Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The founding of Cow Art and More

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It's hard to believe this collection of cow art has been online for two years now! I have loved every minute of making art and connecting with cow art lovers worldwide. One question I continue to get asked, just how did this get started?

I decided to become a veterinarian when I was 11 or 12. (I promise, I will get to the question at hand.) Once I made that decision, I knew I had to do everything possible to get into veterinary school. This meant taking lots of science based classes and other academic classes to get me into college. While I took art classes in high school here and there, they just didn't fit into the schedule to take as many as I would have liked.

I went on to college, still with a love of art, but still with a desire to go to veterinary school. Veterinary colleges spell out very clearly what it takes to apply. Unfortunately art classes aren't a prerequisite. While I took a few arts and humanities classes in college, I didn't get to fully investigate any potential art talents.

The hard work and dedication paid off. I was accepted to veterinary school and headed off with zeal. This time, there was not even the option of taking art classes. (imagine that) I continued to explore art museums when I had the chance, but veterinary studies took priority.

When I graduated veterinary school, I took my first job as a cattle veterinarian and moved to Florida. While I wasn't crazy about living in Florida, I did love that art and culture seem to be the "norm" here. In the spring and fall, there are regular art festivals and within the city of Gainesville, (where the University of Florida is and where I live now), visual and performing arts are just a way of life. (I can't remember why I took this cow's picture, but I suspect it was because she had quite the special head wrap from her favorite veterinarian. Anyway, it's an example of what I do as a cattle vet.)

It was in the summer of 2001 that, at a friend's barbecue, I met a well known local jewelry artist. She explained that she was teaching a beginner level metalsmithing class in a couple of weeks and suggested I take it. I did and I was instantly hooked. That was the beginning.

That year for Christmas, I made jewelry gifts for close family and friends. It was after a friend of my mom's saw the necklace she was wearing and asked if I could make her one too that I made my first sale. I continued to take a few classes from my original teacher. She was impressed with my skills and encouraged me to apply for art shows. I chose a small local show, applied, and was accepted. That was October 2002.

While I was making jewelry during this time, it was much more "artsy". My agriculture friends asked if I made cow jewelry. I simply looked at them like they had 3 eyes and replied, "No." As much as I love cows, I really didn't want to make jewelry of them. Veterinary medicine doesn't leave much room for creativity and I really wanted to do something different when I was in the studio. As I realize now, though, I just hadn't found the right idea yet. (The pendant at left is from 2004. It is a pin/pendant of chrysocolla, sterling silver and bronze.)

My farm friends continued to pester me about making a line of farm jewelry. It wasn't that it was a bad idea, I just wanted something extra special. I wanted something very unique and classy, but most of all realistic. While attending a local veterinary meeting in the fall of 2007, I saw someone selling charm jewelry pieces of cats and dogs. It was then that the idea of the cow jewelry came to me. After doing a little visual research on the internet, I realized I had some unique ideas to make realistic farm jewelry. I knew my experience within agriculture would allow me to make cow jewelry that not only I found to be realistic, but agriculture enthusiasts would too.

Along the way of my jewelry career, I also met other artists who had a fascination with cows and created art representing them. I thought it would be great to include them in my venture as well. The planning for Cow Art and More began in the spring of 2008. I began production of the charms and recruited other artists to become a part of my "family". I officially launched Cow Art and More on September 1, 2008, with a few charms and a handful of artists. I now represent over 25 cow art artists and have 7 charms, with 3 more to launch any day now. (Left is my rosette charm, shown in 18 K yellow gold).

I'm very enthusiastic about the future of Cow Art and More. I was excited to be asked to sell cow art at the 2011 National Holstein Convention and honored to have coordinated the unique stained glass trophies given last month at the All American Red and White Holstein show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It is quite satisfying knowing that the beauty of agricultural art can bring joy to people's daily lives.

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