A year ago this week, Gretchen Louise Tisch realized she had to adapt.
She was still selling many of the same pieces at her Saratoga Springs studio, Feathered Antler, as she always had, like her art prints and jewelry. But she needed something new to reflect the times.
That’s when she started making masks.
At first, the Saratoga Springs-based artist would make the entirety of face masks herself from some extra fabric she had laying around. But those sold out too quickly at the farmers market for the amount of effort she was putting into them.
Then it hit her; She could make masks more efficiently, while still giving them her go-to bright colors to nurture a positive mindset in her customers.
“I wanted to keep like my happy, jolly colors. They’re out there to make people happy because I knew everything was feeling really dark,” Tisch said. “But I also knew that I needed to stay relevant. So I was like, ‘Well, if I’m going to have to wear a mask, I want it to be pretty.’ I decided to order blank ones and then paint the designs. I can paint quicker than I can sew. I probably sold close to 500. And they’re still selling, which is great.”
Tisch’s masks, which sell for $10, are just a new addition to her ever-growing assortment of pieces sold at her Feathered Antler studio, a space she opened in 2016 where she also sells her original paintings, jackets, shirts and hats. Much of Tisch’s work reflects her admiration for nature and repurposing the things around her, hence the name Feathered Antler.
“I’ve always been looking for all sorts of things to turn into art materials since I was little,” Tisch said. “If you look at my art, it’s always repurposing and finding materials that I can turn into art that someone might think is trash or boring. I’ll change it up, like painting on clothing and wood, different things. Now, I paint on wood. I paint different signs. I do a lot of custom art.”
Custom art is big for Tisch, especially custom pet portraits. The artist paints her portraits from a source photo and encourages pet owners to request any fun props or a change in location for the painting. And she’s certainly used to creating those landscapes.
“They’re giving people that reminder of a place that they went for a place that they’re excited to go to,” Tisch said. “And a lot of it feels like the Adirondacks. So it’s their home turf. And it just makes them happy to remind them how beautiful it is where we live right now.”
Some of the happiest reactions to her work, of course, come from those who commission her for live wedding portraits. The pieces, which vary in price since they are customizable, usually take Tisch five or so hours to mock up on canvases ranging from 16X20 to 24X32. Surprisingly, she’s done the most she’s ever done yet in 2020, with 10 socially distant weddings under her belt. Since the pandemic, they’ve also earned a bit of a new meaning.
“I see my perspective of how beautiful the wedding is,” Tisch said. “And they might be thinking like, ‘This is exciting, but I wish that it was bigger.’ But once you see it turn into a painting, it kind of just makes you realize how special it was because you did have this really, really intimate experience and you can always have the party celebration later in life. And this was just this moment celebrating this tiny little celebration.”
While $20 framed prints of her originals are always a best seller at her studio on 517 Broadway, Tisch takes pride in her ability to offer the custom portraits and pieces during such an uncertain time. And unsurprisingly, masks are still giving her other products a run for their money.
“It’s a piece of art, wearable art. So people have been grabbing those with like a greeting card and a piece of jewelry and art prints. So it’s just like a nice additional thing when they’re grabbing a bunch of items,” Tisch said. “They’re making something happy and exciting about a weird time.”
Tisch has learned a lot from her experience running the business over the last year. But more important than anything, she now understands that she doesn’t need to travel the world to find inspiration — sometimes that inspiration can come from a small local wedding on a summer day, a view of the Adirondacks or the joy that her work has brought customers over the last 12 months.
“I’m probably more inspired than I’ve ever been because of this because all I had was my art to get me through this,” Tisch said. “And so I knew that I was also keeping my customers inspired and keeping them excited and giving them ideas on how they can be creative to have me make custom things for their loved ones. It’s really opened up this whole new perspective on what it means to create as an artist and for the customers.”
Feathered Antler is open from 11-4 p.m. every Monday through Friday.