By Robyn Gautschy
The Register-Mail, Galesburg, Ill.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Kristal Frisque is the owner of “Art Defined.” It is a studio where she offers open hours; opportunities to paint on canvas, pallets and ceramics; and even birthday parties and fundraisers. In this article Frisque shares her artistic background, her advice to other entrepreneurs, and how working in downtown Galesburg inspires her.
Wisconsin native Kristal Frisque remembers that she was always fascinated by art, but it wasn’t until high school that she tried her hand at sculpting and took her passion for art to the next level. She went on to create large-scale glass work in Chicago and welding at Knox College, but ceramics is still her favorite type of art.
“Nothing beats getting my hands into my art, creating something from raw ingredients,” she says.
She opened Art Defined four years ago and moved into her Main Street location last year. In this space, she offers open studio hours; opportunities to paint on canvas, pallets and ceramics; and even birthday parties and fundraisers. She hopes to add moist clay classes in the future.
“The business emerged from a passion to encourage others to create art. It was and still is that simple,” she says.
“We are here to empower others, to emotionally encourage them that they can do art! Art is tangible to all of us. … It’s never out of reach if we just allow ourselves to delve in and go for it.”
Read on as Frisque shares her artistic background, her advice to other entrepreneurs, and how working in downtown Galesburg inspires her.
Register-Mail: First, some background on you: Where did you grow up and go to school? How old are you? What kind of work did you do before opening Art Defined?
Kristal Frisque: I grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay for two years before getting married and moving to Galesburg in 1998 for my husband’s (Ben) job with the railroad. I turned 40 on July 19. I finished my degree in studio art at Knox College in 2003. Once I graduated, I sought out a job at Dick Blick, where I worked in product information for almost eight years answering product questions. It gave me a strong foothold in various forms of art, as helping others work through their artistic process was part of the job.
RM: When did your love of art first begin? What do you still love about it now, as an adult and business-owner?
KF: I’ve always been fascinated with art, but I really didn’t realize my strengths until high school, when I sculpted in clay. Three-dimensional work came naturally to me, as I liked working with my hands. I quickly realized my passion for large-scale work when I interned with an industrial glass artist in Chicago as part of my training. It was very intense, as we would cast large-scale molds for glass art from lighting sconces to a baptismal font for a monastery! Welding at Knox was also super exciting. I never really considered myself a painter, as it was definitely something I had to work on, but now I think that helps me be a better instructor, as I understand the struggles my painters go through. I love working through process with them, and when they have self-doubt, I remind them they’re only as good as I teach them, so I take each step very seriously while still having fun.
RM: Do you have any favorite mediums or areas of expertise? Why is that your favorite?
KF: Ceramics is hands down my most favorite medium. Nothing beats getting my hands into my art, creating something from raw ingredients.
RM: How did your art become a business?
KF: The business emerged from a passion to encourage others to create art. It was and still is that simple. It’s a servant mentality, one that I teach my staff. We are here to empower others, to emotionally encourage them that they can do art! Art is tangible to all of us, as it’s for all of us. It’s never out of reach if we just allow ourselves to delve in and go for it.
RM: Why did you choose downtown Galesburg as the location for Art Defined? What do you like about working artistically in this area?
KF: Downtown Galesburg has a rich history with amazing architecture. I wanted to be in the thick of it. We also have some unique businesses downtown that I’m honored to be surrounded by. They all inspire me when designing paintings or glazing pottery.
RM: What do people like about shopping or creating at Art Defined? We don’t have to have real artistic talent to enjoy it, right?
KF: The feedback I hear from my customers is that Art Defined provides a relaxing, chill environment during PYOP (paint your own pottery). They literally will spend hours at the studio glazing pottery and getting to know fellow customers. With our birthday party packages, we provide kiddos an alternative way to celebrate. Food and drinks are always welcome. Our painting workshops are a tad bit more goofy, as I like to chum it up with my painters. But it’s also more intense, as we all paint step by step together, so everyone is concentrating as they’re creating. A little wine sipping also helps them relax. And nope, no artistic experience necessary. In fact, the business is designed around newbies. And for my long-term customers, they fine tune their skills, as we offer different painting aesthetics.
RM: What have you learned from owning your own business?
KF: Oh man, I have learned so many things owning my own business. I secretly love balancing my books, there are a world of personalities that come through our doors and I get the honor of meeting, and I can’t keep the studio as clean as I keep my house. I have come to accept piles of cardboard boxes.
RM: What are the best and worst things about running a business?
KF: Hands down the best thing about owning my own business is walking into the doors, looking around at the walls my husband and I have built, and knowing that this is the path meant for me. And the fulfillment I receive from serving others. It is rewarding to see people leave content and often amazed at what they accomplish. The challenges of running an art studio versus a traditional retail store would be the hours we keep. I play with what hours work best for my customers and for my family life, as I juggle three little kiddos at home. But I have a very supportive family who have come to love being at the studio, so that definitely affirms for me I’m where I should be.
RM: What is something a lot of people don’t know about Art Defined?
KF: The one thing people are still wrapping their fingers around is open studio hours. Open studio is just that — open! Anyone can come in and glaze or paint a past painting any time, no reservation necessary. We have traditionally only accepted reservations because we solely used to offer painting classes, but now that we have a brick and mortar store, anyone can come in and create during open studio.
RM: What is your advice to other entrepreneurs, especially to young people like yourself who are just getting started?
KF: I have been inspired and taken advice by some outstanding businesses that surround me. I am so excited about the growth of new business these last few years. My encouragement to fresh business owners is to find yourselves a great support system, run your business with passion, focus on how you can serve others and then just go for it! You will make mistakes, but those are the best opportunities for growth. Don’t see them as stopping points, but rather a check list of things that don’t work for you and how you can grow from them.
RM: What’s next for you? Any new projects or ideas in the works?
KF: Now that Art Defined is approaching its one-year anniversary next month in its own space (we’ve been in business for four years), I look forward to fine tuning things that have worked well for us. We launched Christmas in July this month to give glazers a chance to get a head start on their holiday decorating, and we’re now offering pallet painting parties. I also hope to introduce moist clay classes down the road and get my pottery wheel running.
RM: Tell us about your life outside of work — what do you like to do for fun? Any clubs or hobbies? Family or pets?
KF: My hope is to get back into my personal art this year. I love slab work and throwing on the wheel. Next to art, I’m passionate about running with my dear friend Carrie Walters. It’s our time to catch up on each other’s lives, as we’re both busy business owners. (Carrie co-owns HPW.) I also ride an elliptical road bike, so if you catch a glimpse of a crazy looking green bike, it’s probably me. The rest of my days are spent hanging out with my family.
RM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
KF: At the end of the day, when I turn off the lights and check Berta, our kiln, I’m so in awe of the support and love for art that surrounds this community. There is truly a creative flow in this town. And with the emergence of new art collectives, independent studios and added art fairs and events, I feel so fortunate I get to be part of it all.
WANT TO GO?
Address: 223 E. Main St., Galesburg
Phone: (309) 297-4937
Web: Facebook.com/artdefinedparty or www.artdefined.net
Hours: Summer hours are 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; noon to 8 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday; plus additional workshop hours.