not being sure where money is going to come from and following the path that you feel you are destined to be on.
Kristine K: That’s why the use of both the left and right brain is so important.
Nitara O: (smiling) You’re absolutely right. I can’t agree with you more. So, what are some pieces that you’ve created that you are extremely proud of and why?
Kristine K: Just this past December (2016) I installed a tree sculpture that I created for Morning Star Senior Living center in Lone Tree, Colorado. It was made mostly of welded steel, but also included a collaborative component creating leaves with the seniors who would be living at this facility. It also had lighting, collage, and other mixed media components. I had to do some engineering to be able to transport and install a 9 1/2’ tall sculpture into an interior space. The leaves were all individually painted and resigned, then welded onto the branches. The sculpture itself broke down into 5 pieces for transport. My partner and I drove it up there ourselves. With the help of my family, we installed it without a hitch. It was so great to see the residents look for their leaves and it added a real magic to the space. I’m pretty proud of that one.
Nitara O: That is SO amazing to me! I think society unintentionally takes for granted all of the beauty and art that is constantly all around us. And it’s created by people like you.
Kristine K: (chuckling and humble) I am really proud of the work that I do. I get to create all sorts of cool stuff that impacts and involves other people on lots of different levels. I’m pretty lucky.
Nitara O: You are very fortunate, but you earned the right to be. So, you really should be proud of yourself. And it sounds like you have a very supportive partner. She drove with you from Arizona to Colorado to help you transport and put together your artwork.
Kristine K: She is one of a kind. My partner, Laurie, has always been a huge supporter of me and my work. Because I work so much from home, even when I’m busy, I’m just 50 steps away. Texting from the house to the studio is not uncommon though. We’ll go out to dinner to connect and catch up, just to get away from the house and the distractions of work/pets/chores that are always around. And occasional road trips. We do that well together. The only time business becomes a stressor is when finances are short… and then I usually just need to realize it always works out. I have the whole universe on my side.
Nitara O: That is so sweet and awesome! I’m glad you have such a great partner. And my final question for you: what is the number one best advice that you can offer to any up and coming artist who wants to make a living doing what they love?
Kristine K: Do it. Practice, practice, practice, learn, grow, and keep doing it. Persistence, perseverance, and patience. Be the best you can be. And sometimes it’s about who you know, not just what you know, so find out who you need to know and meet them. Impress them.
Nitara O: Wow. What a great way to wrap up this interview. Thank you, Kristine, for taking the time to do this and for providing helpful insight.
Kristine K: I’m glad to be able to. And thank you for this opportunity to share my passion, Nitara.
Today’s LESSON is to balance your creative right brain and your analytical left brain.
FUN ASSIGNMENT: Figure out your artistic goal (creatively and financially), research, and create a realistic plan that will push you outside of your comfort zone, but one that you believe you can still execute and accomplish the goal. I would also recommend you find a mentor who can help guide you along your journey.
Kristine Kollasch lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Her work is always on display at First Studio’s Gallery, www.facebook.com/firststudioaz/ The best way to see what she’s currently up to is through her FB Business page.: www.facebook.com/FineArtandCreativeEnvironments/