It’s a snowy day in January, Carolyn Stich strolls the downtown streets of Holland, Michigan snuggled in a coat with a smile on her face. Often, Stich walks from her little apartment to her art studio and gift shop filled with whimsical souvenirs and colorful art.
Stich has been an artist for the majority of her life, “It’s one of the few talents that I have. I have drawn for as long as I can remember,” Stich said. Her story is just as magical and intriguing as the items in her shop.
Stich knew in high school that she would grow up to be an artist, “When I was in high school, people would pay me their lunch money or something to draw a wallpaper for the inside of their locker of all the interests that they liked.” Her mother was also an artist, but she sadly passed away when Stich was in high school. Stich grew up working by her mother’s side and creating art together, “ My mother was an artist, so I used to draw and paint with her,” Stich said. She recalls assisting her mother on art projects on the weekends and after school. By following the footsteps of her mother, Stich feels she’s reliving those wonderful memories, “I love those memories that I have of painting with her,” she said.
Throughout her career, Stich has experienced many beautiful moments with her customers. Her favorite memories being the simple actions from her customers. Stich recalls, “These two women came in and they were talking about my art and they were talking about ‘The Girls’ (I have a series called ‘The Girls’). I happened to mention something and one them said ‘Are you the artist?’ and I said ‘Yes, I am.’ Then, they both started crying. They said their sister just passed away from Alzheimer’s and in her room before she lost her ability to speak and communicate they would always laugh about how those girls were the three of them.”
Heartwarming stories like this make Stich incredibly happy. The knowledge that people are so impacted by her art is why she loves her job. She’s glad that her art is so inspiring and impactful, “It tears me up that even now that my art was so impactful to make someone happy during those difficult times. I get stories like that and it blows me away, I don’t even understand how that could happen.”
The moment a customer walks through the threshold of Stich’s shop, they are welcomed with beautiful artwork plastered on cards, mugs, signs, journals, and much more. The bright and colorful art captures the attention of every customer and appeals to any person that walks into the store. Her art varies from humorous puns to paintings of animals to detailed paintings of landscapes or buildings. Her art offers something for everyone.
Her whimsical and captivating art is one extremely important aspect of her life, “Art means everything to me. I’ve just been really lucky to be able to do something I love so much,” Stich said. Recently, Stich went through an extremely difficult journey of breast cancer, “January 10th I was diagnosed, and I kinda knew about it,” she said.
Stich went to Holland Hospital for the procedure. She “went through the whole screening thing and it was pretty clear what needed to be done,” Stich said.
Fortunately, the journey was not too difficult or stressful for Stich. She is incredibly grateful for the amazing staff of Holland Hospital, “We have such an amazing hospital here in Holland, we’re very lucky. We have such compassionate nurses, doctors, and radiologists. With their help, it wasn’t near as bad as I thought it would be. Breast cancer is very curable if you catch it early,” she said. Everything went smoothly with the procedure.
Throughout the hardship, she stayed optimistic and hopeful, “I feel very fortunate, I lost my hair but that’s okay because it came back!” Stich said.
Stich is admired by many people who are drawn to her friendly attitude and colorful spirit. Throughout her struggles, she had an army of friends and supporters by her side helping through the difficult time, “I was overwhelmed by the love of friends, family, and the customers of my store. My team, my staff was incredible,” Stich said.
She did not let breast cancer stand in her way of art, “I was able to continue creating and drawing. I came into work all the time as well,” she said. Though Stich was overwhelmed with stress and fear, she had art to help her through it all, “I was very fortunate to have that because when you’re dealing with something so scary or difficult it’s nice to have something that puts your mind somewhere else. I’m glad I wasn’t home just thinking about it, I was able to keep going with my art. Which was a total blessing.”
After a rough journey battling breast cancer, she’s with a new location and new art. Recently, she moved her art studio from College Avenue (where she has worked since 2015) to Eighth Street. Now that they have a new location, Stich is preparing for an incredible comeback, “My immediate goal is to make this wonderful little place successful and we do well here with all new art and new products and trying to keep it a happy place,” Stich said. That is the most important thing to Stich, that her customers feel happy and welcomed the moment they step through the threshold of her dazzling shop.