At first it might seem that clothing would have nothing in common with a painting business but that’s not entirely true. For Sandra Schulze there is a lot more behind those businesses than meets the eye.
Inspired by the photo of her friends’ daughter, Sandra went to work on what would become her first mixed media painting. As one became two, it only grew from there. NEVA Paintings takes a plain photo and puts it to canvas, then turns it into a piece of art by adding paint and imagination.
However, as many entrepreneurs know, inspiration doesn’t always limit itself to one idea. Most recently Sanda found inspiration directly from the kids clothing currently on the market. Making her move from photos and paint to design, Sandra created NEVA Kids.
Tell us a little about Neva Kids and Neva Paintings.
I’ve been painting for about 15 years now , but when a friend of mine sent me a photo of her daughter one day, I knew I had to do something with it. It’s funny because it wasn’t even my own baby that inspired me to create this new form of art. This girl looked so incredibly beautiful and the colors on the photo were stunning – so I put it on a big giant canvas, and painted little details about the little girl around her face. I asked my friend to tell me what her daughter liked to do, favorite colors, things she loved to eat, favorite animals, birth date etc – and all this went on the painting. That is how NEVA Paintings started. The first “product” was born: “ Tell your Story” was born. And even though I started painting children only, one day I realized that this would work for anything and anyone. There are now paintings of President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, a “New York City” Painting that I did for “Torch” and an Ayaan Hirsi Ali Painting, as well as a few other ones. I am also working on a series of Paintings that shows people in Coffee Producing Countries. Ethiopia is the first one, and Jamaica will follow soon. ( Then Colombia and Brasil)
NEVA Kids is a collaboration of me and my husband, who shares the love of design and beautiful things with me. We decided that we want to try and make the world a more beautiful place, little by little – and started NEVA Kids. Right now it’s a small shop with Childrens Clothes , Accessories and Home DÃ©cor and it includes the Paintings. We also just got our clothes in our first kids specialty store. However- we feel that we don’t want to reduce our ideas to children only and by mid next year there should be a shop with paintings, kids section and products for everyone else. NEVA DESIGN STUDIO.
What inspired you to launch your business?
I started NEVA Paintings when my son was born in 2007. I painted for about 15 years before that, but discovered a new technique ( the mixed media using photos as a background) and felt that this could become much bigger than anything I had done before. NEVA Kids followed in 2009, because of my love for design and frankly because it is quite difficult to find clothes for our son. I love design and beautiful things and we made it our mission to create things that make the world beautiful. The idea is that as our son grows, so will our products. When you create products out of a necessity they usually are so much more relevant.
So, now I can work on paintings as well as new and innovative product designs – all this will be combined under NEVA DESIGN STUDIO one day…this is just a start.
When did you launch Neva Paintings? When was Neva Kids officially launched?
NEVA Paintings: 2007
NEVA Kids/ NEVA DESIGN STUDIO: 2009
To date, how many paintings would you say you’ve completed? What inspired your work?
Including all paintings in the past 15 years it must be around 50 or so – but just counting the new mixed media ones that I did since 2007, there are about 15 paintings.
How many products are currently listed on Neva Kids/ NEVA Paintings? What are some of the most popular?
For NEVA Paintings there are about 3 different ones, the most popular one is “Tell Your Story” – because as I said earlier, it works for anything and anyone. The children, and couples that I have portrayed so far, are all beautiful and so different from each other, each one of them has her own amazing story. President Obama’s election story, Oprah Winfrey’s life story written into her hair… each time someones story is being told on a canvas it turns out to be something unique and special.
Then there are “Your Song” – where people can pick their most favorite lyrics of a song and I will paint it around the person they love. And focusing on small children ” First Words” will display the child and her first words – reminding everyone how wonderful it is to see a child grow up and learn.
We have about 10 different styles, accessories and decor items on the website. We are focusing on basics for now but hope to expand into more items soon. The most popular items are the more eccentric ones: The ‘New York City Kid’ shirt printed on a Tshirt that has ‘destroyed’ collar and sleeve edges. The ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ design is also very popular. People also like the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ derived posters.
Have you always had an interest in business? Are you surprised that you have made it as far as you have?
Only since I came to the US. We are still in the beginning stages of setting up this company and still see a lot of potential. My husband is the business side of the company, while I focus on the design. Design for us means a lot more than a pretty picture though. We ‘design’ the entire experience our customers have. NEVA Paintings in particular is as much about the process and the inclusion of customers in developing the painting as it is about the final product. We want people to love the product and feel good about it every step of the way. And they do. They love it. And so do we.
Even before Neva Paintings, how long would you say you’ve been painting for? What was your first completed piece like? Do you still own it?
My First complete piece was sold about a year after I finished it in 1996, maybe even sooner. It was a 50×50 canvas, and sold for about $1200. I still own a few of my older works, because I could not part with them, but about 85% of my work is owned by other people now.
What are some of the lessons your business has taught you?
You need to be out there every day, and get in touch with people. Networking is a big part of this. I also realized that I can’t stop thinking about new paintings, even when I am on vacation I am always always working on something and for some reason it’s fun.
Owning your own business is no 9-5 job, but I love what I do, and I truly believe that my work makes people really happy – so I will try to continue to do that for as long as I can.
Do you have any advice that you’d like to offer future artists hoping to make some money off of their work?
Be different, not difficult! 😉