Art grad Amy Clark uses design skills to launch fresh family business

A graphic design student has made her schoolwork “work” for her, as she graduates and starts her own small business with good taste and big dreams.

Amy Clark can whip up a mean brochure and some sweet apple butter. As a University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) graduating senior, she is blending those two talents into a tasty small business rich with family heritage.

amy_clark_1 See the Slideshow Amy Clark Pic Amy Clark Pic Amy Clark Pic Amy Clark Pic Amy Clark Pic Amy Clark Pic Amy Clark Pic Clark and her sister Abby Sellers have started a canning business, Genevines, which means “coming from or off the vine” in French. Genevines products will soon be stocked on shelves at Birmingham’s Freshfully Market in Avondale. Beginning in June, Genevines will have its artisanal canned goods and screen-printed T-shirts, aprons and baby onesies for sale at Pepper Place Saturday Market.

All the work she did to complete her bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design at UAB was done with the business in mind. When she graduates Saturday, May 11, 2013, her small business will have already taken flight, complete with chic logos, labels and designs.

“I am deeply interested in the traditional practices that surround Southern families and rural culture,” Clark said. “Through these influences, I have been able to establish a more personal connection to the art I make.”

Her work is on show at the UAB Visual Arts Gallery BFA exhibition through May 10. The idea of her art exhibit is a booth at a local farmers’ market and how it would be set up. She will be able to take down the exhibit and pop it up somewhere, ready to sell.

“I knew that I wanted to make my BFA show work for me as much as possible, so I decided to use the resources I had at my disposal at school,” Clark said. “I used my fellow students as a focus group for branding my budding company. I had a vision that was all my own, but I could take my work into a classroom and enlist my peers as a creative sounding board. My professor, Doug Barrett, gave me the perfect platform to execute my design.”

When she graduates Saturday, May 11, 2013, her small business will have already taken flight, complete with chic logos, labels and designs.

Clark, who now lives in Mountain Brook, grew up on a family farm and learned gardening and canning from her grandparents and parents. The name Genevines is near and dear to her, as it was also the pet name her grandfather gave to her grandmother.

“My Granny and Papaw Clark spent many hours ‘putting up’ garden goodness each year,” Clark said. “Every time I make and can a batch of half-runner green beans or some apple butter, it brings me closer to the practices of my ancestors.”

The future of Genevines will be in the production of small-batch artisanal foods. Clark and her sister, who is finishing culinary school and works as a chef at Birmingham’s new Todd English P.U.B., plan to begin teaching canning classes in the near future, as well as catering small events.

They will continue to grow produce that can be canned and sold. Eventually, they would like to expand the “growing” side of Genevines into a you-pick-it farm and community-supported agriculture program, a network or group of individuals who have pledged to support a local farm.

“I think it is important to take the opportunities around you and use them for good,” Clark said. “I used the platform that UAB provided me to launch into the next phase of my life. It is an exciting adventure I am looking forward to.”

Genevines canned creations include strawberry preserves, Meyer lemon and orange glaze, Meyer lemon and blueberry marmalade with basil, blackberry preserves, roasted tomatoes with onion and garlic, dilly beans, spicy pickled Brussels sprouts with garlic, lime pickles, ready–to-use jarred potatoes and more. The produce is organic and Alabama-grown, except for the lemons, which she purchased.