Holly Phelan, who opened Happymess in 2011, has been in Durham for twenty years, though she has also called Japan and St. Louis home. The studio, which is in the process of changing its name to ARTPOST, offers supplies for local artists as well as paint & sip classes, private art lessons, and a host of other artistic activities for adults and children.
Not familiar with Holly and Happymess? This Merchant of the Month interview provides some great insight into Holly, her studio, and her belief in honoring the creative spirit in every person. After reading, we’re willing to bet you’ll make the time to swing by her Iredell Street space to indulge your inner artist!
What is the mission of Happymess/ARTPOST?
Our goal is to provide a safe, happy environment for anyone interested in making art. We provide supplies as well as opportunities for artmaking, whether you’re just starting out in the arts or are looking to further your practice.
Who are your clients?
In reflection of Durham’s diverse population, our clientele come from all walks of life: old, young, established artists, dabblers in the arts, and everybody in between. We even have customers who drive from Pittsboro, Saxapahaw, Carrboro, and other surrounding towns.
Describe a typical day at Happy Mess.
Typical day? What’s that?
Why the name Happy Mess and on that note, why the new name, ARTPOST?
Though we initially loved the name Happymess, we feel that we’ve outgrown it. We wanted a new name that could encompass who we are and all that we offer. ARTPOST is a play on Outpost. In the Wild West, the Outpost was where you would go to get anything you needed - a huge diversity of goods! So, the new name encompasses the diverse nature of the services we offer and people that we serve. Also, we love creating words by inserting ART whenever possible. For instance, instead of teachers/instructors, we call ourselves “ARTistas.” Our classes for children are called smARTkids, and if you want to have a private event with us, we call it a pARTy. The programs that result from our partnerships with local nonprofits are called ARTreach.
What’s your personal artistic background?
I was an art history major in college, have always dabbled in artmaking, and am a self taught artist. I have always loved sharing artmaking opportunities with my family and friends, and now I get to do it with strangers as well. I have found that we are all artists in our own way, and finding a way to express our creativity is one of the most important gifts we can give ourselves.
Why did you want to open a studio?
In 2010, I read an article in Newsweek called “The Creativity Crisis.” It was all about the importance of creative thinking and problem solving. It spoke to me and made me realize that I wasn’t alone in feeling that the arts - exposure to the arts and the ability to think creatively - is imperative to our culture’s future.
What is your favorite thing about being a small business owner?
Meeting so many new people! Whether I am learning or teaching or both, I love engaging with people.
What’s your favorite thing about the Ninth Street District?
I love the family atmosphere. Durham has grown so incredibly in the past seven years since we opened, but the Ninth Street area has maintained a small town atmosphere.
What is a tool of the trade you can’t live without?
An unlined journal or sketchbook. I carry one with me at all times, whether to make lists, take notes, or sketch when I have a few extra moments.
Do you have any advice for other artists and business owners?
Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer!
When you’re not at the studio or working on your business, what might you be doing?
I feel like I live at 718 Iredell Street, but when I’m not at ARTPOST, I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I also love music, talking walks or running, working in the garden, and making art in my studio.
What is your favorite book or movie?
My favorite movie is Breakfast at Tiffany’s ( I was named after Holly Golightly). I love so many books that it’s hard to name a single one, but some of the standouts are The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, and Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Also, pretty much anything by or about the author George Sand - she was a remarkable woman.