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Life and Work with Kate Plaisance

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kate Plaisance.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kate. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’ve been drawing, painting, and creating all my life. My grandmother was a self-taught oil painter and had her own studio in Western Kentucky; her daughter, my mom, likes to say that talent skipped a generation. I participated in a talented art program in middle and high school, but beyond that I never aimed or expected to make it a career. It was always something I saw as a hobby rather than anything I could do to sustain myself. At 19, I married my high school sweetheart and moved from our little hometown in Louisiana to join him in coastal North Carolina, where he was stationed with the United States Marine Corps. Two babies followed very quickly – our first two daughters – and over the next few years I focused only on being a wife and mother. Being a young mom and so far from family, it was difficult to find a support system local to me, so I sought out friendships through social media sites. The connections I was able to develop with other women around the country were so vital to me. During this period, there was little time for creating and when my husband left the Marine Corps in 2008 after his enlistment was up, there seemed even less time. Money was tight for us, even with him working full time as a professional firefighter and part-time doing odd jobs whenever he could find them. My going back to school or work seemed impossible with two small children to put into daycare.

One summer, I painted a wooden sign for a young family member’s birthday gift. I posted it online to my various social media accounts and was shocked at how much interest it generated! Women I’d been friends with for years via only the internet wanted me to create signs and art for their children’s rooms. After that, they spread the word to their friends and so on. I was able to make enough money to pay a bill here and there while still being home with my kids. I also found that painting and being creative was so good for my own mind and soul! My husband went on to enlist again, this time in the Army. We moved back to North Carolina…then over the next ten years to Colorado and Texas. We added two more members to our family…another daughter and the last, a son. Through all of those moves, a pregnancy we spent separated by his second deployment to the middle east, and all of the various day-to-day happenings, I had art. It allowed me the flexibility to cut back when I had a newborn to care for or when we wanted to travel. It’s allowed me an outlet…a space to unwind and unload after the long days of laundry, answering countless questions from my young son, and helping my middle schoolers with homework. It’s another layer to my personality and story beyond wife and mother.

Over the years, I’ve been so fortunate to have been trusted to bring some of my clients’ most important visions to life. With them – almost all women – I have put forth pieces with deep symbolism; the commemoration of a lost child, a new marriage, or a family blended. I take so much pleasure in being able to do something creative that I love while staying home with my family, and also working with people on often deeply personal levels. Although I sill mainly operates through Instagram (@welldressedmessart) and Facebook (Well Dressed Mess Art), I have begun to engage with the local art community by participating in shows and events, like the recent Plantopia collection at Spectra Art Space in Denver.

My husband has since been medically retired from the United States Army, after almost 15 years of collective active duty service and three tours to the middle east. When he told me he was being medically retired, he asked me where I’d like to settle. Without hesitation, I said Colorado! It captured my heart when we were stationed here and we are so happy to make it our forever home and raise our family here. We live in a little mountain town now just west of Denver and I so enjoy the people, the culture, and the inspiration of this beautiful place!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely has not been a smooth road! I am mostly self-taught and over the years, I’ve had to shift my formatting and even my style a bit to keep up with the trends, not only aesthetically speaking, but also in a business sense! I first started out with hand-painted wooden signs but those eventually subsided in popularity: also I found they were quite labor-intensive and expensive to ship. I’ve found watercolor to be a medium I not only greatly enjoy, but that also makes much more sense when it comes to actually being able to complete a higher volume of commissions and ship affordably. My newest challenge is adapting to the digital world. Prints, downloadable and otherwise, are wildly popular and my current aim is to teach myself how to digitize my original pieces and also how to create things directly in a digital medium. My advice to other artists would be to follow your instincts. Whenever I have decided to try something new that I really believe in, it’s usually well received and beneficial to furthering my business. Also, don’t be afraid to price your work well. It’s unique, and the people who see the value in it WILL be willing to invest accordingly. This is something I definitely wrestle with, even still, but I like to think I’m getting better.

Please tell us about Well Dressed Mess Art.
I currently specialize in watercolors but I also work in acrylics, pen, and colored pencil. My favorite thing to paint is flowers and I enjoy more of an illustrative style. Overall, my style is known for being fairly soft and feminine but very readable. There is never a doubt about what a subject is meant to be! I also have done some mural work over the years, both in my own home and in a few local businesses. One of my next ambitions is to break into the world of children’s book illustration. I’m personally proud of my willingness to try. When a client approaches me with a subject or medium I haven’t done before, I’m almost always game to try it out.

Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well positioned for?
I feel that women are well positioned for almost anything they set their sights on! We are strong, capable, level headed, but also possess a unique compassion. So much of womanhood requires a fierce but quiet strength, and I think that lends to us being capable leaders. Since so much of my adult life was spent in the military community and the one thing you need to be in that lifestyle is flexible, I feel like I know so many strong female businesswomen! Whether they’re assisting other women as independent birth doulas, selling bags and organization supplies to help their peers get a handle on home life, or opening up storefronts in their own towns, so many of my favorite ladies are handling business in every sense of the term!

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