How this artist hustled to get her work poppin’ in New York
These days, to make it as an artist you have to have grit and business acumen, and be really, really freaking interesting on social media.
Artist Elizabeth “Liz” Sutton has all three. She not only has the talent, but her honesty is what racks up her followers and sales. Her captions are a cross between life lesson, mini diaries and shoutouts to other young female-owned business.
When I met Liz a little over a year ago, she was six months pregnant with her second child, Nora, hosting a dinner at a restaurant close to the Plaza Hotel in New York, where her artwork was exhibited. I was invited to celebrate the debut of one of her collections.
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Fast forward time, you can catch Liz dancing with Nora on her IG stories. Yes, a lot has changed. For one, the energetic artist is divorced at 28 and much happier. And two, she’s not just creating pop art as a hobby that she happens to get paid for, but as a businesswoman supporting her family and others.
At the end of last year, we reunited to work together on Hustle Chic, her latest initiative that brings together entrepreneurial women in the true spirit of collaboration, not competition. To celebrate our 2017 accomplishments, she asked me (and a few other foodies) to join her for dinner at Sushi of Gari, her all time favorite Japanese restaurant and also home to the latest Elizabeth Sutton Collection artwork installment.
In true good vibes only, here’s how Manhattan native went from being a VIP customer to a business associate, plus her advice on taking your business to the next level. Go inside our conversation.
Photos by Taylor Adami
How did you finesse to get your artwork up in high-end New York restaurants?
I started reaching out to everyone who owned restaurant spaces. I grew up in New York and have some nice contacts so I hit up everyone I knew, and one of those people happened to be the owner of Beautique. They would do different art events to attract different people to the lounge. So he gave me space in his dining room and lounge area. After I was featured in that space, people started to reach out to me directly. It all happened so quickly.
What did you learn from that approach?
What I learned is that restaurants love nice art, but they don’t always like to pay for it. So for original artwork that is very valuable to be presented on lease or on loan to these restaurant owners is a great way to get your name out there.
And how did your artwork end up on the walls of Sushi of Gari?
My ex-husband and I were having dinner at Sushi of Gari one night, and Gari came to say hello to us at our table because we were regular guests. We went there a lot and referred a lot of business. I’m like the chattiest person, so one night, I said to the owner in a joking manner, “Gari, I want to put my artwork up at your restaurant.” He said, “Show me, show me.” So I took out my phone and showed him pictures of my artwork. He said, “OMG I love this!” He called his business manager to come out and talk to me that night, and that same week, he ended up going to Beautique to see my artwork in person. From that conversation, the Gari ended becoming my client. It is a huge honor to have my work displayed in his home and his restaurant.
And didn’t he also create a custom roll for you?
Yes. Gari created a piece called the “Liz-mo” which is named after my ex-husband and I. It was exclusive to us but I don’t eat it anymore because I got divorced! (laughs)
What is your advice for art entrepreneurs who want to make money?
Utilize all aspects of social media and your network. Being honest on social media actually works to my benefit. My audience loves to see not only what I’m currently painting, but my inspiration behind the work. Art is still very much my therapy as it is my money maker. I would also suggest reaching out to every person that you may be able to collaborate with. If there is an angle for you to work together and you are doing something that you think that could be valuable for them and yourself, float the idea to them. That’s the only way you are going to open a door.
You recently had a traumatic accident at Miami Art Basel, with one of your beloved assistants involved in a fatal car crash, how has your business changed?
Well, first of all, RIP Juan Salazar. He was an incredible person and artist, and my friend. My team raised almost $30,000 in one month from a GoFundMe Campaign that went viral from Team Hustle Chic and #TeamESC’s combined efforts. That whole situation was devastating for us and I’m still getting over it a little each day.
I thank God I was fully, properly insured, and it made me want to get life insurance for the sake of my kids and business. For a new business owner who is self-sustaining and growing with their own money, it’s important to be insured properly. The accident also put a focus on my home accessories product line and developing all of my projects I’ve had on the backburner. To be honest, on some levels, it pushed me to go for it and make it all happen. Live every day to the fullest, and work hard.