I remember the first time I sold some art. I was trying to raise money to fly across the country to attend VONA at UC Berkeley. It was 2011. I had applied to get into this weeklong writing workshop and retreat for writers of color, got in and was trying to get there on my grad student income which needless to say, fell short of what I needed. I have always been quite the do-it-yourselfer so I decided to get creative with how I raised money. I sold some watercolor art, some hand painted vases and wine glasses to help with my flight and other expenses. Look at these throwbacks I dug up! People bought them except the one on the far left, I gave away to the sister-in-law of Philippe Thoby-Marcelin for helping me with my masters thesis. She loved it!
These early days were important because I was experimenting. I wanted to see what I could paint on besides paper and canvas. I also was seeing for the first time in my life that I could sell my work. But it was hard at first. I remember bringing a few vases to a flower shop to ask about consignment and the owner laughed in my face. He said something along the lines of "you can't be serious" and that stung and stuck for a while.
So how did I get from painting on glass to making earrings? Little known fact, I didn't pierce my ears until I was 27 years old. There's a longer story about growing up in the church, being a pastor's kid and restricted on what I could and couldn't do but to keep it brief wearing jewelry was a bit of a no no to say the least. Well, as a grown adult away from home, I got curious about what I would look like with earrings and bought clip-ons. No one had to know. Who would know? Right? But before long, it started to feel like high maintenance. Lies can feel that way. Clip-ons also hurt after a while but that's besides the point! I literally pierced my ears so I could walk in truth.
Then I got this bright idea to make my own earrings. I wanted earring that were artsy, reflected my personality and weren't mass produced. I learned a lot from Khadijah Noir's YouTube channel. Truthfully, I was learning to make earrings for myself but something happened when I wore them out in public. People were asking me where I got them. Then I'd say I made them. Then they'd ask where could they buy a pair. And then I'd say three words...not for sale. Oof! I wasn't prepared to sell them. But I was a walking commercial for my work. I sold a pair of earrings right off of my ears and I took that as a sign to figure this thing out. I looked for opportunities to table at events. I got business cards for Designs by D. Colin. That's right, it wasn't always Empress Bohemia. I say all that to say, everything starts someplace. Sometimes it starts small and it's okay to not know how it will all unfold. But I opened myself up to the adventure of it all. It's been my side hustle for a long, long time, my co-conspirator with poetry if you will and after 10+ years of Empress Bohemia being nomadic in nature, I've got a new home at Her Love Collection's 2nd location at Crossgates Mall. Grand Opening is September 1st! My petty self says I should go back to that flower shop owner and say you have no idea how serious I was but my excitement outweighs all that.
I still get giddy when I see someone rocking a pair of earrings I made or they get a print of art or walk away with an original. I'll always be evolving and finding ways to share my art with the world. I'm not one to stop on account of a little rejection. The universe is too big for that. I am basking in the abundance of adventure that's waiting for me. Here's to beginnings and a new iteration of my line, Empress Bohemia.
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