Sherry Downing, owner of Dot's Dish Garden, has endured her fair share of unfavorable experiences, from being laid off from her corporate position 12 years ago to losing her husband to cancer in March of this year.
However, art has kept her going.
When Downing was laid off, she explained that she wasn't sure what happened but that she believes "an artist somewhere died, and their soul took over my body."
Downing said her artistic ability was non-existent in years past. She said that even her husband, an artist and art teacher for more than 16 years, deemed her unteachable.
But one day after being laid off, something remarkable happened.
"Suddenly, I was good," Downing explained.
Originally calling her work Dots on Pots, Downing would paint and sell three-dimensional objects like pots, furniture or whatever was lying around that she could get her hands on.
In the early 2000s, Downing recalled one of her first shows in Tarpon Springs. It was a Mother's Day weekend fair, and she remembered it being unsuccessful — at first. That Saturday, she wasn't even on track to break even, but the next day a woman who happened to be a buyer for the not-yet-built Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art visited her booth.
Isabelle Leepa herself came and chatted with Downing, and within a short timeframe, her work was chosen to be "Isabelle's Choice" in the museum gift shop.
"Needless to say, a flop of an art show for me turned into one greater than any other I'd done," Downing said.
Fast forward to March 2012, and Downing was faced with the devastating loss of her husband.
She decided to change her artistic approach and had to come up with a medium that met three qualifications:
- Easy set up
- Fits in a small vehicle
- Enjoyable to create
From there, Dot's Dish Garden was born. The business yields completely recycled plate and glassware flowers. Downing calls them the "perfect Florida flower."
"They can take hours of full sun, never need water and never wilt," Downing said. She incorporates a strong sense of commitment to the community in her work.
"I think it is very important to buy and sell locally," Downing added. "I see no reason to travel a far distance to obtain the same goods and services that are available right here in my own community."
Downing and Dot's Dish Garden are participating members of the Tarpon Sunday Market throughout November, and the business will also be making an appearance at the There's Snow Place Like Tarpon Ave. event on Dec. 7.