Makers To Know: Julianne Strom | Moss & Blue

This week, I'm sharing my chat with Julianne Strom from Moss and Blue! She is a Boston based abstract artist, and we found each other through the magic of Instagram. Julianne is seriously talented, very passionate, and has some great ideas for re-vamping the art scene in Boston (and I hope to join forces with her in this effort!). Read on to find out about her shop, her process, and plans for the future:

Being a small business owner myself, I love to hear the origin stories of other makers. When and how did you decide to start your own business? What is your creative background? 

 I can trace my interest in art making back to elementary school, but it wasn’t until graduate school that I realized I could incorporate my artistic interests into my career. I received my Masters in Art Education from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and during the program I took a class dedicated solely to art making instead of teaching; practicing what you preach, essentially. I created a series of large scale, abstract paintings throughout the semester, and when it ended I didn’t have the space to fit them all in my apartment! My solution was to try to sell them, so I created an Etsy shop and, to my surprise, was pretty successful. Once I saw that people were actually interested in my work enough to purchase it, I decided to dedicate a portion of my life to my art making by starting my business, MossAndBlue. The rest is history!

 You make beautiful abstract paintings - how did you decide to focus on this medium & abstract style? 

 I actually had never made an abstract painting before that graduate course I took at MassArt. I had always been a little scared of abstraction and focused on more literal subjects in college, like figures and landscapes. Having the opportunity as an adult to dedicate an entire semester to exploring art making felt like such a gift; I wanted to explore something that pushed me outside my comfort zone. Once I got over the initial awkwardness of letting go of painting reality, I found that there was so much more freedom and unchartered territory in abstraction than I could ever find in my previous work. It takes a certain level of confidence to create abstract art, and finding that confidence can be an equally intense journey as that of making.

 Have you set any exciting goals for yourself or your business for 2015? What can we look forward to seeing from you! 

 I really want to find ways to connect with and broaden the art community, lessening the gap between art makers and art audiences. Here in Boston, there aren’t many opportunities for young artists to show their work to the public, which of course means that the public doesn’t know much about the art going on around here! I feel really strongly that art is something that can be enjoyed on an immediate, personal level; whether it is in your home, in your place of work, or as part of your family life. If we could bring together the artists and the ‘buyers,’ the people that are interested in owning art but don’t know where to look, I think the social stigma around contemporary art would change. It wouldn’t be so daunting to people that have only seen contemporary art in museums or the crazy-expensive work in galleries. I’m hoping to begin networking with other like-minded young artists and creating opportunities for our work to be seen by everyday people… and of course, continuing to make art myself.

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 What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their own self-made business? 

That is a tough one, since I am still figuring it out for myself! I guess I would try to encourage anyone starting out not to neglect those ideas or thoughts that seem too big or too scary. It’s important to find what it is you are good at and dedicate yourself to it, but don’t stop there. I know there is some overused quote about how ‘ life or happiness or something else awesome happens outside your comfort zone,’ but it isn’t that simple. What happens when you explore outside your comfort zone is scary and intimidating and uncomfortable… and THAT is where the best work is made.

When you're not creating, what do you love to do? 

Oh man, where to start! I teach art to elementary school students, so you might find me in my classroom. I try to get outside as much as I can when the weather permits, usually hiking or biking or birding (yes, birding). I find being in nature is the best way to recharge my batteries and shift my perspective back to a positive space.  Other than that I mostly drink tea and hang out with my mom and her dog.

 Lastly, can you share three of your favorite artists? 

Of course! I am in love with the work of Heather Day, a San Francisco-based abstract artist whose work seriously speaks to me. To me, it looks like the abstracted embodiment of a conversation, or an internal struggle, in the most perfectly restrained palettes and the most interesting mark-making I’ve ever seen. I adore it. I also love the work of Raven Roxanne Wilson in Charleston, particularly her ‘Nest’ series.  I love the joyful and whimsical way she approaches her work, it take me back to my childhood. Lastly, I am always amazed at the work of Teil Duncan. She paints these beach scenes that ride a really interesting line between abstraction and realism that is universally pleasing to the eye. Seriously… whenever she updates her online shop, I’m pretty sure her paintings sell out in a matter of minutes.

How can your fans follow you and learn more about what you are up to?

I am an Instagram junkie! I actually think it is the perfect platform for artists and makers to connect and support each other (it’s actually how WildHumm and I met J) I use it as a way to share my studio life and what I’m working on or thinking about in my art—you can follow me @billystrom for a glimpse into that mess! I sell all my work through my Etsy shop, MossAndBlue (www.Etsy.com/shop/MossAndBlue). And I mayyy consider opening a MossAndBlue Facebook page for my business someday… that may be a good goal for 2016 J