I have a neighbor who I love. We’re both moms of four. We both have struggles with our kids, with our husbands, with managing our homes, with balancing our jobs, and with pursuing our creative endeavors. When we meet up by accident on the street, or at the neighborhood picnic, or in passing, I always feel like she has a tid-bit of wisdom for me. When we have a chance to really sit and talk, she inspires me, and I leave our chats feeling refreshed, encouraged and ready to be more purposeful in the things that I do. Sometimes she offers me solutions for problems that I’m having. Sometimes she just listens and lets me figure it out. Sometimes I listen to her, and try not to say too much….(even a fool is considered wise when he is silent, right?) If you are like me, you just need a little encouragement sometimes. I think that Casey of Casey D Sibley Art + Design has that for you. She’s got such a great perspective on her work as an artist and as she tells the story of her journey to where she is today, she gives such helpful advice. I feel like, even though I’m not personally starting a business, I can learn something from her down to earth and realistic and relatable experience. Check out her very lovely work, and enjoy this gem of an interview!
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Casey and I own the online shop, Casey D. Sibley Art + Design. I grew up in Columbus, MS and moved to beautiful Reno, NV about three and a half years ago with my husband, Alan. We live here with our two dogs, Scout and Hux. My educational and (most of) professional background is in architecture, and about 3 years ago, I decided to pursue my own business with my artwork. Best decision I ever made!
What do you make or do?
I specialize in surface pattern design for textiles, which I use to make my line of handmade home decor products and personal accessories. I create each of my designs from my sketches and paintings and find much of my inspiration in bright colors and patterns found in nature.
Where can we find your creations?
I sell my items online at caseydsibley.com, Etsy (etsy.com/caseydsibley), and other sites through drop shipping (BRIKA.com, Brit.co, and the Martha Stewart American Made Market). I also have wholesale accounts with several shops across the U.S. and in Canada and Australia. You can find a lot of my process behind the scenes on Instagram.com/caseydsibley, Twitter.com/caseydsibley, and Facebook.com/caseydsibley.
How long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?
I started my business in 2011, just thinking that maybe I would sell a couple of paintings to make some extra cash (and to be totally honest, I was too afraid to sell my work before that). My first orders came from family and friends and it was immediately clear to me how much I loved sharing my work with others. After much agonizing over admitting that I loved it more than architecture, I decided to give it a real shot and take myself seriously by 2012. Since then, I have been transitioning from full-time in architecture to full-time in my own business. I currently work a couple of days a week at an architecture firm to supplement the income that I make from my business. There was a very long period of time when I felt desperate to quit my day job (it seemed like everyone and their momma was doing it!). But when I first went “freelance” with architecture, it became pretty clear that I needed that day job–even if only part-time–to help release the financial pressure a little so that I could still grow my creative business and pay the bills. I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to know that a day job is not the enemy when starting out. It has been really beneficial for me. And I feel really close to being able to go full-time with my business soon.
When you’re not making things, what do you do?
I spend a lot of my time making OTHER things when I am not making things for my business, haha. I really love to create and figure out how things are made. One of my other creative passions is cooking. After a long day, I enjoy pouring a glass of wine and making a nice dinner for myself and my husband–I find it therapeutic. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest looking up new recipes. I also enjoy spending my time watching movies, and when the weather is nice, exploring Reno. This place is such a hidden gem and has some great restaurants and outdoor activities. And the community here is so warm and accepting.
Is creativity a luxury or a necessity for you?
Creativity is both a luxury and a necessity for me. Before I started my business, I worked full-time and often felt like I didn’t have time to devote to creativity as much as I wanted to. But once I started sharing my work online, I felt so strongly that I HAD to do it more. It really opened the floodgates for me. But it’s also such a luxury to think that this thing that I enjoy so much can be a full-time career and pay my bills. This year I have had several moments where I thought, “Wow, I paid for rent/bills/equipment with the income from this business. How did that even happen!?” To me, that income feels so rewarding coming from something I put so much of myself into. In contrast, when I was working full-time in my previous career, I always felt like something was missing and would fantasize about pursuing a livelihood as an artist or maker of some sort.
What obstacles have you had to overcome to lead a creative life?
I definitely struggled a lot in the beginning to let myself believe that this was a viable career path. I chose a career in architecture right out of high school because I was artistic and good at math (haha), and it just seemed like the most logical, reliable, easy-to-explain fit. I felt really overwhelmed by the fear of not pursuing a “serious” career, and was definitely letting the stereotype of the starving artist prevent me from speaking up about what I really wanted to do: make a living from my art. I didn’t want people to think I was flaky or weird. But one thing I have learned throughout this process is that people generally believe you are who you say you are. So I had to own it. That was when things started really coming together for me. I stopped downplaying my “biz” and started talking about what I was doing in a serious and passionate way. People started taking me seriously and more opportunities started becoming available.
Did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?
I am very fortunate to have a family that always encouraged me to be creative. My mom pretty much made me feel like everything I did was the work of a prodigy! I had a very creative grandmother (Memaw Sally) who was a Maker in every sense of the word: she painted, drew, sewed, cooked…her entire home was DIY (before it was a thing) and I loved spending time with her. We always made something from scratch. Also, art class was always my favorite in school and my high school art teacher, Mrs. Mitchell, was particularly encouraging and supportive.
What’s on the horizon for you and what you do?
My favorite part about the design process is coming up with new patterns, and I plan to continue to grow the surface design and art licensing part of my business over the next year. I would love to see my artwork on bedding and other large-scale home decor items. I’ve also been working on a new line of scarves, which has me really interested in other textiles for apparel and accessories.
If money wasn’t an issue how would your life change with regards to your art?
I would definitely be working on my art full-time, and traveling the globe to discover new ways to produce the products that I love (I just came across Ritchie Ace Camps, which is a series of workshops all over the world focused on design and food–total dream!).
What inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?
Work like you want it right now, and be prepared to wait it out. With all the success portrayed online, it’s really, really hard not to compare yourself to others and think you aren’t doing it right or that it’s not happening fast enough. Trust me, you are doing it right. Just keep chipping away at your goal, even if it’s only a little at a time. And take the time to look back at where you started and appreciate how far you have come.
Oh, and, my favorite mantra (of many–get yourself some mantras!): Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. Any time I am struggling with pursuing something that seems unattainable, I just say this to myself.
Who are the makers that inspire you?
So, so many! When I was starting out, I was really inspired by the growth of Susan Peterson of Freshly Picked (she was on freaking Shark Tank, for crying out loud, and she nailed it). I also really love Lisa Congdon. She is such a great example of an artist who is making her way in both the fine art world and the art licensing world. And she shares so much about her growth as an artist and business owner, so you should follow her. The people who inspire me the most are the ones that took an idea or talent and ran so hard with it, beyond their living room studio, to build a real livelihood from something they love. A few others that I adore: Emily McDowell, Lotta Jansdotter, Jen Bee of Grainline Studio, Britt Bass, Megan Auman, and Ashley Goldberg.