By Carrie Beth Wallace
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Ga.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Molly Twigg, owner of Bluebelle Artist Market says she wanted to give people who were creating products in their garages or hitting craft shows every season a more stable environment to sell and earn money for their work.
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Ga.
Molly Twigg, owner of Bluebelle Artist Market, has found her niche in Columbus’ cultural scene. With a passion for art and a heart for supporting local artists, Twigg has set out to foster an environment where local businesses can thrive.
In a recent interview with Sunday Arts reporter Carrie Beth Wallace, Twigg discusses why she opened Bluebelle Artist Market, the reason she doesn’t take commissions and upcoming events. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How did you come to live in Columbus?
A: My husband, Micheal, is active-duty Army and we were stationed at Fort Benning about two years ago.
Q: What is your favorite way to spend your time?
A: I love to hang out with my kids and do art projects. They all seem to enjoy getting their hands dirty and helping their mom and dad. I also enjoy road trips to go picking. I just got a lot of really cool stuff I’ll be bringing into Bluebelle Artist Market soon.
Q: Do you collect art personally? Which artists are in your home?
A: Of course. I have a lot of work in my home from artists at Bluebelle. I have pottery from Elizabeth Sabatino, a painting from Melissa Howington from MJH designs, and our newest addition was a custom skateboard deck I gave my husband for Christmas that hangs on our wall from Jen Gordon of PD and Product. I also am an avid antique and vintage collector.
Q: Is your family involved in your work?
A: Oh yes. This is a family business in every sense. My husband often gets off work from his job in the Army and comes by the store to help build booths or help a vendor with a project. He also works on pieces we sell in the store at home like our piano bars and farm tables. The kids love being at the store and make a game out of sweeping the store when they come. My daughter, Clara, is my No. 1 marketer. She asks everyone she sees, “Have you been to Bluebelle Artist Market?”
Q: What is your favorite thing about owning a business?
A: The people. I don’t know if anyone loves the paperwork or the boring stuff they don’t tell you before you start a business, but having over 100 artists in the store who are creative and working hard to make their work sell is very rewarding. Their success makes the long hours worthwhile.
Q: Do you consider yourself to be a creative entrepreneur?
A: Absolutely. The concept of having a booth in a store is not new. Antique and thrift stores have done that for a long time. The difference is that I have placed a pretty high standard on the store for quality artisans and craftsmen. I wanted to give people a chance that were creating pieces in their garages or hitting craft shows every season a more stable environment to sell and earn money for their work. We asked them all to treat their space at Bluebelle Arist Market as it were their own tiny store. When you walk into the store you immediately know it is different and it’s all about creativity. That creativity of so many artists helps the store stay fresh for our customers.
Q: In what ways do you feel as though art has shaped you?
A: It has given me a platform to focus on our community and that’s always been important to me. When you shop at Bluebelle Artist Market, you are supporting local people who are using their hands and creativity to make a living. That goes far beyond art.
Q: What led you to open Bluebelle Artist Market?
A: We moved here from Huntsville, Ala., where I had a very successful gig going as a vendor at a vintage store painting, picking and repurposing furniture. When we moved here I checked out local places but they weren’t anything like the store I had found so much success with in Huntsville.
The owners of the store where I started, Paul and Kat Schurer (now owners of Vinterest in Hixson, Tenn.) had become friends of mine and I really looked up to how they ran their store. Of course, I wanted to do it with my own spin but I had great people to look up to. They had incredible work ethic, super customer and vendor service, they were incredibly involved and always thinking of what was next. That kind of leadership is very inspiring.
Q: What are some of the decisions that led up to opening Bluebelle Artist Market? How did you know you were ready to begin?
A: I shoot from the hip 90 percent of the time. I was enrolled in classes at CSU for spring 2016 wanting to start a career path toward pharmaceuticals or optometry. I think, I had been to our friends store for their grand opening and it just hit me that I wasn’t going to be happy with a “normal” job. I called my husband the day before I was supposed to start school for the semester and said “I think I’m going to try this store thing, what do you think?” He said “Oh! So maybe in the summer after classes you can start looking into it.” I said “No. I just withdrew from my classes. I start tomorrow.” If I would have waited until I was ready, I may have never opened. Sometimes you just have to go for it.
Q: Do you have a personal interest in interior design?
A: For my art personally, interior design is what inspires it. I am formally trained in faux finishing techniques and I just use furniture as a canvas as opposed to a wall. I love making bars of upright pianos. I love making something with good bones that is out of date great again.
Q: How do you determine which artists you will select for booth space?
A: We ask potential vendors to send in photos of their work and fill out an application talking about their work and what their hopes are for their success in the store. I’m really looking for folks who have a passion for their craft and want to be successful. We want our vendors to want to be part of a team and work towards Bluebelle Artist Market being a success together. It doesn’t so much matter what your artwork is whether it be building or repurposing furniture or selling your photographs. We just are looking for what our customers want to buy, people who want to be successfully selling and innovative in their craft and people who are passionate about their work. If I have artists that do that, I have customers who want to buy it!
Q: Who is your target audience/buyer?
A: Anyone that wants something unique. We are like Pinterest in real life. If you see something you want, we can make it at Bluebelle.
Q: How do you feel your business has impacted Columbus?
A: I’m hoping that we are showing how important it is to support local artists and give them a place to sell. A lot of talent is in this town, and very close by, and they should be able to have a space that promotes their work. There are a lot of people who want to see more items being made in America by American people and art just happens to be our platform to build on and generate local income.
Q: How is Bluebelle Artist Market benefiting the artists you represent? Do you take new artists or sellers?
A: We are always looking for new people. If we don’t have the size space they want available at the moment we also have a wait list for them. We have tried to create a space that gives artists an incredibly low overhead to sell their work. We have wall spaces for things like paintings that start at $50 per month and our booth spaces start at $155 a month. Many of our artists are incredibly successful. We don’t take commissions so that creates an environment where a lot of custom work can be done and we love to send it to our artists.
Q: Do you have any college students’ work that you sell?
A: We do have a few college students. I love having younger folks come in because they have a fresh perspective and a lot of enthusiasm. We also have veterans, military spouses, stay at home mom’s, retired folks, other store owners who use their space at Bluebelle Artist Market for a satellite store and of course, people who do this for a living.
Q: Do you have any upcoming events readers should know about?
A: We have monthly auctions on Facebook. They are the last Wednesday of the month typically and you can just bid online in your PJ’s! That’s on Feb. 22. We will be taking Bluebelle Artist Market to the Southern Lovin’ Junkin show March 17-19 at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center with lots of new goodies.
We also will be having our First Annual Spring Kick Off April 1. We are inviting farmers to come and setup for free as vendors outdoors in hopes we can have a farmers market in the future. We also except art and craft vendors outside just for the day. Spaces are $50 for the entire day. We will have food trucks and music. It’s going to be a great time.
Q: What else should readers know?
A: If you are interested in becoming a vendor at the store or for an event, please fill out a vendor application on our website at BluebelleArtistMarket.com or stop by the store for more info at 2301 Airport Thruway Suite A in Columbus