We all love CBus! And others love the steel city to the north, Cleveland. We’d like to spotlight artist Colleen Smith, who uses mixed media to create city skylines of these great two cities.
How would you describe your product? I like to think of my original paintings as a fusion of history and paint. Every image starts with a blank canvas and a sketch. I then find vintage newspapers, magazines, programs, etc. related to the subject matter and lay them into my drawing. Once the composition is set I use acrylic paint to add in the color! I created my line of handmade giftables (wood prints, candles, magnets, ornaments, cards) because it was important for my to make my art accessible to all budgets.
What was your motivation to launch your own business? I have always loved my hometown Cleveland, Ohio. When I moved back in 2007 and took up residence downtown, I rediscovered the city as an adult and fell in love all over again. I created my first large scale acrylic mixed media painting in 2008, which was the view from my apartment. I used vintage newspaper articles about the history of the city to make the buildings. I didn't know it then, but an idea was born that would later launch my career as an artist.
In February 2012, I was laid off from my agency job. Right around that time I had received my first consignment check from the CLE Clothing Co., my very first retail location. The prints of my original cityscape sold out in two weeks. I was floored! I knew I was smart, driven, creative, & passionate. I had managed multi-million dollar businesses successfully in my 10 years in corporate America - so why couldn't I turn my creative talent into a business? It was at that moment the light bulb went on and I realized there was a demand for my work if I was willing to put in the work. My first year I turned a profit and am currently in my fifth year with 10 retail locations across Ohio: six in northeastern Ohio, three in Columbus, and one in Athens, in addition to my custom business on Etsy Shop.
What inspires you? Sometimes, it comes from the strangest places: A billboard while driving, an endcap at Target, the design on a building. That is where my designs and product ideas come from. My daily inspiration comes from the consumer - the shared love and passion that we have for our city. That is what I try to capture when I create a piece or introduce a new product line and it sells out, that is such an incredible feeling. Knowing then you connected with your target audience - it's almost like getting a seal of approval or nod of encouragement!
What are your favorite locally made products? There are so many talented makers in Ohio! I would say a lot of inspiration comes from being surrounded by all of this amazing talent. That and the wonderful small business owners I get to work with to sell my products.