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Alumni success ‘spotlight’ interview with Courtney Beth Keller


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We are so proud of our Make Art That Sells Alumni, that we are pleased to continue a series of spotlight interviews showcasing their successes and artwork. We also ask them to share how the MATS courses have helped them learn and grow. You can see more Alumni Success stories here

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cbk-headshot-BW-illustrated-550pxToday, we have an interview with Courtney Beth Keller of One Little Printshop. Courtney has taken MATS Bootcamp twice and MATS Home Decor twice, plus MATS A&B.

1. Tell us a little about how you got started in art and design

I started making art as a child – I remember in elementary school, cutting stacks of paper into heart shapes and other shapes, stapling it together and drawing images on the pages, essentially creating my own 1980’s stationery line. :) I always took art classes, and in junior high I won a contest drawing our yearbook cover. I started oil painting in high school, attended Kansas City Art Institute and in my 20’s, ran an online shop called Peace Boutique selling bags I sewed and screenprinted with my designs, always as a side gig while keeping a full-time job. I sold handmade skirts and dresses all over the world, from the US to the UK to South Korea. The high point in that era was selling a dress to Margaret Cho! When my son was born in 2011 I decided to take my creative work freelance and make it a full-time endeavor as One Little Printshop, illustrating and designing and creating work I could license. I illustrated a series of 3 children’s books over several years. When I discovered MATS courses, the world opened up!

2. Lilla always says “People buy your joy.” What brings you joy?’

I find joy in discovery, love working with different materials, and exploring texture, ink, textile, fabric, and COLOR! I also find joy in collaboration, and putting my energies into projects bigger than myself is incredibly rewarding.

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3. Which is your favorite market(s) to design for and why?

Currently I’m most interested in creating home decor / interior decor / textile patterns, because that is when I feel the most free and create interesting patterns. I think the fact that home decor allows for such a huge range in scale is part of what I love. Patterns can be tiny, printed on a tiny glass plate, or HUGE, printed on curtains or wallpaper.

4. What are you working on currently?

I am finalizing my Surtex preparations, including a Blurb book, a stack of fabric samples, and making little glass-and-metal magnets to give away. I’m also working on a list of projects to dive into after Surtex, so I don’t get lazy over the summer. This fall, my son will begin kindergarten and my studio time will nearly double – I’m very excited to see what the second half of 2016 brings!

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5. What are some of the key things you have learnt from the MATS experience?

I think the biggest takeaway for me has been the understanding that being a solo entrepreneur doesn’t mean working alone in a vacuum. I was fortunate enough to become a member of the Finch & Foxglove artist collective. The combination of 8 creatives from around the world has helped fill in my blind spots. I am a very productive artist but I have a very hard time knowing how to promote myself, and would never have achieved the preparation level for Surtex that I have achieved with the help of the group. Together, we go far! MATS taught me to find my tribe, throw my energy into moving us all forward in our careers, and it’s been life-changing.

6. How have the classes helped your artwork evolve /grow?

The MATS classes helped me see that I don’t need to segment my interests and knowledge. My web work and digital skills are just as important in my career as my painting and drawing skills. I used to stress about whether to let my web design play a part in my analog art. I’m not sure why, but I segmented different creative interests. More than any other MATS course, the Home Decor class made me realize I could let all my various interests intermingle and shine; my digital skills help me so much when I create mock-ups and build my website. My printmaking and hands-on background helps when I make promos, because I am not afraid to get messy with glue, ink, paint, printing, and metal. My graphic design background helps me when I put together my portfolio book. My creative garden can all grow in the same dirt, different flowers and plants are welcome.

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7. Any aha moments during MATS you would like to share?

YES. My aha moment was a humble one, but huge for me. I have struggled a bit as a solo mom raising my son alone, with envy: I would see others post things in the Facebook group like “hubby took the kids all day so I could make art!” and feel a sinking feeling. I only looked at what I didn’t have and thinking I could never achieve without the same support / financial infrastructure / art supplies / studio / whatever. Some time during 2015 MATS courses, this changed for me. I had this huge AHA moment that those petty comparisons are meaningless. I have to embrace my own situation and make art from where I’m at today. And once I did that, all the side-line glances and envious frustration I felt… *poof* …vanished.

8. What are your key successes since taking a MATS class?

The most obvious success for me has been joining a collective and working toward my first big trade show. But there are other successes too: I’ve got a Spoonflower shop with over 100 different designs for sale, and nearly every day someone favorites one of my designs. I’ve also put energy into creating a steady Instagram following. I won a lettering contest by Sakura International (the company that makes Micron pens), which was a wonderful personal accomplishment – and they sent me a bunch of art supplies!

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9. How would you describe taking a MATS class to a fellow artist looking to develop their art

I would encourage people to take MATS as a creative improvement process. It’s all about what you put into it. Go into it thinking you’ll come out improved, and you will!

10. What is your dream gig for your artwork?

My ultimate pie-in-the-sky gig would be creating a collection for Marimekko.

See more work here: Website | Instagram | Collective

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Graduates of our courses have gone on to win work from clients such as Hallmark, Robert Kaufman Fabrics, Oopsy Daisy, Uppercase Magazine, West Elm, Midwest CBK, and more. It is industry learning that works in the real world. Find out more HERE and start today!

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