: You have been making art for over 20 years, but started selling your work on Etsy after hearing about it from a friend. Can you let us in on how CharestStudios started, its early days, and how you got to where you are today?
: After several years of making and accumulating art for my own pleasure, I was encouraged by family and friends to try and sell my work. In 2008, one of these friends told me about Etsy. As soon as I heard about Etsy, I became excited to check it out, and i opened my own shop that night. I started out with mainly mobiles and small wire sculptures. I was very excited with my first sales and became interested in offering other items. As I was working with wire and making the mobiles, I became familiar with wire and became interested in vintage baskets from the depression era. I started experimenting with various basket making techniques with wire. One of these baskets was a large table bowl type basket. I liked the basket, however I felt that it needed something. I remember picking up the basket and looking at it from all different angles.. It was then that I got the idea that if I could make the shape more round, put an opening in the front and make it a hanging basket, that it would be something that I would really like. And thus the sphere basket was born and it was a great success. It still remains the most popular item. This also encouraged me to work on other basket designs, which led to the whole Charest Studios basket line. As well as the basket line, I continued to add mobiles, folk art, lighting, abstract art or whatever comes to me.
: You sell a wide variety of pieces at CharestStudios including wire baskets, sculptures, paintings, collages, mobiles and more! How did you develop an interest and skill in these different artistic endeavors?
: One thing led to another. As a young man, I had experimented with abstract painting and left it alone for a number of years. But that seed was rekindled after I became creative on a daily basis. With the wire work. Basically it all started out with the mobiles. After being inspired by Alexander Calder’s mobiles, I began to learn about mobile making and started making mobiles. from there, working with the wire led to working with the baskets and a general interest in all kinds of art. Then I began to experiment again with abstract painting and folk art and continue working in those ways regularly.
: You’ve received a lot of excellent feedback from your customers. How does this feedback help inspire your work and how does it encourage you?
: I am so grateful for the wonderful feedback from my customers. Every time that I get great feedback it always makes my day. Customer satisfaction is a top priority for me, so I’m always glad to know when someone is really pleased with their purchase. I often look back and read some of the wonderful feedback when I need a little inspiration. I also have printed some and hung them in my studio. I think that having all of this great feedback really encourages me to keep doing great work.
: Shout out time! We know it takes a lot of support to run a shop and create art. Who are some supporters that you’d like to show some love to?
: My wife is number one. She is a great support to me and a constant source of encouragement, as well as helping me with bookkeeping, post office runs and all kinds of errands. I also am very grateful for the two part time basket makers, Ernie and Liz, who help me to keep up with the baskets, and also our local postal workers Katie, Meg and Jenna who are always happy to help and very supportive of Charest Studios. I am also grateful for all of the people who follow my work on my social media sites.
: Who are some artists that you’re inspired by?
: I am inspired by so many artists. Alexander Calder was a great inspiration for getting me started with mobiles. For wire art, Richard Lippold, Emery Blagdon and Ruth Asawa. For painting and mixed media work I would also say Henry Matisse, Willam Dekooning, Robert Rauchenberg, Franz Kline and many others including many current artist’s who’s work I admire.
: What are some business side things you’ve learned since opening your shop and going full time as an artist?
: On the business side I have learned about spreadsheets, book keeping, as well as gaining a lot of computer skills.
: You also create folk art. For those who may not be familiar, what is folk art? How do you approach your folk art creations?
: Folk art to me is much less formal and more playful than most other types of art and that’s how I like to approach it.. It is also often made with whatever materials are on hand. Most of my folk art is paintings and collage done in a folk art style but I would also consider some of my other items like my wire Gods eye’s or some of my wire animal sculptures to be folk art.
: Your baskets and wire work have been featured in publications such as, Bon Appetite and Better Homes and Gardens as well as H.G.T.V. What did it feel like to have your work appreciated this way?
: It felt great to be in such great publications and on H.G.T.V. It was beyond what I could have imagined for myself. I am a kind of shy person and usually don’t mention it, but recently I did add that info to my shop announcement because I am proud that my items have been there and I think it is important that people know. I think it gives greater credibility and trust to my brand.
: What are some of your goals for CharestStudios? Any advice for aspiring makers and artists looking to set up shop?
: As for my goals for CharestStudios, They would be to continue to create new and exciting art and functional items for my shop and to have excellent customer satisfaction. I do also want to expand the art offerings to include more larger abstract art paintings in the future. My advice to aspiring artists and artisan’s looking to set up shop would be do what you love, keep at it and always keep your customers happy. If you are doing what you love and you’re having a hard time selling, just keep trying, improving your work , your photos, your social media. You have to try to be continuously improving every aspect of your business.You will be successful if you are relentless.
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