Pancakes & Booze Art Show: Was it Worth it?

In this post I’m going to share my personal background to give context to the path that I’m currently on: a journey to learning how to love myself and how that translates to building my art business from scratch. 

I’m sharing my journey and this information because I know there are people out there who are navigating challenges in their personal and professional lives and that they’re searching for specific information and personal, detailed stories on how people like them started changing their life. This podcast and my blog were created out of that problem. I’ve been looking for direction and seeking guidance for years. I Googled and searched as a habit every day, consuming tons of podcasts, articles, videos, and profiles about people who were kind of doing what I wanted to do, but not exactly. So here I am offering up exactly what I was seeking not that long ago. 

After spending the most recent years working on my emotional and mental health, I am still working to make connections between my internal, intellectual self and my reality. I’ve had a tumultuous life. I survived repeated sexual childhood abuse from age 5 until puberty. I didn’t start addressing that abuse until I was 18, and didn’t seriously start working on healing from it until I was 28. I was raised poor, moved around constantly, went to 10 different schools before college, started working when I was 14, and experienced homlessness, domestic violence, and grew up around addicts.

My life has been spent in survival mode. I came out of childhood with severe anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, depression, and non-existent self-esteem. I had no idea what I would make of myself because I was used to focusing on only the basics. I never believed I could do anything I wanted and as a result, I rarely thought about what I wanted. I thought I was confined to a life of just surviving and I didn’t dream big because I figured I wasn’t meant for basic pleasures like safety, unconditional love, security, and success, let alone things like miracles or manifestation.

I entered sex work after having my first child in 2017. He was a newborn and I was in an abusive relationship, and my closest family wasn’t in contact with me during my pregnancy until about a year after giving birth. I had no support system. We spent my son’s first Christmas alone in a cheap motel. Just me, my baby, and his dad. I kind of stumbled into sex work in order to keep paying for the nightly rate and within 3 months I had saved enough to move into an apartment (an apartment I had to get a friend to agree to move into with me because I had no recent rental history, terrible credit, and no verifiable legal work or income and then she bailed on the place a month later). I continued building my sex work business mostly as a full-service escort for another 3 years. Eventually I retired to pursue different work, but the time I spent doing sex work completely changed my life. It changed me in ways I never imagined. Doing that work taught me so much that I wrote and created a zine about it (You can learn more about it here or order it below.)

HEAVY: A Zine About Things I Learned as a Sex Worker

A full-color 28-page zine full of images, collages, and writings about my personal experience as a sex worker. Signed run of 100. Digest size 5.5″ x 8.5″ on 80lb. satin paper. Price includes US shipping via media mail and taxes. Ships next business day.


Fast forward to now, Dec 2022, it’s been about 2.5 years since I retired and I’ve just published the zine I had been wanting to write since I was in the thick of sex work. In 2019 I completed a year of intensive trauma therapy to overcome PTSD from my childhood, and have now been seeing my current therapist for just over two years. Most of the work we’ve done has been centered around creating new patterns of behavior and thought. It’s taken me a long time to start really interrupting and redirecting anxiety, but I recently reached a huge milestone of homeostasis that I call Expanding the Middle. (I renamed my podcast Expanding the Middle. Listen to it on Spotify or Anchor.) 

Even after working on the same themes and problems week after week for the past two years feeling like I might not be getting anywhere, I found myself recently very depressed, angry, and irritable. I’d identified many of my problems and where they stemmed from, but I was having a hard time figuring out what to do with that information. I knew I had trust issues because of my past. I realized a lot of the needs I was asking of my partner were centered around the lack in my relationships with my parents. I discovered that I’ve held myself back from a lot of things I wanted in life and that I really didn’t allow myself to even want anything. 

All of this to say that this year I’d finally decided to believe that I can have whatever I want, including a profitable art business that I build the way I want to build it. I learned how to start and build businesses in the past about things I wasn’t exactly passionate about (though I did grow a passion for sex work as I moved through it), so I now feel empowered to apply the same knowledge from sex work to new businesses. In fact, I’ve been working as an independent contractor working from home sewing with complete flexibility for the past 2.5 years. I was already doing the things I wanted to do, just not in the ways I wanted to do them. When you aim low, doing the things you want to do can sometimes be underwhelming. I had a business that was supporting my son and I, it just isn’t the business I want to be operating forever. 

I started looking for a mentor early this fall. After being accepted into my first art show this past summer, I decided that I would give myself a real shot at creating an art business. I applied to a local show that was free to enter and participate in. It was the first show I ever applied to. My piece didn’t sell, but I felt inspired to keep going, and honored to be chosen out of all the applicants. They even interviewed me for a promo piece. (The full video is pinned on my Instagram.) 

One of my biggest blessings, though, has been my friend, mentor, and future mother in law, Sarah Ames (Follow her on Instagram). Not only is her story inspiring, she’s supportive, fun, and so caring and loving. And she busts her ass on her art. She truly just loves art, artists, and is a romantic at heart. She is the person who told me to apply to that first art show I was in and she also told me to apply to the second art show we both got into – Pancakes and Booze. She has been selling her paintings for over a year, creating and selling whenever and wherever she could, so I really look up to her. Through watching her and learning from her, I realized that the art industry is not set up for artists to create businesses selling their art. It seems to be so saturated, crowded, expensive, and a gamble just to put yourself out there, it’s no wonder the starving artist stereotype is still so widely accepted. Artists have to make huge investments into creating their work. Even if someone uses found materials they don’t have to pay for, everything else required to market and sell your art costs money, and the difference between a more traditional business plan centered around virtually any other industry other than art, is that there are ways to estimate if or what the return on an investment will be. There are different schools of thought when it comes to marketing and selling art (things that art schools are notorious for not teaching). The traditional and common one I encounter now is what I’m calling the hustle method. This is basically getting your work out there by applying (and paying for the privilege to be considered) to shows, competitions, galleries, events and fairs to get eyes on the work. Then hope that some of the people who see it eventually buy some of it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this method, many people have been doing this and find some success and make sales and build a following from it.

There’s also the online hustle method. Post the art anywhere and everywhere you can, tag as many feature accounts as possible, upload the work to sites that have traffic to view the art and hope it sells. If it does sell, there’s always a hefty portion that they take, just as it is IRL with galleries & booth fees. Anything to get the eyes on it. I get it. How else are you supposed to sell the art? What I consider fine art is not like traditional businesses selling goods and services. Other art like hired commercial or family photographers, graphic designers, artistic people who operate within the established industry of what some people consider trade work have an easier time creating and building their business because there’s set marketing strategies and clear consumer markets for these kinds of businesses. These are jobs you can go out and get. Even if you go your own way and start your own small business independently, there’s a TON of free information, tips, and strategies out there to learn how to do what so many other people are doing successfully. They’re selling a specific service, not necessarily a luxury product. 

I began researching how to sell fine art and found some worthy information about online marketing strategies and reviews of sites like Saatchi Art, Fine Art America, and Art Storefronts. These sites all still rely on middlemen who are not able to guarantee a return on your investment. They do their best and have their own traffic, but I still believe that artists have to be able to start and build a business without feeling taken advantage of by the establishments that already existed. And that they don’t have to compete for exposure jobs in order to gain collectors. I thought, there is so much information out there, so many artists, so many people creating their own small businesses, what I’m looking for must exist. 

When I was doing sex work I started by basically paying someone I never met or even saw to post an ad I also never saw, and screen clients that I was unsure they were even screening, to working that system to create my own way and quickly made it so I didn’t rely on them at all. There had to be something similar I could do with my art business. I found a fine art photographer who seemed to have something figured out. His name is Jason Mathias and he’s also local to the Seattle area. I learned some things from the podcasts and interviews I found online. I almost signed up for his course, but felt something inside telling me to keep looking. 

Meanwhile, Sarah sent me the info to apply to Pancakes and Booze. It was free to apply, which is a requirement for me to even consider applying, because I don’t believe in paying for rejection and I don’t gamble anymore. I do invest in myself and my business, which was something I learned the importance of when I was a sex worker. I applied to the show even though I subconsciously knew that it might not be the right place for me to show my work. I liked that the vibe was low barrier and encouraged anyone to apply. This is direct copy from their website and instagram posts: “Batter sizzles, beer foams, and canvas lines the walls from ceiling to floor as hundreds, if not thousands, of revelers indulge in endless [free] pancakes and live music. This is no stuffy wine-and-cheese, pretentious, someone-gag-me art event. It’s an innovative reimagining of the art show concept. A welcoming vibe for up-and-coming artists and musicians to strut their stuff in a free verse, anything goes environment.“ [Emphasis added] The intention is good, but now I know what it really means. 

At the time that I applied, I was just starting to focus on taking myself seriously as an artist. I’d been in that show over the summer and I kept hearing that I needed to get my work in front of people as a way to get started. I was emerging from a place I felt trapped in – a place where I didn’t feel worthy or good enough or important enough or creative enough and started allowing myself to explore my desires and creative calling. 

When I applied and was accepted into Pancakes and Booze, I told myself that just participating would be enough. I had set an expectation in my mind based on the marketing of the event, and knew subconsciously that it would not be the right market for my work based on my pricing. Jason Mathias is a luxury fine art photographer making money selling large printings of his landscape and conceptual photographs. I listened to a lot of the interviews he has online and learned that he does demographic research on the faires and shows to decide if he’s going to participate (or even apply), and that he looks specifically into the demographic of the area where the event is being held. I realized that pancakes and booze chose a good neighborhood. The Capitol Hill area has a median income of $104,000, with the average income being over $170,000.* But they didn’t market to that demographic because the people who showed up and paid the $10 entry fee were mostly friends and family and people who wanted to attend a low cost event to hang out at and drink on a Saturday night. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting to experience art in that way. Accessibility is important when it comes to art, but the artists like me who signed up for this show did so with the goal of selling their art, and I didn’t see or hear of anything over $100 being sold. 

I’m curious about how they made a profit after hanging fees, ($15/piece, first two free), time and material investment, equipment investment, printing business cards and supplies, etc. Ultimately, I didn’t sell anything at the show, and paid $60 just to be there, on top of gas, mileage, and investment of prints/materials, but it wasn’t for nothing. 

I recently enrolled in a course called Making Art Making Money, created by Ann Rea who is a San Francisco based artist whose story has been featured on countless platforms. When I came across Ann Rea in late September, I was on the hunt for a mentor. First I heard an interview with Ann Rea and Jonanthan Fields on the Good Life Project. Once I learned about her mission to eliminate the starving artist myth and the clarity with which she shared her story and what she stands for and against, I knew I had to keep learning more. I found every interview of hers that I could, sometimes watching them multiple times. After a few weeks of still searching for other people like Ann and researching her program and past work, I decided to apply to her Making Art Making Money semester. I searched for alternative ways of starting an art business for over a month, and hers seemed like it was the one that best aligned with my values and intentions. I want my art business to be as authentic and feel as good as the other parts of my life. 

That show taught me that what Ann Rea is teaching is ESSENTIAL in starting and operating my business in a way that is true to me and also profitable! 

I had been telling Sarah that I didn’t and couldn’t have my art be a hobby. I believed there was a way I could sell my art and build a profitable business because I’d done it before with sex work – a business I used as a path to healing and out of survival. This art business was meant to be a step up from that. I wanted to start it out of love, not necessity, and I wanted to do it in a way that I felt good about. I know in my heart that I didn’t do sex work and learn all these things about valuing my self, my time, energy, and mind just to have an art hobby that made no money or one that made money in ways that I wouldn’t be proud of. Ann spoke to me like no one else I looked into did. I really struggled to find someone with pathways to creating a photography business outside of portraits and traditional avenues like wedding, family, etc. I don’t know many people or have ever seen anyone else making their living selling their art photography. So I applied to MAMM in October and was denied. I wrote on my goals list the intentions to manifest art friends and a coach and left it up to the universe. 

After doing the show and knowing what I knew about MAMM, my feelings about my art business and getting a mentor like Ann were confirmed. For weeks after the show I thought about how right Ann is about the art establishment, I mean even this little pop up event that aims to be “different” from the rest of the art establishment still serves as a somewhat predatory middleman to profit off the backs of artists who pay to run it. Then some pretty cool things happened. Ann opened up her course to everyone – eliminating the requirement that prevented me from joining the first time. Not only that, but her program strongly suggests having study partners – art friends! Synchronicities and intuition led me to signing up and ever since then I’ve been discovering more and more about myself through the work I’m doing inside and outside the program. My life has already been completely changed from it and I’m only on the 2nd part out of 8.

I am grateful and happy to be able to join. Once I started I learned that the first assignment was to read a book called Code to Joy by George Pratt Ph.D. It was huge for me, and I know it’s helped countless others. In preparation for the pancakes and booze art show, I created works that I had wanted to make for years. They were a series of five photos, four were memories or variations of memories from my childhood. I made them because they were snapshots of painful memories I had that stuck with me and would pop into my mind from time to time. I want to get rid of them, so I made the works titled Bunny, STOP, Car Nosebleed, and Precious. 

You can purchase 1 of 1 signed prints of these and other photographs here.

I knew that making those photos was a way of healing my trauma, but once they were done I was unsure what to do. I understood the process of getting old traumatic memories out of my conscious mind was helpful in some way, but I was missing pieces like what did I do next and why was it so important? Code to Joy answered all of those questions. That book alone was well worth the investment in the course. I am shocked there aren’t more people sharing it and his methods. But that’s also another post. 

Since then, the course work has been building on that idea and concept that we have to clear out the negative and find our why through specific methods and practices. I am so confident in the course and 1000x more confident in my ability to succeed as an artist. I can feel myself changing every day in subtle but important ways. I have continued to experience synchronicities and have realizations as I move through the work and continue along my path to healing. 

If you are interested in learning more about the course, check out or research Ann Rea.

If you do decide to enroll in the program and heard of it through me, I’d love to be your reference. I receive $500 as an incentive to refer people to the program, but in order to get the $500 I have to send Ann your email before you enroll. If you do enroll and I am able to refer you, I will split the incentive with you 50/50. Just reach out to me, because I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have and discuss details. 

I’m always curious to read your thoughts and feedback on what I covered in this post and hope you feel free to let me know what you think in an email, or comment below.

Thanks for reading! Hope to catch you on the next one.

*citation for demographic source accessed December 20th, 2022:

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