On the day Jill Glasser Miller graduated from Georgetown Law, her roommate’s father — a successful attorney and an artist — gave her a piece of art from his collection.
“He takes planks of wood that he wraps in canvas, paints it in all different colors, and puts it together in a 3D construction,” said Miller, who grew up in Pikesville and had her bat mitzvah at Chizuk Amuno Congregation. Miller loved the graduation gift then, and she still loves it 25 years later.
By any measure, Miller’s ensuing legal career in banking litigation could be deemed a success. Miller quickly rose in her firm, which handled high-profile cases such as Martha Stewart’s insider trading charges. Miller defended the Rite Aid executives accused of overstating profits in the early 2000s. She accomplished what she’d set out to do, and she reached the professional level that she had strived for.
But with two young children at home and an intense career, Miller was burning out.
“With law, you’re never finished,” Miller said. “You can always try to prepare for another question. Or you can keep working to find more evidence or rewrite that brief.”
She stepped back from her career to find balance in her family’s life and find the inspiration that had been missing in her professional life.
Years later, Miller was helping her daughter shop for art for her first apartment in New York City. Miller had always been an art lover and felt attached to the pieces she’d found, bought, or been given over the years. Art always managed to find her; but when she and her daughter set out to find it, she discovered there were two main avenues available to the average art buyer — and she found them both unappealing.
On the affordable end of the market, large chain stores like Target and Home Goods offered mass-produced print art and every conceivable incarnation of words-on-shiplap trend in home décor. Dismayed with these, Miller scouted original gallery art, but found it was too expensive for a 20-something like her daughter.
The experience drove Miller down the proverbial rabbit hole. She wanted to find the market that existed between “Live, Laugh, Love” and high-quality, gallery artwork.
It took a lot of work to find it, she said. “Too much for the average person.”
Miller ended up following this thread of curiosity about the art market for two years. She spent hundreds of hours online and traveled to markets and shows all over the country.
After all her research, she identified an underserved niche in what she considers to be the middle-range of art: between the price points of $650 and $1100.
Through the process, she also found her calling.
Miller decided not to return to her law career as planned. Instead, on Dec. 19 she opened an art consulting firm, The RELLIM Collection, in Towson.
To find pieces, Miller scouts up-and-coming artists, but she emphasized she is not interested in representing artists; rather, she is a consultant who works for and with clients to find art that will enhance their specific space.
“It’s about the artwork,” she said. “I’m picture driven.”
Miller also purchases from companies that could be described as the fast-fashion producers of the art world. Production houses hire a group of artists, Miller explained, then “go out there and look at what’s ‘in’ in art today and they make art that looks similar to it.” The production company will then make it for a client.
Now, Miller has amassed more than 200 pieces in her collection, with another 200 pieces in her database. She can also procure art that’s not in the collection if a client has a specific piece in mind. If a suitable piece can’t be found, Miller said she will commission it. She’s hired artists to paint pictures from photographs, and recently hired an artist to paint a series of small paintings from a picture of a client’s dog.
Miller said the process of finding pieces depends on the personality or interests of a client. Some people walk into the gallery and find what they’re looking for off the studio wall. Others can take months to select the right look.
She works with designers or alone. She’s worked closely with designer Dan Proctor for many years. To start a project, she’ll take pictures and measurements at a client’s house, then send the client a portfolio of pieces she thinks they’ll like. She uses her large-format printer to simulate a particular artwork’s look on a client’s wall or uses a projector to project the image in the correct spot.
A Vision Made Real
The RELLIM Collection’s gallery space is filled with works of art that have caught her eye. Though Miller readily admits she is “not an art connoisseur, not an art critic, and not an art history major,” she trusts the “gut feeling, or an emotional response” that moves her when she sees a work of art.
The brightly lit gallery is filled with multiple styles of paintings and sculptures. Overall, the vibe of the gallery is cheerful, warm, and modern. Miller has a personal affinity for bright colors, but the collection offers diversity in style, tone, and medium.
Of Baltimore’s three art museums, Miller prefers the Baltimore Museum of Art. She appreciates the old masters, she said, but prefers modern and abstract styles.
“There’s something in the neatness of [abstract art],” Miller said. “Even if it’s a messy painting, there’s an order to it.”
She also loves contemporary Israeli art.
“A lot of great art comes out of Israel these days,” she said. “There’s a flavor to the art that’s coming out of Tel Aviv.”
There is one kind of contemporary art that hasn’t caught her attention yet, however.
“I’m having a hard time with digital art,” she said. “My kids would not agree with me.”
Miller and her husband downsized into a smaller house when their children left home. The hardest part of the move, Miller said, was trying to part with the art she’d collected over the years. She wasn’t entirely successful in divesting. Ultimately, she traded two pieces of art in her collection for smaller pieces.
To Miller, her art is more than something to hang over the sofa. When she loves a piece of art, she said, it’s a “source of pure joy.”