Today we have Sarah Angst, a local printmaker with a remarkable aesthetic and ability to capture her subject in print. For each piece she meticulously carves scenes from the world around her into linoleum blocks, prints each one by hand and colors them with watercolor. She is able to perfectly capture the abundance of a summer garden or the serenity of a calm lake and every time I see her work around town I can’t help but stop and marvel at the details.
Without further ado:
* It can be a big (scary) step to go into business for yourself — What made you take the leap and begin your business?
Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to create things. I remember when I was 5 or 6 years-old I invented this blanket that folded up to become a pillow. I was convinced that this was the next must have item for every household. Then in my teenage years I began producing papier maché covered keepsake boxes that I meticulously cut out of cardboard and assembled at the dining room table. Later, just before college, I had moved onto clothing. I sewed and sold funky bib-overalls using all kinds of unique and colorful upholstery fabrics.
I guess I always knew I would go into business with my creations. It was just a matter of finding the one medium that I could focus on, fall in love with, and that people would be drawn to purchase. For me that medium became block prints. I have always loved its graphic qualities and black contours, and by adding bright watercolors my prints seemed to speak to others as well.
Once I settled on a medium I loved, I spent several years creating a body of work to sell. It wasn’t until I moved to Bozeman, MT in 2007 that I took the leap and decided to try to live solely from my income as an artist. Moving to a new town, and being able to reinvent myself as an artist, is what gave me the opportunity and courage to take the plunge into my artistic career.
* Being self employed requires enormous dedication and self-motivation — Where does the inspiration for your work come from and what do you do to keep the fires going when motivation is low?
Inspiration is less of a problem then time. I have hundreds of ideas I want to develop, but I only hope I have the time to see most of them realized.
Seeing people respond to my work in a positive way is also very motivating. I like creating pieces that seem familiar to people; that help remind them of found memories from their own lives. When I finish a piece and feel it has a timeless nostalgic quality that resonates with others, it drives me to want to do that again and again.
* What has been the most valuable tool leading to your success — object/person/piece of knowledge/etc.?
Without a doubt my husband Tim Ford has always been the most valuable asset contributing to my success. He has been encouraging and supportive even when others thought I was crazy to embark on this endeavor. He continues to be my sounding board and cheerleader as I strive to grow my business and develop as an artist.
Secondly, moving to Bozeman was the biggest catalyst for my success. The city of Bozeman and its citizens are so supportive of the arts that it was the ideal place to start my business. It was scary not to have a “real” job and to throw myself into the idea of making a living as an artist, but moving to a new town allowed me to start fresh and go for it.
* I have found in my own entrepreneurial adventures that there are certain daily rituals that get me going in the morning or help to signify the end of the work day — What daily ritual(s) can you not live without?
Daily rituals are something I have been trying desperately to develop.
For the past 4 years my ritual has been to work incessantly. I know I should get dressed, eat breakfast, etc. but I am usually so excited to get working on a project or so overwhelmed with all I have to do, that I go straight down to my basement studio and get to work. Often by 3:00 in the afternoon I realize that I haven’t eaten anything yet and I’m still in my pajamas working away.
This is something I am striving to change. I love what I do, but I need to find a way to have more balance with it all. Lately I have been trying to take some time before I get working to read something inspirational, journal a little bit, and eat something before I get to work. I’m hoping to add getting dressed to this ritual, but often I’m still in my pajamas by the time dinner rolls around.
* What piece of wisdom do you know now that you wish you had known when you first began your business?
So far I am very happy with the way my business has developed. I’m big into baby steps and gradually growing and developing. Sure there have been plenty of ups and downs, and I am sure there will be several more, but that is part of the process. Part of the excitement and joy of running your own business is learning and growing as you go.
In general I have learned that to start and run a successful business you have to enjoy running a business as much as you love the art, food, product or service you are selling. You’ll spend more time marketing, selling, bookkeeping, accounting, networking, ordering, packaging, etc. than you ever will creating the thing you love. It takes a lot of time and dedication to run a business and the old joke is true…“The greatest part of running your own business is you get to decide which 18 hours of the day you want to work.”
While it is a lot of hard work, it is also the most rewarding career I can imagine.
Thank you, Sarah, for your thoughtful answers.
To see more of her prolific work, a description of her process, and to buy artwork online,