December 19, 2007.
The fact that I now say I actually know Shelly Kennedy seems sort of surreal to me, she is so well known by so many. If you work in the children's industry, you are an artist, or um you have a child you know of Drooz Studio. Her amazing artwork and her signature 'original' Wall Hangings have been seen everywhere. With celebrity clients and adoring customers - Shelly's products are probably the most coveted product for any re-seller. Anyone shopping for baby gifts and who claims NOT to know her - is lying.
I had watched from afar, how Shelly grew Drooz Studio, and I had always admired her talent. I also saw how others copied her, how her work was mimicked, yet she just sat back with way more dignity than I would have. I decided to touch on the subject earlier this year acknowledging the copying in my blog, okay, um, then in another, and another post....I do tend to repeat myself, but bear with me.
This summer I happen to get a gander at her actual physical catalog and was awe struck by a quote she had on the inside cover of the catalog:
"Imitation is the highest form of flattery"....we tend to disagree! Please stay original! Copying is not polite. We are thrilled that you appreciate our work....and we would appreciate if you respect our copyrights!"
Well, you know after reading that, I knew we were kindred spirits and though she had more dignity than me, she had some serious spunk. I sent her an email, telling her how I loved her work, admired her as a business woman, and really loved the quote. I told her that I understood her frustration, and I had been around long enough to know she was the original. I figured that would be the end of it. Well, not only did she email me back, but she knew who I was (shocking to me) and we have continued to email back and forth on occasion, commiserate a few times and share a good laugh, or a good story. Though I have only spoken with her a handful of times I am happy to report she is the nicest person and I am so grateful I had the guts to approach her. I would hope in the future she gets the credit she deserves for re-inventing the wall art industry she so helped grow. I look forward to see what the future has in store for one our industry's pioneers.
That being said, I did not have to beg too much when I asked her to answer a few interview questions for the blog. I hope you find her candor and honesty as inspiring as I do:
Shelly Kennedy, owner & founder of Drooz Studio
Drooz Studio was started officially in 1998, although I painted the original piece in December of 1997, while pregnant with my first baby!
Deep down I always knew that I wanted to have my own business. Doing "what" was always the question. I went to college as an illustration major - and switched to Marketing my sophomore year. My father owned his own business, I knew first hand that it was not a bed of roses. After almost 5 years in the traditional work force - I took time off to raise my babies. Drooz unfolded very delicately - and grew at a slow and steady pace. It was an ideal scenario for me. It allowed me to grow as I wanted - utilizing very little start up cash and working around naps and bedtimes. I'd say it wasn't until about 2001 that I really started to market, promote and consider Drooz a "real business".
Ten Years in Business
OH - the industry has changed so much! When I first started there was very, very little in the way of art for children and nurseries. Also there were may be three or four nice baby boutique type websites - if that! I didn't see any hand-painted work, and no "wall hangings type designs. Now, the industry is just so saturated with art. The same ol' stuff everywhere you look. I find it harder and harder to maintain a fresh and new look for Drooz-but I like the challenge. Today we probably have three to four baby boutiques contacting us a DAY for our information.
My favorite part of the job is working on new ideas....new designs and product development. Spending the whole day in the studio - painting, drawing, cutting, pasting, coloring and playing - I am such a lucky girl!
My least favorite part of the job - HA - the "numbers' part of the business. Accounting, payroll, insurance - yuck!
Everything inspires me! Today I saw a label on a pound of coffee at Starbucks and I couldn't wait to get my sketch book to draw the ideas it inspired! I love old things - I scour garage sales, flea markets, salvation army - a book, a baby dress, a piece of jewelry I find, may start to conjure up ideas in my head. I love magazines - I think I subscribe to 32 titles! Fashion, travel....home decor, flipping through the pages is very inspiring.
I follow trends a bit. I like to describe the Drooz look as "current yet classic". I think it is dangerous to be too trendy - but yet I understand that our pieces are bought as accessories for the nursery - so usually the buyer is looking to match a particular bedding or theme - those of which tend to be pretty trendy. I don't really like a "matchy-matchy" look - so long as I keep our designs fresh and interesting. I honestly would say my main goal is to NOT look like the other art (or trendy items) out there. We want to keep the style and soul of "Drooz".
Still working on the balance of raising children and running a business. I have a great support from my mom and dad - they help with the kids a lot. My husband is very forgiving if there are no dinner plans, or clean socks. Really the kids are most important thing, and with this career I am able to have the flexibility to be there when they need me; school events, sick days, soccer practice, music lessons, doctor's appointments, etc. Sometimes it means that I work late from home answering emails that I didn't get to all day - sometimes it means going to work when the rest of the family is catching a movie, it is all a trade off.