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Following your passion: Lessons from artist Kerry Armstrong

Kerry Armstrong left the corporate world to pursue her passion for art but she still values the experience she gained in business.

Kerry Armstrong

Kerry Armstrong is a Melbourne-based abstract expressionist whose work reflects glimpses of her life. Her installations, collections and exhibitions have been showcased in Australia and around the world, not to mention in several magazines including Vogue Living, Belle, Country Style and Grand Designs.

Kerry was one of 10 Australian entrepreneurs to be featured in a stunning photoshoot for International Women’s Day 2019, organised by the founder of Australian fashion label Mastani, Kudrat Makkar. The photoshoot celebrates the rise of Australian female entrepreneurs and aims to inspire younger and older generations alike to discover and live out their true purpose.

The CEO Magazine spoke to Kerry about following her dreams as an artist and what her standout exhibitions are so far.

Q. What is the best part of your job?

A. The best part of my career has been the privilege of combining my passion for painting with my commercial skill set. Years in the corporate world were so much more valuable to me than I could have possibly imagined. My role in the gallery as a Director is also incredibly satisfying. On one hand, you’re bringing joy to people and on the other, you’re playing a role in facilitating a strong career path for artists.

Q. What career achievements are you most proud of?

A. I’m incredibly proud of our two Melbourne Galleries in High Street Armadale and Cheltenham (Studio Gallery Melbourne). My personal best achievement was having a sellout show at Sydney Contemporary last year, represented by .M Contemporary, Woollahra. We are about to fly to Art Central in Hong Kong to exhibit there as well, which is such a huge honour.

Q. What do you wish someone had told you at the start of your career?

A.The power of overcoming the fear of awkwardness and discomfort in terms of learning. I now know that everyone suffers from this in one way or another and pushing through one tiny step at a time is all that is needed for growth.

Q. Can you share your three top tips for building a company/brand?

  1. Gain a firm understanding of your existing and potential customer. Focus on your communications with them first and foremost. Collaborate with likeminded, smart companies who also apply the same ‘client loving’ culture.
  2. Understand that change is the only constant. Keep a sharp eye on the horizon in your industry and leave your ego behind when important decisions need to be made. Smart operators go with the flow. Small, dexterous companies can typically outrun larger organisations in times of great turbulence because they can change direction quickly.
  3. Gain and maintain visibility over every detail of your business. Understanding your operating costs with accuracy allows you to confidently make growth decisions and keep a fast pace in your industry.

Q. How do you overcome doubts?

A. I like to have an X-ray vision of the metrics in every aspect of the business. This applies to understanding our growth rate and any patterns that are forming. When you can fall back on how your business is actually performing (and why), you can rest from the monster chasing you in moments of doubt.

Q. What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A. Since I followed my dreams by leaving the corporate world and embracing an artistic career, I’ve become more aware of how few women succeed in my chosen field. This statistic can and will change with strong artistic role models and more muscle in our industry to encourage a more inclusive and equitable blend of female and male artists. With that said, I believe International Women’s Day will anticipate the future and provide more role models for women in art.

We will be celebrating IWD with a morning tea at our High Street, Armadale, Gallery.

Q. Why was it important for you to be involved in the Mastani shoot?

A. It was an honour to be included in the shoot and our Industrial Gallery space in Cheltenham made the perfect backdrop. Meeting other women in business is the only way you can truly connect and my hopes are to continue the relationships formed on that day.

Mastani International Women’s Day photoshoot credits:
Wearing Mastani Label AW19 collection – Edit 1 – available online Monday 4 March
Wardrobe – Mastani Label
Photographer – Liane Hurvitz
Stylist – Jessica Alizzi
HMU – Chantelle Baker
Location – Studio Gallery Melbourne
Artwork – Kerry Armstrong Art
Floral – Flowers Vasette
Jewellery – Fiorina
Furniture – Grazia & Co

Amy and Sara Chamberlain, founders of The Real Estate Stylist, were also featured in the photo shoot. They shared their tips for business success.

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