Many of us have creative pursuits and get a lot of satisfaction out of the expressive arts. Some of us wonder if those talents can be translated into a meaningful career. Can one make a living through art? I am meeting with Sherrie Lovler, a local artist, who does make her living through her art. Let’s see what her career is about, and how she has made it a go of it.
What do you do? How do you describe your work?
I am an abstract painter inspired by the calligraphic form. I work with ink and watercolor on paper. I teach my method of painting locally, nationally, and internationally through my Lyrical Abstract Painting class. I am also getting known for my poetry. My latest book, On Softer Ground, features the collaboration between my painting and poetry.
My key source of income is my online business selling my calligraphy prints of famous poems and quotes. This provides a consistent income, and gives me the opportunity to follow my passion of painting.
How did you have the confidence to focus on an art career? Many people think of the starving artist, or look to do art in retirement, or as an adjunct to a day job. I am wondering what your thinking was in getting started.
I learned calligraphy in a high school graphic arts class and fell in love with it. In college I majored in studio art, but had no idea I could build a career based on calligraphy. When I graduated from college I had the good fortune of a mentor who taught me how to teach. I taught my first class in calligraphy when I was 22. This forced me to hone my skills as both a calligrapher and as a teacher. Confidence built as my skills built.
How did you build your career over the decades?
I started selling my calligraphy prints in stores and through a national catalog. In 1996, a friend designed a web site for me and I started to sell online.
Eventually I took several excellent classes in web design at the Santa Rosa Junior College to keep up with new technology. This is before there were ‘shopping cart’ sites, and I wanted to control how my webpage looked. I understood early on that the web is all about customers being able to find your work; it’s all about search engine optimization.
The most famous print I offer is a poem called Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. Through effort and luck I bought the domain, www.desiderata.com. As number 2 on Google for ‘desiderata’ I derive a good portion of my income from selling those prints.
I sell around 25 different poems and quotes, popular sayings, which I mat and frame. These are niche items that appeal to a small audience, but I try to make it easy for them to find me. I would advise artists to find their own niche market as a way to reach a specific audience.
Over the years the market has changed. Competition is fierce. I find it’s vital to keep my standards very high. One needs to stand out. It is not about a lower price. It is about quality, and having a unique style or skill. Additionally, advertising, social media, and good reviews are essential.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
My biggest challenge is to keep up with the demands of a changing business environment. Google changes their rules and I have to change to keep up. When they decided that mobile ready websites would have priority in their searches, I had to upgrade my site. When they said that websites should be secure, that’s another update.
I also need to keep up with new sales tax laws. I sell on Etsy and Amazon, too, so I continually need to keep up with these selling platforms and their requirements. The challenge is to take care of all the business aspects and not let those get in the way of my creative expression. It’s a balancing act of right-brain and left-brain activities. It all takes time and requires vigilance and persistence.
What are the greatest rewards of your career?
In my print business I touch people every day. Just today I received an email from someone who bought a print from me 27 years ago. He wrote to tell me that he still loves the work I did for him.
The real joy is that I get to do what I love every day. My passion is my fine art, my paintings. These lead me on an inner journey where I never know what will transpire. And I get to interact with people on a deep level. I am a part of Art Trails open studio tours in October, where people come to my studio to see and buy my art. This is my joy — to share what I do and touch others. It is a thrill to me for people to love my work enough to want it in their homes.
Do you have a personal philosophy about your work or other thoughts to add?
As an artist one needs to be well rounded and continually learning and growing. If one is going to pursue an art career I believe it is imperative to be a lifelong learner. I also feel it’s vital to be a part of a broader community, as art can be a lonely profession. I am very involved in our local art scene. Here in Sonoma County, we are lucky to have a vibrant art community with Art Trails, First Fridays, the Sebastopol Center for the Arts and several excellent galleries and museums. I keep my hands in many things at once. It’s a complicated life, but a very rewarding one.
Thank you, Sherrie. You are an inspiring artist with a robust career and beautiful artwork.
Readers, you can reach Sherrie at: [email protected]. She is excited to be teaching Lyrical Abstract Painting in France next summer.
Onward in your career development and success,
Dear Readers, Many of us enjoy yoga. But what does it take to build and run a yoga studio? Let’s find out. I was introduced to Lisa Ellisen (in photo above), owner of Soul Yoga Studio in Santa Rosa, and here’s her career story:
Lisa, what do you do? How do you describe your work?
I own Soul Yoga in Bennett Valley, Santa Rosa. We opened in 2014, but I’ve been teaching yoga since 2001. Our studio is in a shopping center, between a bakery and an ice cream shop! Soul Yoga offers about 35 classes a week, 7 days a week. Classes range from pre-natal yoga to kids yoga to power vinyasa, to Hips and Heart Openers. All ages and levels are welcome. I teach 12-15 classes a week, including private sessions. I am responsible for: social media, web development, flyer design and production and teacher mentor and training programs. I also do the more traditional business functions: payroll, accounting, hiring and managing staff, plus physical maintenance of the space to keep it clean and welcoming. My commitment is to creating a community whose commitment is to healthier bodies and happier souls.
What are the rewards of owning Soul Yoga?
I get to do what I am passionate about every single day!” I enjoy being able to move my body and help people move theirs. There is endless variety to my days. I enjoy using all of my skills: leadership , business management, graphic design, teaching yoga, and training teachers. I enjoy continually learning and growing and being able to provide for my family. I’m proud of creating an income from something I am passionate about but no one should get into the yoga business looking for great financial reward.
We are committed to the community, and have provided free and sliding scale yoga to people who don’t have the means to pay. After the 2017 wildfire, Soul Yoga served victims through stress-reducing yoga classes.
It’s very rewarding to know that I have created a space that people want to come to each day. I get pride knowing I designed a welcoming, clean, comfortable environment, beautifully designed for yoga practice. We intentionally designed the space to make people feel good.
What are the challenges of your profession?
The downside is that days can be very long, sometimes running 7 am to 11 pm. I’m challenged sometimes because Soul Yoga can’t provide all the reduced/free classes we’d like to as we have to carefully balance the mission to reach everyone with balancing the books.
What does it take to become a yoga studio owner?
Key traits needed to do the job well include:
a passion for yoga
a true love of people and of creating a space for them to be who they are
leadership and business skills
maturity to deal with different kinds of personalities
Yoga studio owners often come from other careers. It’s vital to have business skills or bring in a partner or mentor who has those skills. You need start-up capital to get the business started. Costs can be lower than for other businesses as you just need an open space, good flooring, good lighting and ventilation. The biggest expense is personnel.
What was your path to this career?
I grew up in the fitness industry in Santa Rosa. My mother owned California Lady, an aerobic fitness studio. Coincidentally, it was just down the street from where Soul Yoga is today. This was back in the 1980s, circa the Jane Fonda style of workouts, high impact and intense. California Lady is where I hung out and helped out; learning business and fitness by osmosis. I loved the world of fitness, went to UCSB to study sports medicine and along the way became a fitness instructor, then gained a credential in graphic design. I worked in graphic design for several years, which comes in handy doing all the design work for the studio. Once introduced to yoga, Lisa was hooked. The rest is opportunity meeting readiness. Through the support of her life partner, Tod Ceruti, I developed the confidence to reach for my dreams. “Soul Yoga truly is the realization of my vision to create a space for people to enjoy, feel accepted, welcomed and participate in yoga.”
Any additional thoughts or personal philosophy about your career?
The Soul Yoga philosophy is to provide a warm welcome and acceptance to each person who walks in the door. We know that every individual brings their unique body, story, history and typically some kind of desire. We want to give them the opportunity, through yoga, to feel what they need to feel, heal what needs to be healed, and end up happier.
Soul Yoga is committed to our local community. We are a part of First Responders Resiliency, Inc. bringing yoga to first responders to empower them to be more resilient in their important work.
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