Louisiana-native Connie Harris began her extensive career in decorative arts more than 30 years ago after leaving her management position at a small medical practice. She initially focused on hand-painted tiles, and for years, she created handcrafted backsplashes and unique bathroom scapes all while raising three boys.
We spent some time with Connie to find out more about how her passion became her pay check and what the future has in store for her…
Tell us about the journey that lead you to the world of decorative painting…
I grew up like most little girls, dreaming of becoming an artist, a dancer, an actor or a singer. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would achieve the level of success that is my passion and make it in to a career. When I made the decision to leave full time employment as a Physician’s office manager to become a “painter”, most people (friends and family alike) thought I was a bit crazy. But I had determination and a head and heart full of confidence that I could succeed at anything I set my mind to.
I am the oldest girl of 8 children, I have one older brother. When I was 3 years old, I had 4 younger siblings, therefore, I learned from a very early age to be independent and self sufficient, but also caring and compassionate, in that I felt compelled to always help my mom with household chores and family care taking. I believe that helped me to become who I am, and able to take the leaps of faith I have along the way, pretty much fearlessly.
You raised three boys whilst launching your business, how did you manage this?
Jumping out of high school into a marriage and children made me realise that I had to fight for my dreams, the hard way. The few years of business management in college did help me to be a little more savvy in my painting business. And the financial needs of my family left no room for the typical “starving artist” scenario. I was determined from the beginning to be massively successful. I would dream it up, write it out, and set it in motion.
Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
In the early 80’s, My interest in canvas painting and the (then) popularity of hand-painted tiles, led me to learn (self taught) the practices of china painting, which I developed into a world wide line of hand-painted tiles and vanity bowls. When that trend started to die, I quickly transferred my skills to walls and dove head first, into learning the techniques of skilled artisans in the Faux finish world. I became obsessed with creating gorgeous walls, ceilings, floors, cabinets, furniture, etc etc. Over time, I used all of my skills, and the vast product lines I had learned to utilise, to create canvases in multi media and epoxy poured resins. (You have to be a little bit adventurous to light up a gas torch to blow out a resin piece.) Unlike artwork of one dimensional “paint”, the layers of plasters, sandstone, holographic foils, gold and silver leaf, crushed glass, resin dipped flowers, ferns, etc, etc, etc, give my canvas art pieces incredible depth and organic interest. I find clients gazing at the pieces in wonder of the deep dimensions and magic of each one. It takes me awhile to release each piece for sale because of my attachment to every creation.
I feel so incredibly lucky to do what I do , that I would not change a thing along the path. The difficulties were, and are, a part of the journey.
Tell us about your ideal client?
Every one of my clients is an ideal client. I strive to make them feel as if they are my “only” client. In my Faux Finish practice, I try very hard to not “Jump” around between jobs. When I start a project, no matter how big or small, I stay with it until it is complete. All of my clients become my friends/family. I have begun to do work for children and even grandchildren of clients.
You have had to adapt over the years as trends have changed, how do you keep on top of this?
In the Faux Finish world, trends are followed as with any part of the Interior Design world. It’s actually quite simple to change a certain textured wall finish to a current colour trend. The creators of FauxEffectsInternational, Modern Masters, Meoded International, etc, which produce many of the materials I use in my practice, keep their colours with current trends, enabling me to be prepared for those changes.
Your work has taken you all over the world. What destination is at the top of your bucket list?
Although I have worked all over the world, my favourite place to work is home town New Orleans, particularly the VieuxCarre, the French Quarter and surrounding Marigny and Faubourg: Fascinating and Magical all of the time. I will park blocks away from jobs sites so that I can walk the streets enjoying the sites, sounds, and smells of this incredible place.
I am fortunate that my business has expanded exponentially since conception, quite frankly with little to no advertisement.
How has your business expanded since you started out?
Simply providing an excellent product, with perfection at front and centre of the services I offer to my clients, with speed and attention to details, and concern for the clients property keeps me booked for months in advance.
What advice would you offer to anyone looking to launch a business in your field?
This is the best advise I could offer anyone getting into this field. Always respect the environment and the integrity of the space you work in.
What was life like growing up in Louisiana?
Louisiana is a magical place. Our culture is so diverse. The moss laden trees, plantation homes, rivers, bayous, and swamps are like fairy land. And offers so much inspiration for the creative mind. I am most fortunate to live in a plantation home, “Chatsworth”., (and welcome the spirits that share it with me.).
What does 2020 look like for you?
2020 will be a banner year for me with new endeavours and experiences. Along with continuing my journey in the field of Decorative Painting, the carriage house addition to my home serves as a classroom in which I will share my knowledge of FauxPainting to students from all over the country. This is a dying art, and I find it necessary to pass this on in my workshops. Also, because of recent success at entertaining small events, such as weddings, and corporate parties here at Chatsworth, I am working on opening a full service Wedding and Event venue. My beautiful landscape and massive oak trees provide quite an appropriate setting for such things.
For more of a snapshot in to the life of Connie, check out her website here.