By day, you’ll find Blair Jeffers working at thirty-thirty Coffee Co., in Peoria, as one of the resident baristas throwing down some latte art with the best of them. There must be some spillover effect from that because by night, Blair takes her creative juices and applies them to the more conventional art of sketching.

Having first known her for the caffeinated version, it was hard not to notice her talents when her sketches started showing up on my Instagram feed. It appeared that this was more than just a hobby or a special talent, but her true calling and something with the makings of an artistic business.

Working a very customer-service-facing full-time job while also trying to balance her passion for art must have its challenges, but probably also comes with its fair share of benefits. This was as good of an excuse as any to go to thirty-thirty to meet with Blair to chat about how she makes time for her art, and whether there is an entrepreneurial pursuit behind her many talents.

Blair bear

PEN: So did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?
Blair: I’ve always had a passion for drawing. My grandma said this was my talent and my family was very supportive of me growing up. We took one of those career tests in school and it said graphic designer, farmer, or entertainer.

PEN: What has having the outlet of art done for you?
Blair: Outside of the pet portraits, I like to do deeper political types of things. I like to explore different ways we think about social norms and how those things change over time.

PEN: How do you see yourself?  As an artist who has a regular job or as someone who does art on the side?
Blair: When I attended Kendall College in Grand Rapids, Mich., I had a teacher there who was good about providing different opportunities to us. There were no real business classes, which looking back now, I’m kind of upset about. There wasn’t a lot of advice or mentoring to figure out how to start your own business around your art. They’d talk about working in or owning galleries, but not everyone is interested in that. I’m still exploring different mediums and trying out a variety of things. I ended up getting a BFA in Printmaking and minoring in photography. Printmaking itself is pretty diverse and there are a lot of ways to make a print. I would love to do copper etchings, but it’s not really feasible to have all of the equipment needed at home.

I moved to the Peoria-area a year after graduating and I had an internship with a local pottery studio. I got to experience a lot of the business side of things and realized that I probably couldn’t concentrate on my art if I had all the other responsibilities of running my own business. I really like working here [at thirty-thirty] and getting to talk to so many different people. I can’t really see myself being a full-time artist at the moment without knowing exactly how to make that work.

Blair buffalo

PEN: Do you have an actual business entity setup for yourself as an artist?
Blair: I don’t make enough to claim at the moment. So, I haven’t needed to started a true business.

PEN: What would it take to get there?
Blair: Well, I don’t really talk about my business to market it like I should. And that kind of comes from the fact that I don’t really talk a whole lot about myself in general. I don’t take enough time for myself at times, so to prioritize my art as a business is difficult for me.

PEN: You get commissioned by people to do pieces for them. Can you talk about that process?
Blair: For a typical pet portrait, I ask for the pet’s name. I find out any character traits or bits of personality that I can add to the drawing. Then I see if they want a particular style or theme to fit within.

I love the process itself. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. But getting into the process is very cathartic for me. It’s me putting my hands into it. It may take longer, but is much more fulfilling for me as an artist. I’ll give you an example, in my research I’ll start sometimes by looking through old Sears catalogs of different era’s to tie in unique and authentic features.

In total, it usually takes me about 6-8 hours and I charge $100 for a 5×7 size drawing. Framing it is extra, but I can do that as well.

Blair Miel shirtPEN: It seems like you’re already close, but what would help you take your artwork to the next level?
Blair: Confidence. I really need to prioritize my art and to include it in my daily schedule. I’m still figuring out how to do that. I live in the present and so it might work better if I organize things to make my art a regular priority.

PEN: When, if ever, could you see yourself going full-time as an artist?
Blair: That’s something that I realized when I would spend the entire day working at the pottery studio. I managed the gallery, talked to the artists and other galleries for wholesale work. I’ve tried to ask myself that question. Do I go part-time and increase my workload as an artist? How do I make that work? I really would have to start by really focusing on making it a priority and making a business of it. Maybe someday…

PEN: Where can we find more of your work or contact you for a commission?
Blair: You can see more of my work on my website, on Instagram or email me if you’re interested in commissioned piece of art.

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