“Sweet Home, Alabama!” + 49 other States
I put a lot of trust in my intuition --- it has steered me away from some would-have-been bad decisions and led me to choices that served me well. I’ve come to rely on these “gut feelings” or “hunches” or “my intuition” or “a God thing” or whatever-you-want-to-call-it surrounding my business and artwork creation.
The Alabama state artwork, my first state print, was made entirely on a “hunch”.
Me: *driving in the car*
Hunch: You need to make an Alabama original featuring wildflowers found growing throughout the state.
Me: How do I do that?
Hunch: You’ll figure it out.
I had just started my business and my art supplies were quite limited: I had a pad of watercolor board, a small palette of watercolors, and calligraphy pens that were my mom’s when she was my age. (Note: My supply list has grown a lot since then, but I still used those same exact supplies with all my location prints so that they’ll have a similar look.)
My dad retired from being a botany professor several years ago, and gave me all of his old wildflower identification books as he knew how much I loved scientific illustration. I used those for research, wanting to find plants that grew in the Alabama area.
I have a lot of folks ask why I selected “XXXX” flower for “XXXX” state: often times it’s because I have a personal connection to that plant, sometimes the plant is just a big part of a state that I have to use it, and other times it’s because the plant is the perfect composition to whatever state I’m working on (i.e. Maryland -- a beautifully shaped state that only several “plants” would be able to “fit” and make the composition work). It’s not as easy as “just pick and flower and paint it”.
(Note: picture above is the pasture where dandelions & grape hyacinths, both featured in the Alabama piece, grew in abundance)
I do not remember how long it took me to complete the original Alabama artwork. To date, the artwork for each state takes around 6-8 hours to complete. With the print production process taking much longer (usually several weeks).
What happened next was truly a life changer.
I had finished the Alabama artwork and wanted to add my signature and sell it as an original. As I went to sign the piece a massive drop of ink hit just outside of my artwork -- too close to the art to cover with a mat and too large to cover up with any sort of medium (believe me, I tried). I had a choice: add the artwork to my pile of unsellable pieces or make the best of it.
After making my first post, the Alabama print sold out 3 times in 72 hours.
Within days I had requests pouring in from friends and family and folks whom I’ve never met for me to create other states.
I created a website. I opened an Etsy shop. And in 2020, major surgery and the pandemic happened within a week of each other -- so I embraced being “high risk” and dedicated my quarantine to finishing all 50 states.
In March 2020 I received my first online sale for 2 sets of Alabama notecards. I honestly thought someone had made a mistake and accidentally ordered from me. Joke was on me, at that point I had no idea how to: package product for shipping or actually ship a product to an actual person.
My oh my how much I’ve learned and grown.Folks began requesting state notecards, and I began taking mini “leaps of faith” with ordering larger inventory. Our house and garage have turned into a shipping center & warehouse. We’re hoping to move to our own space in January 2022. Pictured below: just another freight delivery of 50,000 envelopes sitting in the middle of my garage.
My mind truly has a hard time grasping all that has happened over the last year. It feels like ages ago and then just like yesterday. That drop of ink has paid for some very expensive surgeries, it’s helping fund our adoption, it has fulfilled this dream of mine to own my own company, it has brought more joy into my life than I’ve ever had before, and this art is serving as an avenue for me to love & serve other people.
I am so humbled by it all and so thankful.
I have ideas of where I want this art journey to take me and my family, but I do welcome the “ink drops” that will surely throw me off course: life will always make you stronger & better if you let it. I do know that I have big dreams and plans for this business, I know my purpose, and I know how I want this business to serve others.
P.S. The photo below was our Christmas season 2020 reality. I was working from 7AM - ????. I had friends & family volunteering their own time just to help me through. Drew would join me after he got home from his job. There were many late nights. I was constantly checking USPS tracking (because DANG those transit delays!). I was sleep deprived and a wee bit stressed. But we had a whole lot of thanksgiving + happiness. I took this photo as I always wanted to remember this moment, no matter how much we may grow:
Everyone who sees my Rhode Island print loves it! Amanda also included the island of Block Island on the print. I just received my Rhode Island notecards. I’m just waiting for the stickers of Rhode Island to come out. I love Amanda’s work. I’m hoping that if Amanda and Drew adopt a baby girl they will name her with the name of a flower! 🌻🌺
I love my watercolor of Ohio & so does everyone who sees it! Thank u for ur beautiful work!