As a kitchen and bath designer I mainly spec out products for my clients that can be purchased through showrooms in the US. However, while working in collaboration with interior designer, Katie McHugh, on a remodel in the Princeton area, I witnessed a totally different scenario; that of buying an expensive piece of artwork over the internet from an artist whose studio is in a small Tuscan village in Italy. In today’s world internet marketing has made situations like this more commonplace, but I think for many of us it is not yet within our comfort zone.
I was intrigued by this process, so before leaving the States to attend EuroCucina, I emailed Linda Leupold, the artist whose beautiful Tuscan landscape painting now sits behind a sofa in Princeton, to set up a meeting while I was in Italy. After all , this is a very talented artist with whom many designers in the US could easily work with if they had a more personal introduction. So after four days of submersion in the world of EuroCucina, I set off for Florence.
It is easy to get around Italy by train so in Florence I boarded the train for Siena. Ms. Leupold had graciously offered to pick me up at the Siena rail station and take me to her studio in the charming village of Casole d’Elsa which was about 30 minutes away. While buses can take you directly to Casole d’Elsa, it’s probably best accessible by car.
Casole d’Elsa is a small town comprising of steep meandering streets of irregular widths with via Casolani as its main street. It’s fun just to walk up the street and see what you’ll discover around the next curve. Linda Leupold’s studio sits on this street, across from a fabulous ancient-stoned structure adorned with artifacts relating to the town’s past heroes and history. She recently acquired this space as an additional area to exhibit her art work.
Ms. Leupold, is an accomplished artist whose artistic portfolio includes large tromp l’oeil wall paintings and canvas paintings created using an array of techniques: watercolor, oil, fresco, acrylic. In her studio are some incredible Tuscan landscapes rich in vibrant colors and textures, often impressionistic, and always capturing the romantic nature of the countryside , always showing her connection, her passion for the surrounding area in which she lives. As soon as you walk into the studio there is a feeling of joy radiating from the color explosion that welcomes you into the space. She starts with yellow, adds shapes, other colors, and symbols to the canvas so that the painting can tell its own story. Throughout the studio there is feeling of lightness and of movement, especially in the scenes that are divided into several panels.
Ms. Leupold sells her painting on commission throughout the world. She speaks English, as many Europeans do, and she will work with you to make sure your client receives what she/he is requesting. Before she begins painting your art piece, she will send you a sample so you can see the actual color. She understands how to ship a work of art so that it arrives intact. For the Princeton project, payment was transferred into her account. However, you will probably need to consult a banker, not just for the euro to dollar conversion, but also because rules governing overseas business transactions often change and may depend on the dollar amount of the transaction.
As I travel around the US, I’ve talked to independent designers who are finding themselves in the unfamiliar territory of internet business transactions with small business owners outside the States. Utilizing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, websites, online magazine articles, designers are doing all the necessary research in hopes of avoiding any problematic issues, but there’s still an element of risk, and at some point you may have to take a leap of faith with the understanding that you have covered all the bases and with a belief that everything will work out fine. It usually does. For my part, when I travel abroad I’ll be interviewing members of the artistic/design community to help minimize any anxiety that independent designers may have when specifying and ordering product from little-known sources.
My next trip to Europe will hopefully be Dublin in October of 2015, and then back to Milan for EuroCucina in 2016. If you have a supplier that you would like me to connect with, just drop me a line and I will see if I can work it into my trip schedule. If you would like to know more about Linda Leupold, you can start with using this address: http://www.lindaleupold.com/english/bio.html, or you can contact her through the sidebar on my website.
Clare Marie Kronemeyer, AKBD entered the world of design as a furniture designer and has been practicing kitchen, bath & custom furniture design for over 15 years. With a degree in Interior Design and certification through NKBA, she offers creative solutions to problem areas. As an independent designer with hands-on experience, a down-to-earth approach to design and an understanding of budgetary considerations she will manage your project from concept to completion. Clare Marie can be reached through her website: www.asyoulikeitdz.com