Happy Fifth: How the Artist Shop Got its Start

In 2014 I was looking to expand my online business (selling wedding invitations and lace-covered shoes on Etsy), so I set out looking for a studio space.
When I saw the space where we currently reside, it inspired me. Quickly my business model shifted from an online store to a brick-and-mortar shop. I knew the different rooms would make great alcoves for all the various aspects of my growing business.
Our front room became the gallery so that visitors would see local art first. In the adjacent main room, we sell fun and gift items like stationery, fountain pens, and calligraphy inks. And in the first side room, we sell a bountiful array of fine art materials.
I knew we needed a photo lightbox in order to take beautiful product photos, so the second side room became our room for that. As we weren’t using the lightbox every day, we opened it up for DIY rentals.
The back room began as our workshop, and my intention has always been to continue creating handmade products to sell. But when customers asked us if we were going to teach art classes, we immediately said “yes!” and that room has become a dynamic classroom space.
Several friends helped me get things started. We spent six months painting, laying down flooring, and building shelves. I put out a call for employees and hired a few art students from UGA. We opened to the public in November 2014.
The business grew organically as we listened to our customers. Those who didn’t want to take photos themselves commissioned us to photograph their artwork and products. We bought a printer and started making archival reproductions for artists. I learned to teach calligraphy, and we started an Art Club for teens. It has certainly been a learning experience gaining these new skills, but now those services are a large part of our business.
We have gallery shows every few months and enjoy showing the work of local artists. Each year in February we host "The Love Show" where we hang 50+ works in our small gallery space; it's regularly our largest reception of the year.
I look forward to continuing the growth that we've begun. In the short-term, my main goals are to add all of our physical products to our website and to increase our brand recognition in the local Athens area. I want people to know about the thousands of products we carry, and I want to make shopping just as easy (and way more personal) as shopping at a "big box" store. We are working hard to build-out these listings with great photographs, descriptions, and soon... product demonstration videos!
We are working with the student marketing group, Talking Dog, to up-level our branding and start our YouTube channel. We're excited to expand our knowledge, skills, and outreach even more. 
The Artist Shop is truly the dream that I never knew I had. I can't thank you enough for coming on this journey with me! Here's to the next five years 🥂
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René Shoemaker

René Shoemaker is a contemporary artist focused on silk painting. Born in New York City, she maintains studios in Athens, GA, USA and Aubusson, France. Spanning four decades and embracing a variety of mediums, her artwork highlights a sense of place while capturing the ways spaces work together and how people inhabit and interact with those spaces. Architecture and public places are often highlighted in her work.

René received a B.F.A. from the University of Georgia (UGA), building a career of painting with dyes to create flowing, colorful work on radiant silk glowing with light. After retiring from her profession as a university librarian at UGA, René continued refining her art and sharing her techniques while discovering new ways to describe the world we collectively share.

Exhibiting in solo and group shows internationally, Shoemaker delights in exploring our everyday experiences through color and line. René has exhibited in museums in Georgia, Mississippi, and Paris and in galleries and public spaces in Georgia, New York, the UK, and France. Her solo exhibitions include museums in Georgia and Mississippi, where her work is held in permanent collections. Shoemaker was awarded the Fiber Forward Focus Fellowship from AIR Serenbe in Georgia, and 2024 exhibits are now scheduled in San Francisco, and Paris, and she will lead workshops in Athens, GA, San Francisco, CA and in a castle in southwest France.