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Heather Kent is a watercolor artist and jewelry maker from Long Beach, California who has been creating her original pieces full time for the past two years. Anything from necklaces to hairpins to cufflinks can be found in her Etsy shop. With a mind that never seems to run out of inspiration, it is always refreshing to see the new pieces that appear in her shop.
Toonari Post (TP): How and when did you first start practicing your art (are you traditionally trained or self-taught)?
Heather Kent (HK): I have been painting and creating since I was a child. Creativity runs in the family, and for many of my childhood years my mom taught art classes to the neighborhood kids in a spare room of our house. That’s where I first learned to work with watercolor paint. In high school I took as many art classes as I could fit into my schedule, and continued to study studio art at Cal State Long Beach. I’ve learned the most just through practicing and experimenting, so in a way I feel like it was a little of both traditional and self-teaching.
TP: You have a wide variety of jewelry and paintings available in your shop and you also take custom orders. What is the most common subject you have been asked to paint?
HK: My most commonly requested necklaces are custom pet portraits. Luckily I am a huge animal lover, so it works out well that they are my favorite pieces to paint as well. All of my book designs are quite popular as well.
TP: What mediums do you use for your designs? Which is your favorite and why?
HK: Everything in my Etsy shop is made from original watercolor paintings. Watercolor is currently my favorite medium. It cooperates for me (usually), it’s clean, fun to use, and it’s beautiful. When painting on a larger scale, I also enjoy acrylic paint, but currently watercolor is my medium of choice.
TP: What of your designs is your favorite and why? Which one are you most proud of why?
HK: This has always been a very tricky question to answer, because I honestly like them all. Some of my favorites include:
Plethora of Feathers Necklace
Fall Tree Landscape Necklace
Rustic Farmhouse Pendant
Ye Old Owl Eyes Necklace
Flower Garden Necklace
Classic Beauty No. 1
TP: When you first started did you ever hit any bumps in your art process. What were they and how did you overcome them?
HK: While I was first starting my business I didn’t feel like I hit any big bumps, but as I look back, there are several things I wish I had known that would have made things easier for me. It would have been nice to know which products I should have used from the beginning, how Etsy works, how to best photograph my pieces, and all the other information Etsy sellers need to know.
TP: You say on your Etsy page that your faith is key to your inspiration. What is it about your that keeps the inspiration flowing? Are there any artists in particular that also inspire you?
HK: As you can see just by glancing through my shop, I love the beauty in nature. As a Christian, I believe God created everything for His glory, and it is a reflection of His beauty. I also enjoy painting topics that bring joy to people, such as coffee, books, or gardening tools.
TP: Have you ever had to deal with a situation where someone else took credit for your work? If so, what did you do to resolve it? How did this art theft make you feel?
HK: Having a unique item is extremely important, and something I have worked very hard to do. It’s very frustrating to see my work and ideas copied, but unfortunately there are a lot of art thieves out there who can only create things by stealing from others. It’s a problem I have encountered, and I know many other Etsy sellers encounter every day as well.
Most of the thieves will stay unsuccessful, because you have to be original and creative to succeed. It’s important to know when to ignore the thieves, and when to take legal action. With or without the threat of thieves, I do my best to create an incomparable product, and I think that’s what is important for us Etsy sellers to stay focused on.
TP: What is your favorite subject to design and why?
HK: I love painting pet portraits. I love my dogs and I know how special pets can be to a person. When I am creating original designs apart from custom orders, I love painting anything that brings joy to people, and items/scenes from nature that I find appealing.
TP: If there was any art medium that you wish you could master, what would it be and why?
HK: I would love to work more with clay and sculpture! I love how handmade pottery is not only beautiful but useful as well. I am always drawn to pottery.
TP: Outside of art what is your life like? Tell me anything about yourself that you would like.
HK: I have a happy, simple life. I have a wonderful husband who washes the dishes, and two silly dogs who would be happy to help him. We live in the beautiful and unique Long Beach, California. I have an interesting family and amazing friends. I enjoy taking walks, long talks with friends, drinking coffee, trying new restaurants, going in open houses, teaching tricks to my dogs, playing volleyball, catching up on TV shows, collecting boxes and drawers, trying to finish books, bluegrass music, spending time outside, and any dog-friendly activity.
TP: What are your goals in life?
HK: I have my dream job. I would love to continue creating and selling my original watercolor necklaces and other items forever, continually adding to my line and improving my work. Someday I would like to add a few kids to the mix, but would love to still do exactly what I am doing.
TP: Do you feel that your culture/background has influenced you in some way that makes you different than other artists?
HK: I know that my background has helped me become a better artist and entrepreneur. It’s one thing to be a talented artist, but if someone wants to make it their profession, it’s crucial to have some business and interpersonal skills as well. Living in a diverse city like Long Beach, support from my friends and family, and having been raised to be respectful, creative, and honest are all factors that have helped reinforce my entrepreneurial side. I was blessed with the opportunity to go into it full time two years ago, and I am excited to see where it takes me.