Like most artists, JoEllen Laurita has been creating art for most of her life, but it wasn’t until eleven years ago that she began sharing her art with those outside of her own family.
It all began because someone believed in her talents enough to purchase one of her very detailed, beautifully original dolls. . .
Today we’re going to learn just a little bit about what it takes to be a traveling artist, as JoEllen gives us an inside glimpse into the world of creating art on the road.
Alyice: Since 2007 you’ve travelled the United States in an RV. . . living what you like to call a “Gypsy lifestyle.” What’s it like to create art on the road like this?
JoEllen: It can be very challenging. The major drawback to creating on the road is finding space to create. Everything must be put away at the end of each session. I sew and paint at the table and use the great outdoors as my drying space.
I’m also limited in the amount of space there is available to store supplies and finished artwork. Luckily, I have a very understanding husband as he has allowed much of our storage space to be used for my art.
I have 8 totes filled with my art supplies. . . four fit under the bed and four are in our shower. Then we use a fiberfill box as an end table; it is covered with a piece of wool plaid that matches the colors of our interior.
My art books, patterns, and templates are under the couch. Then I have another two small totes filled with paint and needle punch supplies.
I have to keep watch over my paints, since the pressure changes on the road can pop the bottles open. As a precaution, they’re stored in tackle boxes. My rug hooking frame is stored on the little foldout table that most RVs have in the bedroom for the television. And I crawl out the foot of the bed so I can store my sewing machine next to the bed.
One of the hardest things is getting supplies through the mail. Most of the time we are not near any craft stores so most of my supplies are bought online.
There are many places that, for a fee, will take care of forwarding your first class mail to you. But in order to get USP packages delivered, you must know someone who will accept a package for you.
Alyice: Being on the road so much, you must rely heavily on the Internet for sales. What have you found to be the best form of advertising and marketing your website?
JoEllen: I have to be honest and say I have not found my niche in this area, yet.
I keep an active email list and am happy to say that I have many customers who have stayed with me through the years. I mainly sell my art on Ebay, but do have direct sales through my website.
As for my patterns, I sell them on various internet sites: Patternmart.com, Etsy, online doll pattern companies, and my own website.
Alyice: You’ve been creating soft sculpture dolls made from muslin, wool hair, and primitive decorative accents since 1998. What is it about the primitive nature of your dolls that draws you to creating them?
JoEllen: There is something about the simple folksy look of primitive dolls that speaks to me. I think my style, however, is a cross between primitive and whimsical.
My dolls are paint-stained, and are for adults or for decorative uses only. After I learned the intricate art of needle sculpting, the nose, lips, fingers, toes and structure of the doll’s faces have become more defined. I also like the look of painted eyes because you can add color to them.
My favorite dolls to create are black dolls and fun seasonal creations.
Alyice: How do you come up with the designs for your dolls?
JoEllen: The seasons prompt me to create.
I used to just sit down and draw out the template for the doll I was creating on white freezer paper. Now you will usually find me drawing ideas in my sketchbook with handwritten notes off to the sides of the drawing. Notes like, “How I could change this?” or “What are the color possibilities?” etc.
I also like to use colored pencils and various faces and shapes to see which will fit the mood the best. Then I let the idea sit for a while as I ponder it. This process is the same whether I am designing a doll or seasonal creation, or designing for a rug hooked mat or a needle punch project.
Alyice: Besides selling your dolls, you also sell original patterns. Can you tell us how the selling of patterns compliments your doll business?
JoEllen: Apart from allowing me to reach a greater audience, I have to be honest and say that I sell patterns for the money. I usually make more money selling my patterns then I do for selling my dolls.
But I also enjoy seeing what people create from my patterns.