Today we’d like to introduce you to Julia Deckman.
Hi Julia, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I am a self-taught visual artist and I have been building my art career here in Charleston since 2012. It’s challenging and unpredictable to be a professional creative, and over the years I’ve supplemented my art practice with full-time admin jobs, dog walking, hotel guest services and most recently worked part-time at Artist & Craftsman Supply. While juggling multiple jobs might not seem ideal, my experience of “the real world” after graduating from CofC was that, for me, life is empty if I’m not creating. I don’t really have an option, I must paint to be happy.
This is a fact I didn’t learn, or perhaps accept, about myself until adulthood. Now that I have had this epiphany, in hindsight it’s pretty obvious. My earliest memories are of painting in my diaper, my favorite summers were spent in art camps, my happiest high school experiences were in art class. I think I just took this love for painting for granted. I assumed this is how everyone feels.
Apparently, this isn’t the case for all of humanity and I am not capable of spending life behind a desk. I owe this realization largely to this city I live in. I had originally fallen in love with Charleston as an undergrad, but it was when I moved back as an adult that it felt like I woke up. Being back in this beautiful place, I felt inspired again and I realized I needed to be creating. I needed to make art a priority.
Making art a priority meant setting up studios in a kitchen, living room and later my laundry room until I finally got a dedicated studio space at Redux Art Center. Making art a priority meant painting every evening after work and all weekend. It meant pushing my introvert self out of my comfort zone and into participating in whatever networking and sales opportunities I could find.
I began making friendships with fellow artists and small businesses. I was finding my fellow weirdos and began to realize how important community is. With the help of Charleston’s creative community, I was able to take my life into a completely new and deeply fulfilling direction. I eventually found representation at the Miller Gallery and was named the 2019 Lowcountry Artist of the year.
This was where I was in the beginning of 2020. I was working part-time at A&C to supplement my art sales & commissions. I was keeping very busy in my redux studio and was thinking I’d need to invest in a bigger space soon. Then, covid hit, and I was terrified. I was terrified for all the reasons we’ve all been worried for the past two years. But also, what the hell will this mean for my art career? Will people still buy art now that the world is falling apart?
The first months of quarantine were extremely eye-opening. I dove into my art, and again, my community showed up. More than ever, I was realizing what’s important and what my values and goals are. By June, I had been furloughed but I was actually making my ends meet as a full-time artist for the first time ever. I began venturing out of the house again, and I saw the lease sign on an adorable commercial space with great windows right outside my neighborhood.
My life experiences & perspective from quarantine made it impossible for me to ignore this opportunity. Yes, taking on that kind of overhead is a BIG risk, but I had just learned how short life is and how we can’t ever truly rely on a sense of security. The only way to lead a fulfilling life is to follow your passions regardless of risk or fear. So I put a business plan together, secured a loan and convinced my landlords to take a chance on me and my dream of opening an art studio and collaborative retail space.
With the loan I received, I was able to convert 2008 Wappoo Drive into the studio of my dreams. Community engagement was a priority, so building a retail salon where creatives can exhibit their work in an engaging atmosphere was my first goal. I simply reflected on my early years as an emerging artist and thought about the kind of opportunity I would have benefitted from, and I set out to create exactly that.
I still had more square footage to activate, and I finally settled on developing an exhibition gallery for guest artist shows. I want to empower emerging artists to dig into ideas that inspire them, to give them a reason to develop these thoughts into a cohesive collection of work, and to offer the joy of experiencing a public exhibition and opening event. Within weeks of announcing this opportunity, the gallery was booked for the entire 2021 year.
I also want to reach my community members who aren’t necessarily creative. Customers can shop in the salon knowing that every purchase supports local small business, but I also want to make the act of creativity more accessible. My workshop programming is a way I can achieve this. I planned the studio to also function as an ideal setting for guest instructors to teach their craft. We offer “no experience required” workshops for adults ranging from candle making to floral design.
The icing on this creative cake is my newest endeavor, Stono Bottle Shop. I’m married to a wine guy and have subsequently become completely spoiled. Teeter selections weren’t doing it for me and I didn’t want to drive over a bridge to find something better. So, I decided to get my liquor license and open a small bottle shop within the space. The making of wine and beer is itself an art form and it’s a privilege to offer bottles thoughtfully created by generations of families across the world. With the opening of Stono Bottle Shop, there is truly something for everyone in Julia Deckman Studio.
So now in the last months of 2021, I find myself in a whole new reality. Each day is different, challenging but most of all, fulfilling. Each month is uncertain and honestly pretty scary, this is a risky life I lead. But I get to wear my paint clothes every day, I live in my most favorite city, with the most incredible community, and I have hope for our future.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Juggling all the hats I wear as an artist and business owner can be overwhelming. Time management is always a struggle, the act of creating requires a certain open and relaxed mindset that is difficult to achieve with so many to-do lists looming. The overhead expenses of a brick and mortar retail space is a really big challenge that I battle every month. Constantly changing technology and social media makes my marketing efforts very difficult and frustrating, small business ownership is not for the faint of heart!
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a painter, but my true medium is COLOR. I am obsessed with exploring the relationships between color and form through a range of composition styles. I am known for my architectural and botanical portraits but have also begun an abstract approach that I am really enjoying. Using abstract studies, I am able to explore color in its purest form, showcasing how the slightest adjustment in pigment, texture or composition can drastically alter the energy of a piece.
I was named the 2019 Lowcountry artist of the year and opened my own studio, retail shop and exhibition space in 2020.
Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I am a self-taught artist, meaning I did not attend art school or major in the arts. I began building my professional art career from scratch in my mid-20s.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: juliadeckmanstudio.com
- Instagram: @juliadeckmanstudio
- Facebook: @juliadeckmanstudio
Kate Blohm Ellie Caroline