So far we’ve had a personal stylist, published author/youtuber, and mompreneur featured for the “Celebrating Phenomenal Women” series. I’ve been so inspired by all of them & I know you have felt that same inspiration. I’m so excited to continue this with Christina Scheppmann Thomas, artist & owner of Persika Design Co.
Can you tell readers about yourself?
Hi! I’m Christina! I’m the owner & artist of Persika Design Co. – a fine art, stationery, & home decor company that focuses on celebrating the little joys found in life & nature.
I started making wedding invitations for friends in college, while I was getting my Bachelor’s degree in Visual Art & then my Master’s degree in Business Management. I quickly realized I wanted to have my own company & design a variety of products while focusing on my painting as the primary source of inspiration. My artwork is inspired by floral arrangements, plants, animals, & nature in general, along with fashion, design, travel, spirituality, & emotional expression.
I live & work in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin with my husband, TJ. TJ often helps me in the process of creating & is a vital source for me to turn to when I have questions or need critique. He even helps sell at markets with me! He’s great at it!
When I’m not painting, I’m probably reading in the bathtub, taking a walk, cooking, doing yoga, writing for my blog (Art & Gather) or binging my favorite show, though I do that while I’m painting too!
Who are the artists you draw inspiration from?
I really enjoy & have been particularly influenced by the work of Henri Matisse, Raoul Dufy, Fairfield Porter, Josef Frank, Henry Darger, Van Gogh, and Paule Marrot.
However, my favorite contemporary artists to follow are mostly women! Carson Ellis, Lulie Wallace, Heather Day, Britt Bass, Teil Duncan, Anna Bond, Danielle Kroll, Helen Dealtry, Bijou Karman, Laura Garcia Serventi, Katy Smail, Emily Isabella, Monika Forsberg…
It’s honestly hard to stop because I have been crazy inspired by the community of women artists that I’ve mostly discovered through Instagram & Pinterest. BTW, not only are these ladies talented artists, they’re also incredible business women.
Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always been an artist. There wasn’t a point when I said, “I think I’ll become an artist.” I just started making, from a very young age – probably whenever my hands were capable of picking up a crayon. My parents were always very supportive – whether I was a child or an adult trying to make my art into a career. But regardless of job title or whether your art supports you full-time, you’re an artist as soon as you stop daydreaming & actually decide to put pen to paper (or whatever your medium) & follow the guide of your inner muse. That’s when you become an “artist.” Lots of people want to become an artist or create something beautiful. I don’t think people realize it can be so simple. You don’t need permission from anyone. You don’t need to put unrealistic expectations on yourself. Just make! And whatever you make will be beautiful if it’s authentically coming from within.
What are some struggles you feel all artists are subjected to and what techniques have you learned to rise above those struggles?
There are different stages, in my mind, depending on how seriously you take your art & how much expectation you put on it. The artist (& it doesn’t matter how long they’ve actually been making) who views their work as more of a hobby or thing on the side will typically wait around for inspiration to strike. However, if you truly want to make art, you’re making a huge mistake if you’re waiting for the inspiration to strike. You have just get out all of your supplies & start making. Through all of that vigorous making, remember to retain your critical eye. In order to get better, you have to throw some things in the trash and move on.
The other stage is the artist who takes their work very seriously & accidentally, ends up taking themselves too seriously in the process. If you’re trying to make a career out of your art, you might end up viewing your creativity as a means to an end – how will you make money from this? When things get overwhelming, it can seem like the most logical next step is to look outside yourself & gauge what is popular in the market & try to copy those trends. The thought process here is that if it works for them, it will probably work for you. This creates an air of desperation around your artwork that is absolutely detrimental. This is when an artist’s well really starts to run dry & sadly, many artists lose the will to make entirely. It takes some soul searching & reflection to come back to your own inner voice & realize the only way you’ll ever grow as an artist is by staying true to yourself.
I can think of several people just in my own life that have more negative feelings towards art. Can you explain why it’s an important part of a society?
I could probably come up with a hundred reasons or more as to why art is important not just to society, but to the individual. I’ve found that most people who belittle art or who have negative feelings towards art or artists, in general, are usually coming from a place of ignorance. Art just isn’t valued as much as it could be or should be in society.
Here are some of the reasons I think art is important:
- Art enriches history by contemplating or illustrating the past. It can help students understand historical events in a more engaging way.
- Art can give us a gateway into history when we might not have written accounts or in a way that supplements written accounts.
- Art can help people learn about any variety of subjects. It’s even used as a primary tool in helping people learn to read!
- Art can enhance neighborhoods & communities by bringing beauty to buildings via murals or even electrical boxes or with sculptures.
- Communal art activities & projects are a great way to bring communities together.
- Art can aid discussion on relevant news, current events, political topics or tragedies that might be otherwise difficult to broach.
- Art can comfort those who are suffering or bring humor to those who need their spirits lifted.
- Art can encourage its makers & viewers to find ways to talk about complex &, at times, abstract & conceptual topics.
- Art can give voices to the marginalized or oppressed.
- Art can bring beauty & joy to our surroundings.
- Art inherently can point to THE Creator – God! We have this innate drive to create because we’re made in the image of God.
- Art can cause us to reflect & appreciate life more fully.
- Art can be a form of therapy & help those are recovering from injury or addiction or are disabled or mentally ill.
- Art can empower individuals & give a sense of self-worth or even provide the ability to make money doing something you’re talented at & passionate about.
In my early twenties, I volunteered at a rehabilitation center to help disabled & mentally ill adults make art & express themselves in ways they otherwise couldn’t. Now, I’ve been volunteering at a nursing home, working with an art therapist, to help elderly people make art. I’ve found it really brings a lot of enjoyment and keeps people sharp mentally & physically, with their eyesight & fine motor skills.
Have you ever felt like giving up on this dream of being an artist?
I’ve never felt like making art is something that I would have to give up because even if I had to do other jobs on the side (as I have for many years), I know that I will always be able to make time for my art & keep it a priority in my life. I have had a lot of questions about my business, though, & questioned whether I’m investing in the right thing or if a product will be sustainable or if I’ll be able to support myself full-time. I’m still figuring this part out because my company is in its infancy, but I’ve come to learn that finding other business owners to be in community with can be a great source of help & just overall encouragement & motivation. I’m excited to find mentors at this early stage of my business because everything is always harder when you do it alone, but when you are vulnerable & ask for help & take advantage of the resources around you, things can much more easily fall into place.
Can you share the entire artistic process with us? From the idea, to how long it takes for a project, to what techniques you use to promote/sell, etc.
Ideas are very enigmatic. They can strike at any time. Since I can’t make everything at once, I like to keep detailed lists on my phone & in notebooks so that way, when I’m having trouble coming up with a new idea, I can go back to my lists & start working on some of my older ideas. Not every idea works, you have to know when to cut your losses or start over & approach it in a different way. The amount of time it takes depends entirely on what I’m working on & the scale. But usually, I make more than I need to & that way I can weed through everything & only keep the best pieces to put into production or share online. Once I have the product or finished art piece, I take time to style it & take photographs in natural light. I also determine how I want to package it & how I will protect it for the consumer. I use social media (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook) the majority of the time to promote sales or new products. I’m working on growing my email list so that I can send regular email updates & special promotions (Sign up at the bottom of my homepage: https://persikadesignco.com). I write press releases when I release a new series & send it to blogs & relevant media. I do paid Facebook & Instagram ads when I see something is getting a lot of engagement or if I have a sale to promote. I love markets because I get to meet my customers face-to-face & talk about the products & see their reactions. It’s all a process of trial & error & seeing what works out the best for you & how your audience can be reached, but I will say that my friends & family have been the number one referrers for me & I’m working on setting up a referral program that will incentivize people to refer even more & give back to them for being my greatest advocates!
I know there are several talented artists reading this interview right now, but they keep their talent a hobby. What advice do you have for them if they want to start selling their art?
The process of selling your art can be challenging, but a major part of that process starts when you develop your own voice, style, & brand. You’re never going to develop consistently if you’re not fully committed to your art & treating it as more than a hobby. You need to carve out time & just make. That’s the part that requires the most attention – the actual making of the art. If you have that down & you want to start getting it out there & selling, you should set up an Etsy or website with e-commerce abilities, set up & be consistent in posting on social media, join some facebook groups for artists that give alerts for when there are gallery shows to submit to or markets to be a vendor at, find alternative settings to display your art, like coffee shops or restaurants, get your friends & family to be your advocates & tell them you’re really serious about having a business… That’s key: Choosing art as a career is more than just making. You have to treat it like a business because you are indeed a business owner.
What are some goals you’re working towards right now?
This spring/summer I have several markets & gallery shows coming up (Check out the events page of my website here), so I’ve been working on developing more products for those, particularly more art prints. But my long-term goals are to collaborate with companies on art for products or licensing & to do a solo show at a gallery.
I know several artists who like to express themselves through fashion, in addition to their canvas. Is this true for you as well? How would you describe your fashion sense?
I actually wanted to be a fashion designer for awhile in high school & Project Runway is one of my all-time favorite shows. Since I work from home, usually by myself, doing somewhat messy work (It’s almost a guarantee I will get paint on my clothes), I don’t dress up too much anymore & I usually just wear basics. But, I love to keep up with the runway, because those pieces are works of art in their own right, & I love street style blogs. I guess, if I’m actually trying to look nice & put an outfit together, I’d say my fashion sense is a lot like my art – playful & whimsical while balancing a contemporary edge & a nod to vintage.
What’s your favorite snack to have on hand while working?
Usually, it’s coffee & fruit or nuts. Although, I usually try not to eat while working. I’d rather take breaks and be more mindful – I’ve been really working on appreciating food while I’m eating it & not taking it for granted.
One of the motivations for this series is to prove that we women can raise each other up without having to tear someone down in the process. What advice do you have for the woman who feels torn down right now?
Whoever feels torn down or not good enough needs to recognize that their validation, self-worth, or motivation to follow their dreams can’t come from external sources. It needs to come from God & from within. Once you’re able to find that confidence & give yourself permission to be the best version of yourself & go after your greatest ambitions, cut out all of the people who take away from that – unfriend them, unfollow them, stop talking to them, do whatever you need to do to make yourself & your wellbeing a priority. You’re going to need to feel good & safeguard your joy in order to maintain the motivation you need on your journey. Anytime you find community & people who are kind & encouraging & going after their dreams too, be intentional about nourishing those relationships because they can be so life-giving. Lastly, one of the greatest sources of joy for me lately has been through giving back. Your skills & abilities & talents have been given to you for a reason (& that reason is not just to make money!) It is your responsibility to use them wisely & use them to give back to others. Find a way to volunteer or start a project that isn’t all focused on making money. When you see that money isn’t the source of your abundance or joy, you’ll be able to withstand so much because you’ll know you are & you have so much.
photography credit: Hannah Toldt Photography
art featured in this interview: Bicycle Girls & Meraki
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