Michelle Prebich is a freelance artist who loves the dark/romantic era and existential themes. Bat in Your Belfry is a collection of original macabre art and art pieces curated and created by her. You can find her online and at various Halloween, Horror, and Pop Culture Conventions.
Harrison and I met her last year and absolutely fell in love with her art, so I’m very excited she was willing to take time to share.
How did you get started? How did the idea for this come about? How did you start off?
I officially started Bat in Your Belfry a year after I graduated college for fun and for some extra cash. I started out doing local artworks in Southern California and created an Etsy shop. Things sort of went on hold when I relocated to Los Angeles to do art dept work and other odd industry gigs. Around Nov 2013 I decided to commit to making something work and truly started putting in time and designs to grow what I am today.
When did you make the decision to leave the world of “standard” employment? Did you ease in while still working a more traditional job?
Honestly, I can’t truly say I ever had ’standard’ employment. The most long term consistent job I had was a desk job at a small studio but I quickly realized I wasn’t a fan of how they were running things. After that I was running Bat in Your Belfry and doing Art Dept and production jobs at the same time. Somewhere around 2015 I realized I was enjoying and making more doing art for me and I’ve pretty much been my own boss ever since.I still work as a freelance artist and recently director/editor. My sister and I have been creating animated music videos this past year which requires lots of hours of prep, footage logging and of course creating the story.
What is an average workday like for you? How many hours a day do you work on average?
An average work day truly depends on what type of hat I feel like wearing. If its a creative day (and sometimes those strike when you least expect it) I sit and work on two to three pieces at a time. I find that I like bouncing back and forth so if I get stuck on one piece, I can hop to the next and keep things fresh and approach the work with different eyes. My work various between making new pieces for If it’s a ‘business’ day I organize stock, research for up coming shows, maintain my shop (take photos, create listings and such) and work on my social media presence. Making sure I have enough product and supplies for shipping is another type of day. I’m always checking messages and trying to answer questions that potential clients or customers have.
How often do you exhibit at shows or fairs?
Ideally I love to have one good show a month. Conventions tend to pick up in the Spring-Fall so that’s when things get pretty crazy. But I love it, I imagine it’s what being on tour is like except you are the band and the roadies. I do the Pasadena Rosebowl Flea market every month and pop in on artwalks once in a while.
What was the first show you did and how did it go? (What was the aftermath in terms of how you moved forward?)
The very first show I did was the Riverside Artwalk in dec of 2012. I was selling hand made voodoo dolls and these stitched heart ornaments with pin back buttons I had made. I made $60 and thought that was amazing at the time (which is hilarious now). My first real convention I did was SCARELA and it treated me very well and made truly want to explore the convention scene (especially Horror/Halloween shows).
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Always keep working and don’t be stagnant. I’m constantly trying to keep my artwork fresh and I’ll often retire designs that no longer speak to me. Presentation is also a HUGE deal. I’ve had customers think I’m a much bigger operation than I truly am by being professional and have a very aesthetically cohesive set up. Honest confidence also helps. No one likes an ego maniac, but if you aren’t excited about what you are doing, how is anyone going to be excited about buying anything?
What plans do you have for expansion?
I’d love to get into more shops through out the country. When I went to go visit New Orleans for the first time this past year I stumbled across an awesome little shop in the French Quarter called the “Boutique du Vampyre”. One thing lead to another and now they carry some of my art and enamel pins! I’d love for that to happen in other cities. I’d also love to keep growing my Etsy shop so I can focus on going to just big convention shows and spend more time creating.
What outsiders have been most important to your business success? (e.g., fans, customers, mentors, etc.)
I honestly couldn’t have gotten this off the ground without the support from my boyfriend Danny and my family. You’ll often see me at shows with him or sometimes my dad. The horror community in general is amazingly supportive. There are some awesome shops out there who do a lot to support others in the horror and pin scene and it’s just really cool to see that support. It’s nice to know that not everything is as cut throat as one might think. I’m of course incredibly indebted to anyone who has decided to support me and picked up a pin or piece of art over the years.
What has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique?
You know, I’m still growing and regarding marketing I guess aesthetic and honesty have been the most effective tools in my box. It doesn’t hurt to talk to people (I know it’s hard!) It also doesn’t hurt to contact and ask questions. I use to be afraid I asked way too many questions in the beginning. NEVER feel bad about asking questions.
What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
I’m at a bit of a loss on this one… I will say. Stay away from anyone offering a service of representation for a fee. I’ve seen some of these and been contacted. Take time to organically grow your brand.
What three pieces of advice would you offer creative entrepreneurs starting out today?
Know your voice. Grow your brand organically. Engage
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently? (If you knew then what you know now)
Funny enough, I’ve had reoccurring nightmares about being dumped into that past and being afraid of messing up the timeline to get back to the present. I wouldn’t change anything. Because you wouldn’t be who you are if you did. Good and bad experience are how we grow.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
I’ve committed to some pretty bad shows before. It always helps to do your research, try to find out as much as you can about an event before committing.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
This past summer I had the most successful show through Midsummer Scream. It was such a jammed packed weekend and everyone was so excited and passionate. It was a blast!
What is your favorite thing about living this creative life?
The fact that I’m allowed to be a visual story teller through images and it’s supporting me kinda blows my mind.
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
What keeps you motivated when the going gets tough?
Everyone is allowed bad days, keep your chin up. Learn why things didn’t work and try again.