For those who believe that art and business can’t mix, freelance artist Melissa Klein is defying the norm with her entrepreneurship combining her artistic skills and focus on small businesses.
Klein has been teaching art for the last 18 years and pursuing her own art projects on the side. It wasn’t until about a year-and-a-half ago that Klein’s freelance art took off in Sequim and now provides her with the income to support herself.
She has done artwork for a variety of business, from Nash’s Organic Produce and Farm store to Sweet Spot Sequim to Peninsula Taproom, to name a few.
Before she became a full-time, freelance artist, Klein taught a commercial art program at the North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center and at Lincoln High School in Port Angeles — until the Skills Center closed last year and the art program at Lincoln High discontinued.
“The whole point of the commercial art program at the Skills Center was to give kids job skills,” she said.
When she finished college, Klein said she had no idea how to make a living with her artistic skills when she first started. She earned a bachelors degree in fine arts and a masters in teaching with endorsements in special education and tech education. She believes that art is a great avenue for entrepreneurship, which is what she wanted to teach to youths in her commercial art program.
“Art does have commercial value,” she said.
While two doors closed in her teaching career, Klein continued to use her artistic skills when she started designing CSA posters for Nash’s Organic Produce and Farm Store. She considers the Nash’s staff her second family and said this is where her freelance business took off.
Since then, Klein has done a variety of other advertising posters for Nash’s and also does chalkboard art located within the Farm Store. She said she wants to focus her freelance art on local, small businesses and has found meaningful relationships through this work.
Her goal is to help small businesses create better communication with its customers.
“A confused customer never buys,” she said.
When she meets with a client, Klein said she wants to know as much as she can about a business to understand its needs.
“I like to know everything,” she said. “I try to put myself in my clients shoes.”
Whether its creating chalkboard art, painting a mural or sketching a logo for a business, Klein said she works collaboratively with businesses until together they create the right product.
Klein works in a variety of mediums and much of her work includes digital design. She is currently working with a new distillery business in town called Evil Roy’s Distillery. She continues to teach art at the Port Townsend School of Arts and Peninsula College. In the summer, she will teach a one-week figure drawing class at the Port Townsend School of Arts called “Go figure”.
In her free time, Klein said she tries to pursue other art forms, such as writing a novel, and is dipping her toes in open-mic stand-up comedy.