Amber: Hi I’m Amber Ambrose and this is The BusinessMakers. We’re here with Libbie Masterson, a Houston-based artist, to find out about the business of art and creating it and selling it and making a living; imagine that. So Libbie just give us a brief overview of your work as an artist.
Libbie: I have a really good time being an artist here in Houston; this is a great city to be an artist. There’s a whole lot of support and opportunity that we have here, I think we’re really kind of spoiled, and there’s just so much community involvement. So growing up here was very influential in just that being a part of life and it just kind of carried on into my adult life, so I feel very lucky that I get to continue in these.
Amber: That’s great. But you yourself and your art, if you had to describe it – I know it’s probably difficult to put into words because it’s so visual – but what is sort of if you see something and you’re like that’s a Libbie Masterson piece.
Libbie: I tend to work in a lot of different media; glass and photography and set design. I paint and in the end they do all collaborate; they all do come together. Especially when it’s something like a set design that incorporates printing and painting and sculpture and stone carving and I really love to do all of it.
Amber: Was there a moment in time that you realized that you could be an artist and make a living out of being an artist. Because I know not every artist has that moment.
Libbie: Yes. I think making a living is a challenge. I still have extra work that I do with my family, we have a jewelry business and my mom is Mariquita Masterson and it’s been a part of our life for many years now and I’ve been working with her since I was a teenager. And it’s totally overlapped with a lot of the things I’ve done; she and I have done projects together. So that to me has been very lucky because like some people have a teaching career that kind of subsidizes what they’re working and becomes a platform and it’s cohesive; like there’s a win/win scenario there. So I feel that my work with our family business is that way and then also my mom comes and helps me on projects; she’s a dedicated team member. I have to list her up all the time.
Amber: So it’s truly a family business?
Libbie: Absolutely and we’ve developed a lot of glass techniques together so that’s been really especially fun.
Amber: You have a newer installation, is that correct in Hobby Airport?
Amber: In the new Southwest wing?
Amber: I’d love to talk about that; how did you get that project? How did you come up with the idea? What was the process like?
Libbie: They had actually already selected a pool of artists, most of them local – one is a South American artist but that exhibits here in Houston so he has representation here.
Amber: So they had come up with their own list?
Libbie: They had and basically how it works is when there’s public construction that company goes to the Civic Art Design often and hires them to facilitate their art fund which is a committed percent and a half I think towards public art in whatever public location they’re developing.
Amber: So it’s built into the project?
Libbie: Yes, it is. So there’s a set percentage for funding and then they facilitate it. And like we had a bunch of people we were working with Southwest Airlines and the Houston Airport System and Civic Art Design and the City of Houston; it was a very long contract.
Amber: Sounds like it.
Libbie: And it was a lot of discussion but they were all fantastic to work with, it was so much fun and it was completely different from what I normally exhibit. Catherine Couturier represents my work and she’s everything photography but she just was really also excited about this kind of work so she’s been…
Amber: She’s also on the show everybody.
Libbie: And she’s been very supportive of it so it’s been great to kind of have that double venue. And the airport project was so exciting because they selected a few artists and then they also purchased work by other Houston artists. So their rewash kind of spread and they gave me such a great location.
Amber: Yes they did.
Libbie: We are right there, front and center and I was in a public location so I had to be ready first. So that really put the fire under us.
Amber: So pre-security?
Libbie: Yes. Pre security and people could purchase tickets before anything else was open in the airport so we had to be ready at least 6 weeks before the other projects had to be completed. But we did it and it was such attention there was so much attention. I could not have planned for that, it was really amazing.
Amber: Did you come up with the concept or did they give you sort of a hey, we want this color or this theme or go out and do your own thing and just tell us what we’re doing? I mean how did that go?
Libbie: They asked for a couple of proposals from the artists but they were very open-minded so I really loved that about them because they wanted something that was photographic and with lights and I just felt that given the space it wasn’t really going to – there was so much natural light that it wasn’t going to have the effect that they were looking for so I proposed the idea in glass with mirror instead so we would utilize the natural light. So I made a small piece and I took it out to the airport and I held it up where it would be with all the natural light and they were like…
Libbie: Done! So it was great.
Amber: Where do I sign?
Libbie: It was great, they just had total faith in us and so the projects are fantastic and you really have to make an effort to see them because some of them are in the Customs area down below but I think you can arrange for a tour. But they really did a great job.
Amber: Yeah well it sounds like you did as well.
Libbie: Thank you, thank you.
Amber: In meeting their needs and taking the environment and adapting it to what you thought would look best.
Amber: Which I’m guessing is part of – not the secret – but part of why you are able to get consistent work as an artist because people are trusting you.
Amber: I guess what advice would you have for people that do want to take their art to the next level?
Libbie: I will tell them if something isn’t going to work. They don’t always like that but this isn’t going to work, I’m sorry. This is what you need.
Amber: And maybe that’s part of having a strong belief in what works and what doesn’t is maybe one of the keys to getting consistent projects.
Libbie: Yes, because you can’t just tell them what won’t work, you need to tell them what will work. And if you know, if you have the experience with materials and you know what will work then that’s really people are just looking for a solution. And they like to be involved and I love that.
Amber: Sure. What are some of the challenges that you’ve come across as an artist and trying to make it in this world?
Libbie: I think running a studio as a small business has been the greatest challenge. That really wasn’t my background, I really excelled in the artistic development part of life but not necessarily the business plan and I think if in retrospect I had taken some professional development classes or even business classes when I was younger it may have structures the long term plan very differently.
Amber: That makes sense, just having a plan in place.
Libbie: Yes, I think it’s good. I mean I’ve still been able to do what I wanted to do, the projects that I’ve done that have been so exciting, and I just think that it’s part of our modern world; the artist really needs to learn how to manage those things.
Amber: Yeah, that’s good advice, thank you. Well thank you Libbie for joining us today, we appreciate it.
Libbie: Thank you, thank you for having me.
Amber: And so this has been The BusinessMakers and I’m Amber Ambrose, thanks for joining us.
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