Kathy Cano Murillo is a self taught artist with a full time Chicano art business. She launched¬†CraftyChica.com, a wildly popular web site to inspire women to brighten their lives with clever lifestyle ideas. She has written seven craft books, two novels and launched two craft product lines.¬†Her goal is to spread positivity through creativity through her handmade goods, artwork, articles, books, product lines and workshops!
What do you do and how did you start?
After being thwarted by teachers in art and music during my grade school years I grew up believing I had no artistic talent whatsoever. But I was always the girl who was asked to “make the posters”.
It wasn’t until I met my husband that I began to dabble in crafts. I was the manager of his band (we were just friends then) and he inspired me to make stuff and sell my wares at his gigs – to keep me from dancing with cute guys bet! During the first set, I felt like an idiot because no one bought anything. As the night went on I ended up being the hit of the gig, I sold out of everything and finally deemed myself artistically worthy, in a beginner’s sort of way! My work evolved into being representative of my Mexican-American culture. My husband is an artist too and together we have created a line of art that we sell all over the country. It makes us closer in our relationship too! We donate our art to all sorts of organizations to help in the community too.
How old were you when you realised you wanted to do what you’re currently doing and how old were you when you actually began.
I was about 23 at the time and I began that very day and have never stopped since!
What jobs did you have before you went out on your own?
I worked as a bailiff’s assistant in traffic for several years. I realized then that I did not want to spend 40 hours of my precious week doing something I didn’t enjoy. What a waste of perfectly good living time! I also worked as an event coordinator for a gourmet and specialty shop after I came back from traveling around Europe. I worked as a barrista and a wine/cheese attendant. I loved it! I quit to do art full time, but even that drove me crazy after a while because we got too many orders too soon. I took a job at the local newspaper shredding papers. I eventually worked my way to up to being a features writer. Again, I made it a job I enjoyed – I volunteered to do a craft column – my passion! Now I actually get paid to come up with craft projects for our 500,000 readers. It’s a dream come true, and it’s not even like a job because I enjoy it so much!
How steps did you take to create your own business?
I always see people procrastinating until they get a five-inch thick business plan together. I say no way – I mean it’s good to plan ahead but don’t get so much into it that you neglect the whole reason you are making the plan – to make art! The steps I took were making samples and taking them to shop owners. When we got a sales rep, I got my business license so I could purchase my materials wholesale. I then visited all sorts of local shops to get them to carry my work.
It grew from there. Every so often I refresh my line so it stays new and fun. I ALWAYS carry around small items that I made to hand out when I meet interesting people.
You never know when you’ll meet the right person to network with!
What kind of formal education, training or experience do you have that applies to what you do?
Working retail was awesome because it taught me to see what customers purchased, they way they picked things up and looked at them,e tc. I’ve recently finished my BA in Business Management to help with my career. But if you don’t have formal training, don’t let that stop you. If you feel the need to express yourself go for it and if peoplelike it they will buy it and you will flourish. I’ve met people along the way who say “I want to make something and sell it, but I don’t know what”. I kinda cringe at that. I think art should come from the heart to bring pleasure and inspiration and thought. I guess thats why I not rich!
How did you first begin to sell/market your work?
I set up a table at local concerts and festivals. I then took samples into boutiques and met with the buyers. a couple of times I saved up and bought a space at a huge gift trade show. But now we have a website and it does the work for us.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? The most frustrating?
The most rewarding is when I see how happy people are when they look at or buy my art. And its rewarding that I’ve turned into my livelihood and that I do this with my husband. However, I do get frustrated because there are so many things I want to do and so little time. I also have two kids, so with them being my first priority, I can’t always get to my ideas. It’s hard to juggle so much. Often times I sacrifice my sleep! Can you say “quad mocha”? That’s how I get by!
Do you have any fears about what you do, and if so, how do you deal with them?
I don’t have any fears because I don’t have time to think about them, that’s time I could be making stuff! If anything it would be how long I can go on before m hands give out or my eyesight! I do wear Ace bandages if I’m working on a big order.
What kind of work environment do you have?¬†
We transformed our pristine living into our rough and tumble art studio. We threw up a wall and a door to close it off from visitors. It’sgreat because it gives us a lot of room for storage and creativity. We loaded in a stereo so we could paint to groovy tunes while we work! i also have a portable set up that fits into a tote bag for art on the go. That’s mostly wire stuff, crocheting and beads.
Have you encountered any financial obstacles, and if so, how did you overcome them?
When there is a will there is a way. We made a vow to stick to our plan of art -therefore we stretch that concept out 10-fold. We teach workshops to adults and kids, we sell at festivals, we hustle for orders and promote ourselves online a lot. It does pay off. I have my writing gig during the day but that all relates to my art too because of the craft column and the movie stories I write – I get the info by watching the boob tube while I paint!
What is your definition of success?
Doing what you like to do and sticking to it. Being able to not second guess your dreams/goals. However, there are sacrifices along the way – you’ve to prioritize what is important to you. If its obtaining material things, this is not the business for you. But if it is finding joy and satisfaction in living modestly off of your original creations, life can be real swell. I still have a long way to go, I’d love to go on HGTV or DIY network and shares craft projects and ideas. I’m pursuing it now, all theycan say is no. I’m cool with that, but at least I can say I tried!
Who or what are your inspirations?¬†
All the crafty women on the web are one of my main inspirations. Even though we don’t “see” eachother we know eachother and offer such a sense of community. I always try to link them on my site as soon as I find them to spread the news! My husband and kids are also a big source of my inspiration.
Words of advice for those pursuing their creative goals.
Make a To Do list. Write a paragraph at the top detailing what you want to do. Make a list underneath of what you need to do to get there. Dreams won’t come to reality unless you actively pursue them. Put that critical thinking cap on and jot down all your resources. Create a step by step plan and don’t stress if it takes longer than you’d like! Your goal is to do what you love and don’t be afraid to pursue it. Don’t ever make excuses. Make the most of it, leave a mark of yourself on this world!!!