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With Shows Canceled, Sandy Butterfly Artists Evolve Business During COVID-19

Posted By Regional Development
August 18, 2020

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Did you know the average butterfly lives less than two weeks? 

Some only live three days. 

The enchanting insects are found in every habitat in the world, except Antarctica, from deserts to tropical forests. At least 33 different kinds are found in the state of Utah alone.

Among many of us fascinated with butterflies is Sandy resident and small business owner Zell Schaal. She happened to visit a butterfly preservation farm while traveling in 2010, and it left a lasting impression.

Zell learned about butterfly farming, its positive benefits, and obtained a license — from U.S. Fish & Wildlife and an international organization — to be able to import naturally deceased butterflies from hundreds of preservation farms all over the world. 

This education process is a big part of Asana Natural Arts' business. They educate customers not only on the different species of butterflies and their characteristics, but how they lived and came to be a part of beautiful art and jewelry. Each crafted piece comes with a card explaining the Latin science name, nickname based on characteristics, where they’re raised and type of diet they may have.

Monarch Butterfly Wing Sterling Silver Earrings.jpg

The fragile butterflies originally come folded inside paper envelopes, after which Zell and her business partner and husband, Jake, hydrate and spread the wings back open. After that, depending on the condition and shape of the wings, they are hand cut into different forms – taking shape in a shadowbox or flower arrangement or in earrings, necklaces, and other jewelry.

Among Asana Natural Arts’ most popular sellers is the Blue Morpho, an iridescent blue that’s metallic and shimmery on one side of the wings with brown owl eyes on the back. Another is the Sunset Moth, named so for its greens, yellow, and oranges. Then, there’s perhaps the most well-known among Americans: Monarchs.

“Asana is a handmade business,” Zell said. “A lot of attention and energy goes into this. I love nature, I love the mountains; I’m from Utah. I want to connect people to nature with butterfly art.”

In recent years, Zell formed a partnership with Thanksgiving Point’s new Butterfly Biosphere in Lehi to obtain butterflies that lived and died right here in Utah.

“We buy all those dead butterflies and repurpose them and incorporate them into art. We recently were inspired to do new designs working with damaged wings by creating mosaic windows.”

Instead of a whole butterfly, the art is made of window patterns with wings behind them — a new, unique concept. The abstract butterflies are one way Asana is working to adapt and grow in 2020.

COVID-19 strained two of Asana’s three revenue sources: live festivals and wholesale inventory sold to retail gift shops. Online sales also saw a dip at the beginning of COVID-19, but then came back up. In order to adapt to the pandemic’s impacts, they launched a new Asana Natural Arts website and are creating their own appointment-based retail space in anticipation of holiday shopping this fall.

“When you realize how much money you’ve lost, it’s hard to look at the numbers,” she said.

In order to adjust the business, Zell applied for Salt Lake County’s Small Business Impact Grant in both Round 1 and 2 and was approved, with a little help after calling the free Hotline (385-468-4011) to answer some questions.

“The grant was awesome. I needed it to transition. I hope what I do works, and my online orders are up. We’re building on our online presence in anticipation of a strong holiday season.”

When it comes to what might aid fellow small businesses like Asana Natural Arts, Zell thinks it’s imperative businesses get help with establishing online storefronts if they don’t already have one. 

“It better be a part of their plan; it’s the future. It needs to be an integral part.”

If you’re a small business or artist like Zell Schaal, learn more about Salt Lake County’s COVID-19 grant program today at slco.org/covidgrants/. Applications are still open and being accepted every day.