Our local artists are a vital part of Quinn's Mercantile and we hope you will enjoy learning more about them. This Artist Interview with Katie Vehr is a great way for you to get to know more about our local artists and opportunities to support them.
Tell Us About Yourself:
Who are you? Katie Vehr
- Education? Or background? I graduated from MTSU in 2020 with a degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences, nothing at all close to design or business!
- Part time/full time artist? I'm full time, part time. I'm a full time mom, wife, and maker. Working from home may sound great, but anyone who runs a small business from their home knows how hard it is to set those "work hours" & take time to separate yourself from work. Especially as a stay at home parent, it's hard to set up boundaries of when to work or when to not worry about it & do it the next day because we're doing all we can during nap times & school/sport activities!
When did you begin your creative journey?
I started in 2016 after I had my son. My mother in law bought me a chalkboard to do weekly/monthly updates for my son & when I remembered to do those (oops) I found myself looking up ideas on Pinterest. At that time, I didn't know anyone in Murfreesboro because I had moved from Chattanooga earlier that year & finding things to write and make became a creative outlet for me. I started following amazing calligraphers on Instagram & tried to learn what I could from their videos all while using a mechanical pencil, a pen, chalk, or a Crayola marker all on plain copy paper. I didn't have anything fancy or what the pros used but I still wanted to try! I eventually purchased a large chalkboard to practice on because chalkboard signage for weddings was very trendy at that time. I posted different photos of the chalkboard and various things I made & was commissioned for a military welcome home sign. That first sale gave me the push to keep making, creating, and learning!
I was then asked to address wedding envelopes for a music artist in Nashville and I was nervous. It was an exciting project that ended up being featured on a huge wedding website & was such a learning experience! That project really threw me into the wedding world of creating save the dates, wedding invites, baby shower invites, event signage on acrylic and chalkboards. I did primarily wedding/event projects until 2020 when COVID shut down weddings for who knew how long. I ended up trying out how to make stickers & ran with it! I also started making t-shirts, sweatshirts, kitchen towels, koozies, you name it. I wanted so, so badly to be in a store of some kind, but didn't really know the ins and outs of how to approach a business, what to look for in contracts, or where to even go until one day I was contacted by Quinn's to write on the ginormous balloons! After doing a few balloon orders at Quinn's & talking to the owner, Tracy, I realized I had found exactly where I wanted to be. I will forever be grateful that Tracy gave me the confidence boost I needed to trust myself, what I made, what it was worth and taking me on as a vendor in her store!
What do you make?
Stickers, t-shirts, sweatshirts, kids clothing items, kitchen towels, koozies.
What mediums do you work with?
Digital art that I make on my iPad and produce the images on items you can wear, put in your home, or on a sticker on your laptop!
What/who are your biggest influences?
As a business owner, Tracy Toy. She advocates for local artists/creators, small businesses, and has a no bullshit approach to it all. I feel comfortable sending her a design idea I have & asking for her opinion because I know she'll be honest. I've never felt hurt when I ask "would this do well?" and she says no. She wants me to put my money into items she believes would sell instead of wasting money on production and I have been so grateful for that. Especially when I have zero background in business/marketing!
Creative influence comes from Lauren Hom (@homsweethom) and Alli Koch (@AlliKDesign) because I love their styles & creative freedom.
My designs are usually inspired by things in everyday life and trends such as western themes/the big cowboy hat trend. I also LOVELOVELOVE reality tv/trash tv and all things pop culture, so you may see items from your favorite shows in my shop, too!
What inspires you?
I find a huge amount of inspiration in receiving orders. Of course, getting money & being able to provide for my family is incredible, but it is so much more than that when I make a sale and see my items selling at Quinn's Mercantile! Whether it's for one sticker or fifty stickers, the validation of knowing someone saw something that I made & it brought them so much joy that they had to buy it is just surreal. It gives me a burst of dopamine & reminds me why I keep doing what I'm doing!
What does your work represent?
Freedom & joy. Creating whatever the heck I want because I want to and because I think others will enjoy it, too. Being able to create items that people are excited to buy for themselves or for people they love.
What is your favorite piece that you’ve created so far?
My Murfreesboro Courthouse design. I designed it on my iPad before I was ever able to make it a sticker, a shirt, or a towel. I was so happy to have a design that represented the new city I lived in & its charm. I would visit shops & see things online that were always Nashville specific, which is great, but our city needed something that showcased its unique feel!
Do you have any best practices/creative habits that benefit your business?
Follow other creators that make you feel good about yourself & offer good insight about business ideas, marketing, and creating. BUT don't follow too many creators that are in the same niche as you because it can be information overload & can prevent your own creative juices from flowing. You don't want to have an idea too similar to someone else's!
Do brain dumps! Write out creative ideas, marketing ideas, things you need to do, etc. all on a piece of paper. Then, go back and prioritize them in order of importance!
Give yourself time to recharge & reconnect. Having to post on social media so much can be draining & lead down rabbit holes of scrolling. Take time to remove yourself from the apps and don't worry about creating or running a business for the weekend and you'll come back on Monday ready to go!
What is the best thing about being a creative business owner?
Making items and designs that I love and having no boundaries. I can create a design that appeals to someone who loves The Real Housewives and turn around and create a design that someone buys for a bridal party, a sticker of their pet, a sticker of an iced coffee. I don't have to stay in one lane which is great when you have ADD like me!
What advice would you give aspiring creative entrepreneurs?
Don't compare yourself to other creators. Their success has nothing to do with you just like your success has nothing to do with them. It can be hard seeing others post videos about how many orders they're receiving or how busy they are when you aren't. Sometimes these posts can be completely fabricated as a marketing tactic to create sales and aren't a true reflection of their current state. It is not always rainbows & fun times when you run a small business. Prepare for something to always have a wrench thrown into the middle of it and prepare yourself to overcome it!
I would love to be in more brick and mortar stores! Creating more items that sell as passive income such as digital products for other creators to use!
Where can people find you and your work?
Be sure to shop Katie's creations at Quinn's Mercantile!