A former newspaper advertising executive has paired her creative talents with business nous to launch a successful art venture.
Carol Nicholson set up Art of Glass, a studio, gallery and teaching business, which specialises in hand-painted glassware.
Using her skills in watercolour painting, Ms Nicholson adapted them to realise a niche for hand-painted glass, which affords a wider range of sellable products.
Originally turning out commissions and one-off pieces from her bedroom in Shotley Bridge, whilst occasionally hiring premises in North Shields to teach glass painting from, Ms Nicholson soon realised the part-time activity was taking on a life of its own.
She explained: “Between creating products, teaching and selling at Tynemouth and Durham markets I found the business was taking on a life of its own.
“I was hiring the room so often that eventually it struck me that I needed to start looking for my own premises.”
The move led her to space within North Shields’ Linskill centre, where she quickly cultivated a substantial demand for her classes, and began receiving bigger orders for commissioned pieces.
Late last year the born-and-bred North Easterner took a gamble and used her own funds to open a larger gallery and studio space in Rowlands Gill, County Durham.
The space is also home to 10 other artists, spanning photographers, illustrators and wood turners, who all pay Ms Nicholson a cut of their sales to exhibit.
She added: “I’m very fortunate in that I always had a good understanding of business and sales. My passion is art but I’ve always approached this idea from a business perspective. It’s my livelihood so I have to.
“When I started I got the business plan into place and really set out to make it as big as I could. My background is in watercolour painting but this business was thought out on a commercial basis — I realised there was scope to produce a bigger range of products under the hand-painted glassware banner.
“Opening the Rowlands Gill shop was a risk, as the site is slightly out of town, and I wasn’t sure if there would be enough footfall. Thankfully the opposite has been the case. A lot of my business is also done online, and my Twitter and Facebook pages have noticeably helped to drive the business.”
Less than three months into trading from her Rowlands Gill base, Ms Nicholson now plans to introduce space for up and coming students to exhibit on a rotational basis.
The model would give local school and college students a separate gallery space to manage, showcasing their work while introducing them to the nuts and bolts of marketing and selling their art as a business.
Ms Nicholson, who says she may soon look at recruiting her first member of staff, hopes to launch the idea in summer this year.