Business Spotlight - Understanding the work of an artist

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Kris Grover, Elkader, hard at work at last year’s Art in the Park festival, has launched a business called Luna Fiber Artist Company. It’s a move she hopes will increase awareness of art as a profession.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

Elkader artist Kris Grover has launched a company to help people understand that art is a profession just like teaching, engineering and other career paths.

“When I tell people I’m an artist, they assume I dabble on the canvas while swishing wine and noshing cheese,” says Grover with characteristic good humor. “OK, maybe not that bad but you get the idea. But the reality is this: I’m busy running a company where the product just happens to be something I personally create. So, I create, yes, but I still have to deal with business matters like overhead costs, inventory, supplies, and other things.”

Grover’s enterprise is called Luna Fiber Artist Company, which is also the name of her studio. She creates and sells torn paper collage paintings and other abstract art. Working with Rivals, another woman-owned company located in Strawberry Point, she also prints original art on clothing.

“It’s still just me doing the art but it changes the prism a little of how people may come to view me or my work, and understand that an artist is a working business.”

Grover is a central Iowa native who moved to the area about 10 years ago. At the time, she and her husband, Randy, were living and working in the Iowa City area but they were spending many weekends in Elkader where they owned a second home.

“We decided to put our other house up for sale and if there was interest in it, well, that would be a sign that we were suppose to move,” she said. “It sold in 12 hours.” Grover’s art roots are in contemporary quilt creations. A few years ago, she decided to work with “found” papers—anything from old tickets to menus to maps. She tears her treasures into tiny, tiny pieces that she affixes over an original painting. For example, her owl creation (see photo page 2) features a small strip of sheet music, a snippet of a recipe from a 1956 cookbook, a tear from a old phonebook and more. In each piece, she also adds a touch of whimsy by including something germane to the creation. Look closely at the owl and you’ll see a word that represents the sound an owl makes.

Grover transformed the owl into postcards, which she hands out to customers. It serves as a “thank you” and also as a marketing piece, something she wasn’t as keenly focused on before starting her company.

“Owning the company has changed the way I think and speak about my work,” she says. “I’m getting better about addressing the business side of art.” 

In addition to selling her work at art festivals, Grover stocks five galleries and teaches art journaling. She invites others into her creative process by encouraging them to submit names for some of the pieces she posts on Facebook.

I’ve gotten so many great ideas, and often people will tell me something about a piece that I just didn’t see,” she admitted.

Grover’s latest venture is her partnership with Rivals. She accepts orders for one-of-a-kind wearable creations, generally wing-topped blouses and sweaters called dolmans. 

“Artistically-inspired clothing is limited in size and can be very pricey,” Grover said. “Working with Rivals, I’ve come up with a way to create beautiful apparel. I’m really proud to be able to offer an affordable artisan-style top for women of all sizes.”

Grover is one of the original planners of Elkader’s Art in the Park festival, which will be held August 19 and 20 in Founders Park. You can get a closer look at her work at the event.

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