Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Artist Interview: Elisa Drumm

I got to know Elisa Van Auken of E. Drumm Designs because she is often my neighbor at The Buyer's Market of American Craft.  Anyone who attends the big wholesale shows is familiar with her and her amazingly talented family. She's been in business for 25 years creating whimsical clocks, mirrors and sculpture out of wood which she hand paints with delightful designs. I've always noticed her work because it's right up my alley - bright, bold, fun and playful. Walking into Elisa's booth feels like walking into a birthday party, it's such a happy place.
Describe your business in 30 words or less 
I work with pine and MDF board as well as cast pewter and found objects. Most of the mirrors and clocks are cut from pine plank, carved, then painted and adorned. My background and education was in Textile Design, working mostly in surf wear, so my colors are naturally bright.
How did you get started? I grew up in this business. My parents are artists and gallery owners. As kids, we always tagged along to shows or worked in the gallery on the weekends. It was natural for me to choose this as a career path.

How much of what you do is fun and how much feels like work? I love designing new pieces which usually happens twice a year right before the wholesale shows. Sometimes I get inspired right in the middle of my production time which distracts me, but you can not turn off creativity. I hate paperwork!!!!!!

Do you sell your products wholesale and, if so, what are the strategies that you use to get your work in stores?

Yes!!!! For most of the 25 years I have been in business it has only been wholesale. When I did clothing I would host several trunk shows during the year for private customers. I have relied on the BMAC as my main source for sales. I used to use sales reps, but the website has taken over that area.

What is the biggest challenge of being a self employed artist? Balancing work load, finances, and family… They are all 3 intertwined. In the early stages of my career, I had too much work and had to hire people to help. My kids were young, so I wanted to make sure I saw all of their soccer games and dinner was on the table. Much of my income then went to pay for daycare and assistants. Now that they are in college it’s getting enough work to pay for their college tuitions and I am doing all myself.
Who was your greatest mentor or inspiration when you started and why? 
My parents!!!!! They have always encouraged me as well as being great roll models. Now I am collaborating with my father. I ask Dad to design a pair of “bird legs” in pewter for my new clock and I get 5 different designs. I also have great admiration for my baby sister who is really, truly talented.

You can find Elisa's work in stores all across the country. She is also on Facebook and her website is www.edrummdesigns.com

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