Business may bring to mind images of cubicles, black coffee and long meetings. But for student Zoe Pringle, owner of Pringle Painting Plus, business is a powerful form of creativity and self-expression.
Pringle is a junior psychology major with a minor in studio art. She holds several leadership positions as a resident advisor, desk assistant and peer mentor. When she’s not busy juggling her classes and school activities, Pringle runs her own business selling personally made works of art, from jewelry to paintings to crocheted items.
“I’ve been an artist pretty much my whole life, and back in high school I used to occasionally sell paintings,” Pringle says.
“During COVID, I did a lot of self-reflection, and I thought about the things I wanted to do with my life. That was my senior year of high school in 2020. I graduated and I just decided, ‘Why not start my own business?’”
Pringle says the people around her, who often complimented and expressed interest in her work, further inspired and encouraged her.
“People around me would ask, ‘Oh, where’d you get that necklace?’ or ‘Do you sell your work?’ And my answer would always be, ‘Well, I can. I could,’” says Pringle.
While planning the business launch, Pringle says she carefully considered the its name. She says that adding the word “plus” was essential to authentically represent who she is, and the message she wants her business to send.
“I decided to create Pringle Painting Plus because I have a broad variety of things that I like to make. And I feel like it’s important to not limit yourself,” Pringle says.
“A lot of times, when people have a business, a marketing strategy is to make one thing and roll with it. To me, that feels more commercial. As a human, you go through different phases and different interests, so I added ‘Plus.’ So, not just ‘Pringle Painting,’ but also all the other things I do.”
It officially started in 2021. Her first ever sale was at a protest on Juneteenth in her hometown of Milford. She was asked to be a speaker at the Juneteenth protest and to sell her work as part of the support of Black-owned businesses.
“That was my first in-person sale,” Pringle says. “It kind of just took off from there.”
Pringle continued to sell her pieces at flea markets and pop-ups.
She says she particularly enjoys backyard shows, which are smaller events for musicians and artists to put out their tables. She says these help her meet and connect with other local artists, a community close to her heart.
“Honestly, it’s not about the money for me. I love building communities,” Pringle says. “That’s why I’m an RA and began here as a peer mentor. Being a leader comes naturally to me. Being in a friend group where everybody encourages each other’s success and business is super helpful for that, and it creates a better community.
“Post-COVID, I didn’t know many people in New Haven, coming from Milford and living there my whole life. Now, I know other people at other New Haven schools, and people that come out to these events.”
Pringle says she appreciates this person-to-person aspect of her business. Although she also offers her pieces for sale online through an Etsy shop, Pringle says it’s almost always empty because she has much more success at in-person events.
“I like it better that way,” Pringle says. “I’d rather connect with people and talk to them; tell them my process or learn about the art that they may do. A lot of artists shop within the artist community as well. I’d rather do all of that than just package something up and ship it out.”
Pringle admits that she has difficulty parting with some of her pieces, especially ones she sees so much of herself in. For example, she sold a particularly personal painting that she had made in high school which had an impact on her.
“That painting was really, really special to me,” Pringle says. “I saw parts of myself in it that I hadn’t seen before, and it had been hanging on my wall ever since I left high school. I sold it to an older Black woman. All the other pieces had price tags, and that one didn’t because I didn’t want to sell it. But she was like, ‘I will take this for whatever you want.’ I only wanted to sell it to her because she gave me really good vibes. It felt like it was going to a good home.”
Pringle says she loves sharing these parts of herself with others rather than holding onto them.
The business has stimulated personal growth in her. Meeting new people in the art community has prompted her to think deeply about herself and her future goals.
“It’s taught me a lot about how life works,” Pringle says. “All the different personalities that I’ve come across have helped me so much with sculpting who I want to be. I feel like that’s an important question at this stage of my life. ”
Her psychology studies concentrate on mental health, and she wants to become an art therapist. She says she believes that her business relates closely to her career path.
“Having my business and constantly creating new art, branching out into different avenues and making those connections with other artists in the area will definitely help me professionally,” Pringle says.
Pringle further explains that her own experiences growing up, including creating Pringle Painting Plus, have shown her the positive impact art can have on a person’s life, and why art therapy is important.
“Art has always been a therapy for me growing up,” Pringle says. “And so being a therapist is definitely what I want to do.”
Pringle plans to continue her business through college and into graduate school, hoping to build a bigger community.
By: Gabrielle Tunucci