Mary Beth Shaw Stencil Artist Interview
Stencil Girl Founder Mary Beth Shaw talks about how she started her business and how artists can use stencils in their work.
Mary Beth Shaw Bio
Mary Beth Shaw worked in the insurance industry for 18 years before she quit her job in 2000 to re-ignite a childhood love of art. Since then she has spent all her waking hours exploring life as a painter working in mixed media, primarily acrylic, encaustic and collage. She initially put in lots of hours as a road gypsy, exhibiting at outdoor art fairs and selling as many as 300 paintings in one very blurry year. She transitioned into being a workshop instructor in 2008 and finds pleasure helping students find their own voice as a painter. Her personal creative process is a dance between spontaneity and intent; she finds great joy in the physical act of painting and looks at her best work as a gift from a higher power. She welcomes mistakes because they so often provide a delightful detour into new territory. She is author of Flavor for Mixed Media and Stencil Girl, is a columnist for Somerset Studios Magazine, and a Golden Artist Educator. She is the founder of StencilGirl® Products, LLC.
Please tell us what you do?
I am an artist and business owner. On the business side, I most enjoy the idea part, where I bask in the sun with my kitties and venture into blue-sky territory, when I get to think and dream and make lists and mind maps for my business. The artist side is the same but different; I enjoy playing mad scientist and pushing the limit of the wonderful supplies in the market today and how I can use them with stencils. I am excited when I get to share my ideas with other like-minded souls in workshops and online classes.
How did you get started with stencils?
When I was exhibiting in the art fairs, I started becoming interested in pattern and especially the idea of repeating pattern within my work. I hand cut several stencils and used them in my work. After I transitioned into teaching, I was still using my hand cut stencils, mainly because I couldn’t find stencils that offered the artistry and complexity
that I wanted. My students asked if I would make stencils to sell, so, in 2010 I had 100 each made of six designs, to sell at a retreat, ArtFest. They were immediately popular to the point they all sold out instantly! No one was more surprised than me. I decided to start StencilGirl® Products and today we have over 1,600 designs.
Why do you focus on stencils?
I see stencils everywhere. Seriously, ha! It is like an illness. I simply love pattern and design. At the time I started the company, in 2010, it was very difficult to find the stencils I wanted. I had no idea they would
become trendy, I was simply following my passion. Once I started to sell my own designs, I realized other artists had design voices. I am proud of the royalty program we offer our artists.
Can you please give some examples of how artists
Stencils have more uses than you might imagine! They are used in craft and fine art applications. Artists use them with every type of paint, with pastel, glass, fiber, clay, wood, and wax. Stencils are appropriate tools to create design elements in paintings, to decorate wall, work in art journals, make collage papers, add dimension to paints, make home décor items, embellish food and clothing. Lately, I have been excited to use our stencils as a template for embroidery.
How do in-person workshops compare with your
I like both in-person and online classes. The opportunity to teach in person is obviously ideal, but it is difficult for me to reach as many people as I would like, in that I am only one person and receive many requests. Teaching online offers a unique chance for the student in that they can watch the class over and over on their own time. A student can work at her own pace in a way that isn’t possible when part of a live group. It is also feasible for the student to veer on and off task at will, which is something I tend to do when I take an online class. In that way, I see online classes as such a great offering and am glad I can teach online. It is the reason I opened StencilGirl® Studio.
You have a large social media following, is there a
particular platform that seems to deliver the best
results for you?
I started out on Facebook and, to this day, it feels the most familiar to me. We run our StencilClub private group (for members of our club) on Facebook and I love the conversations that develop. It has become a true community! That being said, I am incredibly frustrated with Facebook’s endless algorithm changes. We also maintain an active
presence on Instagram and Pinterest. The engagement on Facebook and Instagram is terrific, but I don’t see that type of interaction on Pinterest, however the visual stimulation is quite valuable.
How important is social media to your marketing?
We are solely an Internet company so social media is wildly important to us. We run on a wing and a prayer, just a few of us trying to spread the word. I believe that education and community is the most important thing we can do in our social media efforts. Once people learn to use our product, the stencils tend to sell themselves.
What advice do you have for artists who want to
create a business around their passions?
I am guided by passion and authenticity and I believe these things are absolutely necessary to succeed. I rely on gut checks as they seldom lead me astray. I don’t follow trends; I prefer to make my own way. I am very lucky in that I found a niche that continues to delight me day after day. I do what I think is right and treat people the way I want to be treated. I take my business seriously, but I try not to take myself seriously, at least not all the time. I like to have fun and operate from a place of love and joy. I believe that, once you find your ‘calling’, the rest will fall into place with more ease than you might expect. That is not to say I don’t work hard, I certainly do. But I am blissed by my path.
Mary Beth Shaw Links
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