If you are familiar with my blog, then you know how much I LOVE CeCe Caldwell’s paints and I love upcycling. About once a month I have the great privileged to get to know some of the amazing retailers that make up CeCe Caldwell’s and are partners in upcycling and restoring old things.
I am thrilled to share with you my recent interview with CeCe Caldwell’s Theresa Wells Stifel of Stifel and Capra.
Theresa is not only a retailer for CeCe Caldwell’s paints, but an accomplished businesswoman and successful artist. Theresa stands out with her mixed media art, and has found amazing new ways to show case one of my favorite paint products. 100% natural CeCe Caldwells Chalk and Clay Based Paints.
Doesn’t she look like a fun gal to hang out with?
Chatting with Theresa was like catching up with an old friend. I was fascinated to find out where it all started. Everyone’s story of how they arrived at their current creative business and how they use Cece Caldwell’s paints is fascinating. Hope you enjoy.
GTC: How did you get started? What was your background?
THERESA: I have always been very tall, so always have sewed so I could make clothes. My mom is very crafty. When I was young I was quite the Suzie Home Maker. When I entered my professional life I still used that creativity. I was a Head hunter for 20 years, there is creativity in looking past people’s resumes to help them figure out what their next career move is..
I got married. started a family, quit my corporate career to stay home with the kids. Decided to start a craft business, an outlet for my energy and to have something to talk about other than what happened today in preschool! I did home & craft shows and the business went really well for two years.
Very unexpectedly, my husband got very sick due to complications from an untreated strep throat infection. I recognize this sounds dramatic but he nearly died andended up having a leg amputated. We didn’t know whether or not he would survive. Sitting in ICU in the hospital and rehab for weeks and months, helped me to crystallize my thinking. I knew I needed to go back to work. After giving up almost 20 years of clients, starting over, was not appealing.
Even with two little kids & a spouse in a wheelchair, I knew I wanted a sales based business. I had the idea to take my knowledge base and sell art to a network of people that I already knew. I talked 6 of my artsy neighbors into putting together portfolios and started marketing. I was working on big bids for jobs with 100’s of pieces of original artwork and then the banks crashed, money tightened up and deals were gone. (This was 7 years ago remember).
The office space I had rented was right across street from City Hall and Farmers Market. What was intended as a space to have client meetings turned into a shop. My funky upcycled art was on the walls along with beautiful pieces from my neighbors and other creative friends. I filled the space with cool vintage household pieces, blew up balloons, put them on the rail, put out a sign “come see local art”. Luckily, the same people who liked to buy produce from the farmer, cared about buying local art, and we made it.
After 18 months at our small office, I was able to move to an old Victorian on the main street in our Little City of Falls Church. Slowly and methodically, we added more local sourced hand made and vintage items. Etsy under one roof, as it were. Lots of smalls and small furniture were what we featured.
My husband now works in the business with me too. After Bob’s illness, one of the saddest things is he has “phantom” pain and the meds he is on to help control it made it impossible for him to keep up with his former high paced, high stress IT job. Luckily for me, he is now handling all of the technical side, financial and book keeping side. Which leaves me more time to grow the business. Stifel & Capra is a true Mom & Pop shop now!
GTC: What kind of art do you create and how did you become involved with CeCe Caldwell’s?
THERESA: I mostly do mixed media art, paint plus something else, like vintage trim, junk, you name it completes a piece. I was making mixed media pieces, like a tote bag with mixed media collage. I could take the side panel and put that in a frame and that would sell when it wouldn’t sell as a tote bag. That got me into believing I could market my art.
I would also make art dolls. For one art challenge from a local gallery, I took one of the art dolls, did a portrait on it, and used the same techniques on a huge piece of canvas. I found I could create intricate detail in a whole different category.
This is piece is called “Work To Be Done”
GTC: How did you go from your mixed media art to working with and retailing CeCe Caldwell’s Chalk and Clay based paints?
THERESA: The shop had already been carrying painted furniture when chalk paint became popular. We started looking at different brands.
When I found CeCe Caldwell’s, the color palette really appealed to me. The colors were inspiring to me as they are the same colors I use in my art. I have asthma, my son has life threatening allergies, so it made sense for us to carry an all natural product I could use without it adversely affecting me. I liked that I could use CeCe’s at home and around my family.
Theresa shows you don’t necessarily need a paint brush to create with CeCe Caldwell’s paints. Since they are 100% natural, they clean up easily too!
GTC: What are your favorite CeCe Colors?
THERESA: Love Spring Hill Green, & Destin Gulf. My favorite neutral isSeattle Mist
Like these pumpkins that were painted in CeCe colors!
GTC: What is your painting style, and what types of pieces do you like to transform?
THERESA: Bucking the trend, my personal style is not necessarily chippy/shabby. Much more vintage/groovy style. I love to use Cece’s on decorative pieces, transforming household things. I enjoy taking traditional things and “funkifying” them with color. I believe the paint is a wonderful way to show how you can transform small pieces. It makes it much less scary and not so intimidating to a first time user.
My favorite part of the paint is being able to integrate with other mediums. I can use CeCe’s to highlight a piece. I can master techniques and then use them as a jumping off point for a different project entirely.I love the quirky solving problem part of the creativity. How do I look at something and make it into something else? How do I artistically replicate this piece. I look at it as a problem solving issue. I like a challenge! I ask, What does this piece need to be done to it to make it serviceable? Being an artist is doing what you love, then finding your people to share it with.
I love these little swimming figures. They don’t even look like the same thing after Theresa worked her magic on them!
GTC: What are some things you love about CeCe Caldwell’s the company?
THERESA: I enjoy the people I have met. I love working in a creative community, love the input that I see online from other retailers. I enjoy sharing the visuals of other people’s work. How many creative ways you can use this paint? I love going on Pinterest, typing in “Cece Caldwell’s” and seeing the variety. This helps me help my customers realize their decorating dreams.
I enjoy the fact that the three Northern Virginia retailers are banding together to co-host at a regional home show. Not competing with each other, but supporting each other. More is more. Ultimately it is about customer service.
This is one of my favorite pieces I discovered in Theresa’s online gallery
GTC: Being in a creative industry, it can be difficult to keep coming up with new ideas, and being able to earn income. How do you continue to stay inspired?
THERESA: I have worked with an art coach and I learned a lot about myself. I have learned to really stretch yourself creatively. To keep your creative ideas flowing, pick one day a week, make something for you without worrying about who will buy it or like it.
GTC: Everyone has their “go to” ways they use CeCe Caldwell’s paints. What are yours?
THERESA: I like functionality, love pieces that have storage, pieces that have purpose. Pieces that you can transform into something useful are my favorite. I enjoy painting insides of drawers different colors, little surprises of color that make you happy every time you open a drawer. I LOVE taking things that are tacky, and changing them into something elegant.
This table is gorgeous, and also functional!
GTC: Besides running your business and creating your own art, do you have other creative endeavors?
THERESA: In the shop I enjoy mentoring other startups & artists. It’s exciting to set up someone’s very first show and enable beginning artists to show their work. I think my Recruiter background loves to help customers make matches, to help them figure out what they want. Even when they don’t know what they want.
Such as this funky and fun table that was painted by one of Theresa’s CeCe Caldwell’s customers
GTC: What surprises you about CeCe Caldwell’s paints and products?
THERESA: I am constantly astounded what people come up with! Coddie Eyre dyes lampshades, she dilutes the paint in this magical way.
When I first head about CeCe Caldwell’s paints, I was astounded that this 100% green paint really works.I am an extremely practical, skeptical person, but now I am sold. This paint really unleashes your creativity because there are so many less steps to produce a finished piece. You can go from your brain to your hand really quickly.
GTC: What are your creative goals for working with CeCe Caldwell’s paints?
THERESA: Actually finishing my own DIY projects!
GTC: The name of your busines intrigues me….Capra makes me think of one of my favorite holiday movies. Any connections?
THERESA: The name Stifel and Capra is my sly reference to the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” directed by Frank Capra. I really do have a wonderful Life.
GTC: Speaking of the holidays….I understand you have some exciting news for your business and DC area shoppers?
THERESA: I am pleased to share that Stifel and Capra was chosen to be listed in the Washington Posts Gift Guide!
GTC: What are your plans for the future?
THERESA: My goal for 2014 is to feel more proactive and less reactive. I need to figure out how to market better so we can share the fun. Key thing for me is to being able to get people going on what they are working on. I am most interested in helping people achieve their creative goals.
My belief is that EVERYONE is creative. People don’t give themselves credit. We are all part of a creative whole. The idea is to design and upcycle your life and make your home & surroundings into what you want them to be. The paint is a great way to do that. The paint is not intimidating, it is easy to do something great with it and unleash your own personal creativity.
Thank you so much for ta king time to chat with me Theresa! If you would like to learn more about Theresa and Stifle and Capra, you can check out their work on Facebook at Stifel and Capra, Art and Ornament for your Wonderful Life, or the website, Stifel and Capra with a beautiful gallery of artwork.
If you live in the Washington DC area, you can visit Theresa personally at Stifle and Capra! She offers CeCe Cadlwell workshops as well as a variety of workshops to unleash your creativity.
260 W. Broad Street, Falls Church VA 22046 Shop: 703-533-3557
Monday-Wednesday 10 to 6; Thursday and Friday 10 -8; Saturday 10-6; Sunday 1-5
now until Christmas
This is the fun and vibrant entrance you are greeted with if you visit Stifel and Capra in person:
I hope this interview has inspired you to try Cece Caldwell’s paints. Make it your goal for 2014 to try something new!