Painting Lady: Student artist turns passion for art into business

University of Alabama student balances her life as a student, worker and artist. 

By: Alexis Faire
Features Reporter

When Jasmine Williams Winston was a kid, she loved to paint. She always thought it was something she was good at doing, and she even won awards. Her teachers noticed her artistic ability, and her passion flourished.

Now a sophomore majoring in kinesiology at the University of Alabama, Williams Winston runs her home décor business, jassyDECOR, taking multiple requests from interested customers.

She did not have the idea to start her own business until her sister asked Williams Winston to make a creation for her.

“I rediscovered my love for it when my sister asked me to paint something for her dorm room,” Williams Winston said. “Lots (of people) became interested in what I had created for her, and that’s why I started jassyDECOR.”

The idea of starting her own business and sharing her passion with others was a great idea for Williams Winston, but she quickly realized starting a business was not an easy task. In summer 2014, jassyDECOR was created.

She said she had to stock up on materials to create her pieces for the business.

“I figured I had to buy everything…It takes money to make money,” she said. “I basically had to budget to make sure I had enough to provide for my business so that I could provide for the people.”

Interested customers inform Williams Winston the specifics of their request, ­– size, design, color – and she puts her artistic ability to work.

For her, not all projects are the same when it comes to the creative process. Occasionally, she likes to use websites, such as Pinterest and Google, to get inspiration for her art. Sometimes she has to plan her approach, while other times she likes to dive in.

“Usually, I just go straight for it, like start drawing them out on canvas,” she said. “Some stuff is more difficult than others, so I just sketch it out, and I paint from there.”

Aside from being an artist and a student at UA, Williams Winston works at Plato’s Closet – a chain retail store that buys and sells popular secondhand clothing ­– in Tuscaloosa. The people at her job also happen to be some of her biggest supporters.

Recently, Plato’s Closet posted a photo for one of Williams Winston’s pieces on Instagram to give her support for her business. With Plato’s Closet having around 4,000 followers on the social media app, Williams Winston appreciated the encouragement from her job.

“I wanted to get my paint business out there, and Plato’s is really followed,” she said. “A lot people have seen the post, so that made me feel really good.”

The painting in the photo was created for Williams Winston’s boss, Laken Howell – buying manager at Plato’s Closet. Howell made the decision to give her the shout out on social media.

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“Here at Plato’s, social media is one of our #1 things that we focus on – with college kids, a college town,” Howell said. “Seeing Jasmine and knowing how hard she works and how passionate she is about what she does, I was just like ‘It fits in with Plato’s because it’s shoes. It fits in with our business. So why not post it and help her get some followers ­– let people see her work?’ So hopefully, it’ll kinda boost her business.”

Howell said she appreciates Williams Winston for painting the piece because it carries a lot of meaning.

“Having someone you know make something like that just means so much more than going out and buying it at Target,” she said. “She put a lot of time, effort and passion into it, and you can tell that by the outcome.”

Williams Winston tries to limit production for her business only to the summer months, so she can completely focus on her schoolwork.

“I know that sometimes she’s so busy with school that she can’t take orders year round,” said Bree Elder, co-manager at Plato’s Closet. “Whenever she goes home for this job, I know she’s going home to study.”

Williams Winston said she made it her goal to maintain her GPA, which is why she decided to paint only during the summer.

“That’s what I decided when I first started college – I would just make it a summer thing,” she said. “I wanted to make it full time, but I don’t think it would work that way because I have a part time job at Plato’s.”

Even though she only paints during the summer, her requests were still at an all-time high. During summer 2016, Williams Winston said she received three requests a day.

Those requests included pieces of all sizes, ranging from small to large and costing anywhere from $15-$35.

Elder said she’s requested Williams Winston to make her pieces, and she’s idolizes her creativity.

“She’s great at what she does,” Elder said. “She just has an artistic personality. She’s very creative here and in her own personal life.”

Elder and Howell said William Winston’s work ethic and positive attitude at Plato’s Closet is relevant in her artwork.

“Whatever she does, she gives it 200 percent. It doesn’t matter what it is ­– whether it’s work, whether it’s school, whether it’s her passion for art – all of those things she does, she does to the fullest extent,” Howell said. “Anybody that knows Jasmine knows that she has the best vibes around her. She’s one of the people you come across that you just can’t describe.”

Williams Winston said her dream would be to one day expand her business, but for now, she wants to continue having it as a part time venture.

Elder said she would support Williams Winston if she decided to expand her business.

“If it’s something that she loves and she continues to love to do, I think that she would be great at doing it on a bigger scale,” she said.

For more information on the artist, Jasmine Williams Winston is on Instagram: @jassydecor and Facebook: jassyDECOR.