About the Artist
"Beauty from one's soul comes through in the things they create and the way they choose to live life." So believes Cathy Scalise of Treasured Heirlooms, where the beauty from her soul is seen in her elegant and whimsical artwork. Drawing on her creative talents, Cathy adds the romance of yesteryear to her customers' gardens, homes, and lives through her creations. In her youth, she was deeply affected by her grandparents' collection of antiques, linens and lace, and the pleasure they took in creating a home. Cathy now helps her customers add those same special touches to their own decor. Her creations have been featured in several magazines, and her online boutiques are an inviting place where anyone can stop to smell the flowers, pick up a unique treasure, and find their way home.
Cathy, how did you discover your love for creating art?
I believe you are born with the ability, desire, and passion to be an artist. Some of us are born painters, some sculptors, some writers. Others may learn to create artwork in an arena that they are interested, and for others, it is a natural path. I have created since I was a small child. I loved to watch my mother plant her gardens each season and my grandmother sew us new clothes. My mind was a never-ending spiral of creativity.
As a child, "Good Housekeeping" and "Better Homes and Gardens" always had do-it-yourself projects. I would stare at the pages in the checkout line while my mother was paying for groceries. Magazines were not in the budget. This is where being young and having a good memory came in handy. The details on the page became etched in my mind. Each step of my favorite "projects" was burned into my brain so when we arrived home, I could get out a needle and thread or some clay and glue and get to work.
Of course, I had to work fast so I wouldn't forget the instructions, but the details, embellishments, and final results were my very own. No matter how terrible or how wonderful my creation came out, I was always told it was a work of art and given high praise from mom.
Did you always know you were meant to be an artist?
I believe being an artist is in my genes. Although my life has traveled many paths, my goal to have my artistic talents become my livelihood was always in the forefront of my mind. My dream of having my home featured in a magazine and owning my very own gift shop where I could sell my artwork has never wavered since childhood. I must admit as a child this crazy dream was just that ~ crazy.
My grandparents had just survived the Depression, and my parents believed frivolous dreams were not to be taken seriously. During my four years of high school, I spent most of my free time in the arts and crafts studio. I learned how to work with many different mediums. Jewelry-making and ceramics were the areas in which I enjoyed creating the most. Although I would have loved to continue on my journey and attend a college for the arts after graduation, that was not in the cards for me. However, my dreams never wavered although deep down I really didn't have the faith that one day it could become a reality. Life changes are always testing our faith.
Your grandparents were a significant influence on the work you do today. Can you tell us how they influenced you and your business?
My grandparents were immigrants who came to America during the Great Depression to find a better life. Gardening, masonry, carpentry, cooking, sewing, along with any other tasks necessary to survive was all they knew. You didn't buy anything you could make yourself. It was necessary to be able to utilize every ounce of their creative being to live. Each and every member of my family has amazing talents all of which we were born with or learned out of necessity.
Every weekend, we visited my grandparents. Each visit was a treasure trove of inspiration and learning. When the moon was full, my grandfather took us out at 4 a.m. to dig for clams and mussels which we would cook and eat later on in the day with pasta and sauce made from tomatoes from their garden. A fresh salad full of greens, vegetables, and herbs also came from the huge garden in the backyard. My mother baked with fresh fruits made from pears, grapes, apples, and peaches, all of which we grew ourselves. My grandmother was an expert seamstress for 50 years in Boston while my grandfather wove fresh cane and rush which was used to design the backs and seats of beautifully hand-carved chairs. Several of his chairs are now used in the Smithsonian Museum. These amazing grandparents were two of the many great influences in my life.
How did you make the transition from creating art for yourself to doing it as a career?
Creating for myself and for others has always been parallel. While my artwork has evolved over the years, I have always been selling my artwork. I began selling at the young age of seven when my brother and I had our own "Neighborhood Fair" in our driveway. I made fudge, popcorn balls, and lollipops and lemonade to sell while my brother created games such as "coin toss" and other fun amusements for the neighborhood children. We posted signs up in the schoolyard and on telephone poles to let everyone know about the big event. Kids came in droves with pennies and nickels for a day of sweets and fun. It was quite an entrepreneurial success for a young tot as myself. Taking an idea, making and creating everything on my own, marketing it, then following it through gave me quite a sense of achievement.
[My] big brother (who was always there for his baby sister) was talented in his own right. He dabbled in sketch artistry and designed sterling silver jewelry incorporating natural gemstones. He was an inspiration in has talents. Painting and drawing were not in my realm of talent. However, that wasn't going to stop me. Finally in my early forties, I discovered a local artist who taught Tole Painting. I signed up for the beginner's class and the rest is history.
The items you create and sell are extremely unique. Where do you find inspiration for your projects?
Inspiration is all around. It is the way I look at life. If you are content and happy within your soul, you tend to find beauty in everything. I love color, fabrics, gardening, vintage linens, lace, and millinery everything I remember from childhood gorgeous bone china teacups, fabulous jewelry, hats, gloves, hankies, and handbags. We used Fiestaware and Jadeite everyday on the kitchen table. Pretty floral tablecloths and dinnerware that came in a box of laundry detergent was commonplace (OK, I am so giving away my age here!). The garden, huge roses, the smell of green grass, butterflies, bees, wind chimes, and hammocks all bring back vivid memories of my life as a young girl.
Vintage items and decorating themes have come back into our lives once again giving me the opportunity to create artwork that you cannot purchase at the mall or your local boutique. There is so much to choose from at local estate sales, consignment shops, and yard sales. It is a never-ending plethora of exquisite items I use in my creations. Each and every creation is one-of-a-kind which makes owning one of my pieces so special.
Although several of my items fall along the same lines, such as themed wreaths or "Marie Antoinette Ladies in Waiting", no two will ever be alike. I take great pride in using different elements, treasures, and mediums in each piece. My vintage artwork is purchased by ladies who appreciate items they can display for their pleasure and treasure for a lifetime. The vintage elements give them their timeless appeal and are pieces which can and will be passed down to their families for years to come.
For people who would like to create their own art, can you help them with that as well?
I know that my magazine features, websites, and blog have all been huge factors in inspiring others to follow their artistic dreams. Letters, emails, and website guest book entries overflow on a daily basis allowing me a window into the hearts of women whose lives have been changed as a direct result of what I create.
Each and every one of us is great at something. If your desires are to try creating something new, the best way is to begin with a version of a small project in a different medium and move on from there. If you absolutely love the idea of crocheting, take a class, learn it, love it, and keep doing it make yourself happy. Create whatever comes from within your soul and work from there. If you don't love creating it, move on and try something else until you find your niche. That one thing that makes you want to wake up every morning and tell the entire world, "look what I've made for you today."
What types of marketing have worked best for you?
All marketing works. Any and all aspects of marketing will work for you if you work it. Everything you say and do about yourself and your shop, artwork, and website is beneficial to your success. Acknowledgement, sales, and inspiration come from everywhere whether it be chatting with a person in line at the local grocery store or paying for an ad in a magazine. You must always remember to be proud of what you do and talk about it, write it, shout it from the rooftops. Let everyone know you are there whatever it takes.
In addition to having a sister site "Elegance & Whimsy", I have also ventured out into the blogging world, posted my creations on Flickr, and have put quite a bit of time and money into marketing my home, garden, and artwork. All of which have brought me great success. You never know when or how you will make a sale, so you need to sell yourself wherever you are at the moment. Be kind, encouraging, and humorous when chatting about your passion. It will become contagious, and everyone around you will want what you have, especially your happy spirit which is the central spot of all your creativity.
Your designs have been in several magazines. Your Holiday Home was recently on the cover of "Romantic Homes", and you've been featured in
"Romantic Country" and "Country Victorian". With all of your successes, of which accomplishment are you most proud?
At this point in my life, I would have to say, I am proud of everything I do and have accomplished from my very first sale at my backyard craft fair at seven years old to my first tiny acknowledgement of my Pink Fairy Cottage photo in "Flower Gardens" magazine. Each and every accomplishment, no matter how big or how small, has been rewarding and, most importantly, a huge learning experience. I believe we all wish we could know it all right now, but unfortunately, that is not possible for anyone. Making mistakes and growing from them is what makes us successful and rich in our accomplishments. We then become better teachers, have richer hearts, and become amazing entrepreneurs.
Can you name one person who has inspired you, and how?
Unfortunately, I would be hard pressed to choose only one person. Each and every day, I find someone or something that inspires me. I am enamored of many famous people we all know and many people whom you will never know, such as my grandmother, grandfather, aunts, cousins, and close friends.
I admire many women who have changed the world in ways I can only aspire. But my greatest hero was my mother, who taught me everything I didn't know inherently. I wished you all could have met this amazing woman.
My website is very involved in giving those who don't have all that we do a chance at a better life. Can you tell us about that?
Growing up in a family with meager means taught me at a very young age that giving and sharing yourself is the greatest gift. Most people want to grow up knowing they are loved and [knowing they] hold an important place on this planet. I promised myself if there ever came a time when I had the opportunity to give a little bit of myself, whether it be monetarily or spiritually, I would not pass it by.
I feel it is each and every one's duty to give back. Being successful and making money is wonderful. However, we owe it to those less fortunate than ourselves to help in any way we can. This is "His" plan. When we give of ourselves we become full and whole human beings. The joy of giving has no boundaries. It is a part of who I am, not something I feel the need to do. I hope I can inspire you to do the same. You will be rewarded ten fold.
What advice would you offer to someone else who wants to succeed at their own design business?
My advice is to acknowledge that success is a process in which you must stay focused. It involves many factors and comes in many different ways. Sometimes you begin with a dream you hold onto with all of your heart and soul and suddenly you become completely fulfilled by following a different path. For me, it began as a young child admiring the beautiful items created by family. What I didn't realize then was that there would be hundreds of obstacles which would change my path many times before I made it to where I am today.
Stay focused, hold onto to your dream, but keep in mind you must bend and flow with life's changes until you find your own happy place in the universe. Once you are there, everything will become clear. You can then continue your journey with a heart filled with joy.
What are you working on now? What can we look forward to seeing from "Treasured Heirlooms" in the next year?
I am planning to spend my summer working on my garden and taking the elements of nature which inspire me and work the ideas into my creations. Being aware of the changing times, the economy, and what new trends my customers are following will be my biggest challenge. I am looking forward to it and hope you follow along with me as we venture through 2010 and into a prosperous 2011. Thank you for reading this long and lengthy interview. It means the world that you now have a little peak into my world. Enjoy the view.
You can read about Cathy's most recent successes and projects by visiting her blog http://treasured-heirlooms.blogspot.com/