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April 14, 2015

Seller Spotlight - Crystal Driedger Fine Art

If you haven't seen Crystal Driedger's artwork yet, you need to check out her Made Urban Storefront and watch the video below to see the detail that goes into each piece. It's truly amazing. From prints on blocks of wood to 3 dimensional art carved into wood and layered with paint, Crystal is incredibly creative and talented.

Tell us about your company

I'm Crystal Driedger, an artist, illustrator and sculpter. Everything I make is handmade, mostly on wood surfaces. Relief carvings are created using chisels, mallet, a Dremel and paint. Prints are hand cut, sanded and printed with original drawings. I strive to create artwork that creates happiness with a little humor sprinkled in for good measure.

Why did you start your business?

I've always wanted a home based studio so I could be home with my children while they are young. I have two boys: a 3 year old and a 5 year old. Plus, working for myself at home means I can head to the studio whenever I get the urge to create. No travel time!

A coffee shop that supplies your caffeine fix or a local designer that wowed you…tell us about a local company that has been a lifesaver to your business:
I'm so thankful for my support team. The first local company I work with is Box Social, run by Deanne Ferguson, who has helped coach me to create a growing social media presence (something quite crucial as an artist).

The second is Giselle Denis, another Sherwood Park painter. Her advice and buisness savvy is incredible.

The third would have to be The Paint Spot. They host workshops, have great supplies and run the artwalk every year, a fantastic event for new and established artists alike.

Where were you previously working and how did you build the skills for your craft?

I have a design and illustration diploma from MacEwan University (then Grant MacEwan College) and spent the first 5 years of my career working in-house as an illustrator creating work for a company where I created gift bags, greeting cards, wrapping paper and children's books that sold to Walmart, Costco, Barnes & Nobles, Dollarstore chains and more.

I then went on to be a designer & illustrator at the Royal Alberta Museum part time and freelance illustrated the rest of the week. That's when I started to create fine art for markets. I got an agent in New York to help with my licensing illustrations (gift bags, cards, puzzles, really anything you see artwork on in stores). It's been quite a journey.

I find inspiration usually online now, watching tutorials online and chatting with industry professionals. Whatever interests me, I look up, try it out and perfect the technique. It's easy these days to continually upgrade your technical skill for free with a little self motivation and dedication.

What was the first product you offered and how did you begin selling it?

After graduating from MacEwan, I completed a practicum for an Edmonton company that had a dozen illustrators working for them. It was an incredible experience, being surrounded by what was the best of the best and learning from them. The first artwork I sold would have been as an employee, creating Christmas gift bags for DollarTree. I made hundreds of snowmen and santa gift bags in those years. I can still paint a great snowman, they're really just fantastically stylized people.

How have you set your business apart from others doing something similar?

There are millions of artists and illustrators out there, but I set myself apart because of my style. Every artist has their own voice and I try to be true to mine. For me, it's not about making people like my work, it's finding the audience that likes my art and keeping them interested in me. Being approachable, honest and kind. Keeping my work professional, using top quality materials and working with venues that are also professional. Continually making my work better so that people who invest in my work can feel proud that they have supported me.

How does your business give back?

Currently, I support ASAC, the Association for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth. I have quite a nerdy obsession with birth, birth art and options for women. I've also set up charity art auctions for the Edmonton Humane Society (a dozen local artists produced paintings of local shelter animals for a big gala they were having).

What’s an interesting fact about you or your business, reporters would deem newsworthy?

I'm one of the only artists in Edmonton that produces painted relief carvings. I'm quite interested in texture and how different colours look together on rough surfaces. Maybe it's that I grew up in a log home in a remote part of Alberta, but trees and wood are a big component of my current work and I love to use locally sourced wood.

How do you stay ahead of the curve?

I'm an avid sketcher. Before any project gets near to the final piece a pile of sketches are made. It's crucial to feel uninhibited in the process stage - to know that the first sketch isn't likely to dictate the final piece. It makes me free to make mistakes, make a couple ugly things before the really good ones come about.

I draw inspiration from my pinterest boards and the instagram and twitter accounts I follow. I'm always collecting things that are amazing. The more directions and artists you draw inspiration from, the more likely you are to create original work of your own. It's very important to me to make original work, never copied directly from another artist.

Tell us about a business disaster you learned a valuable lesson from and can (hopefully) laugh about now:

When I first started doing markets, I just signed up for all of them. Any of them. There were a few really terrible markets that cost quite a bit up-front, but were so poorly attended that it made the 3 day take-down-set-up routine agonizing (I'm talking about less than a dozen shoppers walking through in 3 days). Now I carefully research where I sell my art to make sure I'm not wasting my time.

What has been the biggest challenge of running your business and how have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge has been having preschool aged children at home while working. I'm careful about how much I can take on because it's very difficult to work during the day. The boys are great at playing by themselves, but I don't want to get in a habit of working too many hours during the day so that they are forgotten. I often work after the children go to bed, especially before big shows where I log many hours at night. This will always be my biggest challenge, but also my greatest joy. I was born a Libra, always searching for balance.

What’s been the most important aspect to growing your business? 
 Social Media! Twitter, instagram and facebook business accounts.
We like to help hold people accountable so tell us one of your goals!

My aim this year is to create a significant body of original work. I'm aiming to be a part of Night of the Artists as well as the Calgary Art Market in 2016. There's also a desire to create a landscape series - I've been travelling around Alberta and this year British Columbia photographing beautiful places to create artwork from!

Made Urban teamed up with Canu Productions to create promotional videos for 3 Made Urban members. Here is Crystal Driedger's video:

Contact Tamarra of Canu Productions if you're interested in having a promotional video created for your business!

Thanks for sharing Crystal!

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