We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Topher & Sara Mack. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Topher & Sara below.
Hi Topher & Sara, thanks for joining us today. It’s always helpful to hear about times when someone’s had to take a risk – how did they think through the decision, why did they take the risk, and what ended up happening. We’d love to hear about a risk you’ve taken.
Hello and thank you for this opportunity to share our story and insights on business and art! Life is full of so many risks. Every decision you make in life comes with risk. Do you go to college? Do you take out loans? Do you move away to build your own business, or maybe you stay close to home where you have more support? Usually, the longer the list of questions you ask yourself, the more risky it is to answer them. After both graduating from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), Topher and I were faced with a big decision. Do we pack up our belongings and follow our dreams? Or, do we save up more than the few thousand dollars we had, play it safe and make our move when “the timing is better”? But the thing about timing is, you don’t really know when “better” will be. Hindsight is always 20/20 and rarely is anyone ever 100% ready for anything. So, with that in mind, we decided to choose the riskier option and follow our dreams.
We knew we wanted to go south; somewhere warmer than Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Somewhere where summer lasts longer than 10 weeks and you don’t have to wear thick socks and snow boots for 90% of all holidays. After some debate, we decided on Austin, Texas. It’s warm, it has a great art scene and we knew a whopping two people that lived there. So, we took the little money we had saved, rented a truck, packed up our fish, frogs and Mr. Toad, and headed South. Once we got to Austin, Topher had no problem finding work as a real estate photographer. I, on the other hand, was stuck with my slightly unrealistic dream of immediately making lots of art that galleries and collectors would notice, fall in love with and buy for thousands of dollars. This, unfortunately, (and unsurprisingly,) did not happen and I was faced with another decision. Continuing to struggle and hopefully one day succeed at my big art dream and looking for a “real” job seemed to be my two options. I looked at job openings online, trying to find one that sounded like a good fit, but there wasn’t much out there for someone fresh out of college with a printmaking degree. (My mom always wondered what I would do with this degree). With my creative job options being limited to cake decorating for just above minimum wage, I wasn’t feeling too optimistic. Not happy with these options, Topher offered a risky alternative. “Why don’t we just start our own business?” Why not? If there’s ever a time to try to start a business it’s certainly when you’ve just moved to a new city, know no one, have a savings account that is quickly dwindling to mere pennies and you haven’t even unpacked all of your belongings. All kidding aside, I suppose the timing could have been better, but then again, who’s to say? So we took another risk.
‘Artist Couple’ officially became a business on December 1st, of 2015, a proud and scary moment for us both. Thankfully, Topher’s photography work kept us from drowning in debt as we tried to sell all sorts of artistic products and services. We sold our art at bars and random events around town and took on any odd, creative job we could get. Looking back at our beginning, we made our fair share of mistakes. We were trying to sell to everyone, not realizing we were selling to no one. Our business plan was fuzzy and stretched in too many directions, but eventually, we found our way. Through our many failures and struggles that came from these risks, we were always there for each other to support one another, which kept us moving forward. Taking these risks has definitely challenged us in many ways, but we kept pushing and slowly our path got clearer, our goals more organized, and after a couple years in business we were finally able to support ourselves instead of just breaking even.
This year, we will celebrate our 7th year in business. We are now Artist Couple, LLC., we bought some land out in the Texas Hill Country, designed our new home and art studio, made it through the pandemic (doing a lot of not so creative work to keep the business going), and have finally started moving into our new place, filling it with new pets (we now have chickens and cats!) and, of course, new artwork. We took the risks necessary to clear a career path that allowed us to do something that not only made us happy, but also fueled our passions and curiosities and those are the kinds of risks that, to us, will always be worth it.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
Sure! Both of us have always loved art from a young age and eventually made our way through art school (at MIAD). We met, and fell in love, on a study abroad trip to Thailand & Cambodia and from then on, we knew we would be making art and growing old together. As kids, we always thought a ‘successful artist’ was someone who just made the art they wanted to and sold it for lots of money. That’s typically “the dream” growing up wanting to be an artist. This sounds great in theory, but what we found this dream was missing was a sense of community. Having thought a decent amount about our “artist dreams”, we both found that, (even as introverts,) we wanted to include more social aspects in our careers, and after starting our business, we realized that selling a service, (instead of a product,) was the answer. Don’t get us wrong, we love spending long periods of time alone, in our art studio, but we find it so refreshing to combine that “art hermit” life with the socializing and relationship building aspects that come with a service based business. As Artist Couple grew, we learned how exciting it can be to take on new clients and creatively collaborate with them instead of just handing over a painting and completing a transaction.
After exploring many interests and artistic paths in our business’ beginning, we decided to focus on just two main areas, real estate photography and murals. Fast-forward 7 years, and our current brand, Artist Couple, LLC., has slowly expanded into new artistic avenues. We’ve added specialty painting services, like ombre accent walls, faux finishes and Venetian plaster to our business, as well as a photo-booth rental (this is always a huge hit at events), and we’ve also added event art services (this includes live painting and custom event artwork and signage) to the list of services we currently provide.
When a client comes to us, our job is to accurately transform their ideas and visions into a totally custom and unique physical space. This could cover anything from incorporating fun and creative aspects into a large corporate event to transforming a boring small home office into the perfect creative workspace. We create custom color palettes, accent walls or mural designs, provide sample panels and digital renderings, and produce a professional one-of-a-kind space catered specifically to each project’s needs. We also offer professional photographs and videos of the project’s process and the final space and product. Contributing our art services to our surrounding communities has allowed us the pleasure of working with all sorts of individuals and groups from a variety of different backgrounds and locations and really makes us feel grateful that we can, not only share our skills and passions with such wonderful clients, but also create a final product that can be enjoyed by anyone that enters its space. We are always looking to push creative boundaries and work with our customers so they get exactly what they want. We continue to learn new skills and further our education in the arts to expand our company in new and exciting ways. “Quality work by passionate professionals” is what you can expect from us at Artist Couple, LLC.
How can we best help foster a strong, supportive environment for artists and creatives?
This is such a great question and one that needs to be asked and reflected on much more often! One of the biggest things society can do that will help create a thriving and creative ecosystem is to support young! If you have, or know of kids interested in being an artist, support them the same as if they had an interest in being a Doctor. There are so many people, (both young and old,) that have so much talent inside of them but they get stuck in their heads asking themselves if art is a ‘real job’ or worrying if they’re ‘good enough’ or not. We as a society can break this attitude towards art if we start supporting and truly valuing art at its beginning, with children. We need to collectively value art as an important part of our culture and society and support those who have interests in harnessing their creativity.
Another thing people can do that is super easy is to simply share creative things with others. Send your favorite underrated song to a friend, post your favorite local artist’s website to your social media page and continue talking about art and artists you enjoy and discover on a regular basis. Word of mouth can greatly help artists reach new audiences and grow more successful. Most of us can’t support all of our favorite artists all the time but we can easily share their work and talents with the world on a regular basis.
Are there any books, videos, essays or other resources that have significantly impacted your management and entrepreneurial thinking and philosophy?
We are constantly reading, listening and learning to try and better ourselves and our business and we definitely have a handful of resources that stick out as helpful to us through our entrepreneurial journey. The first book that comes to mind is ‘Mindset’ by Carl Dwek. It’s a self help book that explains the power of your mindset and guides you through how to train your brain to be a positive thinker. This is especially helpful when you’re facing challenges or uncertainty, taking big risks and can truly change your perspective for the better. Another book that was really helpful was ‘Indistractable’ by Nir Eyal. This is another self help book that gives tons of great tips and tricks on how to control your attention so you can manage your time more efficiently to reach your goals. It especially helped us gain insight on how we can work better alongside each other without distracting one another and how to cut down on things that may seem more productive than they actually are.
We also really enjoy listening to the TED audio collective podcasts. You can find interviews and talks about almost anything, but we always like listening to the art, business, health and science episodes. The TED Interviews are also a favorite as they’re always very thought provoking, making you ask yourself some great questions in all areas of life.
- Website: https://www.artistcouple.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/artistcouplellc/?hl=en
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artistcouple
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKhJDv2MCJCpqHSFfehDzpA/videos
- Other: https://www.thumbtack.com/tx/bertram/mural-painter/artist-couple-llc/service/251057494410462280