Monday, April 8, 2019

Insights on Fulfillment

Twelve years ago I began embarking on a journey that led me to where I am today. I had a steady job with a good boss and coworkers I loved. But there was something missing, coupled with an insight that all my life I had worked to help build successful businesses for other people. Although there was pride in that, there wasn't the fulfillment I was looking for. I enlisted the help of my coach and now friend, Erin Mesceji to gain the confidence I needed to take the leap to go out on my own as an artist and forge my own path in the world. Twelve years later, I am revisiting this year long course with Erin.

In our most recent session, the subject matter was Fulfillment. In this chapter, the book exclaimed, With fulfillment, you make a difference. Check. You feel rewarded. Check. Your quality of life improves. Ch...(cue in sound of needle screeching off the record). I told Erin that that was the struggle for me. When I was working from home, in my own little cocoon, I was very content, stress free, doing my thing, making my art, happily keeping house for our little family. I knew that I had a bigger purpose in this life, but I also knew that it wasn't going to happen within the small space of my home studio. What I had yet to realize was that part of my journey to lead a life of more fulfillment was to learn some life lessons for myself.

Making the leap from being somewhat of a hermit in my home studio to having a store front that is open 5-6 days a week, constantly being months ahead in planning workshops and events to keep the business going as well as dealing with the public, has taken an emotional and energetic toll that I could have never imagined. In the past three years of running my store and studio, I have been introduced to levels of stress, anxiety and sleepless nights, that have completely overwhelmed me. That being said, every day I go into work and look around me, I have such immense gratitude that I created THIS! Every time I am feeling down, I serendipitously have a student come into my office and tell me what a godsend the studio has been for them, a place of refuge in a tough world. It's been an intense dichotomy and I can see why several friends in the recent past have given up owning their own business, or close up the “storefront” to go back to focus on whatever their passion was that drove them to share it with the world on a bigger, public scale in the first place.

Sunrise in Bacalar. Where I go in my head on a tough day.

To try to deal with this dichotomy, I've been searching inward, I've been listening to great inspirational books, defining what self-care is for me. I've even been contemplating what life might look like not doing what I'm currently doing. What I keep coming back to is that we are all here to learn. This "Path of Fulfillment" has made me look deeper into who I am and how I present myself in the world. Am I walking my talk? Most of the time yes, but when I'm not, I'm REALLY not. I find myself being overly critical and judgmental with zero patience. I told my coach that my focus for the last few months has been being mindful of my compassion towards others. 90% of the time, I am the most compassionate person in the world, but that other 10%? You better watch out! And although she said that is being human, there's a big part of me that says I can do better. 

I always say that you never know what a person might be going through in their personal lives, what huge obstacles that they might be facing, what burdens they might be carrying. Here's where I can be guilty of not always walking the talk. That student who didn't read the confirmation email with important logistical information for class, may be overwhelmed caring for an ill loved one. The person who can't figure out how to sign up online for a class, might be an older person like my mom who isn't as technologically savvy as she wishes she could be and is just hoping for someone kind on the other end of the line to help her out. But I do find myself getting bogged down by the day to day stuff- The student who doesn't listen and I have to redirect a half dozen times. People who show up late. People who show up 45 minutes early. People who need my undivided attention and show up without an appointment. Students who wait until we are about to cancel a workshop to finally register. People who call for information easily found online. Misconceptions. Miscommunications. I don't know why I let myself get so frustrated with things like this, but I do and it's time for it to stop. Sure, there's always going to be the asshole that just wants makes things difficult, but really, over the last three+ years of doing this, I've only encountered a couple of people that fit that description. I think most of the time, people are lost in their own world, with their own stresses, health problems, family issues and burdens I likely couldn't even begin to comprehend. Maybe my lesson in all of this is to find that lacking compassion in the 10% of me that gets so frustrated. What was that book, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff"? Perhaps I need to dig it out and read it again.

Does there have to be the dichotomy that I have been experiencing? I'm figuring out that I CAN have it all. I can have this great life and purpose AND live it with less stress and anxiety. It is my choice and I can choose what perspective to live from. Easier said than done, but now I've said it. Every day, even every moment is a chance to "begin again". I can tell you that for me, a regular yoga and meditation practice is important. And reminding myself that the proverbial "inbox" will never be empty. That as we checkmark things off our list, that another list is already in the works. The fact that when you have a business dealing with the public, there is just a certain amount of hand holding that will be required.

Embracing the impermanence of it all is key. Compassion and Grace. We are all a work in progress.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Nice Guys Finish Third

Gratitude for those who voted for Copper Cat Studio for best Art Class in Reno News & Review's Best of Northern Nevada 2018! After last year's ballot stuffing that awarded Famous Dave's (yes the chain) best for everything including best chef, best waiter, best appetizer, best bloody mary and more...even best margarita (yeah right), I kind of boycotted the whole thing. I didn't even realize that the first round of the competition was even happening until the last day of voting. During the second round I chose not to campaign to get votes just to see what might happen. I did this for the reasons above, as well as that I'm hesitant to cast our net too wide to get people to come to our studio. Recently, someone from one of the local news stations called to try to get me to buy advertising. I told her I don't advertise and besides I don't want to promote on that kind of scale. She said, Oh we can work with any budget. Then I had to explain that it wasn't a money thing, but
that we are a small word of mouth kind of place that doesn't have a problem filling our classes and I want to keep it that way. The energy here is amazing and we don't have problem customers. We truly attract the right people. I like the people that come to our workshops, so I'm likely to like their friends, and so on. I've always held that belief, even when I was working out of my home studio, that if one student showed up, then for some reason they needed a private lesson. Much of the time, they needed a safe place to be able to talk and we ended up connecting on a deeper level than if we had a room full of people. If it were two students that showed up, there was something in common with them that they were meant to connect. And so on. I am blessed to say many of my students have become friends that I deeply care about. We have anywhere from 8-15 classes, with a total of 30-75 students through the studio in any given month. We don't allow alcohol. Our teachers are professional artisans who exude enthusiasm and passion for their craft and who are exceptional teachers. It's kind of cool that we are a hidden gem and we got third place behind two places that can accommodate those numbers in a couple of classes. Congrats to Picasso & Wine and Pinot's Palette. I know the owners of both (I even painted the “Van Gogh Beach Scene” at Pinot's Palette) and they have paved the way for people in our community to learn what being creative can do for the soul. So thank you to all who voted and who gave a nod to Copper Cat Studio. Hoping that will bring more of our people together at the studio. Namaste

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.