Deep Thought Thursday: What’s in a name?

How did you decide to use your professional name?

Do you have any regrets? (Like, you wish you would have used your maiden name or an initial?)

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56 comments to Deep Thought Thursday: What’s in a name?

  • I practice under my maiden name because my husband and I agreed I would use it for professional reasons- but sometimes I worry he feels a bit left out because of that!

  • I have been selling my art since high school, when I was a Neilson. Then as a Parker, I used Robin M. Parker playing off the dual gender and developed name recognition for myself. Divorce soured that signature. Remarried into a name often incorrectly pronounced. Added my middle name to flow better with more latin continuity, though its a mouthful, and I often get called Maria. I struggled to own the name, vacillated and tried just Robin but hey its not like I am Cher or Madonna and googling brings up batman and birds. At a workshop with Judith Carducci she complemented the beauty of my last name and using just that as a signature. A complement from a Master goes a long way. Hence Pedrero PSA.

  • Well for women artists, this can be quite the challenge. I notice that women doctors take their ‘born’ names and stick with it and are known that way throughout their lives. But with women artists, we become known by married names. I was married long enough with a name I still use even though the marriage ended. But I was known by that name in my art and I kept it. What clinched the deal for me was when I asked my dear Dad what he thought and he agreed with that decision.

  • I’ve always formally gone with Daniel Sroka (no middle initial). But an online experience sealed this decision for me. Someone once told me that they saw my site and found it (squirm, squirm, uncomforable pause) “uh, funny”. Surpised at this reaction, I quizzed them what they found funny about my abstract photography. Turns out, there is a “Dan Sroka” on the web who runs a dirty humor website. Sigh. So, Daniel Sroka it was for me!

  • I struggled hard with what name to use for my art business. I have a great niche market in that I paint horses. I ended up going with Art of the Horse..because it says it all. I have http://www.ArtOfTheHorse.net plastered everywhere. I took the advise of Alyson Stanfield and have been working at branding my business. And my business is really getting busy since I went from using my name to Art of the Horse. I do have a dot com with my name that redirects to my website but when people see the Art of the Horse address and logo everywhere they just know what I do! For example if you go to my blog I have a photo of a decal on my car with my business name. It really works for me. Blog is here.. http://www.eponastudio.blogspot.com/ . Scroll down to Nicker Stickers.

  • When I designed my first business cards (many moons ago!) I wanted to put more than just my name on them so came up with KirkWorks (since my last name is kirk and it was actually before Apple computers came along! When I designed my website, I kept the name as I was still using it on my business cards, but by the time I started my blog, I was a bit tired of a name that didn’t really describe what I was doing, so I titled my blog and etsy shop both, Beading at the Beach….descriptive of both what I do and where.

  • Jennie: I, too, use my maiden name. Too much trouble to explain and, besides, I earned the right to keep it! When my husband says he’d be happy to change his name to mine, I might consider returning the favor. :) Robin and Lynne: I think divorce is a huge issue for women. And, Lynne, it’s not just doctors that are keeping their maiden names. I did it and many others do it as well. Daniel: Uh, yep. That would do it. I guess it pays to search your name and see who else might be using it. Deborah: Nice decal. I still think your name should be your brand. I’m wondering what “Epona” is and if it’s confusing to use Epona, Art of the Horse, and Deborah Sullivan. ??

  • I really struggled after I gave a name to my business as it wasn’t MY name… so I changed it shortly after to use only my name. My biggest regret is not staying with my maiden name as life can change! But at the end of the day, you are who you are and people will know you no matter what if you promote yourself. I DO think that an individual artist is best marketed by using their own name rather than a separate business name.

  • I never changed my name when I married, which turned out to be a good thing when I later divorced! I use my middle initial because of my web site. “BarbaraCarter.com” was taken by someone else, so I registered “BarbaraJCarter.com”. I have pointedly included my middle initial on all marketing materials since. My triumphant moment came when I became the top result in a Google search on “Barbara Carter”. I’ve outlasted the rest of the Barbara Carters out there.

  • On Saturday morning, I’m a bit late for Deep Thought Thursday, but this is an extremely relevant topic to me. My name decisions have resulted in occasional identity confusion — my own confusion, not anyone else’s! My art is based in Tibetan culture and tradition. I learned its techniques while living with the Tibetans in India and speaking Tibetan. In that context, I used the name given to me by a Tibetan lama. It’s a name that inspires me and that connects me with the tradition that inspires my art, and when speaking Tibetan it was completely natural for me to introduce myself with that name and to respond to it. Then I began marketing my artwork in the west, talking about it in English-speaking environments. For a while I tried to use my Tibetan name alone: Rinchen Wongmo. But I always spontaneously introduced myself as Leslie, so that was a problem. It also made Wongmo into a surname, and that’s not how Tibetan names work. I wasn’t comfortable with it. Finally I settled on turning my full Tibetan name into my artistic surname (hyphenating it to keep the two parts together) and keeping my original first name: I became Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo… professionally. But, in many contexts, I still have my maiden name. (I was already too confused to even consider taking my husband’s name when I married!) So bank accounts and driver’s license and passport, travel reservations, etc. still carry Freilich. This gets confusing. A magazine subscription may be in my original name, but if it’s connected with membership in an arts association, maybe I’ll want to join with my artistic name. Membership in a sports club will be in my original name, while membership in the Surface Design Association will be in my artistic name. So what about membership in a Buddhist group? Since my artwork is Tibetan Buddhist art… I lose track. Occasionally, I forget what name I registered under. So far, there’s been no cost to this ambiguity other than the scattering of my own thoughts. But every now and then, I wonder if I should just go back to being Leslie Freilich and let the Tibetan-ness of my work simply speak for itself.

  • I was lucky in that I came of age in a time when it was very acceptable for women to keep their names when they married. It makes perfect sense to NOT change one’s name in so many ways. So professionally I’ve always been Liza Myers. I briefly experimented with using Elizabeth (which seems more formal and is on my birth certificate) but I’ve been Liza since I chose it as a nickname at age 12 or so, so the experiment didn’t work for anyone, including myself. I’m still in the process of switching back though, with 2 separate websites showing two bodies of work. It’s a laborious process with everything else going on in life, but within a month I should be re-united with myself.

  • Barbara: Yea! Don’t you love it? Leslie: this is fascinating! Definitely a problem I haven’t encountered elsewhere. I would ask what feels right to you. Maybe meditate on it a bit. I am sorry there is no easy answer. Liza: So, does that mean eliminating elizabethmyers.net. I love this: “reunited with myself”!

  • I have a kind of unusual name ‘Caroline Inckle’ When I got married it became Inckle-Sharpe but for art purposes I just use Inckle. In one way I think it’s helpful, maybe people remember it. Also for internet searches, there aren’t too many Inckles around. The down side is my name is so often misspelled even though I always make a point of spelling it out I-N-C-K-L-E!

  • this is such an interesting thread… I have always used my maiden name – in fact I never changed my name in the nine years I’ve been married. However, in 11 days my brother is getting married and my new sister-in-law will have the exact same name as me – first, middle, and last. I’ve contemplated whether I should start using my married name or not, but haven’t decided – although, I really don’t want to change my name.

  • One day, almost thirty years ago, as I was reading the dictionary, which I still do for fun and enlightenment, I came across the word “yow.” It was defined as an interjection used to express alarm, pain, or surprise. As a surrealist artist, I was used to those same reactions to my art. Perhaps not the “pain,” but certainly alarm and surprise. Add to that fact that my last name is actually “Yow,” and what followed seemed almost ordained to happen – I added an exclamation point to the name. It’s been great. People remember it. It starts a lot of conversations. “Burnell” is my middle name. I began using it instead of my first name – Michael – around the same time and for much the same reason: It was more memorable. “Burnell” and “Yow” are both from the olde English and mean bubbling brook and a residence by a river, respectively.

  • Kelly: If your sister-in-law is an artist, there might be room for concern. However, you have had that name far longer than she has! Maybe you can talk her into using her maiden name as her middle name. Burnell: I always thought Burnell was unusual and Yow is certainly unforgettable. I’m certain you’re one-of-a-kind!

  • I’ve spent many hours deliberating the name issue. I was using AJS to sign paintings. Then about 2 years ago I realized more people know me and have known me as Allison, so I started signing my paintings with that. I use Allison with Fine Art Oil Painter underneath as a sort of name-logo. I have allisonfineart as a website, blog, ebay and others. But when I list my address or a signature, I usually put my name as Allison J Smith. As far as marriage/maiden name: I decided a while ago, I’m sticking with my original name! But I understand it’s an easier decision than for some, since I’m only 36 and it’s pretty common today. Is it confusing for me to have Allison and allisonfineart and Allison J Smith? Here’s my blog on the subject: http://allisonfineart.blogspot.com/2008/03/allisonjsmithcom.html

  • I see this is old, but why not update it ;o). I started my art career at the age of 7, so my name (non related to the famous Italo Valenti in any way as far as I know) was the way to go. By the time I got married 20 years ago this December, there was no problem either, as I didn’t change my name to adopt my husband’s (this moves creates tons of legals complications down the road if one decides to divorce). I’m still Manuela Valenti, that’s the name I was born with, the name of my business and the name I’ll die with.

  • I too will interject even though the topic started back in 2008! I was just Karen Martin until I married in my late 20’s and I wanted to take my husband’s name, Tomaselli, so I became Karen Martin Tomaselli on my work (my Dad did NOT want me to drop the Martin), and I was for over 20 years. When the marriage ended I continued with the Tomaselli for a few years but gradually just was Karen Martin again. All was well until I heard from another Karen Martin who is also a portrait painter (my particular niche!). I began to add my middle initial, L. Shortly after I unexpectedly met someone new and remarried. I decided to add the Sampson (my new name) as there are so many other Karen Martin’s around. I made it legal for banking etc. but I use Karen L. Sampson for my driver’s license, passport, etc. I have found the whole name thing to be challenging and frustrating at times. Men do not know the difficulties for some women in all this name confusion! And my website and blog remain just Karen Martin Arts, which seems to be working well.

  • This is great article and I enjoyed reading all the inputs… I have been known to everyone as Bronislava. I am divorced also, but I have been with my second husband for 20 years and I proudly carry his last name now. Yet I have been always known more for my first name “Bronislava”, sometimes “Bronichka”… I do not like to change it to anything shorter, because people mispronounce it – they make Brownie out of Bronie. So, Bronislava or Bronichka it is – with my last name Slagle attached to it occasionally…

  • Christian DeMolina

    I’ve appreciated reading all the comments related to naming and selecting a name. The subject is perplexing and I would love your thoughts on the subject. I’d really prefer to use my name for my art. However, my parents disowned me at 16, leaving me less than excited about using my maiden name. My first name is associated with a religious philosophy and my married name, although the one I use professionally, is so distinctive that using it would have as much marketing value for my ex-husband’s business as mine. However, both my grandmothers were artists and started me on the path soon after I was born. I’ve considered some combination of their first or last names for my artist name. However, I’m wondering if it will be difficult for people to associate me with the studio if I don’t use my own name. Any thoughts?

    • Christina: Use what feels right. How do you want to be known forever? Those who know you already will know that you’re behind a new name. But whenever you show, you MUST use your artist name. Don’t confuse people by using 2 different names.

  • It was great to read everyone’s stories of the evolution of their names. This is an issue for me too; my name is Amy but for many years I have been signing my art “aMe” in a shape as a sort of logo, which became part of my business name, aMe ArT and Design. So then I thought to keep the consistency I started spelling my name as Ame Perlman, except for legal/medical etc. purposes which was Amy P. Now I’m married and have not legally changed my name but socially use Amy Perlman Gura. Sometimes people say to me, “how should I spell your name?” as it’s been two ways, and now I’m going back and forth with my last name too! I found there are 18 Amy Perlmans in the US and four Amy Guras. Ame vs. Amy, Perlman vs. Gura, but so far it’s been all of the above and it’s too much and confusing. My grandfather was an artist and I’m the last Perlman so I’m still attached to that. I’m having a solo art show next month and I feel ridiculous still not grounded in one identity. Any thoughts? Thanks for making space for this interesting discussion, Alyson.

  • I think you’re Amy Perlman.

    Do you have a middle name you can use?

  • Thanks for your response Alyson. I am Amy Perlman (which has remained my legal name so it would be simpler to keep it that way), yet it feels somewhat outdated since I have used the Ame Perlman (now on my website) and later added Gura for years as my artist name, and people seemed to embrace the aMe as something memorable. My middle name starts with R and when I Googled it a bunch of hits come up with a lawyer in Chicago. Anyway, I’m not attached to my middle name. I like the name Gura, easier to pronounce and a bit different, so have been using the three names. Didn’t want to hyphenate. I’ve signed much of my art with aMe Perlman. So it’s Amy vs. Ame, Perlman vs. Gura. I’ve been hedging all of the above which keeps things complicated. Alas, my ID crisis (-;

    • IMHO: aMe is too clever and confusing.

      I don’t mind Ame.
      I don’t mind Amy Perlman Gura.
      I don’t mind Ame Perlman Gura.

      But I do think it’s holding you back. You need to pick one and get one with much more important things: art. ;)

      • I know, it is perhaps too “cute” and may be why I returned to Amy when I got married. That may be telling. Yep, very true about getting to the point of it all, art. I know this is not the best use of my energy and am tired of it. Thanks for your input.

  • I am so amazed that I came upon this blog tonight. It stretches back so far but I see you are still with us Alyson. Here’s my dilema…I am 27 years in real estate (a family business that I now own) as Peggy S. Richter-Way. The Way was added when I married my husband 15+ years ago. I usually respond and call myself Peggy Richter when working and answering the phones at our office. We work together in this business and at a convenient moment with a new client/customer I explain the name hyphenation. I also work artistically and am creating (with the help of pals) an artist coop called Art Pals in Omaha. We each have our own business names and will be having guest artisans with their own names. The trouble I’m having is that my past names (Boopdidoop Beads and RWayOut Art Glass Studios) are too descriptive and limiting as I do so many other forms of art work (lampwork, mosaic, stained glass, paper, collage, mixed media). I am used to being Peggy S. Richter-Way but have longed to be simply Peg Way (short and sweet). The problem is….these two people are so different and now they will be combined right in my own office building (quaint and cute) where Art Pals is launching May 21st (OUR GRAND OPENING). I’m waiting for some inspiration….and I think Peggy Richter is going to come blurting out no matter. I am convinced that our name should be foremost. What do you think?

  • Jenna

    I am struggling with naming my new business as well. I am going to start it off by selling (hopefully) prints of my graphic art and maybe branch out into offering paintings as well and other types of work. (I have a 5 yr old so creating art on the computer fits in easier to my life right now) I hate my maiden name and I have also always hated signing my name on my art. I am proud of my art but I’ve always wanted it to speak for itself. I never wanted my signature in the corner to mar the overall image and didn’t want people to focus on it instead of the work. At the same time, people are always saying “You forgot to sign your work, we want it signed!” So… maybe I am wrong to leave off the signature.
    My full name is Jenna Dene (accent over the second e) Hughes (married name). I signed my art at Jenna Dene when I was younger, but no one pronounces my middle name correctly and my first name feels too small to stand alone. I do not identify with my last name. I love having the same last name as my husband and daughter, but the name doesn’t move me. I would have kept my maiden name if it wasn’t so hideous. I have considered some sort of play on words using Hues instead of Hughes but that feels a little bit contrived… Coming up with a business name seemed like the best option but after reading some of your articles, I am once again confused.

  • Jenna

    Just re-read my post and realized how I simply wrote what I was thinking without a filter on my rambling thoughts. I apologize for that, and the spelling and grammatical errors I ignored ;)

  • Amy Smith

    I have recently decided to focus on my art as a career path and have been struggling with my name. I have an incredibly common name and am not too keen on my middle name (Louise), I could initial it, but Amy L. Smith is also quite common.

    Should I just embrace the commonality of my name or create something new?

  • Tricia

    Thanks Alyson for the great posts on what to use for a business name. I’ve always disliked my last name, and knew that I’d want to change it eventually. I’m in a long-term relationship now, and we are planning to get married, but that will not be for about three years. If I used his last name, I’d be happy to use that professionally, but would not want to change it back if we got divorced. Should I choose a new last name to use professionally now? Change it to his after we get married? Make peace with my last name? I’ve put off starting a website/blog for years because of this question, and it seems silly to keep putting it off for this reason.

  • i’m struggling to think of a name for my art business, although a lot of advice i get is to use my sirname, but a lot of the time people pronounce it wrong so it could end up as Pembridge, bainbridge,membridge, all kinds of mispellings happen with my sirname. which leads to the question, how can i find a name similar to mine which doesn’t have issues of mis-pronuniciation?

    • Embrace your name, Phil. No one else has it. It’s other people’s responsibilities to call you by the right name.

      You might also add a pronunciation to things like press releases and marketing material.

  • Julie Medow

    When I first sold my art I used my maiden name
    Julie a fitzgerald. To incorporate. My husband and I manufactured and sold gift Items under that name. A life time later we sell my art (originals). And use those processes to hand print my work on functional glass pieces at art shows etc. I wanted to distance myself a bit from a look of mass production. For a time used a DBA Art and Tile of Santa Fe then I Started using my married name. My dilemma . I have a heavy boston accent that people identify with thus Fitzgerald could be to my advantage when in direct contact with customers. I know I want to sign my name Medow. I also would like to do some more abstract work and fused glass that galleries may find confusing..
    Do I use a variety of names or try to incorporate it all. Using http://www.medowfineart.com Just writing this helps. What do you think?

  • My name is Cedar Lee–I’ve been married 13 years and Lee is my maiden name. I never wanted to change it as it just didn’t feel “right.” After reading some of the comments from other women I am very grateful I’ve kept my own name–I love it and it’s something I’ll always have no matter what. :)

    My business name, website, etc. are all “Art By Cedar” however. I’m wondering if you think that’s okay, Alyson, since it only has my first name? As far as I know, I am the only “Art By Cedar” that exists–it’s a super uncommon name so I think there’s less risk of being confused with another artist named Cedar….but now I am doubting whether I should just be going by my full name instead of the “Art By…”

    As an aside, there’s a very old, very respected movie theater in Ohio called the Cedar Lee, which has always outranked me in Google searches for “Cedar Lee.” If you search for “Art by Cedar” or “Cedar Lee artist” I’m always at the top, but apparently my name alone is “owned” by Cedar Lee Theater–LOL!

  • I was so pleased to find this post because this is an issue I’ve been dealing with very recently.

    I was blessed to be born with the last name Broadaway. It always gets mispelled (people try to leave the extra “a” out), but I don’t mind. I try to warn people before hand that there is an extra “a”, and I am used to having to politely ask people to correct it. Plus, if you do a google search for Whitney Broadaway all that comes up is me.

    I’ve been married for less than two years now and I thought for a long time about whether or not to change my name. I finally decided to be Whitney Broadaway in the art world, but to legally take my husband’s name. I was mostly worried about not having the same last name as my future children and I thought to myself that plenty of artists work under names that are not there’s legally so I’d be able to do it. After a year of trying to explain to galleries why my checks need to be written out to a different name and bouncers thinking I was trying to sneak in to my own art show because the name on the guest list does not match the name on my ID I realised that the name I do business with really needs to be my legal name. I can introduce myself under my husband’s name at PTA meetings if I wanted to, but I couldn’t take this uphill battle for the rest of my art life.

    I’ve just recently printed out all the paper work I need to complete to file with the court to change my name back to Broadaway. It is going to be a much bigger hassle to change my name back than it was to change it for marriage, but that’s how important it is to me that my legal name matches the name that I want everyone to know me by.

  • @ Cedar, I taught an amazingly talented artist/singer everything creative girl named Cedar-Rose last year, she will be turning 12 this year, looks like you may have some art by cedar competition later on in life! haha, I really like that name “art by cedar”

    I have been trying to decide what to go under for my artwork, A lot of people I have spoken to and read on here believe that it is best to have your own name. my maiden name is not easy to pronounce, so I would use my middle name, Victoria if I was to go down that road. But when I think about it I think a brand name works with my artwork better, so I have decided to go with Meg & Russ (this is generally my login name more most forums, Russell is my dog and much of my inspiration.

    • I think that’s very sweet that you are using your dog’s name in with your branding. My only worry would be, and it is the same concern I have for any artist using a topical brand name, is whether or not all of your art will always be inspired by Russell. I feel like using a genre or topic to brand yourself may box you in, whereas if you were to use your name and your art started to move into a new direction you would not have to worry about rebranding.

      Meg & Russ also made me think that you were producing art in collaboration with another artist until you explained it, which may be a source of confusion for other people as well.

  • laura Clough

    Hi, Im having the very same dilema. My name Is Laura Alexis Clough. Not loving the Clough at all, although this is my married name and his full surname is Harwood-Clough but he only uses the Clough part.
    My maiden name is Kelly, so wondered on Laura Alexis Designs, Laura Harwood-Clough, Laura Alexis Kelly???? The more I wonder the more ridiculous they ALL sound!?

  • I have used two business names in the past several years, neither one being my actual name. However, having separate businesses is more trouble than it’s worth at times. I want to focus mainly on my jewelry, artwork, and needlework. My needlework will incorporate some of my artwork designs. I will be re-branding everything this year as well as having a new website designed. I am trying to decide if I should go with Lana Manis or Lana Manis Designs. What would you suggest? Thanks so much. This has been such an interesting discussion!

  • Mary Lovelady

    I’m just now starting to sell my art and want to make a website but don’t know what to call it. The paintings I have sold to date are signed MEL because those are my initials but I feel like maybe I should sign them with more of my name the just my initials. I really just don’t know where to start at all with the whole name decision. Help!

  • Bryan

    I’m just starting to make a name for myself in the art field. Whats tough to decide is whether to use my own name or go under a business name just in case I expand- I would hate to build a website and fanbase then abandon it for a new name later due to growth. Right now, I create comics, graphic art, and paintings with bright colors and pop culture references. I’d like to go by either my name- Bryan Bindman, The Art of Bindman, etc. or FUN HOUSE Art and Design, but I can’t decide.