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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 show.

“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.”


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