We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeannette St. Amour and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeannette, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
When I first started working with a laser cutter (my main medium) 6 years ago, I was so eager to make interesting products that I didn’t ask myself why I was making what I was making. I fully established two brands in my first three years of business, eventually abandoning the brands when I found myself unfulfilled and adrift in my body of work. I didn’t have the clients I wanted, I wasn’t making a living wage, and I wanted work that would speak for itself but I didn’t know what the heck I was trying to say.
So I just stopped–everything. For nearly a year I put my studio in storage, traveled, tried working a normal job, and totally ghosted my business. In this in-between space I wrote down all my ideas for the future, evaluations of the past, and focused on the nourishment of my spirit. Most importantly I asked myself the big question– “Am I even meant to be an artist, or is this just a hobby?” I was afraid of saying no, but at this point couldn’t justify saying yes. So I just focused on being present until my heart started talking.
I am an artist because it doesn’t just define my career path, but my lifestyle. Although I hung up my business coat, I was creating more art in the in-between space than ever before because I gave myself space to explore what was in my heart instead of spewing out whatever was in my brain. Taking the time to reevaluate and incubate my art in the goopy cocoon phase is where I found the meaning again. Out of my year of pause birthed my brand SayNoMore and quickly things started falling into place exactly how I wanted.
So, the biggest lesson I’ve learned in my business is to give yourself space to slow down and check in with your intentions. Tossing products into the world to entertain yourself or to feed your ego/bank account won’t bring true fulfilment; But if the heart, the skill, and the patience are there, success will find you.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I would describe my career as an artistic anatomist. From my roots in preschool crafttime and later public school fine arts, my creations have always been involved in my desire to tell of life and death through anatomical form. Over the years, childhood skeleton drawings have translated into the the esoteric anatomical illustrations incorporated in my current craft. The most profound job I worked after graduating highschool was at a sign shop in Tampa, where I learned the ever-expanding possibilities of print production. Seeing an idea transform from physical a sketch, to a digital file, than transmuted back into something tangible and unique fascinated me to the point of passion.
Around my 21st birthday I made a snap decision to invest in a CNC lasercutter, turning my love of craft and foundation of fine art into a business. I knew nearly nothing about the process, and wasn’t quite sure what I even wanted to make, but I knew in my core that this was the way I wanted to make it.
Well, this obviously lead to years of flailing as a business owner and not knowing what I wanted (or didn’t want) to do with my options. In the first few years called my brand SpectraDimension, which meant I made a spectrum of creations from every dimension of my interest. I made magnets and jewelry, leather books and paper shapes. I etched shells and bones, experimenting with natural clay and wood. Learning as much about the finishing techniques as I did the material itself, I had to become a student of each medium to learn how the material would translate on the lasercutter. “Vessel”, a 13 layered wooden art piece of an anatomically correct human chest being the most successful piece to come out of many countless and costly early experiments.
Amidst my creative revolution, I was struggling with the financial, legal, and technical aspects of being a business owner. I was all over the place– taking on clients I didn’t know how to provide for, setting up haphazard booths at local markets, and hemorrhaging my money and time.
After nearly four years of flailing, I retired the Spectradimension brand and almost retired my career in art. I went on hiatus from lasercutting and being a business owner for nearly six months before emerging with a solid plan. In that time I did an intention inventory of all my products, asking three questions: “What is the point of this piece? Did it come from my heart?” and “Is it sustainable to create?”. Each product had to have a story, and each story had to contribute something important to make up the book of my business. At this crossroads of machining and magic, my studio SayNoMore was born.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
St. Peterburg has a wonderful art scene and of course the beach. A typical vacation day would start off with a good brunch at Red Mesa Cantina or Lisa’s cafe, a tour of the murals or the Morean Arts Center, and a beautiful sunset at Madeira beach. I love a good dive bar and a good whiskey sour, so The Emerald is a must for a nightcap!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d dedicate much of my success to my former employer-turned-friend Kim Vorperian. Learning from the internal and external successes and struggles of owning her business, Bodhi Basics, gave me a solid foundation. The workplace was an environment of wonder and collaboration which fruited some amazing products that brought us joy and healed our community of customers. Bodhi Basics was both a point of jumping off and diving in for me as a person and business owner, and I’m incredibly grateful for the magic we share.