I grew up in Fostoria, Ohio, where the famous blown and hand-molded Fostoria glassware was made in the late 1900s. The town was straight out of a “Leave It to Beaver” episode, whose Main Street had a 5 & Dime with a soda fountain and a hardware store with a sawdust floor. My family had been there for generations; in fact, my grandfather, father, and I went to same Catholic school, and my dad and I even had the same English teacher. I loved the small-town feel of it and was outside on my bike with friends sun-up to sundown all summer long.
As a child I was very drawn to art, and as I progressed through school it was a big focus. (Opting out of study hall in high school to take art was a no-brainer.) I particularly loved to draw with pencil and paint with watercolors, but any medium the teacher had in mind would do. I went on to Miami University in Ohio where I started out in business. My dad convinced me that art wouldn’t translate into a career, so I took courses like economics, statistics, and management for the first two years. Ugh! I had always been a good student, and my plummeting grades reflected my lack of interest. When I finally took an art history class I felt like I had come back up to the surface and could breathe; I started doing well and graduated with a BA in Art History.
Looking for the big-city experience I moved to Chicago where I worked at the Art Institute museum shop and an art gallery. I was dabbling in my own paintings but never seriously; acrylics were expensive, and I didn’t have a lot of spare resources. I moved to Idaho for a while where I worked as a cameraperson filming the nightly news. During that time I visited Boulder and was impressed with the scene. People were vibrant and although they were adults, they were still doing cool outdoor things and, more than anything, having fun! That really appealed to me. I moved to Colorado in 1998.
When I first arrived I didn’t have the internal courage to pursue my own art dreams because I had bought into the idea that art wasn’t really a career--it was a hobby. I did a few random jobs and ended up at Jarrow Montessori, first as director of the summer art camp, then as a classroom assistant.
Partway through my teaching adventures I had an epiphany: I realized that I wasn’t making any real money and was still giving a lot of myself to be a good teacher every day. I figured if I’m going to be poor anyway, I might as well be poor doing what I want. So I started painting in the evenings and also took classes at CU and Naropa. It felt great! I lived in this little shed, painted every night, and loved it. And even though I was scared and a bit disbelieving of what I was doing, I went one step further and quit teaching to focus on art.
My first art show was at Vic’s at Ideal Market, and I sold a bunch of flowers and abstracts. It was an incredible feeling to be paid for doing my heart’s work! There was no turning back after that.
In order to dedicate minimum three hours a day to art at my studio, I looked around for a job with flexible hours. Sheryl and I were in the same social circles, and it was right around the time she was starting Organization & Relocation. I was practically Employee Number One! I had always loved to help friends rearrange and organize their homes, so it was a natural fit. At the same time I started a dog-walking business with similar origins; I love dogs and often looked after them when friends went out of town. Now, every day, I’m out on the trails with a motley crew of 4 or 5 (or sometimes 8) four-legged friends. So a regular day in my life might find me blissfully painting in my studio all morning, walking the trails with a pack of dogs over lunch, and at an organizing job with Sheryl for the rest of the day, hanging art or staging.
I’ve had several museum and gallery jobs over the years, and one of the useful skills I picked up was installing art based on the principles of the space. One of my favorite things is to come into a space after the Org&Relo team has unpacked the art and situate it where it works best in the home or office. I can either consult with the client if they want to be involved or do it on my own.
I recently became the staging consultant at Org&Relo. We believe in staging with what you have and not bringing in additional items--unless some aqua throw pillows are absolutely necessary. Cost-effectiveness is key.
When I walk into a home to stage the first thing I look at is cleanliness, because a dirty home never shows well. All windows must be ready to audition for a role in a Windex commercial! While I’m walking around I’m looking at how the furniture can be reconfigured for more harmony and to maximize the square footage. I keep a running list of paint touch-ups, repairs, scuff marks, etc. so the client can get started on doing or hiring out small projects that will improve the space.
Meanwhile, the Org&Relo team is there to organize closets, drawers, and pantries. Prospective buyers don’t want to open a closet door and see things jammed in there, because it immediately feels like there won’t be enough room for their stuff. We want everything behind closed doors to be presented in the best light so that it feels like there’s enough room for the new family and their belongings.
One of the side benefits of staging is how high the happiness quotient jumps when people start living in a clutter-free environment. Sometimes I feel like their stuff has weighed them down and, without it, they are freed up to become more productive. I love being a part of that.
When I’m not painting, staging, hanging art, and walking dogs, I’m doing yoga, journalling, or enjoying a glass of wine with my amazing husband, a bluegrass musician. But whatever it is and wherever I am, I’m always thinking about what I’m going to paint next.
Thanks for reading,