If you can have a show-hangover, I have it. I packed in two art shows this weekend, one of which was a 7-hour show in Providence, RI, which is an hour away from where I live. Normally that wouldn’t be an issue, but I had to be there at 7:30 am to set up! Despite having a second weekend this year with my house to myself, this weekend was probably the least relaxing one I’ve had in a very long time.
I also was by myself at my booth the entire time, so I couldn’t really walk around and see other people’s work like I normally do at shows. Today, however, I have the pleasure of (virtually) enjoying the work of Amy and Derek Manning of Second Chance Art & Accessories®. They “incorporate vintage finds into unique art and accessories for the home” (quoted from their website). This husband-and-wife team — and the parents of two young children, I might add! — make truly beautiful pieces, but I’ll let their work (and Amy’s words) speak for themselves.
Tell us a little bit about your work and how you got started with it.
Our business started as a hobby – mostly to create interesting home furnishings and art for our own home, then as gifts for others. My family encouraged me to exhibit at a local craft fair (this was 2004). Derek & I had a business flipping houses at that time, and would find “leftovers” like old doors & windows to use. I (Amy) did more art fairs each year, and over time started getting my husband Derek and my father involved. Our products evolved over time based on what sold best.
In 2010, our first child was born. I then had less time to work on my business, and we knew we either needed to hire help or put the business on the back burner for a while (at this time Derek was still making Dental Models full time for a living). We decided to hire our first art assistant, which allowed us to entertain the idea of selling our product line wholesale. We also had one very successful retail art fest where we sold most of our inventory. With only a month until our next exhibit, we decided to make some larger statement pieces in order to cover more wall space. These larger items sold very well for us, and helped us change our product line a bit (this was summer of 2011).
We then created a somewhat repeatable product line for the wholesale market, and also began wholesaling our larger statement artwork. We have since sold our work at retail fine art fests, online from our website, and to the trade (wholesale markets). In February 2014, Derek decided to quit his dental model business and join me full time. We haven’t looked back since! Our second child was born in November of 2014, so I’m sure this will continue to push us to change and grow as we find ways to continue the business and work around family.
What’s the story behind your business’ name?
Second Chance Art & Accessories® – We decided upon this name because we use mainly vintage and reclaimed materials for our products. I love the idea of second chances, and feel our product line could be a metaphor for life. Anyone can have a second chance to learn something different, change their outlook on life, etc. While we strive to give our products a high end look and finish, we don’t make them “too perfect”. There is always a bit of character showing through – so customers can tell our products had a former life. I feel this is similar to the character one can achieve through life experience.
What do you like most about having your own creative business? What do you find most challenging?
The best thing about our business for me is the creative part. Derek & I are both hands on type people – we love to build, create, and find solutions. Using vintage materials forces us to think of new ways to use things (for example – how to turn a faucet into a functional hook for bath towels, while making sure it is sturdy and will not corrode under bathroom conditions).
A close second (best thing) is that our business allows a bit of schedule flexibility. We have young kids and are able to work around their needs (I work a lot of late nights after bedtime!).
One of our biggest challenges is setting aside time for family and personal time. As our business grows, there is always more to do. It is easy to allow the business to eat up all of our free time, which can lead to burn out. We constantly have to find ways to become more efficient and/or delegate to our team.
What inspires you to create?
I personally love old vintage houses, and old signage, typography, etc. When looking for ideas for new projects, I will research old defunct businesses to come up with verbiage for our hand lettered designs.
What do you think motivates others to buy handmade?
I think handmade products have a story behind them that speaks to people. Our customers love when we can provide a bit of information about where the materials came from, or a before picture of the materials we use. There is also a level of skill and artistry required to make something by hand. People who buy handmade products appreciate this.
What is your favorite handmade item you have bought or received?
My husband (Derek) and my daughter (3 at the time) made me some artwork with her footprints, stamped in the shape of a butterfly for Mother’s day. Derek made a quick frame from barn wood, and I actually added some finishing touches by painting the frame. This is my favorite handmade gift! I also love that all of us contributed to the finished piece. I told Derek he now must do this for every Mother’s day until our girls don’t want to participate. Hopefully I will have a whole collage of these art pieces in the future!
When you are not making making art what do you like to do with your time?
I personally love to cook, and run when I can. Derek & I live in an old house (1906) – there is always another project around the corner. When we bought the house, we did some fairly major renovations, but left some projects for down the road.
What is something people might not know about you?
I did not go to “art school”, but have a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition. I worked as a registered dietitian for five years after college. I never disliked my chosen career, but sort of “happened” upon our current business. I like plan B better than plan A!
What is one piece of advice you would offer to others with their own creative business?
Work hard, be patient, and be persistent. Being creative is only a small part of the business. We’ve really had to do our homework to learn different aspects of business. We are still learning! It has taken a long time to get to the point we are at, and we’ve got so much more room to grow.
Thanks so much for joining me on my blog, Amy, and be sure to check out her shop!
I’ll be taking a break from the blog on Wednesday in honor of Yom Kippur, but I’ll be back on Friday. In the meantime, here are some other posts you might want to check out if you liked this one:
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