39. The Art of Making and Selling Handmade Watercolors
Kirsten Cooner is an artist who as a kid dabbled in creative mediums, although she never considered herself a true creative. While studying graphic design, she stumbled upon studio art classes that seemed relatively interesting at first, but after taking a few, she fell in love. Mixing her studio art experience with her appreciation and study of art history, Kirsten found herself investing her fringe hours to researching old artist journals and paint-making.
A four-month trip to California afforded her the opportunity to turn her interest into a full-on business. Hushwing made its official debut earlier this year, and its products have been selling rapidly ever since. Kirsten’s watercolors are rich and vibrant and are sure to add a unique quality to any painting. In this episode, she discusses the process of testing to achieve her watercolors, her marketing strategy, and her attempt to manage her personal artwork with her booming business.
- Kirsten studied graphic design in college, but the prerequisites for the major were studio art classes, and she fell in love with it although she was a novice
- Completed undergrad degree in studio art, with concentrations in art history and graphic design
- After being inspired by Amanda Brazier, she decided to start researching the process of paint-making following her graduation
- Read a lot of old artist journals, discovering that before there were modern paint manufacturers, artists made their own paint; it was traded down from master to student
- She decided to start Hushwing Watercolors to bring back the traditional methods that she’d learned through historical research
- The Making of a Watercolor
- Kirsten starts out making each watercolor recipe with a binder, a recipe that includes gum arabic, honey, and some other ingredients
- Each pigment has its own combination of ingredients
- Extensive research and testing is required to ensure each potential color will be durable enough as a watercolor (i.e. if she made the watercolor with plant material, it wouldn’t be lightfast and would fade over time)
- What sets Hushwing apart from other brands, besides being handmade, is that its colors contain more pigment, which allows artists to get more saturated colors and a wider range of values allowing for a lot more versatility
- The first color she made was colonial violet, and it’s still her favorite
- We discuss the struggles of packaging; she decided on tins and includes a little piece of handmade watercolor paper with every order
- She started marketing her products online about a month before opening her shop to generate buzz and get people excited; she had an Instagram account, started an email list, sent out notifications on Facebook
- Her shop opened May of 2017, and she explains how her husband has been very supportive throughout the entire process
- We discussed pricing your product appropriately
- We talk wholesale; she currently sales to True Nature Healing Arts in Colorado and the online store Silk and Willow
- For the holiday season, she’s not only applied for gift guides to get the word out, but has created a limited edition collection and started collaborating with other artist on social media
- Rising Tide Gift Guide
- Amanda Brazier [artist]
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert [book]
- True Nature Healing Arts [store]
- Silk and Willow [store]
- Torpedo Factory
- CreativeRoute.com [Nache’s Store]
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