CreativeMornings offers a monthly breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Leading thinkers, designers, and entrepreneurs come together for free coffee, breakfast, and a short inspirational talk relating to the theme of the month. Washington DC’s CreativeMornings hosted the talented Maggie O’Neill, fine artist and Co-Founder of SwatchRoom, for a talk on “COLOR” at the Blind Whino, a vibrantly painted arts club and event space located in the Southwest Corridor of Washington D.C.
The venue, an old repurposed Friendship Baptist Church with a full building mural wrap by the artist HENSE, was an extremely appropriate setting for a talk on how to “Live in Color,” a mantra O’Neill embodies.
O’Neill had no idea she was starting a business back in 2003 when she began painting murals in kids’ rooms and doing Venetian plaster in bathrooms in Virginia. All she knew was that she wanted to make a living from creating and selling art; these projects provided a different venue to display her work and passion.
“Like in many careers, you crawl before you walk—and I made a lot of mistakes, and they were costly. But I learned a ton and I made a network of clients who knew how much I cared; and I really cared about my work,” said O’Neill as she began her talk.
Upon starting O’Neill Studios, a boutique decorative and fine art studio, O’Neill was surprised to find the myriad of stereotypes surrounding her work as a professional artist and creative contractor. People assumed that because she was an artist, she must be lazy, starving, never on time, and unable to bill accordingly; all things that simply weren’t true. She emphasized that the work she did was no less valuable than the work someone conducted in an office, behind a desk or in a suit.
“All you have to do is show up on time, send them an invoice, and do good work. I mean it’s really not that challenging, but those three things people don’t do. You’re ahead of the game if you just show up for an appointment,” she added.
Often the only woman in the room, O’Neill found it striking how in 2014, she was treated like she did not know what she was talking about when dealing with matters of construction. Similarly, her business partner and formally trained architect, Warren Weixler, was disregarded when it came to design and stylistic choices simply because he was a man.
While working in the field, O’Neill also noticed a large disconnect between “creatives” and clients. It was then that she realized that she could champion small creative business owners who had brilliance to sell, but could not do it themselves because it was not what they were good at.
“I can be the gatekeeper for all the creatives who needed work and the clients that needed those people, but they didn’t know how to find each other.”
And thus SwatchRoom was born, a full service creative design and fabrication studio located at 1537 9th St. NW. They are fabricators, designers, installers, philanthropists, and most importantly, makers. Be sure to check out the restaurants, bars, and offices spaces they have created including, Oya, Lincoln, Irish Whiskey, Sax, Hanks Oyster Bar, Capitale, Teddy and the Bully Bar, and 1776.
“This town is filled with money and need,” says O’Neill. “So why is anybody without work? Why is anybody unable to keep work?”
The next CreativeMornings talk will take place in February. Check out the CreativeMornings DC page for more information and updates!
*ALL PHOTOS BY Rosalyn Murphy*