Part 1 | "Katelyn's Krafts"

  • The Quest for Creativity

all the time… “How did you get started into photography?” …. “When did you KNOW you wanted to be a photographer?”…. “When did you find out that you were creative?”  Well, there isn’t just one answer to these questions.  I like to think of my journey to photography as a “Quest for Creativity!” I went through three phases of creativity before I really found what I LOVED the most. These phases started in high school and continued throughout college where I finally discovered that photography was something I wanted to pursue as a career. You may have heard me say this before… but having a creative mind doesn’t

mean you can be a small business owner.  I honestly think some people are just born with the desire and passion to be an entrepreneur.  In order to be an artist AND a small business owner, you have to be passionate about both your work AND about creating products and services that you know will be attractive to potential clients. I realized that I enjoyed the “business” side of things early on, and as a teenager I was constantly trying to figure out how to be creative… AND make money at the same time!  When I was in high school, I went through an intense scrapbooking phase! (NERD).   I remember sitting in Mr. Ryal’s trig class and telling my friend Mallory that I was going to be a professional scrap-booker after college. WHAT?! Do those even exist?! While my peers were reading Cosmo…. I was flipping through new scrapbook magazines and planning my next spread.  I loved this stuff! Just wait until you see a picture of my room during my middle/high school years! Half of my bedroom was dedicated to CRAFTS and my poor mother couldn’t seem to keep me from getting paint on the carpet!!


After the scrapbooking phase, I saw my cousin Steph one summer and she has always been super creative. She had been painting glass and selling her designs at craft shows.  She introduced me to “Pebeo” porcelain paint and I was hooked.  I bought a stack of white porcelain bowls from Walmart for .89 cents, painted some designs on them and sold them for $40! Once you bake the dish in the oven, the paint sets and becomes dishwasher safe!  I started painting plates, bowls, ornaments, etc and before I knew it, I was signed up for my first craft show!! I paid $45 for my booth at the Bowling Green Harvest Festival and sold over $1,000 worth of painted pots!! It’s Virginia law that if you make over a $1,000 on crafts or services, you have to have a small business license. So Momma and I got the paper work, filled it out and a few weeks later, I received an official Business License and “Katelyn’s Krafts” was born!!! Yes, “Katelyn’s Krafts”…. with TWO K’s!!! So cheesy. But hey! I could work really hard for a few days, do a craft show and make more than my peers made in two months! The profit margin was incredible. These dishes were so cheap and the paint lasted forever! The only thing it cost me was my time.  When you’re 16, you don’t realize that time is money and so I honestly believed that I had found my CALLING in life and I would be painting dishes for the rest of my days! …. And at the time, I was ok with that. I enjoyed it. I liked having a small business and coming up with new ideas and designs that would sell!


During my second year in business, I came up with the idea of “snowman plates”. Basically, I would paint a “Wintergreen” scene on a plate or platter (platters were $50…they were top of the line:) and then I would customize each plate with a family of snowmen. This was GENIUS! What grandma doesn’t want a decorative Christmas plate with three grandchildren on it in snowman form?! I didn’t stop there… I started making “collections”. You could order plates, mugs, bowls, platters, etc! These made GREAT gifts for Christmas and they sold like wildfire! I would spend so many nights sitting on our sunroom floor, painting snowmen on white Walmart dishes for HOURS!! To this day, I still go to Christmas parties at home and see snowmen platters on display!


Looking back, I make fun of the fact that I had a “pot painting” business….  but in reality, this business was preparing me for so much in the future. I had to file MONTHLY taxes, I had to learn what a Federal ID number was, I had to keep records and I had to get my client’s orders done BEFORE certain deadlines. As a 16 year old, this was a big deal. My parents were so patient with me. They drove me to craft shows, helped me set up tables, loaded the truck, wrote receipts, stamped white bags with a “Thank You” stamp and packaged up customers orders!  They gave up so much time to let me follow this little dream…. and I’m so glad they did because at age 16, I found out that I LOVED being an entrepreneur. I learned so much from this little business. When products weren’t selling, I had to look at my target audience and realize that maybe my prices were too high or I wasn’t selling in the right venue. People at craft shows don’t want to spend $50+ dollars on a plate, they want cute, cheap things. So I began selling my “Katelyn’s Krafts” to boutiques. I only sold to two small stores but that’s really all I could keep up with my senior year of high school. “Katelyn’s Krafts” continued until my sophomore year of college. Painting piles of dishes in a dorm was realllllly hard to do and I quickly realized it was time to stop. It was time to move on to whatever was next!


Looking back, this was the first phase of my creativity. I realized I loved design and craftiness over studio art, and I learned what it feels like to own a tiny business. This was the beginning of my journey and I’m so thankful for this little phase of life. So to all of you out there with “Katelyn’s Krafts” displayed in your homes…. THANK YOU! When you bought that porcelain dish, you weren’t just purchasing a nice decorative piece, you were helping to pave the way for my future. So THANK YOU ALL!!!!! And thanks again to Momma and Daddy for letting me follow these crazy dreams and ideas!…. and I’m really sorry for ruining the carpet upstairs:).


Thankfully, even though I wasn’t a photographer at the time, I still took pictures of everything! Take a look at some of my “Katelyn’s Krafts”! And ps. If you think some of these designs look strangely similar to old Vera Bradley patterns… you’re correct. I went through a huge “Vera” phase as a teenager!


And last but not least, my colorful crafty room from high school! (This was before my “Teal” phase hit!) And don’t you just LOVE those wide angle vignettes? oh my.

25 Comments Personal
  1. Christy reply

    I love this post!!! It has me thinking about my own quest to creativity, and the many stages I went through as well – that I never thought to piece together & realize it all got me where I am today with my own photography business! Can’t wait to hear the other parts of this series! :)

  2. Deborah Zoe reply

    you are the cutest thing ever! I kind of seriously want that white plate set with the red leaves:)!!

  3. Emilia Jane reply

    Absolutely love it. I have always been so crafty! Good for you going legit early on and getting your business practices straight ahead of time :-)

  4. Abby Grace reply

    Katelyn, those dishes are freakishly good! So like, if you ever revive Katelyn’s Krafts, totes let me know. Those black dishes are AWESOME. Also, I went through a scrapbooking phase too- I spent WAY too much on stacks of paper and frilly sticker adornments

  5. Korie Lynn reply

    Katelyn, this is hilarious. Do you know why? I was a pottery painter too!! It was ridiculous. My high school and most of my college days I was painting these and working at a contemporary ceramics studio…I was so into it I dreamed of owning my own pottery studio one day!! But, lo and behold God had a different plan for me! Anyways, just wanted to share and say, “I can completely relate!”

  6. Gail reply

    Loved this story, Katelyn. You’re so inspiring on so many fronts so I loved hearing about how you had that zeal for creativity even at a young age. Your pots are amazing for an artist of ANY age – but let alone 16!

  7. Lupe Ruiz reply

    Oh my! is there anything you CAN’T do?? LOL…those dishes are awesome! :)

  8. ashley barnett reply

    This post made me smile and giggle. I went through an entrepreneur phase too, but mine was selling my barbies and toys at our family yard sales on the side for cash. HAHA

  9. Sydni Jackson reply

    i was going to say those patterns looked reminiscent of vera bradley! i would totally buy that first bowl!

  10. Gallery by Laura Photography reply

    Wow, you just made me an even bigger fan!

  11. Kristina W. reply

    Wow, you are so awesome having a legitimate business at 16!

  12. Kimber Wassenberg reply

    Wow! I would buy so many of these! No wonder you were making lots of $…they’re beautiful! I would love to be half as creative as you. ;)

  13. Mia Bjerring reply

    I love your designs! They are so pretty! I really loved the first with all the blue and green and also the simple plates with red paint! So beautiful!

  14. Heather Simmons reply

    These are BEAUTIFUL Katelyn!! You are so talented! I absolutely LOVED scrap-booking back in high school and the early college years, I would always be planning my next layout in my head too, but I hadn’t heard of painting pottery before, unless it was at All Fired Up in Carytown, I did do that a few times. BUT these are absolutely beautiful. :) I bet your Hubbie and parents are so proud of you!!

  15. Annetta reply

    Beautiful work, Katelyn! You either have the creative gene or you don’t. I do too and have used it in floristry, painting, and scrapbooking just to name a few. And you obviously like bright colours back then already.

  16. Shannon K. reply

    GOOD NIGHT! Those are so awesome. I would have gladly paid $40 for any of them. The vases are amazing. I’m amazed by you. Not just the painting, but the fact that you ran a legitimate business at the ripe old age of 16. Amazed.

  17. Dawn Dubbe reply

    Katelyn- I only wish I would have found your website/blog earlier- Im a total Teal/Tiffany blue freak as well! I just got married last year, but friend told me about your blog recently! (wish I would have known about you sooner!!) ANyway… wanted to know if you still do this? Im in love with the first bowl which is also posted second to last- the multi color with teal background! Let me know! Im in looooove!

  18. Meredith Sledge reply

    Whattttt? These are incredible. Oh my goodness! How many talents do you have?! Hahaha. No, but really, this is amazing. I’m so impressed and jealous you had your own little business at such a young age! That’s so cool!

  19. allie reply

    Oh my gosh, these are so pretty! You are such a talented girl! Love hearing the story of how you got started. So neat!

  20. Lydia reply

    Wow, Katelyn, your pottery was beautiful! Growing up with a dad that owned his own business and being homeschooled, I too went through many start up businesses. I don’t think I was ever as successful as you though! Sometimes the back end business part is as fun as the creative side!

  21. Brenda (Momma) reply

    Oh KK, this post brings back so many memories . . . like the weekend we spent hauling all of those heavy dishes to the Virginia Bizarre (or whatever that was called) and didn’t sell a single dish because the customers were more interested in buying up all the tie-dyed t-shirts they could find!!!!! Ha Ha! It was fun though.

  22. After | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Katelyn James Photography reply

    […] Five years ago I was a freshman in college, thinking I was going to be an art teacher… and painting dishes on the side. They my journey shifted to more of a “graphic design” phase…. […]

  23. Jillian Tree reply

    Katelyn, those are GORGEOUS! I wish I had that talent :) At 16 I was doing something similar actually, just jewelry-making! Also doing shows & such, had business cards…but didn’t make quite as much money to have a federal ID & all that though ;) You are incredibly talented..seriously, if you had some of those dishes left I would SO BUY THEM!! <3

  24. Amelia reply

    Wow this was a blast from the past!!! I remember seeing these in Shop-a-doodle-doo and probably at the Harvest Festival as well.

  25. Truan reply

    Wow, they’re beautiful! I’d totally buy those!

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