Monday, November 1, 2010

Interview with Brandi Hussey

I'm celebrating my artistic community (those special people who I've connected with over Facebook, Twitter, Flying Lessons class with Kelly Rae), so I want to place a spotlight on one of my new favorite Etsy shops, Catie’s Blue, and it’s owner and jewelry designer, Brandi Hussey.  I was first introduced to her by a fellow flyer, and then took part in Brandi’s Color Rockstar class... this is where my obsession began.  Her eye for color combos is truly amazing, and has inspired my to look at color with an intuitive mind and open heart.  Due to her talent I have picked my color scheme for PHL and am well on my way to perfecting my brand.  That's what I call progress.

Her blog is full of tips and tricks... from removing a color cast from a photo to putting together shop policies for your ETSY shop... it’s all there, folks!! I have spent hours on her site going over every little detail, and I would recommend it to anyone starting out in the creative biz.

Brandi has had such an impact on my business, so I wanted her to come over to PHL and spend an afternoon with us. So please help welcome Miss Brandi Hussey!!!

Your blog is so chock full of useful information on branding and representing YOU, where did you come up with the name “Catie’s Blue?”

Thanks for the kind words! As far as "Catie's Blue", it's actually a particular color, a bright aqua blue. Back in college, I had a professor named Catie who really took me under her wing and became a mentor to me. It was incredible the amount of time and energy she was willing to give to her students; she was so protective of all of us, and it was really inspiring. 
Coming from Greece, she had an affinity for any shade of aqua. She said it reminded her of the Mediterranean, and I could relate because it reminded me of the Pacific (I'm originally from Hawaii). She wore it so much that I began to associate it not just with her, but with creativity, passion, and integrity. It was such an inspiring color to me, that when it came to naming my business, I drew inspiration from that and named my company after my mentor's favorite color. You could say she's to blame for my obsession with aqua!


-Photo by Brandi Hussey-

What a wonderful story!  It's amazing how a compassionate, dedicated mentor can shape how you look at the world (in your case, how you look at color).  As aritsts, we speak through our work, and our color choices are such wonderul voices.

In you "Color Rockstar" class you talk about color definitions, and how everyone has a "personal connection" to specific colors.  We use these colors as words to our "personal story."  I loved that you included shades of your favorite color, aqua, in your list of color definitions.  Creativity, emotional, blissful, joy, free, and flight were the words you used to describe your connection to this specific color.  What a wonderful way of getting to know you through you work... we get a sense of who you are without ever meeting.  Very smart!!


-Photo by Brandi Hussey-

Were you always a full-time jewelry designer, or did you start out with a “day job”?

It's kind of funny, because I went to art school but didn't really intend to make a living as an artist. I was stuck in the idea that "artists can't make money", so I didn't really intend to try. Instead, I had applied to a Master's program for Art History - but I didn't get in. So, I moved back to Texas from California, and I had a job at a bookstore right after graduation. I worked there for a couple years when I got a job with a major airline, working in their customer service department. It wasn't a bad job, but I didn't do well in it. It sucked the life out of me, till one day, I just couldn't take it anymore. I wasn't happy, and worse, I barely recognized myself. After a night of reflection, I put in my two weeks notice and quit.

My intention then was to go back to grad school, but I never made it (clearly, someone was trying to tell me something about the path I was suppose to be on!). I was on a family vacation in Hawaii when I literally tripped going into a bead store (I really am that graceful). When I looked up, all I could stare at were the colors and sparkling beads everywhere; I was smitten. I had done beading growing up, and I tried my hand at metalsmithing in college, but something was different that day. I think by then I was looking for a reason to use the art degree I had, so I was more open to the possibility of making a living from it. I took a few classes to refresh my memory, then when I got back home, I started my business. So, I went full-time from the start over three years ago.


So your accident turned you onto the path you were meant to lead... funny how that happens :)

What obstacles did you face along the way? How did you push through those obstacles to follow your dreams?


It was really easy to make the switch. I had already quit my last job, so I had the time to devote to figuring things out, and I had a little money saved. And what I found out was that it's actually pretty easy to start a business. Remarkably easy. My decision to go for it was made even easier by the fact that I only had me to think about. I didn't have a family of my own relying on a steady income (or health benefits), so no one would lose anything by me taking a risk. If things were different, I probably would have had a different start to share!

As far as obstacles... While I had support, it wasn't always unanimous. A lot of people thought I would fail or that I'd lose interest. This was coming from people I had hoped to ask business questions from, so while I could understand their point of view, I felt like I had no one to turn to. I had to learn those business aspects on my own. I won't lie; it wasn't always easy and I made mistakes along the way. But it felt so right that I stopped fighting my instincts. I started trusting them instead, and I just kept plugging along.

It took some time, but I realized fairly quickly that I wasn't totally clueless. While I had no idea how to run a business, I had been working since I was 15; my resume was full of customer service jobs. Not only that, but I was also familiar with presentation and displays, selling, graphic design, composition, branding, general computer work, and blogging. I was decent at writing, had some photo experience from building my portfolio, and knew a little about advertising from a random class in college. There was no experience or job too small to draw from. Once I listed what skills I felt I needed as a business owner, I realized I had a decent foundation to start with. And as time went on, I firmed up that foundation by learning other skills and expanded on it with experience.
 

Wow!! You really were meant for the life of a business woman. You had all the skills hiding right underneath your nose.

-Photo by Brandi Hussey-

I’m having trouble managing my full-time job and all the “to-do” lists that go along with starting a creative business.  How did you deal with those business start-up woes?
 

It's so tough to juggle everything. There's only so much time in the day and only so much you can do yourself! Add in family time, creating time, and just LIFE, and it's super easy to feel overwhelmed. Three things help me stay sane: a schedule, a system of organizing that works best for me, and prioritizing. 

A schedule: Everyone needs one, and this becomes especially important for those who work full-time. Schedules help reinforce the idea to others in your life that you aren't sitting at home eating bonbons; you are actually working during that time. It also helps you set limits for yourself. I found out pretty quick that I'm a workaholic - it's easy to get lost in the work because it doesn't always feel like work. Plus, if you're the one doing everything (and you most likely are), there's a pressure to keep pushing. Work's become fun, so you don't mind doing it, but working too much for too long without a break can lead to burnout. I've been there and it's not fun, so now, I'll schedule in down time, too. I know that sounds nuts, but it's a reminder to myself to take a break every now and then.

I will say that my schedule is pretty fluid, and always has been. I have the flexibility to change and move things around if need be, and I don't feel bad or guilty doing so. I know that I put in the hours, so if I need or want to take a day off, I will. Stepping away to rest has become very important to me, especially in a 24/7/385 job. It never really ends, so I'm the one that has to set the boundaries.

Organizing: Organizing is important for a lot of reasons, but the two big areas where you want to try to stay organized as much as possible is in your studio and with your business records. You need to start keeping records as a business owner (this was new for me), so the quicker you can get in and find what you need, the better. It also helps you come tax time. Beyond that, an organized (or semi-organized) studio means you're not wasting time looking for supplies. Time becomes very, very precious when you have a full-time job and still want to create, so the faster you can get down to creating, the better.

Prioritizing: This is the biggie. You can have a relaxed schedule and be a little relaxed with the organizing, but prioritizing gets me through the busy times. There are two kinds of prioritizing that needs to happen: life priorities and business priorities. Life priorities include things like family time, your well-being, and your health; these should take precedence over any business priority. For example, if you're married and have kids, family time comes first. You can't get that time back, so enjoy it, then create after the kids have gone to bed. 

Business priorities are specific tasks that need to happen. I have goals and objectives I aim to complete each week (versus every day), and I'll prioritize them according to how fast it'll take me to get them done, desire to do it, and when they need to get done. I'll take the time-sensitive projects first, then I'll get the things I don't want to do out of the way next (so I don't have it looming over me). I'll do or save the tasks I can complete quickly for when I'm pressed for time. And since I can get wrapped up in the networking or computer work, I'll set aside big chunks of time for creating. 

And if all that fails? Ask for help. Reach out to a fellow artist, a friend, a family member. Get them to help package orders, prep for a show, ship.


Ahhh... the importance of a strong community :) I can’t tell you how helpful that is... time to get out my planner and start scheduling and prioritizing.

-Photo by Brandi Hussey-

What does your typical day look like, and how do you cope with the endless “to-do” lists?

The best way for me to cope with the endless "to-do" lists is to have a fluid schedule. Rather than have daily tasks, I'll have weekly ones. Ones that don't necessarily have a specific day where I have to get them done, which lets me insert personal things during the week. So, if I need to take photos but it's raining that day, I'll move photo day to later in the week. Or if I need to take the morning off for a personal reason, I will. How do I decide what gets done in any given week? That's where the schedule and the prioritizing comes into play. 

It also helps me to do things in bunches. It's more productive for me to create 10 pieces in one sitting, rather than a piece a day. It's easier for me to take photos for those 10 items at one time, rather than trying to fit photos in every day. Trying to do everything every day is a lesson in frustration, so I don't put that kind of stress on myself. Beyond that, I know how I work and when I work best. Knowing that about myself gives me a better idea of how full I can fill my schedule and how much is too much.

As far as a typical day, I tend to be online during the day, taking photos in the early afternoon, then creating at night. My day usually starts between 9am and 10am, and I'll wake up in front of my computer. I'm definitely not a morning person, so it helps to spend that time reading through emails and blogs, catching up on forums and groups I'm in. I'll spend maybe two hours online, then I'll head off for lunch, and maybe a photo session (I take photos outside in natural light, so I need to get out there in the early afternoon). After lunch, I'll do another quick check online, then head into my studio to start working till dinner. I'll eat, check in again, and if I'm feeling like I'm on a roll, I'll go back and create some more; if not, I'll relax in front of the TV or with a book. This schedule will vary if I'm in marketing and networking mode; that's when I'll be online most of the day, creating content for my blog, networking, taking an online class. My day usually ends around 2am or 3am. I've always worked best at night, so I don't fight that instinct; it just isn't productive for me.


-Photo by Brandi Hussey-

I am fearful that my artwork won’t appeal to the masses.  How do your find the balance between creating items that speak to you, and those that will appeal to others?

It's a tough line to walk, that's for sure. When I first started, I asked friends and family a lot of questions. I used to do a lot of trunk shows, so that was a great place to ask people for feedback about specific lines I was trying and techniques I was doing. Nowadays, if I'm unsure, I'll ask a jewelry friend for a critique.

While I never really followed the trends, unless it fit in with what I was doing at the time, I definitely was creating for other people rather than myself when I first started. I was doing okay, sales-wise, but then a funny thing happened. Sales started picking up when I started putting more of my style into my pieces. The things that sold best were pieces that I truly loved; the things that sat for months and months were things I was lukewarm about. It was almost like people could sense how excited I was or if I was excited at all.

Now, there were definitely exceptions - some pieces I loved creating are still sitting in my shop, and things that I felt unsure about sold. Sometimes, that's just the way it is, but generally speaking, I sell more things that I'm passionate about. I'd also say don't be afraid of creating a niche for yourself. There is a market for anything, so if you aren't having success with one audience, keep trying till you find one that embraces what you do. Having a niche or an angle also helps people remember who you are and what you do.


I'm glad I'm not the only one creating at 2am... when creativity knocks you have to answer, no matter what time it is. 

What inspires you, and where do you find your inspiration? How does your Hawaiian heritage contribute to this inspiration?


I find inspiration everywhere, and I think being Hawaiian does contribute to that. See, in Hawaii, there's a huge mix of different cultures. You get exposed to a ton of different things - food, clothing, people, styles, music. There's always something to see, something to catch your eye, something to spark your imagination - tt's an eclectic, laid-back, welcoming place. So, if given the time, I can easily find something to inspire me out of anything.

For me, I'm heavily inspired by colors, and the gemstones and lampwork beads I work with. I have shades I favor more than others, but color combinations in general are endlessly fascinating to me. Hawaii plays a part here, too; it's such a vibrant, colorful place that it's hard NOT to be inspired by color there.

Beyond that, Hawaiian culture really emphasizes and appreciates handmade items. My maternal grandmother was what you would call a master crafter of traditional Hawaiian art. She passed along some of her vast knowledge to me, though I don't know if she'd consider it art so much as keeping up with tradition and honoring the old ways. There is a strong base in Hawaii right now that not only love handmade, but crave it. 


-Photo by Brandi Hussey-

What are you 3 favorite blogs and what draws you to them?

It's really hard to choose only 3!

I love, love, love A Creative Mint. Leslie has such an eye for color, and her photos are gorgeous. Plus, I just took an e-class that she co-taught, and I'm amazed at her process, her studio, and how she's quickly made a name for herself as a blogger.

I adore Erin's blog, Treasures Found. She has such a way of appreciating life, and her blog always gets me thinking. She's so passionate about what she does, and so honest about what she feels - she's an incredible and inspiring storyteller.

I have to read Happiness Is every day. Shannon has such a joyful, stylish, curious soul, and she only features things she loves. It's a little bit of sunshine in my day.

Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk with me, is there anything you have coming up that you would like to share with my fellow bloggers?

I don't have anything concrete yet, but I'm working on a couple of new e-class ideas, a couple of e-book ideas, and possibly a new venture all together. I'm letting the ideas sit till after the holidays, and hopefully by then I'll feel rested and ready to share. It's become obvious to me recently that I really enjoy helping other artists find their path, so I'm trying to figure out the best way to acknowledge that part of me. Getting to spend time here with you is a great start, so thank you!

You have truly been an inspiration to me and my growing passion for creating art.  Thank you for taking time out to of your busy schedule, and for being a mentor as I embark on this lovely road. 

Please visit Brandi on her blog, website, and shop...


6 comments:

Brandi said...

Thanks for such an awesome time, Jess! It was a lot of fun!

Jess said...

I'm glad you had fun... thanks for all your help!

TesoriTrovati said...

Thank you for asking such detailed and probing questions of Miss Brandi! I just adore her blog and she really does have a knack for encouraging the artist within each of us. She has been a huge help to me lately. She is someone I trust and admire. And I was really stunned to see my name as one of her favorite blogs. That is an honor in an of itself!

Enjoy the day!
Erin

Jess said...

If you have read my blog lately, you'll know community is something I hold dear. It feels nice to support one another, and feels even better meeting like-minded people through our work. Nice to meet you, Erin! :)

live a colorful life said...

I have been following Brandi for a while now and find her writing to be so on-target with what I need to read and so inspiring. Such a creative person with a true eye for color. Thanks for this interview with her!

Jess said...

You're very welcome!!! I hope I can continue to bring my blogging peeps interviews that inspire and entertain. Thanks for stopping by!!

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