Whether an art student or pursuing art on their own, the University of Connecticut has been home to many talented artists. With School of Fine Arts exhibitions and rotating displays throughout campus, the community can experience and appreciate the works of students and faculty. Another way people support the arts is through purchasing, but there aren’t as many opportunities to do so at Storrs. A thriving art business community on social media, Redbubble and other storefronts allows people to purchase wherever they are, but nothing beats browsing and admiring the selections in person. The Japanese Student Association offered local artists like Nini Ly and Chelsea See the opportunity to showcase their talents and sell their wares at the Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival on April 22, part of Spring Weekend.
“A friend of mine who is friends with a member of JSA reached out to me about the opportunity because they needed booths and my friend knew I sell my art!” Ly, a sixth-semester fine arts major with a concentration in illustration/animation, said. Her artist pen name on social media and for her website is bahn.ni, a play on banh mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich. “I would love to hold another booth at the Sakura Matsuri if they host it again next year!”
See’s table was next to Ly’s, selling various products with cute cat designs or recognizable animated characters like those from Studio Ghibli, Sanrio and the anime “Ouran High School Host Club.”
“It’s been a while since I was around that many other students so it was super fun to see everyone having a good time and enjoying the performances and booths,” See, an eighth-semester art major, said. She goes by the artist pen name Starmint Art.
See’s wares included colorful, fun popsockets ($9) and heart buttons with your design of choice ($3.50). She creates them right at the table with pre-printed art. The artist also sold small stickers for $1.50, large stickers for $3.50, a deal of $8 for three large stickers or a deal of $3 for three small stickers.
“My favorite thing to sell are definitely my stickers because I think they’re a fun way to get my artwork out there at a relatively affordable price,” See said. “I personally use stickers all the time and buy from other artists so I enjoy being a part of it.”
Ly’s booth featured cute pastel prints as well as stickers in a similar charming style, with Snoopy featuring in some of the designs. She explained that her work focuses on cute, simple and pastel stationery and artwork, using a variety of art mediums like digital art, oil paint, clay and other traditional mediums.
“My works are made to attract children’s love in color,” Lee explains on her website. “I specifically incorporate pastel colors into my works because they are easy on children’s eyes and quite comforting too.”
Ly’s prints ranged from $4.50 to $8. She also featured coasters and larger art pieces made from punch needle embroidery for $5 to $20.
“My favorite thing to make are definitely stickers and prints,” Ly said. “As a stationery collector myself, it is so satisfying to see my works made into these items and having bundles of them at a time! In terms of what I like to make, I love working with clay and making food related figurines or keychains!”
See expressed gratitude for the response to her art.
“[I]t was amazing to see how many people were interested in my work and liked my products,” See, said. “Everyone was so kind and encouraging, it was all very heartwarming. I appreciate the support and all the well wishes.”
Ly expressed excitement about the first time selling her art in person.
“…[I]t was a surreal experience seeing my customers in real life look at my works, say it’s cute and even purchasing them from me or grabbing a business card!” Ly said, pointing out the business cards and free stickers displaying her artist name. She mentioned that she will manage an art booth at The Market at 1115 Main hosted by The Firestone Cafe in Manchester. “It was also overwhelming as I did not expect so many people interested in my stuff!”
Ly sells prints, stickers, memo pads, keychains and other products with her art on her website, banhniart.com, and features her art on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok with the account name @banh.ni. See sells prints, pins and buttons, various kinds of stickers and more on her website, starmintart.com, and features her art on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok with the account name @starmint_art.