May 3, 2016
Cactus Club is a favorite at our fairs. From the illustrated prints, to Melinda’s brimming smile, it’s easy to fall in love with these sweet illos and the designer behind them!
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind it?
‘Cactus Club’ is actually the name of the first painting that kicked off my art career and changed my life! I was living in Austin and my friend Glade Hensel was opening up her first boutique/gallery called Paper Party. I was working on a cactus painting on a whim (at that time I was mostly working on comics) because I felt so inspired by these weird and wonderful plants. Glade saw my painting and asked me to create a body of work for her first gallery show, and it was the exact kick in the pants I needed to get painting! When we got closer to the show she suggested I get prints made of the originals, so more people could afford to buy my artwork…My print and paper goods business started there!
Renegade Craft Fair plays a huge part in starting my business, too. Soon after that gallery show I moved to LA. Online sales for my prints were trickling in, but I wasn’t too serious about it. My friend Joe, who runs “Victory Garden of Tomorrow” was coming down to the LA Renegade and asked if I wanted to share a booth with him, and I thought, “Why not?”
I was BLOWN AWAY. I sold more prints that weekend than I had all year, and it was the first time I really thought “I could make a living off my art.” That’s the best feeling in the whole world.
Have you always been passionate about design?
I’ve been obsessed with art since I was a kid (I’m the youngest in my family and I feel like I spent my whole childhood drawing on the sidelines of my sibling’s soccer and basketball games) but I honestly never thought I’d be selling my artwork; I thought I’d incorporate it into a job. When I was in high school I was interested in fashion design. When I was in college, I thought advertising was the way to go, but in the end, I knew I didn’t want to have a 9-5. Working in an office would have made me miserable.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
It’s important to me to create affordable, colorful, quality artwork that makes people happy. I also create all of my prints at standard framing sizes (nothing’s worse than spending more money on a frame than you did on the artwork).
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
When you’re creating your own business you sacrifice a lot. Time with friends, family, a normal work and sleep schedule…It’s really hard to STOP working when you feel passionate about what you’re doing, and a lot of people won’t understand that.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
Taking my last order, serving my last table, removing my waitress apron for the last time! Quitting my serving job to focus full time on Cactus Club was one of the best moments of my life.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
I’m from Portland, I moved to Austin, and now I live in LA. I can say that all of those cities have shaped me so much as an artist. I love to run, and I always feel exploring by foot gives you such a personal connection to that city. You see textures, patterns and colors you would otherwise miss. I love running through the neighborhoods in LA and seeing cacti, succulents, and bougainvillea. Sometimes you have to look hard to see the beauty amongst the trash, but it’s always there.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
I just had too much work to do! Cactus Club was going well, but I didn’t have time to paint, ship orders, do shows, expand my line (etc) AND wait tables. The thing about working a ‘day job’ like serving is that you’re not just losing the hours you’re at the restaurant working. You’re also losing the hours you spend dreading going to work and the hours after work when you feel so exhausted all you can do is veg out and watch TV. Focusing full time on Cactus Club was such a joy and a relief.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Get to know your neighbors! The best part about craft fairs is the incredible community! I’ve met amazing friends, and I’ve learned more about business just by talking to my fellow makers than anything else. Chances are they have some great advice. Everyone has pearls of wisdom to share, and you should share right back!