An interview with Kelly Hansen of Inspirational Arts.org, Houston, Texas.
Kelly's business was mentioned recently in an article about greeting cards in USA Today
(online at: http://www.usatoday.com/money/2005-06-16-greeting-cards-usat_x.htm) which brought her to the attention of NoteWordy.com and, thankfully, she agreed to the following interview:
You have a very unique style for your art. How do you describe your style and how did you come up with it?
"I have always loved to print ever since I can remember. I like to say that my artwork is interactive. The concept engages the viewer and invites one to take a closer look at the message. It's a subtle way to share God's word with others. Each piece is constructedof 2-4 hand-printed Bible verses that pertain to the word and is read as the word is written, thus, ".art with a message."
The idea originated as a wedding gift for my best friend of 20+ years. My mom likes to say that Inspirational Arts was "born out of Love" as Love was the very first piece I created. In trying to think of something unique to do for her, I decided to construct the word' Love' out of 1Corinthians 13:4-8 which is often read at weddings and also included both of their names and wedding date. I eventually created other words i.e. Hope, Faith, Peace and Joy, and, as I began to share them with friends, they ordered them as gifts.
We quickly realized the impact my artwork was having on others, and, in August 2002, Inspirational Arts was officially born. "
Your works clearly convey a strong, emotional message that can help people express their feelings to the important people in their lives. Do you have a story or stories (aside from the first one that you did for as a wedding gift) that shows how someone purchased your work and the impact it had?
"The stories are what make all of this so exciting. I love to collaborate with others and bring their ideas and inspirations to life through my artwork. There are so many stories as I have done numerous custom gifts for weddings, births, baptisms, adoptions, graduations, those who have died, those who have survived cancer and many more. But, here are a few stories that have especially touched me.
We met a young girl a few years ago who shared with us that she was adopted and had recently reconnected with her biological brother after being separated since birth. She wanted to do something special for his birthday and decided to create the word 'Brother' with her own words about their separation and reunion. It was truly awesome to be a part of that special gift.
I did five names for a woman's great-grandchildren - each of which she chose specific verses and wrote a personalized prayer to that child...a true legacy of faith being passed on through prayer to the next generation.
A lady recently ordered a custom order for her husband who is becoming a firefighter. I created the word 'Firefighter' out of specially chosen verses and ended it with love from her and their kids with the date.
The list goes on and on, but the common thread in all of these stories is how God's word is alive and actively used to express the heart of each person and the love they feel toward their loved ones. I love to see what verses they choose knowing the importance that each one holds for them, and I am always amazed at how God makes it all fit every time. It's such a privilege to be used by God to serve Him and others in this unique way."
What have you found to be the downside of your art and/or your web site? What have you had to overcome to bring your art to a larger audience?
"I must say, when I first started my business, I gave away much more than I sold. I was so excited about what God was doing in my life through the gift of my artwork that I wanted to share it with everyone we met.
I do consider my artwork first and foremost as a ministry - it is a direct reflection of my heart, so adapting to the reality that it has become an actual business (and the idea is to be profitable!) has been personally difficult for me.
The entire foundation of our business has been built on relationships and word of mouth. We love to interact with people and to share my artwork on a more personal level. I am blessed to have the faithful support of my mom, and, together, we have participated in close to 200 events over the past 3 years in an effort to establish a customer base.
We presently have approximately 3000 people on our mailing list, and it continues to grow as people share my artwork with others. We launched our web site in January of 2003, and it has been absolutely amazing to see where my artwork has traveled outside of Texas as well as the United States. Our sales and the continual affirmation that we have received from others have encouraged us and our belief that God does have a purpose and a plan for my artwork and what He wants to do through it.
Our biggest challenge by far has been mass marketing and introducing the concept of my artwork to others in a way that requires little or no explanation. We sometimes feel that we have to work harder than we should in making sure that people don't miss the message - God's word within the word, but, once they see it they are so excited and appreciative that we shared it with them.
The things that I have had to overcome personally are fear of rejection and patience. I have to remind myself who I am doing this for and why I am doing it. My artwork truly was a gift from God, and, through the growing pains of this journey, He is teaching me to steward well what He has given me.
Unlike the external success that we are groomed to look for so quickly in gauging others in today's culture, God is giving me a success on the inside that only happens when you truly come to know Him for who He is and to believe that He will do what He says He will do. My complete trust is in Him that He will continue to guide us in the decisions that we make and will open the right doors for us in time. Until then, we will just keep spreading the Word!
What's next? For you? For your web site? For your art?" Anything more to add on these questions? What else should your readers / customers know?
"That's a great question and one I ask myself on a daily basis.
It's a transitional time for us as a business as we are trying to narrow our focus from retailing and doing so many local shows to expanding our wholesale business and reaching more people. It's a prayerful topic for us as to how we are going to do that. Where we are excited by the idea of partnering with larger manufacturer, we plan to continue moving forward on our own to the best of our ability until a door opens.
One of the hardest things to master in owning your own business - especially when it involves creative design - is patience. We have so many ideas - designs and applications, but we have to realize that we cannot implement them all at once.
As a creative person, the delay in seeing your ideas materialize can be very difficult. But, we just continue to do what we can and to try and maintain our focus on God and putting Him first knowing that He will make a way.
I don't know what the future holds for us. For me personally, this experience and journey so far has been one of tremendous growth. My artwork has been such a blessing and has allowed me to use so many of my gifts in such a unique way. Ultimately, I love to serve and meet the needs of others, and God has given me the privilege of being able to use His word in the process.
I am eager to see how He will continue to grow our business and how He may use it as a springboard for other purposes He has for me. Meanwhile, I am hanging on for the ride!
Have there been any people in particular that have been important or provided special support as you have grown your business?
"I work with my mom Liz. She got laid off 4 months after I started my business and has been working with me ever since. Her support has been invaluable, and she has been such a pivotal part of our growth and success.
We have both struggled with adapting to working for ourselves and, on top of that, out of our home. The transition has been an even harder for her after being in the natural gas industry for over 25 years.
Looking back at the timing of all of this, we could have never planned this alone. We all have the tendency to become so accustom to the same routine and to apply the expertise of what we know to only one field. But, according to Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes.”
If we have learned anything at all, it’s that God can instantly change our circumstances and use us and all of our past experiences – good or bad - to accomplish His purposes. If we follow His lead, the blessings will come in more ways than we could ever imagine!!
We appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions and I'm sure our readers have gained some valuable insights from your experiences. Thanks for sharing your stories with us.
This has been a great experience. Through your questions, I have realized the divine purpose of my artwork and am so thankful. God has grown me so much during this time – it’s been amazing.
Kelly Hansen's web site address is http://www.inspirationalarts.org