Very early on, I was labeled “the artist” in our family. My mother tells me that even at three years old, I was fascinated by the leaves changing colors in the fall and that once when I was in second grade, I completely took over and taught my classmates how to do the art project that she had volunteered to teach the class during Arts and Crafts Day.
My dad bought me my first pencil set when I was eight (I still have it!) and we would sit at the dining room table, drawing together for hours. I would use anything from around the house as a still life prop, study it, and then carefully draw it. Our mutual love of art is a very special bond that I share with him to this day.
During my high school years, I took every elective art class possible and as my painting skills improved, people started asking me to paint wall murals, bedroom furniture, original paintings for them, all kinds of things. I accepted as many requests as I could because I loved being able to help people bring their ideas to life and make their bedroom or house feel more like a home. By the time I was ready to go to college, pursuing a degree in art felt like the next logical step.
After graduating college, I headed to New York to work for a design agency. I still wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do next with my fine arts degree, but I definitely had a desire to keep studying art. I also knew that I didn’t want to stay in the Fine Arts world; I had been surrounded by enough dark, moody artists long enough and was ready to create pretty, useful art that brought people joy.
My boss at the time told me about the Portfolio Center, a design school in Atlanta, Georgia that was more focused on graphic design and advertising. I will always be so thankful to her because she told me, “You can keep working here, but I will never be able to teach you the kinds of things you can learn at that school.” She encouraged me to complete their program and promised to hire me back once I was finished. Her belief in me was exactly the directional push I needed, and it was time for me to head to Atlanta!
At the Portfolio Center, I discovered it was possible to build a viable business as an artist, and my experience there led to a job that taught me everything I needed to know about seeing a design through from beginning to end.
That job was designing graphics for Abercrombie & Fitch apparel in Columbus, Ohio. I spent three years learning everything about the creative process within a company. It was eye-opening to learn about how hundreds of details work together to bring a new season of clothes from the initial inspiration (making mood boards) to the designs hanging on racks in the actual store. That experience taught me that each step of the process is equally important to the quality of the final product. But the most important lesson I learned while working at Abercrombie? The importance of the customer, and what the customer wants. Understanding what was going to appeal to our target audience and what they were going to be interested in without losing sight of what was happening with competitors and the larger retail industry was crucial. I have carried that lesson with me ever since.
Without that job, I don’t think I would have had the courage to start my own business. In a much smaller way, I applied a similar production blueprint to my printing process.
My job at Abercrombie & Fitch was followed by a stint in New York working at Blue Marlin as a designer, but after a while, I wanted to move. I began looking for a new job opportunity, and my now-husband, Scott, thought I would love Nashville for its creativity, liveliness, and warmth of the people. He was right. We had been dating long distance for quite some time, and a move to Nashville just made a lot of sense for us both.
Nashville quickly became home to me. Thanks to the fact that Scott was already an established Nashvillian — he attended college in Nashville, established himself as a drummer with his local band KiND, and had produced projects for several musicians in town — he was already a part of an amazing community that welcomed me and made my transition to a new city very smooth.
After we got married, I began freelancing as a designer, and I took on any job I was offered: logos, wedding invitations, you name it. I felt lost and overwhelmed, and then one day a friend of mine introduced me to an online course called “My Own Irresistible Brand” by the company Hey Sweet Pea.
Going through this course helped me clarify what I was truly passionate about by identifying the “why” that motivates my desire to create art. This course ultimately provided the framework that helped me launch Cash Color.
I discovered that the missing piece in all my former jobs and projects was that I was too far away from the stage where I could see the customer actually engage with the art. I’m motivated by creating art that spreads joy. The corporate jobs I’d had provided an invaluable opportunity to learn how products are conceived and made, but they were missing the thing that excites me the most: being able to sell the work that I make directly to the people who buy it and put it in their house.
I was ready to start a business.
I decided to name my business Cash Color. I wanted something that was memorable, easy to spell, and connected to me personally. The “Ca” comes from my first name, Caitlin, and the “Sh” is from my last name, Shirock.
After Scott and I came up with a million possibilities of different word combinations to go with “Cash”, such as “Design” or “& Co.” (which even included a brief consideration of the name “Cash Paper”! Ha!), they all seemed like possibilities. However, “color” stood out to me the most because I have always been surrounded by color. I grew up in a very colorful home. I’m talking a big green, floral couch in the living room, pink and white striped chairs in the kitchen, and yellow walls! I felt like it was the perfect fit.
As with anything that you obsess over for very long when it comes time to find out what other people think about your new idea, you feel a little vulnerable. But I knew that I needed to test the waters of my target market to see if they agreed, so I created a survey and sent it to anyone who I had ever worked with or sold art to. They gave me the thumbs-up, and here we are! So what do you think?
Painting, drawing and creating beautiful things are part of my primary purpose in life, and they have provided a vehicle that has allowed me to access some of my deepest feelings.
As a little girl, I struggled with expressing myself. I didn’t use my voice enough, and it was difficult for me to really understand my feelings. I often felt locked within my own body, feeling like no one understood me.
But when I would go to my canvas, I could just be me there. I felt like my canvases were my friends who I could tell my secrets to, without any judgment. Those canvases were — and still are — my safe place, a way to release my emotions.
In the past, I’ve played it safe by drawing solitary, clean lines and solo brush strokes. But recently, I’ve started to explore what it feels like to take up the entire canvas by layering charcoal, acrylic, pen and pastel all together. It’s a process that’s both physical and emotional, and it takes my whole body to create the strokes guided by my emotions. By the time I finish a painting session, I feel different, like some of my feelings have been resolved. I’ve been able to get out whatever has needed to be released.
I love to paint alone, usually in a small room where it’s just me and the art. This has become my therapy, my healing process. It’s just me staring at a blank canvas, and I start to feel the painting pull me in...and the processing begins.
As incredible as it is to get my feelings out during the painting process, the most rewarding part for me is when a painting is finished and it goes out in the world. This is when I get to see how other people experience the piece. Sometimes they light up and imagine it in their home. Sometimes they see things I would have never even noticed. Other times the work might remind them of one of their own personal experiences or relationships. Those are the moments that truly motivate me.
I’ve always been fascinated by what people choose to put inside their homes. What they decide to display tells a story of who they are, what they believe, and what they feel — and it makes me so happy to imagine my artwork in their homes and becoming a part of their “décor story”.
My primary goal is to create original artwork for people’s homes that will bring them joy, and I feel that the Cash Color line of high-quality reproduction art prints allows more people to be able to afford this feeling in their homes.
I sincerely hope that you find a Cash Color print that will become a part of your home and that it will be a constant reminder of a special moment in your life that brought you joy.
Anybody else starting to panic because they are realizing how crazy close it is to Christmas? If you have been super busy like me, I thought you might need some last-minute gift guide inspiration to help you shop for everyone on your list.