Renée Parker has lived in Atlanta since ’89 and loves it, with maybe the exception of the traffic, and also likes to travel. She has a tiny goldfish named Milagro, an Inca Gold Snail called Esteban, and an Algae eater called Scooter. She hopes to adopt a puppy sometime soon. Renée describes herself as quirky, optimistic, inventive, resourceful, and a hungry-for-knowledge dreamer. Check out her shop here!
What do you surround yourself with?
Books, mostly about art, craft, artists & history. Things torn from magazines and catalogs because I get inspiration from shapes, colors, and textures found everywhere. Journals and sketchbooks – I have several that float from room to room, one or two that generally stay in my car and one or two tiny ones that fit into purses – ideas happen everywhere. Things that have pretty or unique textures and colors – I often buy paper, paint, jewelry components, yarn and other objects simply because they jump out at me and I know they’ll become something beautiful later, when the inspiration hits. And good, positive people.
What are some of your favorite things?
I love nature, history, artifacts, travel, learning about other cultures, DIY, inspiring other people, and of course, all things creative.
When not painting, what are you doing?
Sketching, sculpting, sanding, planning, measuring, cutting, designing, beading, wiring, knitting, reading about techniques, talking about projects with friends and family, and dreaming about the next exciting artistic adventure.
How long have you been crafting?
I’ve been creating since I was very young. I started at approximately three years old, according to my mother.
Why did you start?
It was exciting for me – there were always limitless possibilities before me when I sat down to draw, paint, or even color in a coloring book.
Where to you get your materials?
I’m fortunate in that my area has at least one each of most of the major art and craft suppliers planted around town. I also order online, from time to time. The thing I’m proud of is that I’ve been finding more and more ways to upcycle things and to incorporate recycled materials into many of my projects. That began when I was a child and developed an interest in making things from objects around the house, and refurbishing things.
Do you come up with your own designs for your items?
All of my work is my own original design. I rarely work from patterns or plans – they make me restless. I do sometimes find a project in a book or online and tailor it to my own design/style/specifications, though.
Can you tell us a little of your process?
Basically, I always have many pieces underway. Some will be paintings, some sculptures, jewelry, mixed media, etc., all at different stages of completion. My projects overlap naturally because I have an ongoing stream of ideas. I usually jot down notes and/or sketches as soon as new stuff develops in my head and either initiate the project soon thereafter, or allow time for the idea to develop further, while I work on other pieces. In between getting new projects started, I spend time here and there on various pieces already underway, moving each along at whatever pace they call for. I’ve learned that rushing a piece never gets me the end result I pictured in my mind, and that is another reason why it works for me to have numerous pieces going at once. Sometimes they surprise me and several are suddenly finished. It probably seems like madness to some, but my work is better and I’m happier with the end result when I let the pieces flow like this instead of following some regimented way of working strictly on one piece, nonstop until it’s done. I would probably lose interest very quickly that way, anyway.
How long does it take to complete an item, like your everyday mache?
It often depends on drying time and how anal I want to be about things like texture and color. Having had years of trial and error and being familiar with how a medium like papier mache behaves under different conditions makes a difference. A large bowl, like the Paper Scissors bowl usually takes about 4 hours of active studio time to create, not including drying times for the paper pulp and the acrylic paint.
Do you have a dedicated work area/room?
Yes, I have a studio space at home.
Is this your full-time job? Hobby? Fun?
I do create full-time, and am working on making it my main source of income. And it is fun!
Do you have a best seller?
My sales are all over the map, with most in jewelry, the recycled paper beads I sometimes offer, and greeting cards. I enjoy offering items at different price points because I like the idea of “art for everybody’s budget”.
What is your favorite?
My favorite things are the new things I’m working on and can’t wait to share!
Do you do other kinds of crafts not showing in your store?
I think there’s a little of most of the things I do featured in my shop, in one form or another. I’m looking forward to offering more of my paintings, including my watercolor work. And I’ve been working with soft goods made from upcycled t-shirts, for a line I hope to launch before the end of the summer.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
In 5 years I look forward to having expanded my work to feature recognized collections of art and design in different mediums, some in boutiques and galleries, some licensed, and some sold exclusively from my own online entities. I hope to have completed a small collection of books (a childrens’ book and books on creative techniques and inspiration) that have been chewing on me for a few years now, and to have done more television appearances to promote my work (I would love to appear on Martha Stewart and possibly Oprah!)
What have you learned since you started running your own business?
Oh so much – I could almost write a book on that, but since I don’t have time, I trade experiences and things learned with other creative business people. The most important thing, I think, is how much focus and attitude matter. Small business owners have to allow themselves time to learn and make mistakes, but keep moving. They must be very resourceful and creative, artists or otherwise. Being willing to constantly look for ways to grow and improve helps a LOT.
Do you have any advice for people trying to start their own handcrafted business?
Just START! I’ve learned that whatever you want to do, you just have to get started. No, it might not look or work like your fondest dream at first, but everyday is an opportunity to tweak and hone things and move them closer to what you envision. Then one day you wake up and see what you wanted in the beginning, or perhaps even better!! Look at people who are doing what you want to do and figure out how they got there. Be a total sponge. Seek out every spec of knowledge you can about your specialty, ask questions, then put your own unique spin on what you do. Be inspired by others’ work, then go do yours!