"You don't just wake up one morning and you have a successful business. I, like everyone else, have had to learn the hard way. I've had ups and downs I've had days where I didn't think I could go on ... it wasn't worth it. I didn't know what the heck I was doing. But, I had a supportive husband and I have my faith ... and I believe that nothing in life really worth having comes easy. You have to work at whatever it is you want.
Therein lies the satisfaction and the feeling of accomplishment when you've had to work hard for it."
Artist Bonnie Mohr
Staff Photo by Serra Muscatello
Artist Bonnie Mohr paints a scene with oil paints inside her artist’s studio at her dairy farm in rural Glencoe.
GLENCOE - Rural Glencoe Artist Bonnie Mohr smiles as she welcomes you into her studio.
Her handshake is firm, but her demeanor is warm and friendly. She is very busy moving around the studio talking to people and helping them. She is a woman who believes in working hard in life.
Mohr said they have been busy getting ready to be an exhibitor at World Dairy Expo which is a show in Madison, Wis.
If you go:
What: Bonnie Mohr Open Houses
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 3, 4, and 5; from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 6; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 1, 2, 3; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Bonnie Mohr Studio located at 10454 160th St. Glencoe
The studio is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday but please call ahead or schedule a visit by calling 1-800-264-6647.
To learn more about Mohr and her art
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"It's the largest dairy show in the North American continent," said Mohr.
She is the wife of a dairy farmer, John, and they have five children: Amanda, 21, Katelyn, 19, Taylor, 16, Jacob, 12, and Zachary, 10.
Although she is a well-known artist for her "rural American" and "inspirational styles" of art - she claims that her art is not the legacy she will be leaving behind her.
"My legacy is not my art. My legacy is my children," Mohr said, "I've always known that motherhood had to come first and my business was second. In that breath, there's a lot of commitment."
Mohr was raised the second oldest of eight children on a dairy farm. She is the daughter of Fredrick and Marianne Bianchi of the rural New Ulm area.
"My parents were, and still are salt of the earth people, to whom I owe thanks and gratitude, for raising us right," said Mohr.
After she married her husband John, they lived in the Cities for about five years. While living there John worked for a dairy sanitation company. Mohr worked for a dairy magazine doing sales and advertising.
She said she always had an interest in art.
"I've always really loved art," said Mohr, "I was not particularly good at it, but I loved it.
She said she was fascinated by color and paintings.
"I went and bought myself some paints started to teach myself how to paint," said Mohr, "I went to art shows and I would just ask questions and talk to other artists. I'm very much a visual person more so than a book person."
She began painting in oil paints when she had free time in evenings and weekends. She chose oil paints because that is what the masters used for their work. Mohr sought out art styles that she liked and learned from those artists.
"There is no art background in my family," said Mohr, "I always say I'm just kind of a genetic freak that I ended up to be an artist. Like who would have ever thought I would be an artist. It was my interest. I love art."
She would paint evenings and weekends while she was working a day job.
There came a point when she felt she was actually becoming "decent" at her painting.
She landed two commissions to paint two big bulls for Select Sires out of Ohio.
"At that point I decided, I'm ready so I quit my job and I said 'I'm going to try this.'" said Mohr, "It was sort of a gutsy move I suppose in retrospect because I really had no clue what I was getting into I had no idea how to run a business. But I was young and determined and energetic. I thought you know if it doesn't work out what's the worst thing that's going to happen - I'll have to go back and get a job somewhere. I decided that I didn't want to wait until I was old someday and say, 'Why didn't I try?'"
It was at a point when the couple had no children and they had not yet purchased their farm.
"I just thought there was little risk," said Mohr, "I did these two commissions and from there it was a very slow, sometimes painful, baby-step process of building a business. I knew nothing about the art business All I knew was that I had the energy and the ambition to figure it out and see what I could find."
Mohr asked other people a lot of questions to find out the information she needed to know to make her business successful. She learned about packaging, printers, price points, and marketing her art.
"John really wanted to get back to the farm. We're both from dairy farms," said Mohr, "He spent his weekends searching."
In 1988 Mohr and her husband John bought their farm in rural Glencoe. It was a foreclosure property during the farm crisis of the late 1980s.
She was at first inspired to paint what she loved which was cows and rural America. Mohr soon found out there was a market for what she wanted to paint.
"We had a little square farmhouse it sat where our new house sits now," said Mohr, "At the get-go I was kind of a typical farm wife and helping my husband with chores and we were having babies."
About 15 years ago the family had outgrown their original house.
"We basically had outgrown the house because at that time I painted over there in the tiny house. I did my own packing and shipping. I had no employees."
She had also outgrown her time schedule. After their third child was born, the couple made a decision.
"I would focus full-time on my art and he hired help for outside," said Mohr. "From there forward I made a committed effort to grow my business and be as successful as I could at being an artist."
She also hired her first employee to answer the phone and help with packing/shipping orders.
Mohr now has three gals who help her out on a pretty full-time basis. Lana works as an office manager for the business. Karen, who is Lana's mother, has been helping Mohr for a long time with the inventory, packing/shipping. She also helps Mohr at shows. Tammy is employed as the bookkeeper.
Mohr sells a variety of her original artistic products and other gift ware items at the Bonnie Mohr Studio. Anything from note cards, giclees (fine art digital prints) and framed prints to candles. She has a full website, online shopping, and a catalog of her products. Mohr also attends various shows to sell her work.
"That all just grew over time," said Mohr.
In about 1996 a farm house was moved onto their dairy farm from about a quarter of a mile away down the road.
"When they were building a new house they were going to push this house into a hole in the ground," said Mohr, "We were looking of putting something up at the same time. I just love the look of it. It just had such a cottage farm appeal about it. We moved it up here and put it on the foundation and then we added the warehouse part of it."
The farm house now serves as an office area for Mohr's art business in addition to being an office for their dairy farm. There is a display area, framing area, and warehouse/storage area attached to the office area.
"Once I do an original painting I get it captured electronically," said Mohr, "I work with a company in the Cities after we're done with our color proofing then we're ready to go to press and make reproductions. Usually I judge a piece of art and try to determine how popular it might be and what might sell."
Mohr has felt led down the path to branch into painting inspirational art.
"Living Life" which is the verse with the big tree on it has become her number one selling print.
How "Living Life" came to be is that it Mohr had stenciled it on the high walls of her display room.
"I decided to write sort of a mission statement of how I am and what I believe in," said Mohr, "Also, what I wanted to teach my kids in life before they leave home."
When her kids would go to sleep at night she would go over, climb up on a ladder and stencil about three feet at a time. For the next 10 years she got requests from people to get a copy of "Living Life." She would run it off on the copy machine to give it to them.
"Finally I realized that it was really marketable and I need to do something with this," said Mohr, "So I then I painted the tree to go with the verse."
Her painting and verse called "I Do" was inspired after she celebrated 25 years of marriage with her husband.
"I don't think my words are over the top profound," said Mohr, "It's common sense stuff it's just really basic stuff about living a good life, making good choices, being fair and honest. Our world has become self-centered and fast-paced and electronic and greedy. People have forgotten about visiting on the front porch with your neighbor, taking time to go to church, and teaching your kids the right things."
Those are the things she wants to promote with her inspirational art.
"I think happiness in life really stems from living a good life," said Mohr, "I think that comes from basics that a lot of us forget about."
Mohr paints in the top level of their new house in a large artists studio with lots of natural light coming through the windows. There are also areas in her studio for her children to be while she is working on her art.
"You know I feel like I could live until I was 200 or 300 and I'll never get all the paintings done that I want to paint," said Mohr, "I feel like I have so much to do yet. Sometimes you feel a sense of anxiousness because there's not enough time in the day. As a mother of five, and a dairy farmer's wife and I have three employees that's a lot of responsibility. So I end up with very little painting time which is who I am and that's what keeps all of this going. So the biggest challenge is to find that balance to make sure I don't get too busy in the all the facets of my life that I forget about painting. I have to be very conscientious about use of my time. Because that's the only way to try and keep all the balls in the air."
She has had to learn how to turn over things to other people and her staff to handle.
"The way to get it done is to surround yourself with good people who can help you," said Mohr, "My girls are wonderful and do a great job to help me keep the balls in the air."
Mohr has goals to some day create some inspirational books and children's books.
"I think my art is going to unfold to the fullest in the next 10 years," said Mohr, "I'm very, very excited about that. I feel like I've earned the time now to let it explode. Bottom line for me, I do the work of the God. I feel that I have been blessed He gave me something like He gives everybody something and what you do with it is kind of your test. How much you make of what you've been given is the challenge is what we all have. I feel like I work hard and love life every day because I've really been blessed. I tell my kids all the time - 'to whom much has been given, much is expected.' Whatever you've been given in life it's so that you play a part in earth, in life making something of yourself and contributing to the lives of those around you."
These days Mohr carries her camera with her all the time. She uses photographs for reference as she is painting her works.
Mohr spends half of her year doing commission work for companies. She has done work for Purina Mills, Pfizer and Hoard's Dairyman, to name a few.
"That helps pay the bills if you can land commission work like that," said Mohr.
The other half of the year she spends doing work that inspires her.
"If people know my art they know me," said Mohr.
She enjoys waking up early about 4 a.m. in the morning to paint (three or four times per week).
"It's a time of day that is so peaceful," said Mohr, "I have learned to paint amidst the commotion. If you wait for the perfect moment in life you'll never paint and you'll never get anything done."