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The Quest for Creativity

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I'm Katelyn James Alsop, a photographer, educator and momma who believes any photographer can have a profitable AND purposeful business.

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all the time… “How did you get started into photography?” …. “When did you KNOW you wanted to be a photographer?”…. “When did you find out that you were creative?”  Well, there isn’t just one answer to these questions.  I like to think of my journey to photography as a “Quest for Creativity!” I went through three phases of creativity before I really found what I LOVED the most. These phases started in high school and continued throughout college where I finally discovered that photography was something I wanted to pursue as a career. You may have heard me say this before… but having a creative mind doesn’t

mean you can be a small business owner.  I honestly think some people are just born with the desire and passion to be an entrepreneur.  In order to be an artist AND a small business owner, you have to be passionate about both your work AND about creating products and services that you know will be attractive to potential clients. I realized that I enjoyed the “business” side of things early on, and as a teenager I was constantly trying to figure out how to be creative… AND make money at the same time!  When I was in high school, I went through an intense scrapbooking phase! (NERD).   I remember sitting in Mr. Ryal’s trig class and telling my friend Mallory that I was going to be a professional scrap-booker after college. WHAT?! Do those even exist?! While my peers were reading Cosmo…. I was flipping through new scrapbook magazines and planning my next spread.  I loved this stuff! Just wait until you see a picture of my room during my middle/high school years! Half of my bedroom was dedicated to CRAFTS and my poor mother couldn’t seem to keep me from getting paint on the carpet!!

 

After the scrapbooking phase, I saw my cousin Steph one summer and she has always been super creative. She had been painting glass and selling her designs at craft shows.  She introduced me to “Pebeo” porcelain paint and I was hooked.  I bought a stack of white porcelain bowls from Walmart for .89 cents, painted some designs on them and sold them for $40! Once you bake the dish in the oven, the paint sets and becomes dishwasher safe!  I started painting plates, bowls, ornaments, etc and before I knew it, I was signed up for my first craft show!! I paid $45 for my booth at the Bowling Green Harvest Festival and sold over $1,000 worth of painted pots!! It’s Virginia law that if you make over a $1,000 on crafts or services, you have to have a small business license. So Momma and I got the paper work, filled it out and a few weeks later, I received an official Business License and “Katelyn’s Krafts” was born!!! Yes, “Katelyn’s Krafts”…. with TWO K’s!!! So cheesy. But hey! I could work really hard for a few days, do a craft show and make more than my peers made in two months! The profit margin was incredible. These dishes were so cheap and the paint lasted forever! The only thing it cost me was my time.  When you’re 16, you don’t realize that time is money and so I honestly believed that I had found my CALLING in life and I would be painting dishes for the rest of my days! …. And at the time, I was ok with that. I enjoyed it. I liked having a small business and coming up with new ideas and designs that would sell!

 

During my second year in business, I came up with the idea of “snowman plates”. Basically, I would paint a “Wintergreen” scene on a plate or platter (platters were $50…they were top of the line:) and then I would customize each plate with a family of snowmen. This was GENIUS! What grandma doesn’t want a decorative Christmas plate with three grandchildren on it in snowman form?! I didn’t stop there… I started making “collections”. You could order plates, mugs, bowls, platters, etc! These made GREAT gifts for Christmas and they sold like wildfire! I would spend so many nights sitting on our sunroom floor, painting snowmen on white Walmart dishes for HOURS!! To this day, I still go to Christmas parties at home and see snowmen platters on display!

 

Looking back, I make fun of the fact that I had a “pot painting” business….  but in reality, this business was preparing me for so much in the future. I had to file MONTHLY taxes, I had to learn what a Federal ID number was, I had to keep records and I had to get my client’s orders done BEFORE certain deadlines. As a 16 year old, this was a big deal. My parents were so patient with me. They drove me to craft shows, helped me set up tables, loaded the truck, wrote receipts, stamped white bags with a “Thank You” stamp and packaged up customers orders!  They gave up so much time to let me follow this little dream…. and I’m so glad they did because at age 16, I found out that I LOVED being an entrepreneur. I learned so much from this little business. When products weren’t selling, I had to look at my target audience and realize that maybe my prices were too high or I wasn’t selling in the right venue. People at craft shows don’t want to spend $50+ dollars on a plate, they want cute, cheap things. So I began selling my “Katelyn’s Krafts” to boutiques. I only sold to two small stores but that’s really all I could keep up with my senior year of high school. “Katelyn’s Krafts” continued until my sophomore year of college. Painting piles of dishes in a dorm was realllllly hard to do and I quickly realized it was time to stop. It was time to move on to whatever was next!

 

Looking back, this was the first phase of my creativity. I realized I loved design and craftiness over studio art, and I learned what it feels like to own a tiny business. This was the beginning of my journey and I’m so thankful for this little phase of life. So to all of you out there with “Katelyn’s Krafts” displayed in your homes…. THANK YOU! When you bought that porcelain dish, you weren’t just purchasing a nice decorative piece, you were helping to pave the way for my future. So THANK YOU ALL!!!!! And thanks again to Momma and Daddy for letting me follow these crazy dreams and ideas!…. and I’m really sorry for ruining the carpet upstairs:).

 

Thankfully, even though I wasn’t a photographer at the time, I still took pictures of everything! Take a look at some of my “Katelyn’s Krafts”! And ps. If you think some of these designs look strangely similar to old Vera Bradley patterns… you’re correct. I went through a huge “Vera” phase as a teenager!

 

And last but not least, my colorful crafty room from high school! (This was before my “Teal” phase hit!) And don’t you just LOVE those wide angle vignettes? oh my.

Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

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