I have admired Mindy Sommers' work for a while now and she graciously agreed to an interview. Mindy's work can be seen on tiles, walls, floors; you name it. She and her husband run Color Bakery and there are many products and services available.
This image is just one of her collections. Stunning work Mindy.
Please tell us about what you do.
I am a licensed artist, all digital, specializing in fine art and home decor. With my agent's support and coordination, I often create collections specifically for client requests. When I am not doing custom design projects for my agent's global manufacturing clients, I create what I want to create and send them to my agent for placement as well. When I am not creating art, I am looking at it and "shopping" the marketplace and noting trends and color palettes. Or I am putting together folders for new ideas and designs. I collect vintage art and ephemera. In one way or another, I am saturated in art every day.
What led you to do what you do?
I think it was a cosmic explosion of accident and coincidence that took an account executive in a New York City ad agency and transformed her into a full time Vermont artist. Sometimes I ask myself that very same question. The truth would probably be that it started in childhood with those big, gorgeous magic marker kits that my father would bring home, and I would spend hours and hours designing "fashion" models in different loud outfits. The models all suffered the maladies of tortured-poses and splayed fingers, along with badly drawn shoulders. Rip off decades' worth of pages on a calendar and bring on the start of the internet, and a friend sent me a copy of Photoshop and it was love at first .abr. It became an obsession so strong it threatened my marriage, I couldn't leave it alone. Texture, color, pattern, composition, the thirst was so strong it blocked out the light from anything else. Stronger than any drug, more powerful than any chocolate, I literally dreamed in Photoshop (and reached for control/Z if I didn't like something in real life) and started the long slog of teaching myself how to create art with it. In time, I had a loyal following online. My husband rolled the dice with my art, quit his job and we built a custom tile business and we worked until we were so tired we couldn't stand. Ten years later a man called me on a Saturday and wanted to represent me. And if I thought I had worked hard before ---running my own tile business by doing the art, design, marketing, mockups, promotions, websites, customer service, invoices, credit cards and more--- I would learn that was a mere prelude to the real work that was to come: art licensing.
What were the personal challenges you had to face in moving forward with your goals?
Self-doubt was a big one. When I first brought home my agent's brochures and portfolios, I realized that these artists were true professionals and were amazingly (frighteningly) talented and that I didn't measure up. I had no training, no art education, and I felt terribly inferior. My husband's dismissive waves of the hand were comforting for the moment, but I was terrified of failure. Those first days were pretty bleak. Glen was wonderful: for hours upon hours, he looked at the all the artists in my agent's online portfolio, narrowed down which ones created closest to my style and genre, and painstakingly wrote notes and names on pieces of paper. This was what I had to be as good as, this was what I was up against, and I was determined to know who I was competing with. This was a good exercise: it framed my mission into edible bites and enabled me to take steps forward without spinning wildly out of control. My husband's strong hand on my back keeps me from emotional reeling, and this time was no different. The second and probably biggest challenge that is ongoing is depression: chronic, chemical depression. I don't make enough serotonin to fill up a half a thimble, and that will always be a battle for me. I suit up in armor every day to fight it.
How did you deal with these challenges?
I can only say that what works for me is doing the work. There are no substitutes for the work. There is no class, no podcast, no seminar, no video, no support group or therapist that can take the place of actually sitting down and creating the art. Even if you don't want to. Even if you're not in the mood. Even if you feel like hell. Even if you make art that you deem is not even worthy of your cat's litterbox, I have learned that, for me, doing the work is the only way to bust out of the walls of self-induced fear and doubt. It is the only way to the other side where the sun is shining and the Maine Coons are playing. It is the only way to learn and hone and hone and hone your craft and train your eye and become the artist you were meant to become. I really believe this that doing the work is the only thing, it's everything, and everything else is just intermission.
If you could have done anything differently to get to where you are now in any way?
Oh no, I wouldn't change a thing, really. Not when it comes to art, anyway. If I apply this question to my life of course I would like to change a lot of things I did. I did some exquisitely dumb things. But not when it comes to art, no. It unfolded the way I think it was supposed to---hopefully that doesn't sound too new-agey but I mean it sincerely.
Did you always realize you would create a business out of something you love doing?
Oh Lord no, I didn't. It was the furthest thing from my mind. It was Glen who pushed me into believing it was possible. The whole thing of being on our own with no salaries was scary as all-get-out to me.
What do you do to nourish yourself on a daily basis so that you can perform at your best?
Working out of the home and making your own schedule is something I have learned many people have a problem with. I love unstructured living. I thrive on it. It suits me to start a new collection at 3 in the morning if an idea strikes me. But I do understand that we humans require *some* structure, some daily routine, no matter how loose, to work within. I have learned to take breaks and give myself more time to rest. I used to go without sleep, designing crazily into the wee hours night after night, falling asleep at my desk. I was exhausted all the time and my nerves were brittle. I was a cruel taskmaster with myself, but I have learned to be gentler. I don't have to prove anything to myself anymore.
What would you say is your “secret sauce” to your business?
This is a great question. I thought about it for a few hours before I was able to frame any kind of response. I have tips and tricks, certain ways of doing things, personal techniques, but I don't really think that's what you mean. That's not a secret sauce, a real secret sauce is so secret sometimes the artist doesn't even know what it is! If I tried to show someone how I do something or even recreate something I did in a typical fugue, I couldn't do it. Everybody has their own technique, which they may or may not be able to explain. The secret sauce is gritting your teeth and taking criticism from at least one person you trust and respect, and brutally comparing your work to those of artists you respect. It's working harder than you ever dreamed you could work and then working some more. It's looking at art you love and discovering why you love it, what drew you in, what it is that spoke to you, and then applying that knowledge, those feelings, to your own methods. The big thing for me is learning how to become humble, even when you believe a client is destroying your work and changing it into a piece of dumpster leavings. If you can do that and still be calm inside, peaceful, you've arrived. Because I can fill two planets with what I don't know, I have to keep reminding myself of that fact. Sometimes the client is pretty damn smart.
Just a few more images of Mindy's offerings.
Thank you Mindy for your candor...I love your story and hope that it helps others understand that each journey in Art Licensing and other creative endeavors usually take time and courage.
Find the Color Bakery online here: www.colorbakery.com/
PO Box 74
Poultney, VT 05764
Tel: seven days a week 1.802.287.9098, 11am-9pm eastern only
ART LICENSING FROM my PERSPECTIVE