Hello readers!? Today’s Balancing Act features a lovely collage artist I recently discovered.? Jennifer Mullin is the talent behind? tinyartbyjmullin.etsy.com, an amazing collection of small original collages, prints, and notecards.? I’ll admit to thinking I was familiar with most of the cool collage artists on Etsy — stumbling across her shop was like finding a secret hideaway of tons of fun little things.? I adore her “Comfy Chair” series of eclectic chairs in rooms created of cut patterned paper.? When I asked to interview her, I had no idea she was a high school teacher, but this gives me one more reason to love her!? Speaking from experience, finding the time to create after 150 teens have drained your energy is a feat in itself — I can completely relate to her love of working alone, and the difficulty juggling being a “good teacher” vs. a “good artist”.? Enjoy~!
1. Tell a little about your business — what do you make/ sell, how long have you been in business, and what do you love most about it?
I make original mixed media collage and fine art prints, and I have been selling my work on Etsy since January of 2008. I?ve been creating mixed media collage since 2006 and I love the spontaneity of it all. All I need is paper, scissors and glue! Its portable media ? I often bring my art to work and make things while my students are busy making things of their own. (I?m an art teacher.)? Before I got into collage I was a painter, and I got tired of the time it took to set up and take down/clean up to actually paint. I really love to oil paint, and with the smell and chemicals it takes, I find it hard to paint at home. Collage is quick. I have a table in my studio that is constantly covered in papers and pens. When the mood to create hits me I just have to sit down and go to it!
2. How does it differ from your day job (creativity, skill, autonomy)?
In my day job as a high school art teacher, I am around art and art making all the time, which is great! What I don?t enjoy about my job is the non-art business that I must keep up with ? grading, organizing, planning, discipline?. This may sound crazy, being that I am a teacher, but I really like being/working alone. Artmaking is a pretty solitary pursuit and I like that. I can fashion my own little world in my collages.
3. What has been the most challenging part of juggling a business, day job, and family? How have you gotten through the difficult parts?
I often feel like I have to neglect my art to really be the best teacher I can be and I have to neglect my teaching to really concentrate on my own artmaking. I really haven?t found a good way to balance the two. I often fantasize about being just a part time teacher and part time artist, so I could have more time to do both things better. But, I don?t see that happening anytime soon. So, art often times gets pushed to the wayside until I?ve got a break from school. During the summer when I am not teaching, I try to do art on a full time basis and really stock up for the rest of the year.
I am an artist, and I have an almost constant yearning to make something. That is why being an art teacher works so well for me. I love that I can use my passion for art to inspire and assist my students. I am an art teacher today because of my high school art teachers. I hope that I can keep the inspiration train going and inspire some of my students to take up a career as an art teacher!
Keeping up an online presence and regularly creating new work for my shop really seems to help me. I find that when I am regularly tweeting, writing on my blog, and reading and commenting on others blogs, I seem to get more action in my own shop.
6. Some people use a side business as a way to slowly change gears from employee to business owner. In the future, do you ever see yourself transitioning to full-time entrepreneur? If so, what would ultimately help you ultimately make that leap? If not, what benefits do you enjoy with your current situation?
Yes! I would love to be a full time artist! I?m still working out how I could make this happen. I dream about finding a wealthy patron like the Medici family was to Michelangelo. (Ha!) In the mean time, while I search for this patron, I am trying to branch out and find other places besides Etsy to sell my work. I participated in two shows at a hip local gallery this past year and am hoping to do a big outdoor art fair this summer. If it doesn?t work out that I can make a go of being an artist full time, at least it can give me a little extra spending money.
7. Any additional words of wisdom you?d like to share?
Developing a successful online business and following takes time. I have to constantly remind myself of that and try not to get down when things are not selling. The longer I am at this the more I realize that if I make a good product that I am proud of, it will eventually find a good home with someone!
Beautiful work, Jennifer — best of luck in both your art and your teaching!