Name: Kait Masters
Tell us a little bit about Larkspur + Laurel. How did it get started and why are you passionate about it?
Larkspur + Laurel was born partly out of necessity and partly out of finally getting to a point in my life where I felt comfortable claiming the title of artist. I started making art in middle school when I was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular autoimmune disorder. Art helped me come to terms with my permanent disability, though as my disease became more managed I hid my diagnosis as best I could, which also meant I often didn’t give art the credit it deserved in my life. When my disease progressed and became more serious again in 2015, after years of chasing a steady paycheck and being very careful about disclosing my disability status, I lost my job. It was a turning point for me to realize that part of the reason I never wanted to pursue painting as a career was that I had not seen someone like me, chronically ill/invisible disability, make it as an artist. This art project came at a time where I consciously decided to acknowledge my disability status and marry it with my passion for painting.
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You also provide community support for the popular online community The Rising Tide. How did you get involved with that and what do you enjoy most about it?
Rising Tide is the best thing, that I never really knew would become such a large part of my life! The start of the #communityovercompetition movement that exploded into what it is today coincides almost exactly with when I started Larkspur + Laurel (summer of 2015). I first became involved passively online through the Rising Tide Society Facebook Community. At the time, my disease was mostly unmanaged and I was too weak to attend my local chapter meetings. In February of 2016 I wrote in to the co-founders asking if we could start an online community for creatives, like me, whose health prevented them from attending local chapter meetings. Natalie emailed me back with a resounding yes, and this group was born and I became more involved.
While I am an artist by trade, my work experience is in volunteer mobilization, community outreach, and administrative management. So, when an opportunity came up last summer to come on as a contractor and then a full time employee, I said yes! Honestly, I feel like I have the best job. I get to work with some of the most incredible innovators, creatives, and makers around the globe on a daily basis. Even though the internet can feel a lot like the wild west, I wake up every day grateful to provide support for this dynamic community of creatives.
“Invest in what gives you a sense of joy and purpose, say yes when you feel like the risk is worth it, and know that you are never stuck.”
Between running your own business and being a community support professional, what does a typical day (or week) look like for you?
When I started Larkspur + Laurel, I never thought I would work full–time again. It wasn’t necessarily a hard decision for me to scale back my art business to start contracting part–time, but it did take some restructuring and adjustment of expectations when I accepted the full–time offer.
My Rising Tide office hours are Monday–Friday and I usually start the day around 7:30 and end around 5:30. I try to carve out an hour to paint each day, either on my lunch break or after dinner. Weekends I turn on my auto–responder for work so I can focus on recharging through my art! I paint most weekends (especially if I am recovering from bi-weekly treatment) and explore for new inspiration (lots of hikes!) on weekends where I feel up to it. I’d say I’m definitely a side hustle artist these days, working only around 10-15 hours a week max, so that it remains joy–giving rather than stressful!
You recently did a project called 30 paintings in 30 days. What was the experience like and what did you learn from it?
The 30 paintings in 30 days from Amira of Passion Color Joy was an amazing experience! Because of my limited schedule I was nervous taking on a project that required daily commitment, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was way more relaxing that I expected and the work that came from it is truly some of my favorite to date. My husband and I recently relocated to the Pacific North West from South Carolina, so I took this project as an opportunity to explore the landscape of my new home. Having that theme really helped make this feel purposeful and cohesive! I rediscovered my love of watercolor, and lived out the notion that art is usually a mess and maybe slightly ugly until suddenly its not. Trust the process and the right mark will go down in the right place to make it all come together.
Do you have a specific project or accomplishment that you consider your most significant in your career?
Oh goodness, while I loved my most recent project…I think my favorite one was called Rise and Fall, that I released last fall. It was a mixed media series in watercolor and acrylic with foil on wood panel. It came during a period of time when I was dealing with one of the hardest years managing my health and explored motion in abstraction. Limited mobility with muscle disease lends a certain intimate knowledge of motion because I know the heartache of not being able to move the way I want to. It is probably the most personal project I’ve done.
What tools do you implement into your day to help you stay productive and on–track?
I can’t do it alone, that’s for sure! For business management, I use HoneyBook for all custom projects (contracts, workflow, client management, and payments) and QuickBooks to track my expenses. Those are the two biggest lifesavers to save me time, keep me organized, and make life easier so I can focus my limited hours on actually making art rather than worrying about all the office work!
I’m also obsessed with block scheduling and use Google Calendar to keep me accountable to my schedule; it’s like the calendar version of to-do lists. If anyone who knew me in college is reading this, they will know I had a love of sticky notes and daily/weekly to-do lists on my desk at all times. Ha!
What advice would you give to those who are struggling to find their passion in life?
Sometimes life will hit you with an idea and it all makes sense, and you know your passion right away. In my experience, and I suspect for a lot of others, it was more like a warming up process. I knew I loved painting. I also knew I loved what I did when I was healthy enough to work. But I had no idea that there would ever be a point in my life where I would work at the intersection of art and community in the way I do now. It is easy to put pressure on yourself to understand how all your talents, efforts, and experiences should add up into one passion. You may drive yourself mad doing that – invest in what gives you a sense of joy and purpose, say yes when you feel like the risk is worth it, and know that you are never stuck.
Does creativity come easily to you or is it something you feel you have to work at?
This is a hard one! I can sometimes struggle with creative motivation, and that is something that has never come naturally to me. I’m naturally a problem solver and love the act of making. Creativity takes practice to channel into productivity and purpose. Sometimes I’m a bit rusty with that!
What is your favorite and least favorite part about being a business owner?
I love the freedom of being a business owner, and that might also be the thing I dislike as well. Freedom within a framework is incredible. Freedom knowing that the possibilities are seemingly endless…for me it can be a little paralyzing! Ultimately, I’m incredibly grateful to have the support and ability to pursue art so strongly at my age.
Confession – I love listening to audiobooks while I’m painting! Some favorites (related to art and just great books in general):
- Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins
- Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
- Open by Andre Agassi
- The Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
I guess I like a good mix of crime and creativity.
- Creative Empire Podcast
- Stuff You Should Know
I would love to visit Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden all in one trip…which would probably take me a month to do, ha! Also on my bucket list – Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand as well as Lake Malawi. One day, right?!
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