Academy Graduate Liz Clausen Turns Passion Into Profit
Many art and design universities don’t incorporate business skills into their curricula - and that’s
why the Academy of Art University stands above rest. Since the Academy’s opening, students have
been benefiting from an education that prepares its students for a prosperous career in art and
design. Academy of Art University alumna Liz Clausen and her successful PicK YouR SeaT businesses
are living proof.
Liz, who graduated in May 2006 with a BA in Interior Design and Architecture, started her
education at Sonoma State University studying sociology. Though she liked her classes, she couldn’t
see any of them leading to a career.
“I started painting furniture and working more with my dad in his cabinet shop and out of the
blue, someone said, ‘You should go to art school,’” she recalled.
She first became interested in the Academy from a project on environmentalism and
sustainability in one of her classes at Sonoma State. She decided to research green building and
found an expert who also happened to teach at the Academy. Not only did she gain an interest in
green construction, but she was also further motivated to attend Academy of Art University.
“I liked that the teachers were all working professionals, and that although the main focus
was on cultivating students artistic skills, there was also a focus on teaching the business
aspects of art,” she said.
These business aspects have helped Liz significantly with managing PicK YouR SeaT. In fact,
her business plan is structured from one of her classes at Academy of Art University! PicK YouR
SeaT started in Liz’s garage as sort of a side project. She started collecting old furniture and
giving it a new life by painting and refurbishing it. At the suggestion of a friend, she began
selling some of her pieces.
It was while she was studying at the Academy that her business really began to take off. She
started to build up an inventory and began entering design shows. She also began to approach retail
stores and selling on consignment.
I also started working more with my dad in his cabinet shop. I started going on client visits and
was basically the in-house kitchen and bath designer for him,” she said. “After a few years, I
started to build my own client base and added PicK YouR SeaT InteriorS to my business.”
One of the most exciting opportunities Liz had was to feature a space she designed on a Home
and Garden Television (HGTV) show called
Small Space, Big Style. She filled out a survey
online and they contacted her, saying that they loved her design and wanted to feature it on the
“It was kind of surreal. I never really believed it was going to happen until I actually saw
it air,” she said.
In addition to running PicK YouR SeaT and PicK YouR SeaT Interiors, Liz also curates and
shows in a gallery in Napa, California called Gallery On Elm Street. She sees her PicK YouR SeaT
businesses continuing to grow and hopes to someday have a retail shop, where she can sell her
furniture, with an office for the interior design side of the business.
Liz worked diligently at Academy of Art University and it definitely helped her business
flourish. She advises other Interior Architecture and Design students to do the same if they want
the same success.
“Art school is not easy. It takes A LOT of hard work and focus,” she said. “I know it is
cliché, but you really do only get back what you put in.”