Today we’d like to introduce you to Katey Kalanges.
Katey, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I grew up in a really small town in Upstate New York, and I’ve always gravitated towards the arts even when I was super young. Art was always my favorite subject in school and my art teachers were my idols growing up. While I struggled in subjects like Math and Science, art class became my refuge and my passion. I went to college in Buffalo and I chose to study Art Education and Ceramic Arts. Honestly, having this option seemed like a dream come true. Having the opportunity to dip my toes into several subject matters was really exciting for me, and I was inspired to combine techniques and create mixed media work. My last year in college was without a doubt the busiest/most hectic time in my life. I was student teaching Monday through Friday, working to complete my teaching portfolio for my final, bartending at least five days a week, and it was at this point I decided to start my Etsy shop and get my side hustle going. This was 2012. I would get home at night around 11pm and spend hours working on pieces to sell on Etsy. Sleep was definitely a stranger to me, but I set goals and deadlines and pushed myself to meet them. I was saving up money to move to the west coast.
In Buffalo, I signed up for art markets that were weeks away with no completed work in hand. A natural procrastinator, I learned that thankfully I worked well under pressure (I love a good challenge). In the beginning, I marketed myself mainly through social media and a few local art fairs. My family and friends played a crucial role in my early success. I had an amazing support system that shared my Etsy shop, my website, my events, and they left me incredible reviews on all my online platforms. My online sales took off immediately and my hard work was paying off. I started getting a fair amount of requests for commissioned mix-media works and my watercolor lovemaps were taking off. Once I began generating revenue through strangers, I knew I was doing something right. I had saved up enough money and although I was nervous to move since I was so comfortable, I was ready to head west. On my 36 day road trip to San Diego, I kept my Etsy shop active and I can remember painting lovemaps in random cities across the USA and shipping them out the next day. My car was a wreck!
Every time I shipped a piece, my pride grew… this is one of the first times I remember being extremely proud of myself for being so committed to my craft. Once I settled down in San Diego, I set different goals. I had to go bigger which meant art shows and more networking face to face. I was freelancing and taking on a variety of custom orders. I was doing watercolor lovemaps, pen and ink home renderings, mixed media paintings, wedding invitations and save-the-dates, graphic design, you name it. I was also bartending to make sure the bills were paid. After about a year, I realized I was doing myself a disservice by tackling such a variety of projects. I figured out what I really LOVED to do, and I decided to stick to lovemaps and large-scale, mixed media paintings inspired by the ocean. I started saying no to requests that didn’t feel like “me” and I can’t recommend this enough. Although turning down money isn’t easy, this was a monumental moment in my career. With this new plan and the continuous support of my friends and family, I can honestly say my business is exactly what I want it to be right now.
For my mixed media works, I use acrylic and watercolor paint, texture paste, and salt to create texture, movement, and life on canvas. My work has improved significantly over the years and the passion I have for my collection continues to grow. I’ve been found at farmer’s markets and art fairs in San Diego, and I’ve hosted art shows and even had my work hanging in an art gallery in La Jolla for a short while. Even though I am not a full-time art teacher, I feel extremely fortunate that I can continue to make and sell my work even during a pandemic. Earlier this year during the shutdown, I hosted a weekly art class on Instagram and bringing people together during such uncertainly was really special. I’ve always loved sharing my knowledge with people and community building… it’s good for the soul! As of right now, my work is available on Etsy, and I continue to promote my work on social media. I am so beyond grateful that my sales continue to grow, and my business is always expanding mostly through referrals and word of mouth. My advice to others is to always follow your heart. When you love what you make, your passion will shine through and the sales will come!
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Being a successful Artist is definitely not easy, especially when you are juggling other jobs in the beginning to make sure you can pay the bills! Paying for supplies upfront adds up, and it can be scary without having the security of selling your work. You have to believe in yourself! Starting a business requires a ton of commitment and in the beginning, it’s a grind for sure. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and feel like you aren’t good enough, but I always remind myself that my personality and authentic self is my best tool. As an artist, sometimes you have an “off” day and your creative genius is on a hiatus. Those days can be really rough, so it’s important to step back once in a while and give yourself a break.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I sell my work on Etsy and I specialize in mixed-media paintings inspired by the ocean. I use acrylic paint, watercolors, salt, and crackle paste to create textured works. My painting process is messy and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I lay the canvas flat and work around it in a very abstract expressionist kind of way. I am most proud of these because they are different from anything I’ve ever seen, and I feel the most confident making these works. My watercolor lovemap paintings are very popular as well, and I really enjoy making these. It’s fun to hear people’s stories about their favorite locations and what makes that spot so special to them!
Right now I have a full time position as a Gallery Director which keeps me up to date in the art world. I still have time to focus on my work but I am committed to learning and growing right now. I’ve learned so much these past few years about how to run a gallery space, and I am inspired by all the Artists that are creating and running a business!
Where do you see things going in the next 5-10 years?
I would love to own a gallery space and large studio within the next ten years. I see myself in a space in San Diego hosting painting and ceramic classes, with a small gallery attached to display and sell my work.
- Lovemaps $50 + shipping
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.kateyk.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kateykpaintandclay/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kateykpaintandclay