Everybody has at least one person in their life whom they met in an odd, hard-to-recount, round-about way. Kristen Bangs is my person.
She is the childhood neighbor of my husband's friend's coworker, who I invited to my house for a party before ever meeting in person.
Strange as our meeting was, she and I quickly became friends. And as I learned more about her story, the more intrigued I became with the sweet signs she designs and cuts with lasers out of wood in her Denver studio.
I photographed Kristen at work a while ago, but just recently got around to interviewing her about her art.
How did you become interested in making the art you do now?
Wow. Long story. My parents have a family business making fine art materials. After working in marketing and product management, I worked with them for a bit and realized I really wanted to be MAKING something, and something of my own. I quite corporate Americaand went to art school where I started working with wood. Things kind of evolved from there.
How would you describe your work?
Whimsical. I'm the first to say I make cute stuff. And it makes me really happy. I currently have two lines. Spunky Fluff is this whimsical, uplifting, and sometimes funny word art. The second line, West Vine Street, is an evolution of Spunky Fluff. While still in the artsy, whimsical category, it involves a lot more hand working and includes mixed media elements.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
There is so much of my job that is NOT my favorite—all the business stuff. What I love the most is creating something new, different, and beautiful. When business is good, I don't have a lot of time for that and miss it.
What about your least favorite part?
Accounting, social media, negotiating contracts.
Biggest surprise you've had?
It seems like the pieces I personally like best are the poorest sellers. Which is okay... I get to keep them!
Best lesson you've learned on your journey as a creative entrepreneur?
There are two. One, find a tribe of people doing the same thing you are doing and lean on them, learn from them, and provide them with the same support. Art making can be lonely and scary. Find a support group and use them. Second, lean in. I know, moral platitude and best-selling book title. But seriously, when something about your art or the business frightens you, lean into it, push through it and conquer it. I'm scared a lot, but when I tackle scary things head on, I usually figure it out and feel like a rock star.
What do you hope to accomplish next?
Kristen: Whew. I'm opening permanent showrooms in Atlanta and Dallas this year. I hope to grow the business exponentially over the next two years from "small, home-grown business" to established brand. I've got a business plan, a dead-serious accountant, and an advisory board helping me get there. Oh, and my tribe of art women.
Any advice for budding artists or entrepreneurs?
Kristen: Find smart people and ask a bunch of questions. If you're hoping to be shown in galleries or retail stores, identify some target locations and ask the owners what they are looking for. Take notes on pricing, marketing, everything they say. Find online forums (so many on Facebook) where you can have questions answered. Take online workshops about social media for artists, marketing for artists, how to make money as an artist, etc.
You can check out more of Kristen's work on her web site, www.spunkyfluff.com