August 2019

Local Artists Following their HeARTs in Business

Author: Lucy Rosen | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

“Do what you love, and the money will follow.” For four area women artists, that often-quoted saying couldn’t be truer. While there are many women (and men) throughout the Lowcountry who are fueling their passion for their art as hobbyists, many are also trying to earn a living as artists and have created businesses around their art. Just like everywhere else, it’s a tough road, but the personal and professional rewards gained from following their “heART” have proved to paint a bright picture for a number of women artists in the Lowcountry who have turned their love of art into thriving businesses.

Edith Wood
Edith Wood, a Canadian transplant to Bluffton, S.C., has made a name for herself in the world of wildlife photography. You can find her stunning photographs in many of the galleries and stores that line Calhoun Street, which is where she got her start seven years ago. “I started knocking on doors and showing my work—and owners responded with ‘yes, we want to showcase your work,’” she said. She participates in two festivals a year, primarily as a way to expand her reach and meet new people. And she’s built up quite a following over the years, with many fans waiting to see what she will showcase at the festivals. The originality of her work has given her photos almost instant name recognition. Nothing pleases her more than when she is doing her monthly sitting at the Society of Bluffton Artists (SOBA) Gallery (the established artist collective on the corner of Church and Calhoun Streets in Old Town Bluffton) and someone comes in, sees a piece of her work and immediately recognizes it as hers. Wood’s business growth, like many other artists, is dependent on word-of-mouth and some strategic social media presence creating additional awareness of her work. Some advisors have said she doesn’t charge enough for her art. However, Wood is steadfast in her desire to make her work affordable for all. Only five years into her business and with no sign of slowing down, she is thrilled that her art has generated such excitement here in the Lowcountry and that her business continues to grow. Her best advice for a wildlife/landscape photographer looking to break into the business comes straight from her heART: “Be original. Stand out. Don’t copy another style. Find your own and develop it.”

Maggie Karis
With 40 years of experience in advertising agencies, both as a creative director and art director, Maggie Karis owns and operates Karis Art Gallery, located in the Village at Wexford. Along with her late husband Peter, she opened the gallery in 2011, after Peter spent years of exhibiting his own paintings internationally. “Many people thought that when my husband passed away, the gallery would as well,” Karis said. “But after running a large creative department with some very impressive clients and large budgets, I knew I was capable of running our gallery.” When asked about advice she might pass on to women artists looking to make art their business, Karis said she doesn’t believe there is any difference between a man or a woman artist; art is one thing that is not judged or viewed by gender. “You feel art. Something inside of you either likes or dislikes art by how it makes you feel, not really by who created it.” Karis is quick to encourage both women and men artists: “Never stop growing and evolving in your art. Let your art take you on the journey, and you will eventually find your place that makes you the happiest in creating, whether anyone likes it or not. Create for yourself, and the results will be fulfilling.”

Nance Lee Sneddon
Find your way, find your style, spend time on your craft … all good advice from Nance Lee Sneddon, a well-known wearable art/textile artist who moved to Hilton Head Island in 1978. Sneddon opened her wearable art business in 1980 and is still going strong with new designs, new collectors, and a thriving business. Her artwork is all one-of-a-kind—painted, sewn and laced by her as labors of love. Sneddon has been an “artist” since childhood—painting and batiking as a kid, she said. Since then, she has had countless one-woman gallery shows—her most recent Hilton Head Island showing at the Redfish restaurant gallery.

Gayle Miller
You can’t mistake Gayle Miller’s style. A walking brand ambassador of her work, she is bold both in her presence as well as her stunning paintings. Her art can be found nearly everywhere in the Lowcountry, from galleries to stores to many people’s homes. Miller, the current president of the Society of Bluffton Artists, held her very first show in 2013, selling 11 paintings and never looking back. “The art business is not much different than any other creative business. The artist must be out and about and showing her work, promoting herself whenever and wherever possible,” Miller said. Since her first show in 2013, she has shown her work at over a dozen venues, sold hundreds of pieces, and continues to work on her business daily—whether it’s researching new galleries where she might show or updating her social media pages with her latest work. “I’ve taken a lot of chances and tried a lot of things. I’ve figured out what venues yield the greatest results for me and which aren’t worth trying again. The business of art is like any other business in that you must push extremely hard for the first few years and still keep a steady pace at marketing yourself and your business from there on. You can’t ride on success; you must build upon it.”

It takes a lot of heart to launch, run, and grow a successful business of any kind. And for these four successful women artists, putting their heART into their business has not only brought them personal and professional growth, but has brought beauty into the lives and hearts of all of us here in the Lowcountry.

Tips for Women Business Artists:
• Keep perfecting your craft.
• Don’t copy others’ work. Find your voice and your style.
• Create and use a social media platform to showcase your work to others outside the immediate area.
• Stay on top of the business. Being an artist in business is the same as any other business: you are in business to make money. To make money, you have to stay on top of your business.
• Don’t be shy. As an artist, it’s sometimes challenging to represent yourself. If that’s the case for you, look for a representative to help.
• Spend time working on your business as well as “in” your business.

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