Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Twenty Years Later...

This week is the 20 year anniversary of my trek to the West. What an amazing ride it has been since making that leap! I have been so blessed with the people who have shown up on this journey- lifelong friends, great business colleagues, and even gratitude to the tough ones that have helped me grow too. After the end of a friendship/work relationship that felt more like a breakup, my good friend Linda told me, "People are in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime". This quote has stuck with me and I feel blessed to have had the most amazing people show up at the right time, whether just for a conversation or a lifetime of friendship.

Kendra & I on our first trip to Reno
What brought me to Reno? Well, at the time of my college graduation, I was itching to get out of Oklahoma. I wanted to move away for "a couple of years". My brother had just moved his family to Reno from Baltimore, so my best friend Kendra and I made a visit out west and for me it was a done deal. It was Kendra's path to stay in Tulsa/Kansas City, where she went on to get her doctorate, got married and had two amazing girls. If my brother had remained in Baltimore, that is likely where I would have ended up too. But Northern Nevada was most definitely destiny on many levels....

Julie & I at my first Design job
In Reno, my first job was at an interior design firm. This pretty much miserable three month stint was actually the most serendipitous thing that could have happened to set up my journey for the next twenty years. I met my other best friend and soul mate, Julie, at this job and she has been my rock ever since. There was much that I learned at this job on a personal level as well as professional. I won't go into all of the reasons it was such a horrible experience, but will say it made a lasting impression and showed me all of the ways I did not want to do business or treat people in general. The last straw was the Scientology weekends we were expected to go to....I got the hell out, but not before meeting some amazing people in the industry and lifelong friends.

One of those friends was Suzanne, my first mother figure in Reno and one of the most dynamic people I've ever met. Unfortunately I only had her in my life for a year and a half before she passed away from cancer. She worked with the same design firm almost as briefly as I did, but it was the perfect timing for us to connect and change my life in many ways. First and foremost, she was responsible for me becoming a working artist. She was having a mural painted in her entry and I made the comment that I had always wanted to be a mural artist. She said, "Well, then do it".  Simple as that, but I guess sometimes you just need someone to say it! So she got me in contact with my first paid mural gig, a painting of Godzilla on a kid's wall and the rest is history. For the next 10+ years, I painted more than a hundred murals and did all kinds of decorative painting and faux finishes in people's homes and businesses. Another suggestion Suzanne had was for me to move in wither her daughter, as we were both trying to save money. That friendship was the most intense friendship I've ever experienced. With many fun, wild adventures, came some pretty dark times. A soul mate of a different sort, whose time in my life helped me with personal growth. Lessons in untangling myself from lies and manipulations that I never thought humans were capable of. Happy to say that two of Suzanne's other daughters remain a light in my life and her best friend Barbara has become one of my dearest friends as well.

After the design firm job, I continued doing murals here and there and made ends meet through waiting tables. Through a contact at the design firm, I got a job at Rapscallion, and being Reno, you can imagine the connections that that job alone spurred for future business endeavors. A typical  pattern in my work experience, my boss saw more potential in me than just a waitress and I was soon working in their office heading up much of the marketing. By then, Julie was working for a tile store and mentioned that she knew a designer who was looking for an Autocad person. I was wanting to keep my foot in the door in the design industry, so I applied for that job which lead to an amazing seven years as a designer. I began working with Kim when she just had a small office in her home. What started as an Autocad gig, turned into help with bookkeeping, then design work and then basically me being her right hand person in all aspects of the business. As Kim's business started to grow, we moved into a great little house in Sparks (then moved two more times while I was there). It was great to see the business take off and be a part of that ride! As with any job, there were ups and downs, but looking back, the memories I have are of hard work, but tons of fun. I will always be grateful for her generosity on many different levels, as well as the work and life experience I gained by working there. That was another serendipitous experience of meeting countless people that would be instrumental in the second decade of my life in Reno.

My last year or so there, I had become restless. I contemplated moving away again, considering a move to North Carolina to be near Kendra. They ended up moving back to Tulsa, so I thought about moving to the Northwest. When I figured out that it wasn't necessarily Reno I wanted a break from, but the design industry, I knew it was time to take the leap to become a full time artist. This was actually tougher than my move out to Reno! One of the great things about my job at the design firm was that it was flexible enough for me to take on mural work and to nurture that growing business. When I went out on my own November 1st 2007, I had plenty of work doing decorative painting, but what was really driving me was my hobby of the last couple of years, MOSAICS! I jumped right in doing large commissions, including the 1200sf mosaic mural at the bottom of the Peppermill Pools.

Because great things happen when you are on the right path, I met my husband in 2008 and we married in 2009. I am so glad I was already working as a full time artist when we met, so I knew I could do it, because soon after we were living together, the economy took a dive. With his support, I was able to get through a few lean years and remain a working artist and pursue my dream. On my end, I took on odd jobs in addition to my growing mosaic business. I helped a friend with her retail boutique, was a personal cook for a family of four and even cleaned a couple of houses on a regular basis. Always on a quest for personal growth, I ended up diversifying my talents by becoming a Reiki Master and certified Yoga instructor. Who knew that combining creativity, teaching, yoga and Reiki would create a unique business model as well as let me share all of my passions with the community? Although I am working my tail off, I am living my dream!

Check out previous blogs for the stories of my whirlwind journey of the past three years- Buying a mosaic tile business, how Reiki has influenced my life, my first retail store in Midtown, moving out of midtown, where Copper Cat Studio name came from, and finding our home for the Healing Arts Center in Sparks.

What a fun ride it's been and I'm curious to see what the next twenty years has in store for me!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Creating Community

Reflections on the upcoming ten year anniversary of quitting my day job to become a full time artist November 1st~

Over the years when I have sat down to try to get on paper what my "business plan" is, it always seemed incomplete to just write down monetary figures and projections of where I would be at the end of the year, 5 years, 10 years, etc. It was when I incorporated a more esoteric angle of what I wanted my business to be, that's when things started to shift for me in my "professional" life. In all of the guided journeys that I have been on, meditations and inner reflections, it all comes down to creating community. Creating a space where people feel safe, a place where people come to be nurtured, body and soul. That's where the idea of a Healing Arts Center originated.

Several years ago my friend Tami Brancamp and I partnered on a couple of workshops where we facilitate the creation of an I AM statement and then make a mosaic representation of that statement. Through guided meditation and brainstorming exercises, Tami helped us to come up with a series of words that were a reflection of how we want to show up in the world, but more importantly a statement that would be a daily reminder of who we are at our core. The words that I came up with were: Community, Create, Inspire, Peace, Humble, Divine and Light. You can see my finished mosaic in the picture below. It is a scary thing to do- to create a statement that might not feel true at that moment and for me still feels like I'm not quite there. Community has been a common theme in my journey and Create is easy. Inspire has worked it's way in with those two. The last ones were the difficult part. I'm not always so humble and peaceful- I'm working on not rushing to judgement, not being so opinionated and being able to recognize my own Divine Light. I beat myself up in my head for the things I have said, things I didn't say, making up stories about what other people might be thinking about my transgressions. I get irritated when I witness other people not give someone the benefit of the doubt, yet I'm guilty of that more often that I'd like to admit. I'm tough on myself, tough on the ones I love the most and I say f*ck probably a little to much in my everyday talk. I guess where I'm going with this is that I'm definitely a work in progress. We all have insecurities. We all question if we are on the right path. We want to know that we are fulfilling some sort of higher purpose while we are in these earthsuits.

My vision was to create a place of community. A place to feel safe. A place of creativity. A place that people can come to nurture their souls. On this ten year anniversary of the beginning of my journey to serve, I feel like I can say that I have created that place at Copper Cat Studio. I know that it will grow and evolve, but I also feel like I have arrived. And that abundance thing? It happens when you aren't focused on that being the most important outcome, but rather a higher purpose of serving one another.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Welcome to Sparks

Welcome to our Healing Arts Center. 
It's the space we envisioned way before we made the move to our first public arts studio in MidTown just a short time ago. Copper Cat Studio has moved to a seemingly unassuming space on the edge of Industrial Sparks. We are conveniently located right off I80 and McCarran, but just enough off the beaten path that the only people that walk through the door are meant to be here. 



This whirlwind of events happened at just the right time. I had no intention of moving before the end of the year, but when the rent increase notification came in late March, we were at the point of having to give location details to Artown and Reno Open Studios for their publications, and I was just about locked into doing a sponsorship for the MidTown Artwalk. Everything shifted in a two day span of mentioning to someone that I was thinking of moving and boom, we were on the fast track to move. I was able to meet deadlines for getting my soon to be current info to all of my show organizers, drop out of the Artwalk, and give my month's notice. The way it serendipitously came together, I packed up for my biggest show of the spring on April 24th and the leftovers were my first load to the new space that last week of April. We were completely moved out a few days later, did some setting up the first week of May, had a much needed Mexico vacation that had already been planned and were open the week after we got back. We already had workshops on the calendar and students registered for May and June, so we hit the ground running. In this first 9 weeks of being open, we've had just shy of 30 workshops both private and on the public calendar.

All of our instructors have come with us and Donna Smit, of Like Your Junk - Smitten Designs, even has a glass fusion studio in-house! I am in talks with several other artists in different mediums to bring their artisan passions to Copper Cat Studio. With the expanded workspace, we are able to hold multiple workshops at the same time- I can be working in my own studio/office, while Donna is teaching a private lesson in her studio, while there is a 12 person class in the main studio room and a 15 person workshop in the Gallery room. Oh, and at the same time, there could also be a yoga or guided meditation in the yoga room and people shopping in the seperate retail room. With two bathrooms, a kitchen and a grouting area, this is a place we fill nicely but can still grow into!

Come visit, if you haven't had a chance to. We are constantly getting in new artistan ware in the retail shop, new classes are being added weekly and there is always a fun project in process in the workshop room. Our hours remain the same- Tuesday-Thursday 11-6pm, Friday 11-4pm and Saturday 11-3pm, Closed Sunday and Monday. 300 Kresge Lane, Sparks NV

Monday, April 10, 2017


Expansion. We talk about this a lot in my spiritual circles~ Allowing the Universe to conspire in your favor when intentions align and growth is inevitable.  In business, there's the literal meaning for when it's time to move on to the next phase of growing your business. Both of these are coming together in a serendipitous way for me. In our spiritual circles we also talk about these things happening at a more rapid pace right now and boy, isn't that the truth!

In my last blog I contemplated the next phase of Copper Cat Studio. In my mind, I was fine with staying in MidTown, carefully planning out the next couple of years to create what has always been my goal- to have a Healing Arts Center. I knew what components I needed in a space, but had no idea where to look. MidTown has been a great learning experience for me of what I want and need in that space. Definitely not a busy retail store front like I'm in now. Something easily accessible but a little off the beaten path. A place where people can easily come to buy supplies and local artisan gifts on their lunch break and not have to spend 20 minutes trying to find a parking spot. A place where my customers feel safe walking to and from their cars and not be hassled by unsavory individuals.

I have a way of manifesting properties- both business and personal, that is more than a little eery. So I knew when the time was right to move, the perfect place would appear...I just didn't think it would happen this quickly. I've learned that when you ask for something from the Universe, you can't put conditions on it, otherwise it doesn't show up. In this case, I happened to be picking up mosaic substrates at one of my vendors, Victory Woodworks on the edge of industrial Sparks. I had just been hit with a rent increase that was three times what I was expecting, so I casually mentioned to my contact at VW that I might be looking to move soon and if he hears of anything that looks interesting, let me know. And he said, "Well, we have a space that we just renovated and it's ready to go- do you want to check it out?" I said "Sure", thinking this wasn't where I wanted to be, but what the heck? Initially, looking at the space my thoughts were that it was way too big for my needs, but on the drive back to the studio I had completely space planned the unit in my head, realizing that it was big enough to do multiple workshops at one time, I'd have my own office, space for another full time artist, an area for my slab roller and kiln, a larger retail area, parking lot....and a yoga room! It was freshly painted, new flooring and move-in ready. The more I thought about it, it was the perfect location- right off the highway, easily accessible for Reno and Sparks customers. And for those of you whose first reaction is, "It's all the way out in Sparks?", it's three miles east of the spaghetti bowl...for me it's actually a quicker drive than my 3 mile commute to MidTown! With impending deadlines to get locked in to Artown, Reno Open Studio Tours and debating on whether to be in my current location for the MidTown Artwalk, I knew this either needed to happen fast or wait to move at the end of the year. When I found out that rent was the same as I was paying in MidTown for 1,400sf MORE than I have now, I was sold.  I met Don there that Friday afternoon and started negotiations on the lease on Monday. The Victory Woodworks people are some of the best people I've dealt with- personally and in business, and I can't imagine better landlords.

We have so many ideas for what this space will provide. My head is literally spinning. Artist friends as well as healers, yoga and tai chi instructors are contacting me left and right wanting to bring their gifts to the space to share. This is exciting beyond what I could have imagined!

We will be open at 20 St Lawrence in MidTown through April 22nd. We are attending Earth Day on the 23rd and move the week of the 24th. We will have a couple of weeks to set up and have some proper R&R and hope to be open for business by May 20th at 300 Kresge Lane in Sparks.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What's In A Name?

Today I verbalized it. I told a long time colleague from my old design world that I'm no longer painting. Not, "Well, I'm not really painting much these days" or "Maybe I could fit in". I'm no longer painting. Period. And to be truthful, I've really only done a handful of mural jobs in the last 5 years. My heart just wasn't in it anymore. At the first of the year, I revamped my website and took off any trace of my mural painting background. It just seemed right and  was also unnecessary to showcase something that I no longer offer, when focus needs to be on the current studio. 14+ years of painting in people's homes and businesses and already it feels like a distant memory. Just like some day mosaics will have run it's course in my life, painting is a chapter that is officially closed and it feels like a bit of relief. Incidentally, today I also ran across my old portfolio while de-cluttering my home studio. One of those plastic-sheet, photograph-filled, almost resembling a scrapbook kind of portfolio. My, how things have changed in a short few years.

People always ask where the name Copper Cat Studio comes from. A roadtrip to the Pacific Northwest with a good friend and fellow artist, and hours upon hours of talking, brainstorming about marketing ideas and designing our dream studios. At that time I was transitioning from mural painting as my main source of income to mosaics. Add into the mix- yoga instructor, Reiki master, personal chef, and other less glamorous jobs that helped me get by over the lean years and what it came down to is that I needed a business name that could cover many of the things I was doing and could potentially do in the future. At that time I was thinking about doing copper enameling and wanted to include my alter-kitty-ego and there you have it...Copper Cat Studio was born somewhere along I5 in the Cascade Range with Mount Shasta in the distance.

I love the how life evolves. Just because you are successful at something doesn't mean it's what you have to do for the rest of your life. I'm not sure if it was the daunting responsibilities of running a retail store, our very busy workshop schedule, or the heavy, gloomy winter getting to me (likely a little bit of each), but it really got me thinking about what the next chapter of Copper Cat Studio will look like. Don't worry, my plans for my amazing MidTown location will stay in place for a couple more years, but I'm already thinking ahead to that little place off the beaten path. A place without a retail store front- the REAL Healing Arts Center I envisioned when this all started. Who knows...maybe I can have both? This first year flew by, and as far as planning for workshops, I'm mentally well into the summer and soon half of another year will be in the books. This next "couple of years" will go by pretty quickly, and as long as I can continue enjoy the hustle and bustle of working in MidTown I will stay put. I gotta say when the time comes to move along I will really miss my cute little studio, tucked into the coolest pocket of MidTown. I love our little community of businesses on St Lawrence. I love walking next door to teach yoga. I love our family tradition of meeting on Friday nights after work to have a drink at Public House then explore one of the many wonderful eating options in a two block radius. It's fun, but it's sometimes a little too much for an introvert like me. So for now I will bravely put on my kitty ears and navigate this endeavor I began a year ago and we will see where it takes me.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Transformation of a Community

In the 18 years that I have called Reno home, I have witnessed a huge transformation in our community. In my early years, I heard Reno referred to as having the potential to be a Renaissance town, but that it was more of a jumping off place, where creativity is cultivated, but artists move on to bigger and better things. About 8 or 10 years ago things started to shift: up and coming artists not only stayed here, but artists were actually drawn here. Of course I think a huge part of that is our Burning Man community. What a surge of art that burners have created here! With artist collaboratives like The Generator, the possibilities are endless. Artown is so packed with amazing events, it's hard to pick which concert, art gallery, craft fair, workshop, etc, to attend on any given day in July.  And the community support of local arts is overwhelming. Art advocates like Oliver X of Reno Tahoe Tonight and Eric and Geralda of Art Spot Reno are making it their mission to bring arts to the community. People are thirsting for creativity and Reno is delivering.

One of the amazing sculptures at Reno's annual Sculpturefest

What I'm noticing now is a transformation in our community in terms of spirituality. With all of the turmoil in our society, people are looking inward to find a sliver of peace. They are looking for creative outlets to nurture their spirit, and I'm seeing that lead to more of a quest to find that sense of inner peace...and in turn, a sense of purpose.

I am inspired and excited to see so many friends who are doing an amazing job of raising the vibrational level and making a positive impact on our community. I think this is where it starts and there really is a ripple effect on the rest of the world. There have been so many people taught and inspired by my Reiki Master Teacher Denise Sheehan of Sage Spirit Coaching & Reiki, who are finding their calling to open businesses to share Reiki with our community. Urban Lotus Project is a non-profit created by Hannah Bias to bring yoga and meditation to at-risk and under-served youth in Reno. Have you been to one of Alchemist Theater's monthly gatherings? With a great mix of humor, music and meditation, they deliver powerful sermons that bring spirituality to us in a non-threatening way. These gatherings have been so popular that they have turned to live streaming because they sell out every month, even after moving to a larger venue. There are so many other local people and organizations that are paving the way as well, too many to contain in a simple little blog! Friends are talking of finding healing through singing bowls, crystal beds and floating chambers. People are thirsting for spirituality and yes, once again Reno is delivering.

When I began my Reiki journey 6 years ago, and completed Yoga Teacher training 3 years ago, I never knew how serendipitously they would all be blended with my journey as an artist to create a place for people to come to nurture body and soul. It is very exciting to see so many who share this common vision for our community and are finding purpose in serving others. It is humbling to be in the midst of the transformation.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Artown in MidTown with Copper Cat Studio

The last time I blogged we had just announced the big move to Midtown. Well, we hit the ground running and since opening in late January, we have had almost 30 workshops- mosaics, of course, and other mediums including Fused glass, Henna, Steam Punk Jewelry with resin pouring, wirewrapping Tree of Life and more.  It is so awesome to be bringing mosaics to the community at large as well as providing a place for my artist friends to teach their craft.  These past few months have been busy to say the least!

Photo: Digiman Studios

We are excited to be partnering with Artown in a number of events this year. Below is a list of events that we will be hosting or involved in. More information can be found on our website as well as the Artown website.

Mosaic 101   July 2nd
Mosaic Garden Stones   July 6th
Art In The Garden   July 9th (Copper Cat Studio will be closed to attend this show)
Glass Fusion Jewelry 101 with Donna Smit July 13th
Henna 101 with Kimberly Allcock   July 16th
People Project: Smaller, Artist Meet & Greet   July 17th
Junk Heart Pendant With Donna Smit   July 20th
Mosaic Birdbath   July 23rd & 24th
Midtown Artwalk   July 28th
Mosaic 101   July 30th
Half Day Yoga/Mosaic Retreat July 31st


Not listed on this roster of events is my involvement with Urban Roots in a community mosaic mural build. We will be working with children 5-11 years old to create a a mosaic mural for one of their structures. I'm really excited about this one!

We would love to see you at the studio for a class or just for a visit. I am there Tuesdays through Saturdays. 20 St Lawrence in MidTown next to Creme Cafe.