Hustle & Heart Set Her ApartComments (0)
She calls herself “just a country girl with paint in her hair,” but furniture artist Quitta Allen is far from ordinary. Her refurbished china hutch with a stunning blend of gray, silver, gold and linen earned her a 1st place designation in the 2017 General Finishes Design Challenge in the Smashing Shades of Gray category. “The Queen,” as she named it, is one of largest pieces she has completed to date and that win brought national attention that catapulted her business, All Shabbed Out Vintage, to a new level.
“I instantly gained an immense amount of fresh exposure,”
she said. “The positive support fueled me to paint what I wanted in my own way,
not having to worry about whether they would sell or not. The comfort of
knowing others saw something in my style made me unstoppable.”
She Has Hustle
Growing up as a “daddy’s girl” in Denison, Texas, which is about an hour north of Dallas, Quitta worked alongside her father from a young age, making sales by the age of 13. In the era just before everyone had a computer, he was a typewriter repairman and worked on office machines for 48 years.
“If it were up to me, I’d rather wear dresses and play in the mud,” she recalled in her Texas twang, “but I spent my time working, something that I’ve always been inspired to do by my Daddy.”
That drive served her well throughout her adult life, when she spent ten years in corporate sales, selling Freon in 28 different states while obtaining her MBA on the road. Losing her job in 2014 “was a blessing,” she said. “I’ve always had a hustle and that’s what really got me through that transition period. My furniture painting hobby turned into my dream job once I saw that I could really make money from doing something I enjoyed.”
The Q Touch
After working out of her garage for a time and then several other workspaces, Quitta settled her business into a 5,000 square foot warehouse in historical downtown Denison. “Once I moved into this studio in early 2016, I was home,” she said. “The building was built in 1879. Before it was my workspace, it was a hotel, a music house and even a brothel!”
With so much space, Quitta is able to work on up to eight pieces a day, rotating them in various stages of completion. She typically finishes four per day, selling upwards of 1,300 pieces over the course of the last three and a half years. Except she doesn’t really sell them—they get “adopted” and each one is named. “I look to their personality and transform them into who they really are. It is because of this that I name all of my pieces. They are all their own,” she said.
Calling the look of her work “rustic elegance,” Quitta says her favorite furniture style to work on is French provincial. “I love ornate detail and character, although I also enjoy the occasional challenge of working on a plain piece, recreating its look until it’s something that I love.”
When asked to explain the specifics of her creative process, she is often at a loss for words. “I get asked for details of how I paint my pieces all the time. I mix here and there, this and that to get it just right. It’s all custom blends. I don’t write anything down.” She frequently uses her hands, literally, to apply the paint. “I move the paint with my hands so it’s positioned where I want it.”
One could easily say the word “boring” is not in Quitta’s vocabulary. “My business thrives on boldness and color,” she said. “My customers tend to be just as unique as my pieces – individuals who have their own style that resonates with my vibrant colors and textures.”
She ships nationwide and delivers orders personally to the “adopters” when possible. “I’m so proud of my work. It’s very personal for me,” she said. “I try to have great customer service and love meeting my clients in person.” She recently delivered nine pieces to Sheridan, Wyoming, traveling 2,600 miles in two days. “But it was worth it.”
Not only is Quitta talented at painting furniture, she also does abstract art and photography. Those skills, along with the wonderful natural light in her studio, make for some very dramatic “after” shots of her finished pieces. Her staging props add to the uniqueness of her style, including her painted canvases, an old typewriter in a nod to her late father, large twigs and branches, ornate frames and mirrors, and ceramic dog head bookends. Oh, and she builds farmhouse and trestle tables, too.
Tahoe kitchen island
She Has Heart
Prior to August of 2017, Quitta had always worked solo, other than the occasional help from her family for heavy lifting. But now that her business is thriving beyond her wildest dreams, she is looking at a new store space this year, teaching classes, traveling for road shows, launching a new website, plus she hired an assistant. She started doing Friday night Facebook lives with her friend and fellow artist Dionne Woods of The Turquoise Iris in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Like Quitta, Dionne’s work is artistic, colorful and often unexpected, and their well-viewed painting sessions are comical but informative as they paint projects in tandem.
“People are always asking me if I sleep and what my day looks like,” she laughed. “I do sleep a little bit and I wake up every day never with a concrete plan in mind. I just do what I feel and follow what inspires me. It’s all worth it. Something old and weathered with a long history now making new moments and memories.”
Though she regrets that her father never got to see her success, she knows he would be smiling. “He loved to tinker. He’s here with me. I know he wouldn’t like all the hours I put in but he would be proud.”
Still, this journey amazes even her. “In a short three and a half years, it has grown beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Every day I restore, love and re-home old furniture for it to regain new life is a true passion for me. I get to bring forgotten furniture back to life. The squeals, the tears and sweet words do go a long way with me.”
As the song goes, she wants to continue doing it “her way.” “I want to grow. I hustle. I can do this without struggling,” she said. “Stand out, become the demand and make more than I did in corporate sales and be an artist that won’t sell out to the masses.”
Her advice for anyone looking to make a living with their art? “Be original, never sell out and shine in your own light.”
Quitta Allen does all of the above in her own bright, beautiful, creative way.
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