Meet Your Merchant: Traveling art studio colors events at Tahoe
October 22, 2014
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Ann Valdes swipes a mixture of red and white acrylic paint across a blank canvass as Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" drums through the mini speakers connected to her iPhone.
Being that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Valdes is honing her skills on a breast cancer-themed painting to celebrate the cause.
"There is no right or wrong," said Valdes, gently moving the brush back and forth in smooth, even strokes. "There's freedom to just go with it, and that's the really fun part."
It's that notion of freedom that drove Valdes to retire from the United States Postal Service after 22 years of delivering mail in Incline Village, and redirect her career into art.
“There is no right or wrong. There’s freedom to just go with it, and that’s the really fun part.”
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In July, Valdes officially launched her new business, Easel and Wine, a traveling art studio servicing Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Reno.
"The hardest part in all of this was taking the plunge because once you do, you have to go for it," she said. "There's no turning back."
UNLEASHING HER INNER CREATIVITY
Valdes isn't a self-proclaimed artist, and admittedly hasn't had much experience with canvass paintings until now.
But this newfound expression of creativity has ignited a colorful side of her that is pouring out into her art.
"I learn something new every day, and I love it," Valdes — who consults a local artist regularly to critique her work — said.
At her niece's most recent birthday, the family celebrated by attending art party where guests were guided to paint their own masterpiece.
Valdes said she woke up around 4 a.m. the next day, unable to sleep as she began plotting her new business idea.
"The wheels were spinning and I started thinking, 'I can do this,'" she said.
With the support of her friends, family and the community, she broke ground on Easel and Wine at this year's Red, White and Tahoe Blue street fair in Incline, and she's not looking back.
"Handwriting has always been my creative medium, but when I did this with my niece, I found you can express yourself creatively and be more abstract in such a beautiful, natural way," Valdes said during a demonstration at a space she shares in the Sierra Verde Showroom located in the Village Center.
HAVING FUN WITH IT
Clients have the choice of painting at one of her Incline locations, or bringing the service into their home or office.
Valdes and her team of artists provide the canvass, paints, brushes, aprons, water and rinse cups, tables and chairs, plus the set up and clean up.
The customer provides the wine and/or food, which isn't necessary, but can help bring out the timid artist within, Valdes said.
"It's the people who say they can't draw a stick figure that end up painting the most beautiful pieces of artwork," Valdes said. "When you aren't used to using that side of your brain, it can be intimidating, but once you put your brush to the canvass, people let go and have so much fun with it."
The traveling art studio will go anywhere within a one hour radius, and is designed for every event size and style from team-building at the office to a dinner party with friends.
"If you're hosting a party or get-together, you don't have to worry about the entertainment because we do it all for you," Valdes said. "We bring everything in and take it all away so that you can pour yourself some wine, have some cheese and crackers, and leave the fun up to us."
Easel and Wine also serves as a clever and profitable option for a fundraiser, having already showed support to causes like the Tahoe Family Solutions' Shabby Chic event, where an art demonstration raised $650 for the community-based nonprofit.
EXPANDING THE CANVASS OF CLIENTELE
Though Valdes has retired from her job as postwoman, she's still holding a gig as a sales associate at The Potlatch — an Incline company she thoroughly enjoys working for despite her desires to grow and expand her own business.
The possibilities for painting the town are limitless, and Valdes said the umbrella of Easel and Wine could open up to Easel and Punch for kid's parties or Easel and Coffee for early-riser painters.
"Because we're not a franchise, it's not etched in stone that we have to do things a certain way or in a certain style," Valdes said.
Bookings have increased with the approaching holiday season, but there's still a lot blank canvass in stock, awaiting the next birthday party or office get-together.
In the near future, Valdes is also hoping to tap into local schools to help breathe new life into dwindling art programs.
"We are on our computer screens all the time, so it's nice to step away and get creative," she said. "It's important for people to have some fun and go with the flow, and not have to think about what direction we're being pushed into next — that's what it's all about."
Jenny Goldsmith is a North Tahoe-based freelance writer and a former reporter for the Sierra Sun newspaper. Have an idea for a merchant to feature? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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