Updated: Jun 10
How many fine artists in Barbados do you know who have made a steady living from their craft? If you know more than five (5), give me a call.
Now, how many fine artists in Barbados do you know who have deliberately gone about building a business model and created a successful business before age 30? Not many I'd guess.
But Shanika Grimes, founder of Artist Made, is one of them and I had the pleasure of interviewing her for episode 5, season 3 of the Backstage with Bajan Brands podcast. Like many of my younger interviewees, it was her social media presence that introduced me to her work.
She’s bubbly, she’s bright, she’s clearly always working on her craft and isn’t shy about promoting her children’s art classes, custom mural services, branded handbags and now virtual services.
She’s also not shy about showing off a quirky, artsy personality and a sheer love of life. But along with all that Shanika has a clear sense of what it takes to ensure a stable and successful business.
Did I mention that she got financing to build her own art studio? Well, she did and yes, that happened before she reached age 30.
Prior to reaching this stage, Shanika explained that her pursuit of art was a pretty "romantic" endeavour. But, as with many things, it took a life-changing event to create a shift in that perspective. She explains what happened in the clip below.
I asked Shanika to tell me a bit more about the services she offers and she had this to say:
“...my main base for my services is acrylic paint. I use acrylic paint on bags, for handcrafted decorations, I paint handmade signs, I paint murals and really technical... portraits and detailed paintings as well. I also do custom projects based on customer requests that fit my technical ability because I can sow and I can paint. So there're some little quirky things that people ask me to do…”
Interestingly enough, she started out with carving but quickly realised this wouldn’t be sustainable for her:
“I can carve as well, but the turned over rate on such an item is very slow. You know the production cost is high. The turnover rate is very slow, convincing a Barbadian to buy the time it costs to carve is a really hard sell, especially with my age. And there is a type of branding that comes with your age because older artists do get a certain level of respect in terms of pricing as well. So I considered all of these things. Even though I'm noteworthy, I'm still very young as a brand. So I can't demand a certain price point on certain sizes of items because when someone's paying for a mural, It might be a little costly, but the size justifies the price in a way. For a carving, you might end up with something like this (gestures to show a small size) that took a week and then how are you going to pay your bills or convince the customer to pay for that?”
And what’s the story behind the studio that she built? She explained:
“I was doing a commercial rental of a very tiny 10 by 10 building over by the Mill. There were complications in terms of where I wanted to go with my business and that space and when I considered my options in terms of another commercial rental at a larger space the price points are through the roof. So when I did my number crunching setting it up this way I think they call this like a cottage industry where you have approval for a residence and the studio but right now I just did the studio first to see where we'd go.”
Artist Made was already a Bajan brand going places but since COVID-19 new opportunities have presented themselves. As always, Shanika is excited about the prospects and has wasted no time in executing new ideas.
Check out the full interview with this dynamic Bajan arts entrepreneur here.