Amy Schultz | Unplain Jane Studio

About Amy Schultz and Unplain Jane Studio

Personality is made up of countless, wonderful details. Honing in on the details elevates a photograph, illuminates a story and can spark connections between people and places, people and people. The focus of my studio practice is to celebrate wonderful details.  

In fact, that’s why I named my practice “unplain jane studio.” Not only is it a wink to my middle name but it’s a nod to the beauty and complexity found in ordinary things. Jane isn’t so plain after all.

In my fine art photography, the compositional interplay of texture, fundamental shape, light and color reveal to me a story worth sharing. As my mother would say, “We’ll see what we see by taking a look.” In the end, my favorite photos are found objects shot in the moment, and they are the ones I’m most excited to share with you.

In addition to my commitment to growing as an artist, I welcome opportunities to partner in my parallel life as a writer/blogger, commercial photographer, communications professional and overall creative-type. When I’m working with a client to promote a cause, product or business, after all, it’s still all about celebrating the details and creating meaningful connections.

Unplain Jane Studio
Unplain Jane Studio
Unplain Jane Studio
Unplain Jane Studio

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What Others are Saying

Amy is a great artist. She has an incredible eye. I have purchased note cards and a picture printed on aluminum. Both purchases were very easy. Amy responds quickly to questions. There is something for everyone in her selection. Check it out!! (Debbie).

Profiles of Leadership | Topic 1Who are you?

At the beginning of my career as a communications professional, my academic background (B.A. in marketing; M.A. in higher education administration), confidence in myself, predisposition for company loyalty, and unbridled enthusiasm for getting stuff done helped me get to the right places at the right times.

What made those places right? Truly, all of the credit for anything good I ever did goes to the individuals and teams who welcomed me, mentored me, inspired me, and showed me the way.

As my book-learning evolved into street smarts, bigger opportunities to succeed came my way. These experiences allowed me to welcome, mentor, inspire, and show others the way. My professional mantras were: be savvy, trustworthy, hard-working and optimistic. Over time, my teams and I went from executing the vision of others’ to developing and selling our own, and as we did, I learned how take the heat and share the credit.

Now here I am, eighteen months into owning my own business as a photographer, writer and creative-type. Entrepreneurship is a special form of leadership, and without every single day of my previous gigs, I would never have developed the skills and audacity to go it alone. (January, 2017).

Profiles of Leadership | Topic 2 | Building Credibility

It would be great to say that, at this point in my leadership journey, I’ve patented my own, incredibly clever formula for inspiring others. A formula that synthesizes emotions, backgrounds, experiences, personalities and propensities of individuals and teams and converts them all into positive energy and forward motion. A formula for every situation, and a formula that works every time.

Nope. No such magic, no such formula. I can, however, say with certainty that the only circumstances in which I successfully inspire others is when:

1. I’m genuinely enthusiastic about the thing myself, and
2. It’s not about me.

Developing an interest in something is easy; maintaining a high level of enthusiasm over time is another. Fortunately for me, I believe in the life-changing goodness that higher education can offer, so for the years I worked as a communications professional in a university setting, I not only enjoyed drinking the Kool-Aid but was proud to serve it by the pitcher-full. I feel the same way about the work I’m doing today as a creative type-slash-entrepreneur.

In order for personal and professional enthusiasm to remain lit, let alone burn hot enough to inspire others, it must be fueled continually. You can’t inspire someone else if you’re not inspired yourself. I fuel my enthusiasm with new knowledge, new expertise, big victories, little victories, and the inevitable hard knocks. In fact, the hard-won victories are almost always the most sustaining.

Still, I’ve learned that my well-fueled enthusiasm isn’t enough to inspire others. In fact, I think it’s grammatically – or maybe even emotionally – incorrect even to say that inspiration is something I or anyone can bestow. My clients and collectors are investing in me and my work because I’ve taken the time to hear their story, understand their goals, and create a connection that makes sense to both of us. I don’t inspire them; they inspire themselves.

Which brings me to the portrait I’ve selected to accompany this story (which is supposed to be a caption. Oops). This bulletin board hangs next to my desk in my home office/studio. See that sepia tone photograph? It was taken by a new client whom I met last week at an art festival where I was selling my work. After a terrific conversation about art and family and living life to the fullest, he went home, took the photo, and brought it to me the next day to thank me for taking the time.

No, thank YOU.

Profiles of Leadership | Topic 3 | What is your vision for the future?

What is my vision for the future?

Can a question can get much bigger than this one?

I wish someone had asked me this at the beginning of each decade of my life. I’d love to know how twenty-year old me would have answered it. And thirty- and forty-year old me. Not to mention when I was ten. If I had to guess, at twenty my answer would have probably had something to do with approval. At thirty, love. At forty, stamina. And at ten, art.

Today’s vision would be impossible without the past. To me, the past delivered — through a combination of benevolence, acerbity and irony — the revelation that I do, in fact, possess enough stamina, love and self-worth to tackle the absolute ambiguity of the future.

Now that I’ve taken my career-slash-life in a more creative direction, I see unlimited possibilities. Every project is mine alone to take up or pass by; every endeavor to envision and to render; every partnership an unlimited opportunity for good will.

Still, this optimism (if that’s what you call it) alone can only get you so far. What gets you the rest of the way is focus. Therefore, because my life and my career are in sync, I’m completely focused on learning, on doing, on collaborating, and on growing creatively.

Unlimited possibilities combined with laser focus: that is my vision for the future. This vision, with persistence, will yield a very specific outcome, and it’s something that I can see with crystal clarity for the first time in my life. I can see it in my head and my heart and sometimes, it’s so tangible I can even feel it in my arms and hands.

Someday, when I’m old and grey, chilling out in a rocking chair and talking about my life, the story will begin with, “It took me awhile, but I finally became an artist.”

Profiles of Leadership | Topic 4 | Vision: Creating Buy-In

How do you create buy-in for your vision?

This is me, demonstrating how not to persuade anyone to do anything.

I know, I know. Sometimes it seems like only way to get things done is to flex your muscles and blame the other guy. Tapping into negative emotions like anger and fear is a powerful tool. Politicians, captains, spouses and bosses have been using this technique since the beginning of time. But if you’re the kind of leader who wants to build your house on durable rock instead of fickle sand, you’ve got to close, not widen, the distance between.

Unlike the “me” in this photo, life has taught me that rallying people to your point of view requires you to remove your own tinted view of the world and take your arrogant elbows off the table (yes, mom). Instead, open your posture, tame your body language, and rather than driving home points, rely on your strength of character, vision, patience and upbeat and persistent passion.

Picture the prototypical Venn diagram. Your world view is one circle; theirs is the other. When you can move each other’s world view close enough together for everyone to see the overlap, baby, that’s when the magic happens.

How do you made John Venn proud? Here are my Top Ten tips for persuading others. For good.

• The first “win” in “win-win” belongs to the other person.
• Know what to ask for, and know what you will and won’t compromise on.
• Asking and listening before pitching and selling.
• “No” means “listen better.”
• What motivates you may not motivate the other person.
• You took time to develop your vision. Give him/her time to catch up to you.
• Your real goal is to earn the other person’s trust.
• Establish milestones together and celebrate achieving them together.
• The fifty-first time you follow-up is as important as the first.
• Take the blame. Give the credit.

Footnote: Fear not. This is a photo of me goofing around, not running a press conference, a panel discussion or a meeting. When this photo was taken, I thought it was funny and used it as my Facebook profile photo until so many people asked me who it was, I took it down. I’ll take that as a good sign.

Profiles of Leadership | Topic 5 | Vision: Sharing it

How do you share your vision with the world?

My response to this month’s topic, “Share a strategy you have used to let the world know about your vision,” may get me kicked out of the Profiles of Leadership Class. Two reasons: 1. Raul said to keep our answers brief and I didn’t, and 2. while it probably should be, letting the world know about my vision isn’t my top priority.

Yes, I leverage social media to promote my point of view and my art. I jump into causes and volunteer my talents and time and money. I blog about my entrepreneurial journeys and leadership lessons. I participate in festivals and gallery shows so that my art can reach a broader audience. By doing all of this, I hope to bring pleasure or insight or comfort or justice to others.

All the aforementioned are tactics, not strategies. The only true strategy I’ve found that really makes your vision stick is to focus on people, not on things and not on goals (at least, not at first). Lead by example. Don’t ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. Be all in.

Throughout my career, my greatest satisfaction has come from directing teams that created a lot of somethings out of nothing. We started programs from scratch, created brands, launched community outreach initiatives, kick-started philanthropic events and even birthed traditions. I’ve also been around to see the dismantling of some of those initiatives, even when they’re still vibrant and viable. It’s tough. All the work. All the hours. All the heart.

When something is returned to its original state of nothing, however, all is not lost. Those involved in the original experience are now addicted to being a part of something good. They’ve learned how to successfully lead others. This is the difference between having an impact and leaving a legacy, which is immeasurably more important (to me) than “letting the world know.” It’s lighting the way.