Megan built a site for Emily around 1998- not a retail site, just a way to share the art and allow others find a message in the images. As fate would have it, one fan of the site was a family friend who owned a printing company. The friend thought Emily’s images would be perfect for cards to use as a fundraiser for her church youth group. Of course, Emily was happy to help! As soon as other friends saw the samples, gratefulimages was technically born.
Note cards, primarily blank for your own message, were how it all got started and are still the cornerstone of the business.
Megan had been living in the Montrose before she moved back home to become her mom’s Creative Director. Being a strong art community, it was the first place they considered for gratefulimages’ new home. However, as a Christian company, there was concern that they wouldn’t be as accepted as they would like.
Megan’s father had always been fascinated by The Heights- its history and sense of community. I thought it was such a testimony to the neighborhood that, although The Heights isn’t what most would consider a “Christian” stronghold, the family saw an acceptance of all kinds of people here. This feeling that everyone is welcome, coupled with a strong community of artists, made The Heights perfect for them.
One day on a routine trip to their digital imaging group, located in The Heights, Megan had to run in to a then-Compass Bank. The former Heights Savings and Loan was only a temporary shelter while Compass was renovating a new building. As Megan did her banking, Emily realized the building would eventually be vacant. This was it, she thought- the space that would be their studio and store front. They purchased the building from Compass and gutted it. In true Heights fashion, they repurposed a lot of materials from the building. Old doors and banking furniture got new life and a bit of history was saved for the rest of us. Gratefulimages moved in and officially became a Heights small business in February 2006. They kicked off life in The Heights right, with a Valentine’s Day party which has become an annual event (you’ll find it listed on Heights Happenings next February, I’m sure).
Emily paints in the well lit northeast corner of the building, facing Yale
Sheri hard at work! Megan says you can take this scene and scale it down to household size and you get a picture of what Emily's living room looked like in the starting phases of the company!I think “business” is probably different when you are a company with a heartfelt mission. It was nothing that Megan said explicitly, but I almost get the feeling that gratefulimages is successful in spite of itself. Emily didn’t set out for profit when she asked Megan to create that website. She feels that people are connected to God through her paintings and, as a Christian, wanted to share that. I think that when you put your heart in the right place (and this doesn’t have to be rooted in religious faith, either, since goodness comes in many forms, from many places) good things will happen. When you don’t have a singular focus on the bottom line, you can accept whatever result. They started by letting someone else use art for a fundraiser and now they are hugely successful, with a new licensing agreement and more exposure than they ever anticipated.
Fruits of her labor: The Sure Grace Collection will be available in gift shops all over the place! Way to put a Heights business on the map, guys! If you want to buy locally, fabulous Bliss on 19th will be carrying some of the ceramics.
gratefulimages also sells onsies for the wee ones and keeps photos they've been sent on the fridge