Keep It Local Blog
Stories, interviews, and local insights that we hope will inspire you to support the local shops, restaurants, and services that make Oklahoma unique.
You may have admired her artwork in local galleries, on the Plaza District's Plaza Walls, or outside OKC's 21c Hotel. We sat down to chat with Denise Duong, the local artist behind the 2019 Keep It Local Card design.
What’s your background and what led you to pursue art?
I’ve always wanted to pursue art. It was the only thing that I ever wanted to do since my first memories. I've been creating things constantly. I come from a Vietnamese family that immigrated here. They would question my decisions, but were always very supportive. (Of my dreams..not my teenage choices sometimes.) But good grades went a long way in our house. Just don’t royally f*ck up and you were good.
How would you describe your artistic style?
Narrative with humor, yet there is depth.
What inspires you when you’re creating art?
There’s so many elements about traveling that are inspiring. The people, the colors, nature, the air, the sounds, the buildings. The emotions of past present and possible future. I can be home and be inspired as well. I pretty much soak up my environment physically and mentally.
Who are some artists whose styles you really admire?/Is there any specific artist who has particularly influenced you?
I admire so many artists. I love styles that I can not do. I admire the detailed, the realistic, the simple and abstract. I was told my artwork is very French - one of the reason’s why I visited France. It seemed kind of like my past life. Haha. I like the multi use of materials that Rauschenberg does. And I love the strange sculptures of Modigliani.
What do you love about the current art scene in Oklahoma?
I love how supportive everyone is. Everyone is excited and its very energetic.
Do you feel that you have any limitations as an artist right now?
Not that I can think of. I feel grateful I’m able to do what I do and plus some! Well, of course there are always these grand ideas that cost money to do. So now, it's just about taking time to map out ideas and see how to fund some of them.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I just finished 2 murals at Plaza Walls (OKC).
I should be able to start my project with the Faces of the 47th in a few weeks. I’m wheat pasting 47 faces of public school kids on the old Jesus Saves building on NE 10th Street (OKC). Its just a reminder to voters in November to vote for pro public education. WE are 47th in the nation in the public school ranking.
We are celebrating a one year and 1 month anniversary at Little D Gallery on December 7th.
I’ve got a show in Seoul (South Korea) in March 2019!
Oh, and working with Lance (McDaniel) on some small animations for an opera in November.
What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to make a living as an artist?
Persistence. Don’t let rejection take you down. And self impose deadlines - they work...at least for me. And be true to yourself. Find your lines and strokes and be true to them.
Where can people follow you on social media?
Facebook: I think I’m just Denise Duong
Twitter: I think it's @deniseduong ( I got my actual name because I signed up while living in San Fransisco in exchange for free drinks and food. Who knew it would get so big.)
Is there anything we haven’t asked you about that you want to tell us?
I have a bull terrier named Debo that I love. That’s about it.
Hope this isn’t all over the place.
Home improvement supplies could really be a big way to make a shift-to-local impact within our budget, but I admit this is an area where we have trouble keeping it local. For us, this goes beyond just home improvement as we also purchase supplies for art projects and my husband’s business on a regular basis.
In an effort to explore how we can do better, I’ve done a little research on some possible alternatives to Lowe’s, Home Depot or Ace Hardware, which is where we are mostly purchasing these supplies currently. So, the below local businesses are not necessarily recommendations as we have not been customers at all, but I’m hoping this list will help us try out some new businesses.
Whitton Supply Co.
While specializing in power tools, they appear to have a great selection of general tools and hardware. They even have a repair center for tools as well! I’m glad I came across it, we definitely need to go check it out. Unfortunately, they are not open on Saturday or Sunday which could make it difficult for weekend projects.
The Light Bulb Store
I have heard of this store through my local loving friend Allison Barta Bailey. With light bulbs lasting longer and longer, and along the way the prices rising, it might be time to think of purchasing light bulbs as an intentional stop rather than just picking them up when at a big box store. I’ve heard they have every light bulb you can imagine, specialty bulbs as well as lighting fixtures. Not open on weekends.
The Lumber Shed
Locally owned lumber yard offering lumber, siding, decking and hardware, in business since 1936!
Fox Building Supply
Specializing in Lumber Products, Insulation, Siding, Roofing, Windows, Doors, Fencing and Decking Material, Plumbing and Electrical Supplies, Hand and Power Tools And More! Open on Saturdays as well.
Kitchen, Bathroom, Flooring, Interior doors, tile and more. Open on Saturdays and Sundays as well.
CD Faucet & Parts
Our kitchen sink handle broke off, and we couldn’t find the part in stores or online. We just bought a whole new faucet set, I wish I would have checked here!
TLC, Marcum's, PreCure & Pam’s Plants
There nurseries are a must when it comes to garden projects. They have everything you need and huge greenhouses with quality plants, many of which are grown in their nursery. Pam’s plants has less of a selection, but it’s close to my home and I can always get the basics (including pumpkins right now!)
I couldn’t find a local resource for new appliance stores, but I did purchase my dryer from Ted’s and it’s lasted several years!
Hopefully you might be able to try out some of these businesses too! I would love your feedback if so. I would also love to hear your recommendations for businesses I missed to add to my list!
Home Improvement Notes:
What does shopping more local mean for a millenial(ish) couple who are striving to have a more minimal lifestyle when it comes to material things?
Most purchases for home improvement needs are rooted in fixing what we already have and taking care of our current material things. While there is certainly alot of extra stuff you can purchase in a big box home improvement store, visiting some of these more specialized store could help curb the desire to pick up a few extra things you didn’t plan for.
What is the feasibility of a commitment to shop local for those that do not have much flexibility or resources? For the single mom, the family living paycheck to paycheck, the person without access to reliable transportation?
When it comes to home improvement, the convenience of a big box store definitely wins out in this context. I don’t believe there are enough local options to make shopping local in this area a true alternative.
I’m not much of a shopper when it comes to clothing. I typically purchase only something I specifically need -- a dress for an event, athletic shoes, a work jacket that goes with everything. I’m pretty practical when it comes to clothing and how much I buy, so this allows me to be more strategic about where I shop. Here are a few examples of strategic shopping where I was able to #keepitlocaler.
This summer I was specifically looking for a hat to wear on a vacation, and Shop Good came through. They’ve got a wonderful selection of accessories, t-shirts and hoodies. What’s better? Your t-shirt purchases support a good cause.
Blue Seven / Just OK
I purchase a pair of raw denim jeans every other year. I don’t formally participate in the Clean Start Project, but I do my own version. Spending a decent amount on quality jeans is definitely worth the investment. They keep their shape and I rarely wash them (my husband blogged about this here), which makes getting dressed so much easier. My 2 year old jeans literally busted last night. Time for another visit! They’ve also got a great selection of casual clothing, shoes and accessories.
Red Coyote Running and Fitness
I’ve just gotten back into running this year, so after I’d kept the habit long enough to justify new shoes, I went to Red Coyote. New shoes were way overdue. The staff was super helpful and gave me informed advice that catered to my specific running style. They’ve got a thorough selection of shoes and brands along with clothing and accessories for every level of runner.
I’d been on the hunt for a new work computer bag for several months. I’d been using a tote bag not meant for a laptop for 2 years, and my coworker was growing tired of my over-dramatic exclamation that this bag is ruining my life. I hadn’t planned on going in to Fruition to find a bag, but they had the perfect size leather bag for only $100. Even better, the Carry 117 bag was handmade by women in Ethiopia and my purchase supported their work. The store also carries home goods, artwork and gifts from talented artisans.
Admittedly, the biggest challenge I have for local clothes shopping is finding my age/work appropriate clothing. I feel like a majority of boutiques cater to younger audiences and there isn’t much selection when it comes to finding work clothing that fits my style. I’m a regular at Nordstrom Rack, Modcloth and Name Brand Clothing, but I always try and hit up boutiques to see if I can find what I need there first. Also, my husband and I are pretty active outdoors. We’ve loved going to Native Summit, but it’s so far from our home. We’d love to have more options for outdoor clothing to purchase locally. So, I’ve found the best way to go about it is to mix it up, save my big purchases for local shops and just do what I can. Remember, the shift is about moving just a percentage, not the whole nine yards. I don’t have much advice when it comes to men’s shopping. My husband pretty much only wears t-shirts from his old store and local artist friends. I’d love to hear your recommendations on local men’s shopping!
What does shopping more local mean for a millenial(ish) couple who are striving to have a more minimal lifestyle when it comes to material things?
Planning to purchase only what you need, but being able to invest in a higher-quality products is an excellent way to limit an overflowing closet. Planning to purchase these items from a local shop is even better.
What is the feasibility of a commitment to shop local for those that do not have much flexibility or resources?
For the single mom, the family living paycheck to paycheck, the person without access to reliable transportation? Local thrift stores are probably the best way for those who don’t have much in the way of resources to shop locally.
The minimum wage in Oklahoma hasn't been raised in nearly a decade. The state of Oklahoma adopts the federal minimum wage as our state's minimum wage, so it is only adjusted when a bill is passed by the Senate and then signed into law by the President, and that doesn't happen very often. For example, the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour went into effect in 2009, but was passed by lawmakers back in 2007.
This is why Wage Up OKC stepped onto the scene. Wage Up OKC is an initiative that was started by a small group of eighth grade students at Westminster School in Oklahoma City in May of 2018. These students decided to find a way to help raise the minimum wage in Oklahoma after learning that 16.3% of Oklahomans were living below the poverty line. That may not look too bad at first glance, however, that 16.3% represents over 620,000 people! As they continued their research, their findings led them to believe the current minimum wage was too low to support a household. So, they came up with a plan of action and decided to encourage businesses to pay their employees a "living wage" of at least $12 per hour. Today, as high school students, Wage Up OKC has set a goal to partner with more than 200 Oklahoma businesses (they currently have 60 participating partners) over the next four years so more working families in Oklahoma can have access to jobs that will allow them to live above the poverty line.
If you would like to help Wage Up OKC achieve their goal or if you have questions, you can contact them at email@example.com, visit www.wageupokc.org or find them on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
We have always viewed Katiebug’s as our canvas. We have endless opportunities to create, whether it’s by creating new menu items, coming up with crazy flavor combinations, designing our new space, events that we plan, or packaging our products. We love that we get to express our creativity through all aspect of our business. It is so fun for us!
What do you love about being a small business owner in Oklahoma?
Definitely all of the relationships that we have built through Katiebug’s. From businesses to customers we’ve made some amazing friends along the way. We are always taken back at how amazingly sweet our customers are and how far they come to see us. We feel a huge responsibility to them. They’ve made our business what it is today.
What’s your go-to shaved ice flavor?
Two flavors that are staples for our family are raspberry and blackberry cobbler with sweet cream. I’m also a fan of the hibiscus lemonade.
What are you most excited about in the new location?
We’re just so excited to finally get to share it with everyone! We renovated the whole thing ourselves. We designed and installed every detail from hand painting the floor to the kitchen cabinets. When we were designing it, we were constantly envisioning how we hoped our customers would enjoy the space. It’s so fun now to see it filled with all of our favorite people enjoying sweet treats. We’re also really excited about our new bakery items. Since, we have a full kitchen in the new space we are able to offer baked goods that we’ve been dying to add for years!
Katie & Melissa Morgan are the mother-daughter duo behind Katiebug's Sips & Sweets, a sweets shop which can be found at 7 NW 9th Street in Oklahoma City's historic Automobile Alley. Follow them on Instagram at @katiebugsokc. "4 Q's with Katie & Melissa Morgan" was originally featured in the Keep It Local OK Summer 2018 Zine. If you find yourself wanting more, please check out this slightly out of date episode of "OK Originals sponsored by Oklahoma's Credit Union" that we shot with Katie & Melissa about a year ago.