An Affinity for All Things Art
For Belmont Greene resident Molly Strong, creating things of beauty is all in a day’s work.
Inspired by nature and fueled by a passion to create “something from nothing,” local artist, businesswoman and married mother-of-three Molly Strong recently described for Patch readers her transition from corporate America to comfortable chic. One person’s trash may well be this woman’s treasure. From rescuing an old server to painting a fresh canvas, Molly’s penchant for making beautiful objects is in her blood. Just don’t ask her to paint a picture of your house.
Could you tell Patch readers about your businesses?
I have two different shops with two different groups of women. One’s in Leesburg called The Cottage and one is in Buckeystown, MD, called Chartreuse & Company. Both are sort of comfortably chic, vintage home goods. I bring to the mix a lot of my art … on furniture, canvas, wood and salvaged wood. So I do, really, everything for home décor, but I incorporate a lot of my art. And I have my goods at two other venues. One is Chick’s Picks By Hillary, and there is also Wild Rose and Company, which is out of Walkersville (just north of our place at Chartreuse & Company).
I understand you used to work in the corporate world. What did you do and what made you step off the hamster wheel?
Well, when I started my career, I was in fashion retail and I was a buyer for several organizations. The last I worked for was Woodward & Lothrop and Wanamaker’s. I was in corporate offices downtown and then from there I left and went to MCI headquarters. I worked in their Partner Marketing Group. It was a great company to work for, a lot of fun. But after my second child, I decided not to travel. Going downtown was tough, but also I traveled all over the United States. And so I decided I just couldn’t do that anymore. And so I stayed home after our second child and started doing things in my own home and for family and friends, and started doing decorative painting in other people’s homes – everything from faux finishes to mural work, then custom pieces of art. It just sort of expanded from there.
What is the single best part of being in business for yourself?
I set my own time. It’s hard. It’s very demanding. I’m a one-woman show. I don’t have anyone working for me so I do everything myself. So it is demanding but I can set my own schedule and it really works very, very well.
How long have you had an interest in creating art?
I grew up in a family of artists – my grandmother, my grandfather, my mother, several of my siblings. It was the ‘80s. I went into the business world. It’s not that art wasn’t encouraged in my home. It was. It sort of was just the time. I also was in a creative end [of] the business world. So I’ve been doing art since I was little. I have my favorite motto, which is: something from nothing. I think that’s how art is created. It comes from someplace inside and you create it, and it’s part of you. And you can take things that someone’s going to throw away like an old, old barn door and create a new piece of art. So I’ve been dabbling in art forever.
From your many beautiful pieces, it’s clear that you’ve successfully melded your artistic talents with your passion for decorating. Where does your inspiration come from?
I would say most of my inspiration comes from nature. My favorite subject matter is nature. If you’d ask me to paint a picture of your house, I’d be horrified. It’s not fun for me. But if you ask me to paint any floral, any tree, anything found in nature – it could be a pear, it could be a cat – organic is what I love. My other inspiration is the written word. And I utilize that a lot in my artwork. I love sayings from E.E. Cummings, so I really utilize a lot of the written word in my artwork.
What are some of the favorite pieces that you do?
As far as my favorite pieces, I will say I do a lot of small items for sale in my shops. And while I like to do them, I’m not going to get the same thrill out of making a 12-inch sign that says “Housework Makes You Ugly.” It’s funny, it’s a good gift, it sells, but my favorite thing to do is something of larger scale like a large canvas. I’ve done a couple for my shops in the last couple months that I just loved. Again, birds, nature. I also like when I do a really unique piece of furniture. You sort of rescue this old, old piece like an old server. I painted it a beautiful turquoise and did French panels down the cabinet doors … so something really unique. The nice thing is that those are the things that people seem to be most drawn to. I’m trying to remember to do the things that I love and not just do what I think sells. I’m doing it because I love it so. Everyone has to remember to do that.
It’s evident that not only are you very talented, but prolific as well. How many different pieces do you work on in any given week?
I don’t even know if I can give you a number. Literally at any one time, I probably can be producing, every week, 40 to 50 smaller items. But then I always have projects. Look at my kitchen island right now; it’s covered in a big tarp and there’s stuff all over it.
I understand that you and your shop will be featured in Southern Living. How did that opportunity come about?
What happened was that one of our shoppers happens to be a writer for Southern Living; she sort of fell in love with Chartreuse & Company. And that’s happened to us before, too. We were just featured in The Washington Post as a barn crawl with several other barns in the area, too. So a lot of times we get our press because they were customers first.
With a husband and three kids, how do you achieve work/life balance?
It is hard. I really try to pack most of my stuff in during the day when the kids are gone; because when the kids get home I try to be there. Now it doesn’t always work, but you know, I really try to plan so that when they’re gone I’m doing my business. And when they’re here, I can be here. It’s always a struggle. Women are always trying to make that balance between their family and their work. You can do both. I didn’t do the corporate world well with babies. It was too hard for me. I was torn. So doing this I feel less torn because I can adjust accordingly.
Finally, what advice do you have for women who want to pursue a new business venture or hobby but are afraid to take the plunge?
Talk to other women that are doing it. There are so many different ways you can get great information out there. One of the ways I did it was through having a blog. It’s amazing the connections you make. I can think of about six women that I’ve met that do sort of home décor that started as a hobby. I would find whatever you’re interested in and really start talking to other women that are doing it.
To learn more about Molly and her work, visit her Web site at www.mollysusanstrong.blogspot.com.