An inspiring story: creative entrepreneur makes a strong artistic comeback

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IMG_2496   Carol Andrews’ background as a retail buyer and professional portrait photographer prepared her to launch this brilliant new art form and giftware business called Art Glass Visions. I find Carol’s story inspiring for so many reasons. After losing her husband to a heart attack and her home studio in a hurricane, Carol bounced back from the depths of depression and rebuilt a new creative business. She’s also one to take action, not just talk about it. When I met Carol in September, she had the idea of turning these gorgeous photographic images into stained pieces. After we brainstormed with a group of other artists, Carol went home to Texas and immediately put her plan in motion in time to offer these gorgeous pieces for the holidays. You can read more about Carol’s creative entrepreneurial journey here as Carol talks about taking her art from portrait photography to nature imagery to a new line of stunning gift ware based on her images.

I can look back now, and realize I was raised in an extremely creative environment. While many others thought my family was unusual, it was our “normal”. My Mom was a piano teacher, and public school music teacher. My dad was an inventor, and early synthesizer music was a focus. My aunts, uncles, cousins, my brothers and myself all played instruments, and we all sang. Mom gave us permission to “make anything we wanted, as long as we cleaned up the mess”. The exception to that rule was my Dad!

I grew up to be a retail buyer for 22 Houston stores. Retail is in my blood, and I throughly enjoy studying business, as well as practicing and creating great business. Its an art form and creative outlet as well.
After my husband passed away from a heart attack, shortly after I turned 40, I picked up the reigns, learned what an F stop was, and began practicing and creating a very successful 30 year portrait photography business!

Hurricane Ike burned my home studio 6 years ago, and defeated me, for a while. A slow recovery from depression and loss, I decided to not reopen my photography business, and to leave my roles of teaching and leadership in the industry.
I remarried the next spring, to artist extraordinare/silversmith Greg Jensen. Greg wanted me to bring my marketing and sales skills into his business…, lets see…..2 headstrong successful artists, newly married, different operations methods… I decided I like being married to the man, and was not going to work for the man! I floundered for a while longer, with no purpose, no passion, and no photography or creative outlet. I hadn’t touched a camera in years, and could recognize I was in full burnout.

I walked my little rural street daily, and began photographing the trees on our street with my iphone.
Every day I photographed, with a fixed lens, with no manual controls, and eventually I felt a creative shift . I was seeing, feeling and photographing differently. My work took on an organic nature, and I practiced visual journaling, and healing through my photography. The iphone gave me the joy of photography, that I had lost due to the pressures of business and client demands of portraiture.
I began practicing the creativity lessons I had taught my students for years….
Finally.I knew how to create the gift market wholesale and retail from my long ago retail experience. All my past experiences, and contacts are still there, I just had to see it to realize it.

Questioning, What if, how can I ? My work evolved more, and I finally had the desire to share my work again, and sell it as an art product. (One of my long term goals was to be a full time fine art photographer) Now, I be that.
I am obsessed with kaleidoscopes! Research, experimentation, lots of play, has led me to a style I feel is unique, and desirable. I have taken the ancient art form of stained glass, and married it into digital technology, creating beautiful and healing jewels or art for windows. I see them hanging in kitchen windows, bedrooms, offices, and hospice rooms. My purpose is to share their beauty and to bring a smile to all who view them .
Laura Cottrill, photo sister and LIAV Camp recruiter told me about the Art Market evening at Camp. We challenged ourselves to participate, and for me to show the kaleidoscope imagery, and the courage to sell my prints.
I purchased small readymade frames that hang, and made prints to go into them. I could see them hanging in windows. While they were “nice” and well presented, it just didn’t have the “aha!” factor.

I attended your Art Business class at LIAV Camp, you provided a very safe and comfortable space for us to share. I had already begun writing a business plan , and had pages of ideas, names, resources, possible resources, etc. The ole retail blood in me kicked in, and I’ve taught business, sales and marketing, as well as photographic c consulting for years. I knew what to do, I just had to get off my butt thinking about it, and into action mode. I felt that the Art Glass Visions would sell in Museum stores, I see it in the Metropolitan Museum Catalog, I knew I was looking for a Museum store connection, just to gather information to verify this direction. Back to your class… had each of us introduce ourselves, and what were our visions/dreams for our art business. A lot of courage in the room as each shared a huge variety of backgrounds and experience, and dreams. After I introduced myself, a very clear statement of what I was doing and what I wanted came out of my mouth….next, Bonnie Dunn, introduced herself as the director of a Museum Store, and I flew out of my chair…..WOW ! She was my museum resource I had been looking for! When the Universe sends you THE SIGN, its time. Its time. Your guidance, your support, and your expertise helped me to light the fire! My Campfire!

Unpon returning home,my husband and I were talking and mutually agreed on the vision of stained glass…..I dove into creative research, and brainstormed an idea to make the vision a reality. Thus, Art Glass Visions was born, soon after Camp. I also envisioned scarves being worn with these designs and through new digital technology, figured out how to create silk scarves with the kaleidoscope designs on them. They are stunning and new!

The term “laser focus” entered my head, and I knew it was time to shift gears from desire, and into action. After all my gifts of inspiration at Camp, I came home and converted my teeny office into my teeny Global Headquarters for Art Glass Visions. Come hell or high water, I knew this was happening. I work on two folding tables, under the shadow of my treadmill, and in between a dog, cat, husband, and his home based business and employees…..its not glamorous, but it works.
I have spent hours online research, reaching out to my network contacts, gathering information, gathering costs, getting feedback on the product prototypes…’s got to be perfect to bring to market, to even introduce to the public. My husband’s young employee suggested a kick starter project, so Boom! In four hours we had it up and online. My goal was for $800, we closed at $1761, enabling me to recoup a portion of startup costs, and a safe place to begin and test production of the digital stained glass windows. It is important to me to create an exceptional art product, made in America, and help employ others, and give charitably to our community and world as well. These are elements that give my life meaning, and help me to live my life on purpose.
I am developing design, production and sales in three different areas…. the Art Glass Visions, the Silken Dreams scarf collection, and limited edition photographic prints from the designs. I will market and sell retail, in trunk shows, and website, and wholesale, through other online retailers, and brick and mortar retailers. I am creating printed collateral, table displays, pricing incentives, product production, marketing plan, allllll the thousands of details in setting up and running an efficient and profitable business. If I’m going to do this as a business, it has to be first class, amazing and profitable, otherwise, I can just walk down the street every afternoon photographing trees! My new website is being finished, and my Etsy store is open ! My holiday trunk shows are happening every weekend until Christmas, then I’ll really kick up the marketing and sales calls for Valentines and Mothers Day and Graduation gift sales and promotions.

For a new business person, knowledge is power.
Study as much about business as you can. Find a SUCCESSFUL mentor, ( not a friend thats a wannabe) SCORE has amazing retired execs to serve as business advisors at no charge. You must be extremely clear on your mission of your company, your goals, your product, sales, etc. Even if your goal is to add $300.00 a month to your income, make the plan, and follow the plan. Then, don’t be afraid to review and change the plan. Businesses are fluid, and we have the power to design them to serve our lives. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS. Get over it. Be accountable and pay your taxes. Your actions reflect your integrity.
For a new business, a person to person meeting, eye to eye will beat any email you ever dreamt about. Make a personal phone call, have courage, share your heart. The worst that can happen is a no. Just make the next perfect client.
All the business you ever desired is waiting for you to develop. It doesn’t come overnight. No body will do it for you, no whining. We must design our business farm…. and plant seeds.
Businesses seeds. We must plant, water, grow and harvest, all the while planting and repeating the process throughout the cycle.

People truly want to help YOU, to grow, to flourish and succeed. Have courage to use your words to communicate your hearts desires, your missions and your goals. ASK FOR HELP!
Learn goal setting, and practice, practice laser focus. Its a real challenge for me, my creative mind tends to wander, and the other phrase I’ll leave you with is WAYFO…… I write it on sticky notes and paste inspirations all over my computer screen…. What are you Focused on? Helps to redirect. Also, be prepared to bust your butt, no matter what…. it takes hours and hours, do it again, and again, until its right. Be the Master of Excellence in your business and your life.
While my words sound strong, its with a loving heart that I share my experiences with you, as well as my hopes and dreams. Thank you Terri, for providing me the safe place to be vulnerable, to share and to grow. One. More.Time.

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