I had the privilege of meeting our next crafter spotlight last weekend during a studio sale we were both selling at. I realized quickly that I recognized her work from a show she had done at Penny Cluse in Burlington years ago. I fell in love with her work then, and I was excited to meet the woman behind the craft now. I thought she would be perfect for our next crafter spotlight.
Sarah Ryan Studio
Sarah Ryan Studio
1. What is the name of your business, what do you create and sell and how did you get started?
I generally just use my name, Sarah Ryan. It has been helpful in the world of computers to add the studio bit, hence the name Sarah Ryan Studio. I am an artist and illustrator and have recently started to admit that I am a designer as well. I make paintings and prints. I design logos and make illustrations for people and businesses in the local community. I enjoy any kind of art or design project and over the years I have done everything from wedding invitations and food labels to designing local currency and painting signs and guitars. I remember wanting to be an artist at a young age but not really knowing how that would be possible.
There were a few important events which helped me realize that I could be paid for making art. One summer when I was home from college, a friend of mine approached me and suggested that I help her boss out who needed the side of his food-vending truck painted. He had a name but no logo and no supplies. In one afternoon I had to find the right brushes and paint, come up with a design and get the truck painted. I finished it and thought "this is easy ..I love this" and I walked away with a pocket of cash. My career as an illustrator definitely started by working for Seven Days newspaper. I was drawing comics at the time and my friend Lars Fisk got my illustrations into Seven Days where he was working and which had just started. From there, I started making cards and then that eventually lead to me designing the logo for Crow Bookshop.
I am indebted to the local community whom I feel I am constantly collaborating with and being inspired by. I also worked as an artist assistant for Daryl Storrs and at Eleventh Street Studio for Kate and Richard Donnelly. I learned a tremendous amount from both jobs in terms of art production and the business of art. The other skill I have honed for years is cooking. I only recently took a break from being a chef to be a mom and artist full-time. Being a cook will always play a role in my life and I'm sure I will continue to find ways to bring food and art together in future projects.
2. What/who inspires you?
I am inspired by people who work with their hands. Cooks, potters, auto mechanics. People who teach inspire me. Visually, I love folk art, comic books, old engravings and children's book illustrations. Some contemporary artists who remind me what is possible are: Julie Doucet, Nathalie Lete, Tony Fitzpatrick, Rob Ryan, James Kochalka, Exene Cervanka, Holly Golightly (the musician), and Kat Von Dee. I don't think we're here on this earth to do just one thing and I think it's always interesting when people wear more than one hat, or let two worlds of interest collide and intersect. It seems to make things richer.
I also believe inspiration is out there all the time, everyday- it's there for us when we're ready and when we want to tune in. Music really inspires me too and I see lots of parallels between music and art. Alicia Keys' song "Superwoman" inspires me. My two year old daughter and I sing it as a duet.
3. Give us a peek into you work space. Where do you create? Describe your work space or studio.
I work at home. I have a great space on the second floor of my house. Each corner is kind of a different 'zone' for production. I always have a thought board for visual things I like- my dad taught me that. I have a computer desk, a painting and construction desk, and a drawing desk. I used to think the goal would be to have a space outside my home, and I may eventually, but right now it has been really nice for my daughter to experience my studio. She has her own spot in there now with a little desk.
4. Where do you sell and promote your work?
I have a website which functions as my portfolio. I do get a lot of jobs by word of mouth since I have lived in this area for so long. Occasionally, I am lucky to show my work at a gallery or at Penny Cluse Cafe, the later being somehow a wonderfully perfect place for my art. I do sell work out of my Studio as well, and now I have a small shop on Etsy, which is where I do a lot of experimenting. I sell my paintings there, but I also have been dabbling with felt. I find that the process of sewing something can really inform me about issues like construction and design. I also have done a craft show here and there. I seem to be wearing the hat of an illustrator and designer these days, but when I build up a body of paintings, I am sure to hang them at the Penny Cluse Cafe.
5. What are three things you can't live without?
good food, love, and humor
6. What are your three favorite things about Vermont?
Vermont is my favorite place in the world so my list is long, but here are three in no particular order: the Vermont state motto! 'Freedom and Unity' pretty much sums it all up, Long Trail IPA, and Molly Hatfield.
7. What does the term indie craft mean to you?
You know, I just watched Eva Sollberger's 'Stuck in Vermont' about The Bobbin and I think they really have it going on over there . At it's best, it's a community of people trying to make thoughtful work by hand and sell it locally and purposefully. There's a sense of camaraderie and fun to it- participation and encouragement. It's also about getting things done or made on your own terms. Vermont is the perfect place for this kind of thing to flourish. It is about the work and how it's made. It's also about the people and the heart they put into it. There is certainly an international movement as well which is more commercialized, but ultimately, if it's getting people to be more creative and make things by hand, I can get behind it.
8. Any new products, projects or news you want to share?
My favorite project right now is painting guitars with Creston Lea at Creston Electric Instruments. Something about the merging of art and music makes me very inspired. The shape of a guitar seems to suit a decorative painting style and makes me feel like I am making a painted version of embroidery somehow on Creston's guitars. It will be interesting to see what happens with Etsy. It's a great promotional tool and lesson in business and design. As my daughter becomes more independent, I can see myself having much more time than I have had in the past two years to devote to art. I am excited to see what that time will bring. It could be anything!