Two Salt Lake City artists contemplate expansion

Slideshow and story by MEGAN DOLLE

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of two Salt Lake City artists.

Stacey Foster has a gift for creating curious pieces of art.

Foster worked as a piecework manager in Los Angeles for two years until moving to Utah in 2009. She quickly capitalized on her professional and creative talents in her new home by crafting a particularly unique style of home décor: decorative arrows.

“I saw some vintage ones in an umbrella stand in a magazine and I thought they looked really cool,” Foster said. “But I couldn’t find any to buy.”

In 2010, Foster tried to make her own. After months of experimenting with birch wood, paint, glue and real turkey feathers, she was able to create a product she was proud of. Encouraged by her success, she craved expansion.

But, not all creative minds think alike about expanding. Some may act conservatively and cherish their art as a modest hobby. Others, like Foster, actively chase opportunities to grow professionally.

Foster’s husband found an article introducing General Electric Company’s Banking on Women while looking through the newspaper one afternoon. He learned that this three-month program was being offered in Utah and urged his wife to apply.

The program partners with the Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund (UMLF) and the Center for Entrepreneurship at Westminster College to provide training, mentoring and microloans for female entrepreneurs. Foster jumped at the opportunity and was accepted into the program in fall 2012.

Creating a business plan was the final key component of the Banking on Women program. Foster initially hoped to open a physical location. But the research involved in creating a business plan helped her deliberate realistic goals as well as think creatively and resourcefully about how she wanted to expand.

After developing a robust plan, Foster searched for funding to bring her ideas to life. She chose to present to the UMLF panel for a $25,000 loan.

Foster was awarded the loan in 2013 and used it to open a mobile fashion truck called Mineral and Matter.

“I had seen them [fashion trucks], not in person but online and in magazines, and just thought that would be perfect,” Foster said.

She spent months searching for and preparing her truck, adding a vinyl wrap, drywall, extra storage and laminate wood floor. Foster also painted the interior and had shelving installed.

“The theme of the truck is a natural history museum meeting a space observatory,” Foster added in an email interview.

Her truck is certainly a novel addition to Salt Lake City’s market. It’s also incredibly practical. “It’s like a moving billboard for our store,” Foster said.

Although her fashion truck continues to be successful, additional studio space was still necessary. In August 2014, she opened a brick-and-mortar store located at 353 Pierpont Ave., where she has continued creating her decorative arrows and featuring a wide selection of work from different designers.

One of those designers is Amanda Antunez, whose jewelry line is OliveDeer.

Antunez also has a mind full of creative ideas. She quickly realized the need to set her pieces of jewelry apart while still having the ability to work in the comfort of her own home.

She utilizes various sizes of raw gemstones such as quartz, amethyst and kyanite to create necklaces and rings using a process called electroforming. The beginning phases of this method include forming and sanding the clay around gemstones, painting them with graphite and waiting for the jewelry to dry overnight.

Antunez purposefully couples her raw gemstones with copper in the electroforming process to create an uncommon organic style.

“I want people to be like, ‘Oh hey! That’s an OliveDeer necklace!’” Antunez said in a phone interview.

Foster was also attracted to this earthy approach. She found Antunez among the list of vendors featured at Provo’s Bijou Market and asked if she would be interested in selling her pieces at Mineral and Matter’s new location.

The OliveDeer pieces seem to be generating interest. But, Antunez says she is having trouble keeping Foster stocked with inventory.

“The process that I use takes a really really long time, and with my full-time job I don’t really have much time to dedicate to this,” Antunez said.

After waiting for the jewelry to dry overnight, Antunez places the pieces into a copper sulfate bath for 12 to 24 hours. This permanently bonds the cooper to her pieces when passed through an electrical current.

While Antunez would appreciate the extra time to work on expanding her own busines, she’s not ready to quit her stable job quite yet.

Ann Marie Thompson, program director at Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center (WBC), would agree with that decision.

The WBC is a nonprofit entrepreneurial center for aspiring women business owners. Thompson specializes in business plan writing, cash flow projection and government procurement. She meets one-on-one with clients for consultations and mentoring, but cringes when she hears of ambitious entrepreneurs quitting their full-time job.

“When I hear somebody say ‘I quit my job to start a business,’ I’m like, ‘Don’t do that! Go get another job,’ because you need cash flow for your life,” Thompson said. “I always tell our people, don’t quit your job. … But do it on the side until [your business] can replace it.”

Whether an artist follows Thompson’s advice, such as Antunez, or decides to pursue expansion more actively, like Foster, the goal is to create unique pieces of art.

“I feel like I still have a lot of growing to do,” Antunez said. “I need to be able to get myself out there more in order to do this full-time.”