I'm a former pharmacist who makes artwork out of pills that sells for up to $700 a piece. My Instagram account has been crucial to my success — here's how I use it to sell effectively.
- Stephanie Roberts is a 36-year-old mixed media
artistand businessowner based in Lexington, Kentucky.
- She always enjoyed making
artas a creative outlet, and after 10 years working as a pharmacist began selling her pill-inspired artwork — coasters and catchalls featuring real over-the-counter medications in hardened resin — on her Instagram account.
- Roberts now works as an artist full time. She says it can take days to make each art piece, as they require several layers of resin that each need at least 12 hours to dry.
- Here's what her job is like, as told to freelance writer Judy Brumley.
I had always dreamed of being an artist, but it was truly just a dream — I never seriously considered it a possibility. With the exception of a few classes in high school and college, I never had any formal training. When you're growing up, people say that you can do anything you want when you're older, but not everyone thinks of art as a practical career.
When I started undergrad, I knew I wanted to go into the sciences, and decided to attend pharmacy school. After graduating in 2009, I spent 10 years working as a pharmacist in Lexington, Kentucky, first as a retail pharmacist at CVS and Meijer, and then as a hospital pharmacist at University of Kentucky Hospital. During that time, I was making art to give as gifts, and I was really just creating for the joy of it. I decided to start sharing my work on Instagram, but I really wasn't trying to sell anything, and people certainly weren't asking to buy.
Art was always a creative outlet for me, but I never thought I could turn it into a career.
At the end of September 2018, my husband and I brought our adopted daughter home from China. While I was on maternity leave, I had some time to create and started making colorful resin geodes with crystals, stained glass, and glitter. Epoxy resin had kind of blown up in the art scene and on social media at the time, and I fell in love with it.
Working with resin is like working on a science project: You have to mix your ratios perfectly for it to cure correctly, and you can't work in a space with too much humidity, or one that's too hot or too cold. I also wear a gas mask respirator to protect myself from the unknown side effects of being exposed to the fumes that resin produces while curing, even though I only use options that claim to be free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). I think resin really appealed to me because of my science-heavy background.
One day I decided to try selling one of the larger resin geodes I'd made because I didn't have room to keep it in my house. I posted it on
After that, I started sharing the "pill petris" that I'm now known for — coasters, catchalls, and trays featuring faux gold leaf, real over-the-counter medications (like aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, and diphenhydramine), and glitter-filled capsules suspended in several layers of resin. I thought they were so funny because I was a pharmacist.
My friend base was made up of doctors, pharmacists, and nurses, so I thought they might think the art was cool.
I shared the pill art in a pharmacist group with more than 30,000 members on Facebook in 2018, and in November and December more people started placing orders for the holidays. For six or seven months, I was really busy (at least, I thought I was) making and shipping out a few hundred pieces of art. Then, in July 2019, the well-known Instagram account @things.i.bought.and.liked shared my pill coasters, and it was overnight insanity.
I do zero advertising — I just hope people find me on social media and like my work.
I didn't have a website, so I was taking hundreds of orders through Instagram. People would DM me what they wanted, and I accepted payment through PayPal. It quickly felt overwhelming and unorganized, so I launched a website in August 2019. Almost immediately, my art income started to surpass my pharmacy income, so, even though I really loved being a pharmacist, it seemed like a no-brainer to take a step back and pursue my passion for art.
I created the shop openings because I wanted to be fair and give everyone a chance to buy the art. Instead of keeping the website fully stocked, I release an entire collection of pieces every couple of weeks, or whenever I've made enough art. I like to have 300 to 500 coasters and catchalls or 50 serving trays ready to go to open the shop.
During drops, I sell the coasters in sets of two for $35 to $45, catchalls for $55, and large serving trays for $200. I also make large wall art pieces that have sold for up to $700 each. The drop method has created a lot of hype and demand around my work, and everything always sells out in two minutes or less. (I would love to say I was a genius and saw this coming, but I truly didn't.)
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People always ask me to create more, but I can't make an infinite amount of art. Luckily, I'm bringing on a full-time assistant next year.
Most of my pieces take three to four layers of resin, and you have to pour it in thin layers to avoid too many microscopic bubbles. Plus, each layer has to cure for at least 12 hours before pouring another layer on top, so it can easily take several long days to finish a single piece.
I often begin my workday by pouring a layer around 8 in the morning, and another around 8 or 9 p.m. in the evening, so I can pour yet another layer the next morning. I work around the clock and create art almost every single day, including Saturday and Sunday.
When I'm not creating art, I'm either conceptualizing (ideas usually come to me in the shower or just before falling asleep) or promoting my work. I spend several hours each week taking and editing pictures before sharing them on social media and my website.
Still, the heaviest lift is always shipping products out after a large shop opening. It takes two to three days to get everything out the door, even with the help of two part-time interns.
On shop opening days, I keep myself busy by taking inventory of how many products and variations of each I have. I double check the listings on the website and share some last-minute tips on Instagram to help customers check out as fast as possible. Then, I like to sit and watch the Shopify inventory numbers drop for fun. It never gets old.
I want to keep growing, but I still want to be accessible to the people who have always supported me.
In the beginning, I didn't charge very much. I've increased my prices several times and people say they would pay more, but it just doesn't make sense to me personally to charge $500 for a set of coasters. Sometimes I do feel guilty about what I charge, but it's a business now: I go through more than 500 gallons of resin throughout the year, and then we're talking tens of thousands of pills, in addition to other supplies — like stained glass, glitter, and paint — and the cost of shipping.
I make more money now than I did as a pharmacist and I think it's really rewarding to be able to have an idea and get it out there through my artwork.
Plus, I can't tell you how many people with chronic illnesses, or people who have struggled to come to terms with taking medications, have said my art lightened it up for them. That's always really touching because it feels like I'm still helping patients, just like I did when I was working as a pharmacist.
Judy Brumley is a freelance writer from Kentucky. She has written editorial and branded content stories across all verticals for brands like InStyle, Parents, PEOPLE, and Romper. You can follow her on Instagram and LinkedIn.
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