One of my favorite parts about creating House Fenway is connecting with other artists, learning about their craft and their artistic process. This week I’m sharing an interview I did with one of my maker friends, Kristen, owner of Munga Vision. She is a wonderfully talented artist, mother and boss babe!
Tell us what Munga Vision is and how it started?
The current vision of Munga Vision actually began a little less than 2 years ago. Before that, I was using my website as a portfolio page for contract work as a webmaster and designer for small businesses. I did stationery on the side just for fun, but it was slowly evolving with requests and I really fell in love with the more artistic things I was producing. When our 2nd child was about 6 months old I realized I was spread too thin trying to get the art stuff that I wanted to do in, kids and family life, and all my contract work. While I miss the steady paycheck of contracts over retail, I am happier than ever with the decision to change my work life and make a go at that crazy dream. Luckily my hub’s is super supportive and thought to scale back with contract obligations was a good idea to see how it pans out too. I’m sure most adults can relate at some point in time to the balancing act of life and feeling a constant time strain with things you don’t particularly enjoy doing. Thus, I phased out my corporate gigs over a couple months and let the art take center stage.
What is the meaning behind the name Munga Vision?
Munga is actually my family nickname for me. In college, I had to come up with a website name and fictitious company for one of my classes. I went with that name and in the end, just stuck. I think I was married a couple years before my mother in law realized it was a nickname when she heard my dad calling me that!
What is your favorite part of the creative process and why?
Coming up with the ideas is so much fun to me. Over the past two years, I have tried to streamline my brain and channel those ideas into a series to release to make the marketing and projects more cohesive. I do love, in the end, seeing it come together, but honestly, I often get impatient during the ACTUAL PROCESS. I am always 10 steps at a time kind of personality and so it’s hard for me to slow it down and enjoy the ride of each design. I really try to get myself to focus on one project series at a time now rather than starting a dozen different things at once and taking a year to finish them all. The first collection I focused on to help my branding was The Spring in Country poster line and since then I continue to release things in series. The truth though, sometimes I still end up with a dozen different things going, custom orders, and will still piece in one-off projects to sell too.
You have a vast array of product. Which product do you enjoy making the most?
Currently, it’s been painting. I don’t actually do it as often as I’d like because it’s easier to work on the computer in short increments of time and projects, but I love layering and piecing stuff together. Even when I used to do things in the dark room it was always fun to crop and blur and angle stuff to me. Painting is one of those things too that you don’t have to be really good at it to me to create something you love. A lot of time incredible painters are clearly talented, but it’s not something I’d ever hang on my walls. Then you get a kid who throws around some of their favorite colors with no rules and you get this piece of sunshine that just makes you happy. I think painting is one of the only mediums where that happens too. I definitely am not the greatest painter, but I balance that with my digital expertise and usually bring it into the digital world after to tweak and add text and make something that while not technically unique in the brush strokes is something totally different that will maybe strike someone as the perfect piece for their home.
You have your own online shop. Do you find you enjoy it more than your original shop on the Etsy platform?
Urgh, it’s tough. I actually still really love Etsy and you can find my stuff on there, but that’s because I get more random traffic still from Etsy. I am trying really hard to bring up that dreaded “SEO” for my site this year and am seeing improvements, but I don’t see myself ever fully leaving Etsy and all the great clients I meet through there. Etsy is really special as a platform because it’s very intentional with the people who use it to shop small and handmade. That’s really a quality that is easily lost in all the options today. I do love working my own site though because of the flexibility. If you visit my site you don’t drift off to 100 other cool and similar products like you do on Etsy and I can state my message and be more streamlined too. Eventually, the goal is to significantly bring more traffic to my own website www.mungavision.com and I dedicate most of my time to focusing on that development. Loading new products is sort of an afterthought now and I tend to keep more of the stationery and stuff that sells well on it from previous years rather than adding everything that’s new.
Do you do Munga Vision as a full-time job?
Munga Vision is officially my full-time gig now though I wouldn’t say I am making a living of it yet as I have found costs of a small business are high and am working to find that better balance to consider myself successful at running a small business. I was much more successful when I was still doing contracts as my company then only retail! I am very fortunate that my husband has great benefits though so we have health care through him. It really is hard not to compare yourself to other small shops and where you’d like to be, but I try to remind myself of all that I’ve grown in less than 2 years time and hope that by the time our youngest is of school age I am far enough along to warrant keeping the gig as my full-time position!
How often do you do markets and shows? And do you enjoy doing them?
Love doing shows and hate doing shows. Does that make any sense?! They are a TON of work even if not a big one and often you don’t make any money. It’s really hard to predict. However, there is no better way to put yourself out there, get feedback on new products, potentially make a great income for the day and get new customers. I started doing shows with a giveaway by collecting email addresses and now that is usually a good goal for me. Even if I don’t sell much that day I may still collect 100 new emails sometimes at a small fair and potentially make a lifetime customer down the line. With young kids at home and them always being on the weekend though I tend to only do a handful a year. I also live in NC and have had to decline some big summer shows because my products get ruined in the heat with the packaging melting. I am looking for some great additional fairs though to add in the fall or any INDOOR summer fairs if people reading know of any for the summer months in the Raleigh area.
What is your favorite art medium and why?
Probably my favorite art medium is one that I can’t/don’t do ever…watercolor! It’s soooo versatile and pretty on your walls to your invitations, but I am too impatient. With acrylic or oils or digitally I love that I can layer and if I mess up try again without completely throwing out the whole piece, but with watercolor, it’s like you mess up and have to trash it. I just don’t have the patience for it and admire all the artists in my life who produce beautiful pieces. I do play with watercolors in the digital world either on the iPad now or more often altering stock images I like to piece together into something brewing in my mind. I think of it as collage art when I use stock and taking something from a bank that exists, but cutting it and putting it together with other elements to get something new.
Where do you see Munga Vision in 3-5 years?
I don’t have million dollar dreams for Munga Vision but hopefully realistic. I’d like to make a decent salary AFTER COSTS to warrant continue working for myself and the fun and flexibility it allows me. Right now with young kids and the schedules that go along with it that aspect buys me time to lay the foundation. I hope over the next 3 years to grow my online sales and store presence and find that magic formula that at the end of the year I am making an average graphic designer salary that I would make working for someone else. For me personally, I don’t want to grow so big that I need full-time employees or have to give up the design aspect. I love creating and enjoy the hours I get to spend in doing so and really just want to get to that point where I can do so comfortably and plan a little for retirement and reality. I just read #GIRLBOSS and it was interesting to hear her talk about how she recently stepped down from CEO because she had to give up so much of the other aspects of why she started Nasty Girl in the first place. It reminded me that while chasing dreams, it’s important to remember who’s dream I am running toward and nobody ever looks quite the same.
What is one important lesson you have learned while owning your own business that you could pass onto other makers?
Take time to do it right when you know it needs to be done, but don’t overthink taking the leap if you don’t know yet. Learning as you go is an amazing way to learn how to do something right. Things are always changing, especially in retail, and often you never quite know anything until you go for it. I am not telling you to be lazy in implementation and ignore things to rush and put something out there, but I just mean don’t get caught up in your head over thinking it to perfection. Perfection is subjective in this world and maybe it’s learning the hard way, but I think just doing it is how you learn it right. I am sure I’ve looked like an idiot plenty of times in this business, but each time I hopefully get a little better.