Lisa Stirrett Explains How to Run a Business While Still Being an Artist

The retail side of selling art often involves creating pieces that fit with the personal tastes and preferences of the consumer rather than the personal taste of the artist


Jennifer Erichsen

Working on one of her new projects Lisa Stirrett cuts fiber paper

by Jennifer Erichsen, Contributor

Lisa Stirrett, the owner of a glass shop located in Old Town Silverdale, balances running a business while still being an artist. She has created various glass pieces for locations throughout Kitsap County. 

Stirrett learned that running a retail store is harder than it would first appear to most artists, as the time it takes to run a business interferes with the ability to create. 

“The business starts running them instead of them running the business,” Stirrett said. In her experience, this happens to most artists who try to run a business selling their artwork.

When running a business, the artist in charge cannot focus only on making art. They have to work on the demands that come from running a retail store, as well.

“When I’m mentoring other artists, the biggest thing I tell them is to go get an education,” Stirrett said. She believes learning how to write and doing math calculations for the business is essential to any creator who desires to create a career out of their art.

An artist must also be willing to create pieces that will please the consumers of the area they work in.

“It’s always in the eyes of the beholder,” Stirrett said. Because she owns a retail store, Stirrett has to tailor her pieces to match the artistic taste of the local market.

Working on coasters for the holiday season. (Jennifer Erichsen)

Even though she runs a business, making art that appeals to the public, Stirrett still creates pieces that fit her personal taste. The pieces may sit longer than others, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sell.

“I try to do a little bit of both here,” Stirrett stated. For her, the key to owning a shop while being an artist is to find a balance between the retail side of art and the creating side of art.

Stirrett still enjoys creating, whether it is a commission or something she wanted to make personally.

Along with local projects, she accepts and applies for commissions across Washington. One of her current jobs is creating four eagles for a school in Eastern Washington. 

She has, in addition, accepted a job to create glass and steel artwork for a retaining wall in Poulsbo. The city also requested that she create a sculpture for the center of a round-a-bout. 

Large public projects tend to be technically challenging, as Stirrett plans the piece so it fits within the request while also taking account of potential damage that could occur in the location the art is placed in.

“One of my hardest jobs was the Kingston Library and the Poulsbo swords,” Stirrett said; however, the two projects are among her favorite pieces.

“I like doing ones that are one of a kind,” Stirrett said. While it is not always possible to create personal projects while running a retail store, she finds time to create pieces that she enjoys between the commissions she has received.