Her Goal is To Help People Augment Their Skills & Find Their Way To Personally Rewarding Artistic Expression. She Still Loves To Paint in Watercolor, But Her Passion is Sharing The Joy of Art Making With Others. Meet The Owner of ArtSpeaks Studio, Kay Byfield
Q: So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about ArtSpeaks Studio and what led up to you becoming an entrepreneur.
KB: I lost my corporate job at the beginning of the pandemic and wondered what my next direction might be. It seemed like the most logical thing was to go back to my true love, teaching painting. While I was working as a marketer, I was also teaching at the Creative Arts Center one evening a week and I realized that that is my real calling. I decided to establish a teaching studio and offer all the courses that I haven’t had time to teach before.
Q: Has it been a smooth road?
KB: Are roads ever smooth? The Grand Opening of ArtSpeaks Studio was scheduled for March 22nd. The state of Texas issued a Stay-at-Home order in the middle of the month and the Grand Opening never happened. I spent the early months of the pandemic making improvements to the studio and implementing Covid-19 protocols and didn’t offer my first class until June of 2020.
Since then, I have had a number of students, mostly taking watercolor classes, which is my primary expertise. I hold a Master of Fine Arts degree and was a College Art Teacher for a decade before I became a marketer and watercolor was always my favorite medium. My biggest struggle is with promoting my classes so that people who would want to take them can find me.
Q: What types of classes do you offer?
KB: Right now, I am focusing on watercolor although I am qualified to teach many media. Most classes meet in real time for two hours once a week for four weeks either online or in the studio. The goal is to provide students with practical skills, increase their knowledge about the medium and help them find their own expressive voice.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching?
KB: It is an indescribable thrill when a student experiences the joy of mastering a new skill or has an artistic breakthrough. Making art takes tremendous courage and I see myself as my students’ mentor and cheerleader as they pursue their artistic journey. It is so gratifying to be able to help them gain the confidence they need to take artistic risks.
Q: 2020 was a crazy year for everyone, how did you do?
KB: Overall, I think I found it a bit easier to navigate the pandemic than many people did because I was able to use the time working toward my goals and I was practicing my art. Teaching, even behind a mask and with sanitizers and air purifiers is still teaching, and I think students in the classes also found solace in the art.
Q: What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
KB: Finding out that people appreciate what I have to offer.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to purse their dream and start a business?
KB: Know yourself. Be sure you know what your goals are and establish a concrete plan for how to accomplish them. You need to really understand the business you are pursuing so that you can confidently meet every challenge. Find a support network that will help you stay on track and weather the inevitable pitfalls.
Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
KB: For most of my working life I have been in the minority as a woman. You cannot change who you are, or the expectations other people bring. All you can do is be yourself and not go looking for issues.
Do a good job and confront problems as they come up without projecting your own expectations upon other people. If you find yourself in a toxic work environment, see whether confronting it will help. If it won’t, go find a more productive and pleasant way to spend your time. Be professional and goal oriented and the probabilities are that things will go well.
Q: What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?
KB: I am pretty decisive in most things, but with creating something new it is more difficult to weigh the different choices and move forward confidently. In other aspects of life one can look at the options and their potential risks and benefits and determine an appropriate response. But in making art or starting a new business that has no precedent, you just have to choose a direction and follow it until it becomes apparent that it is a dead end, or it is time to make adjustments. I have had many false starts in my art and my business, but I take comfort that there is learning to be had when there have been mistakes.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
KB: My personal mindset is to assume that if something goes wrong, it is because I didn’t manage things correctly. I tend to think that I must have overlooked something or made a mistake rather than attributing failures to external factors or errors by others. I have learned that at least 50% of the time, when a complication develops, it is outside of my responsibility and the key is to expect problems that are unforeseeable by adding glitch time to the project deadlines.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
KB: My mother. She was always true to herself and respectful of others. She had strength and tenacity and followed her own light. I learned a lot from her.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
KB: I believe women have a lot more opportunities now than they had when I was a young woman, but it is still a man’s world in the workplace and beyond. When I was in my 20’s we were told that we “could have it all” but most people today acknowledge that isn’t true. Instead, if you want to stay sane and be successful across all your responsibilities and interests, you must establish priorities and know that some things will need to slide in order to meet the demands of others. You can have a career, be a parent, and have other rich relationships and challenges but you cannot expect to expend the same intensity on each of them all the time. Based on your goals you will need to be strategic about where to invest your time and energy at any given time.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
KB: Find where you can bring value to the organization based on your skills and personality and be sure to be yourself. Don’t try to meet expectations about who you are that may not be true to yourself. Communicate directly, honestly, and clearly in the best interests of the organization.
Q: After high school, where did you feel your career path would take you?
KB: I thought I would earn a PHD in something and be an academic.
Q: Can you tell us how you manage your work life balance?
KB: As far as I can tell, no one ever achieves work/life balance. We always know there is more work to do and that intrudes on the rest of our lives. For myself, I determine the areas of highest concern in regard to work and when those are accomplished, I tackle lower concerns if it is reasonable. I try to keep work, relationships, health, and spiritual well-being in balance.
Q: What would be the title of your autobiography?
KB: Never Done. I am planning to keep learning and growing and challenging myself until the end. I relish new challenges and finding opportunities to make a contribution in the world.
24 Things About Kay Byfield
1. What's your favorite family tradition?
Getting together for holidays.
2. What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Read, Travel and Paint.
3. Who is the most fascinating person you’ve ever met?
The parent of a friend who never went to high school but was one of the most well-read, aware people I have ever met.
4. What was the last book you really got into?
” Art and Fear”
5. What’s the most amazing adventures have you’ve ever been on?
Traveling around China with my son who is fluent in Mandarin. We went places where the people may have never seen a Caucasian before.
6. Among your friends, what are you best known for?
7. Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever been?
Chiapas in Southern Mexico. It was fascinating to see how the people live.
8. What’s your favorite app on your phone?
KERA 90.1 Radio
9. What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve done?
10. What’s your favorite quote or saying?
“Go with the flow.”
11. If you unexpectedly won $10,000, what would you spend it on?
12. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I’d like to be a night owl but that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the world, so I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour.
13. What would your perfect vacation look like?
Exploring someplace without timetables and the opportunity to spend time with the locals.
14. Tell me about the best vacation you’ve ever taken.
I took a great three-week cruise to the Greek Islands. It was the trip of a lifetime.
15. Do you read reviews, or just go with your gut?
Both. I read movie and book reviews to see whether they call out characters or just plot. (I am interested in characters, but something has to happen). I don’t read food reviews—I just check out the restaurant.
16. What’s your big passion?
Sharing with people.
17. What would you sing at Karaoke night?
No. I don’t enjoy doing things I know I can’t do moderately well.
18. Which of the five senses would you say is your strongest?
19. If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?
I would be less timid about trying new things when I was young.
20. What were you like in high school?
I doubt I was much different than I am right now, but I don’t have anyone to ask whether that is true.
21. What would your perfect Saturday be like?
A pleasant time with interesting people.
22. Would you rather cook or order in?
I don’t like to cook.
23. What was your favorite subject in school?
I liked pretty much everything. I enjoyed learning.
24. Cake or pie?