Running a successful business is no small feat, and running a successful arts business has its own set of rewards and challenges. This month's interview is with business owner and artist Kathie Depew, who has developed Cotton Ridge Pottery, Cotton Ridge Miniatures, and an online Arts and Crafts Gallery and Tutorial Archive, Cotton Ridge Create!, which offers artists resources and a place to share their work.
1. How did you become interested in the arts and what eventually let you to making pottery? My interest in handcrafting and the arts is lifelong, and I had enjoyed pottery for years before making it myself. Several years ago I found that Pottery By You in Madison offered pottery classes, and I jumped at the opportunity. I learned wheel-throwing, hand-building, tile-making, and glazing from several instructors including Jule and Ned Corron, Paul Wieland, Malcolm Goodman and Yong Rhee. I loved working with the clay, and after a few months I knew that I wanted to keep learning new skills and create with clay for a very long time!
2. What inspires you to create? Inspiration comes from many places…a leaf on the ground, a magazine article, a friend’s suggestion. Once I get an idea in my head - whether it is for a piece of pottery, a new miniature room box or a quilt for my child’s bedroom - it is hard to stop thinking about it until I actually create it!
3. How did you develop Cotton Ridge Designs LLC? Cotton Ridge Designs, LLC began as an online dollhouse scale miniatures shop. I sell manufactured and artist-made miniatures, and also design and teach classes for miniature projects. When I began selling my pottery at craft shows, Cotton Ridge Pottery was formed as a division of my company. Last year I developed Cotton Ridge Create!, an online Arts & Crafts Gallery and Tutorial Archive.
4. Tell us more about the range of items and services that Cotton Ridge Designs LLC/Create! offers. . . what new things can we expect in 2012? Create! is a venue for me and other artists and handcrafters to not only share our work but also what we are learning as we create. Create! offers art and handcrafting tutorials, articles on business development, and more. A major part of the website is the online arts and crafts gallery, with over 20 artists and crafters represented (so far). I love to write about other people who create - they inspire me to try new things and to strive for excellence! I want to bring together collectors looking for handmade pieces with the artists and handcrafters who create them. Artists, handcrafters, gallery owners and collectors who are interested in being featured on the site are welcome to contact me. I will be glad to write about their work, gallery or collection, or help them share a tutorial or business advice for artists.
5. Do you have any advice for artists and artisans who would like to start their own business ventures? I enjoy working on the internet and developing my websites, and I’ve recently ventured into marketing through social media. I would encourage other artists to have an online presence and to include their website information on their business cards. Through social media marketing I met several artists in Huntsville and was invited to the NA Crafters Etsy Team Spring Show. The internet is often the first place people go when looking for someone or something, and it is a great way to begin to develop a loyal following.
6. What can you tell us about the importance of supporting our local arts community and the handmade movement? Preparing for an art and craft show is time-consuming and a lot of work, but I believe it is worth it. I’ve had great shows, good shows, and shows where I didn’t even break even. But at every one I’ve attended I’ve met someone who’s helped me, learned something new, came up with a great new idea, or networked with other artists. It is a wonderful way to interact with people who are looking for handmade items and want to support local artisans. Currently my friend and fellow artist Judy Cleve mans my booth for me at craft shows because I am not able to be there. Through her efforts I can stay involved in the arts and crafts community and respond to customer feedback and requests. When the economy is down and sales are down, supporting and encouraging each other is even more important for us as individuals and for our community! My husband Kevin is my greatest encouragement…his support and honest feedback from my fellow artists and friends keep me motivated!
7. How has your Christian faith influenced your work? As I have grown in my relationship with Christ I have experienced more freedom and courage, and have come to believe I have something to offer to others. This has resulted in an eagerness to try new things and meet new people, especially with my art and in the arts and crafts community. I’m naturally an introvert, but “through Christ I can do all things” (Philippians 4:13). In venturing out and sharing my art I’ve been able to grow, develop relationships and enrich others’ lives as well.
8. Do you feel that there is a relationship between art and spirituality? Yes, most definitely. There are several passages in scripture that speak about the believer’s union with Christ, such as John 15 when Jesus describes himself as the vine and believers as the branches. When creating in my studio I receive the most joy when I remember that I am in Christ and He is in me, and we are creating together! (By the way, currently my “studio” is a table in my home office – but I feel more creative when I think of it as am art studio!)
9. What is your favorite Bible verse and why? My favorite verse these days is “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Whether I am doing the dishes, writing a blog article about another artist or creating in my studio, if I do it in Christ and for Him, then it is not in vain and it has eternal significance, even though I don’t fully understand how right now.
Another favorite is Romans 5:10: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (NIV, ©2011) I love the thought that I can tell others that God is not angry with them - that they are reconciled to God, and that He is waiting with open arms to save them through the life of His Son, Jesus Christ!