Thursday, September 25, 2008

Focus On: Orange Cat Art

"I see photography." Photographers are inclined to notice photography wherever they are. I love to look at and purchase fine-art photography, and from all the excellent work I see on Etsy every day, I know there are others like me.

I was in a gift shop in North Carolina this spring and saw a package of beautiful notecards consisting of photos of wineries in the state. Not only did I actually need some stationery, but I was also intrigued that I'd seen this artist, Orange Cat Art, somewhere else. On Etsy, that's it! So, I got a bit more excited about buying and using the cards. I also sell notecards to local retailers where I live, and I wanted to know a bit more about this artist.

Orange Cat Art is two artists, sisters, Jill Davis and Sheri Symanski. They live in separate regions of North Carolina -- Raleigh and Charlotte -- and their combined talents of photographic eye and skill, as well as studio talents and marketing savvy make up Orange Cat Art. Here's the conversation I had with Jill. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

Ann Wilkinson: How are you and your sister able to work together in an artistic manner?

Jill Davis: My sister and I are both photographers. I've been interested in photography since high school, but it took some training from the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill and a foray through the world of commercial photography before I decided to see if I could make a living shooting what I love. Sheri's background is in public relations, and she is currently a full-time mom. She's always had a great eye, so when I began making prints and notecards to sell in local gift shops and galleries, including her images was an obvious choice.

AW: Do you work at Orange Cat Art on a part or full-time basis?

JD: Orange Cat Art is almost full-time. I still do some freelance work for a few commercial shooters, including stock management, marketing and production, and assisting, to help make ends meet. But since we started in 2004, our business has been steadily growing. Keeping up with our Etsy site, our primary website, about a dozen retail locations and 8-10 festivals per year, is pretty close to a full-time job. Oh yeah, and shooting new images!

AW: You mention your start in commercial photography before trying it on your own. What jobs did you have after college?

JD: My education was actually in journalism and editorial photography. The focus was more on capturing the moment, or storytelling, rather than on the technical ("f8 and be there"!). My first job was as photo editor for Reuters News Picture's North American desk in Washington, DC. When I followed my husband to Louisville, KY, for graduate school, I found a position as a studio manager for a wonderful photographer who did a variety of work -- magazine editorial, advertising, catalog, in-studio, and on location. Due to my comfort with computers, I quickly became a digital image editor, retoucher and all-around geek. Over the years, my husband and I have moved several times, and I've been able to get this same type of job with a number of photographers, as well as freelancing as a producer, photo assistant and digital assistant. It's given me some terrific opportunities to see so many aspects of our business from the inside.

AW: And how did this lead you to where you are now?

JD: All along, I've continued to shoot on my own, but I realize that for my own photography, capturing what appeals and reveals itself to me out in nature was much more desirable than shooting at the request of an art director or a mother-of-the-bride! So, when we moved to Raleigh, I decided to start focusing on my own photography and see where it would lead.

AW: You and Sheri have done so well with local retail and festival sales. How has your internet presence enhanced your business?

JD: Our internet presence definitely strengthens our business, but I think it's a long way from replacing it. I love the fact that people from all over the world can view our work, and it helps me to have an on-line portfolio when approaching new venues.

As comfortable as our society has become with online buying, we find that people still love to hold up a print, touch the cards, or most importantly, talk with us about where the photo was taken. It seems that personal connection, the story, goes a long way with art and craft buyers. In fact, most of our web sales come from customers we have already met at festivals. Etsy is wonderful because it raises our visibility with people who already value art and that personal touch, no matter where they live.

Thank you, Jill!

A world traveler and self-taught photographer, look for Ann wandering around city streets and tromping through woods and hiking trails with her camera. After owning an international transportation business for many years, Ann has found her creative spirit again through the lens. See more at Ann's shop and her website.


Jesspeterson said...

Beautiful work!

Pfeiffer Photos said...

Springer's Point Passage is just divine...wish I was there now! :0)

Ann Wilkinson said...

pfeifferphotos: haha, that's funny! i assisted at a wedding shoot at that very spot this summer and was absolutely eaten alive by mosquitos! beautiful but beastly locatoin!

BClark said...

Very clever of you to spot the note cards and make the connection.
I really enjoy your posts. Thank you

Orange Cat Art said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. I love being part of this group and am honored to have been featured by Ann.

Best wishes, Jill