An Artist with an Entrepreneurial Spirit

“I’ve been two things for certain all of my life.  An Artist and an Athlete.  My life and all of the moments in it have in some way been defined  by Art or Sports.”  -Kelly M. Clancy

According to my Mother, my artistic talent became evident around the tender  age of  4.

I really have little recollection of life without Art.  From my earliest childhood memories, I loved my crayons and coloring books, doodling, craft projects or any creative endeavor.  It has been my greatest passion in life and also a tremendous gift to own.

I began to combine my early artistic skills with my entrepreneurial skills.   I thought if I could make something  I would be able to sell it.  My next-door neighbor growing up owned a craft store.  She taught me how to make these super cool pencils called Frustration pencils back in the 1970’s.  They had fur around the top of the pencil, googley eyes, and a sequin nose.  If you were frustrated, you rolled the pencil back and forth between your palms and the fur went crazy.  I started making as many as I could, and even got my brother to sell them for me to his friends in his class at school (for which, he got in trouble for-sorry Bro.)  They were a hit.  I made and sold dozens of them and I still have one in my pencil cup.

My next endeavor was far less creative; the classic lemonade stand in a beautiful neighborhood in a small town in New Jersey.  Although I understood that we could make money and have some fun too, I could simply not understand what my Mother told me about running my new business.  “I will get you started with your first canister of Country Time, but after that, you have to buy it with the money you make”.  How on earth, I thought was I going to make good money on this if I had to buy the lemonade from my own earnings?  Needless to say, the lemonade stand was a one-season business.

The next opportunity for business came my way when my brother decided to give up his paper route and wanted to pass it along to me.  It wasn’t exactly working for myself, but it was close enough.  I’m not sure I liked having to collect the money from the neighbors though; when they would not freely offer it in the handy little envelopes we would leave for them to put back  under their mat on their front porches. You had to actually knock on the door and ask for the cash.

Once in junior high and high school I  took the normal jobs most teens did at that time.  The most scarring however, was the brief stint I did at a Roy Rodgers: having to don a bright red button down shirt with mother of pearl buttons and white piping, a badly 80’s faded denim wrap skirt, and a freaking cowboy hat.  The only thing redeeming about that job was the strawberry shortcake.

After a few years at a University in PA studying fine art and design, I decided to move west to California.  I was working in the restaurant business at the time, but my art was still a central focus and something I continued to pursue.  At that time, I was  doing a lot of drawing and painting.

Sometime in the early 90’s, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make candles.  This is my first real recollection of how my creative process works.  Growing up in NJ, I had an Uncle who used to hand make and sell candles at local art and craft shows.  I have a vivid memory of the apartment he lived in and the aroma of that hot wax wafting through the air.  Rather than go out and purchase a book on how to make candles (this was Pre-Google and internet) my intuition told me to just learn it as I did it.  I worked my way around the house gathering  up all of the candles I could find.  In a double boiler, I  put a large metal bowl with all of the candles in them and let them melt.  Once they were melted, I scooped out the remaining wicks so that I could reuse them.  At the time, I was working at a restaurant and had saved several different size cardboard milk containers for molds.  I took pencils and tied the wicks onto them and straddled them across the cut off milk containers to hold them in place and then filled them with the molten wax.  I remember that first batch of candles like it was yesterday.  I was thrilled with myself.  I remember showing them to my best friend and she kept saying, “but how did you know how to make them? ”  I told her I just figured it out.  That has become another recurring theme in my pursuit of art: figuring things out on my own.  At the time, the Grateful Dead was still performing  and I was a fan.  My friend told me I should bring my candles to sell at a show. For those of you not fortunate enough to have gone to a Dead show, the parking lot scene before and after the concerts were amazing displays of handmade goods and homemade foods, so I decided to join the other vendors and make a few bucks while I was there.

And that began my first business of handmade candles. I have always been incredibly frugal.  (Except, maybe on occasion when it comes to shoes.) I found and priced out the wax I would need to make candles and it was fairly expensive.    Since I was well connected in the restaurant industry at that point, it occurred to me that most of these establishments burned votive candles nightly.  In the one that I worked  the morning shift, I had to clean out the inch of wax left in the glass votive from these candles and when you did that with all of the votive from all of the tables, it amounted to about a bucket of wax.  I decided to reclaim it.  I started getting my co-workers to save the buckets filled with wax for me.  Once home, I used some cheesecloth to strain the wicks and metal tabs.  I discovered that candles could be melted to make different colors of wax.  I continued to use milk containers from the coffee house as molds.  Thrifty, frugal, resourceful and creative are all words that would describe me. 

 

I went on from my initial debut at the Dead shows to have my candles in several boutiques and also became a regular vendor at large scale local Farmers Market that drew crowds of 100,000 weekly in Northern CA.

Fast forward several years…..and several moves later. As much as I loved candle making,  the gear to make them was cumbersome to lug around and set up.  (I distinctly recall at one point making them on a gas burning camping stove because the place I was living had no kitchen) I was ready for a new medium and decided to go back to designing jewelry which I had spent several years in college studying.  I was limited to bead work and simple assembly since I had no means for casting and fabricating pieces.  Within weeks, I was attending craft fairs and art shows and selling many of my new designs in my new jewelry line.

With the inception of TriDiva(R) in 2005 (begun as a Women’s Triathlon Training Group), I soon channeled my artistry into designs to decorate the athletic and non athletic women whom I had begun to Coach. This began my entry(albeit a small, humble entry) into the small niche market of triathlon.  I had had several ideas prior to TriDiva(R) for a start up apparel company and my reasoning had always been because I hated what was available for us to wear while we trained or competed in sports.  I could not understand why fashion and style could be applied to every type of clothing, with the exception of sports apparel.  I altered, added and embellished my own clothing because I spent so much time in it and it made me feel better when I had something on that looked good.  Doesn’t everyone FEEL better when they LOOK better?  Currently  I am pursuing investment opportunities to take the clothing line to the next level and position ourselves  to manufacture and produce our own designs and opportunity is everywhere. Stay tuned…..

Recently in an effort to expand my design horizons and facilitate some additional income, I taught myself how to sew.  I was able to pick it up quickly enough to earn my way into a juried art show just several weeks later.  I currently sell a line of leather handbags, jewelry and accessories to local boutiques, online and weekly at the Santa Barbara Art Walk every Sunday.

To see my most recent creations, visit my etsy shop:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/tridivas