Thriving Despite It All
"I had to make reckless decisions to tear down the life I was living in order to create the new life I wanted instead," I said to some friends this week.
It is the story I never tire of telling, the story of how I went from being a factory worker at a cookie plant to a full-time art professional. Instead of making Oreos for America as a production mixer (you're welcome!), I now earn my livelihood by making art, selling art as well as teaching art and guiding people in creative and whole hearted workshops.
I made the leap of faith from my well-paying union job when I was 55 years young. That was in 2019. At that time I was an unproven artist or art instructor. I had sold here and there and taught here and there. I was not actively building a creative business when I left the factory.
Business wise, I did everything wrong. I was in debt, my savings were meager and I had no backup plan nor road map of how to get from here to there. But I did have a big tank of GRIT which has been described as the combo of passion and purpose. That I had plenty of.
I lived off credit for a year after I resigned. I worked part-time in the evenings as an office cleaner for my friend Debbie of Cleaning Angels. Debbie, by the way, grew up the daughter of a factory working mom. Her mom used to work at the Nabisco factory where I worked. When I made my reckless leap of faith to resign, I reached out to her for work to help me get through the early stages of building up my art earnings. I worked for her for two years.
In the world of entrepreneurship this is called a Bridge Job. It was a job that allowed me the space to stay focused on building my art biz, while also earning to keep the lights on.
I had also managed to get steady gigs teaching workshops at Vancouver Art Space as well as Clark Community College. These gig teaching jobs helped me pay my bills, but they really, really helped me grow as an instructor. I did not know I would flourish as much as I did teaching. I know I am a solid artist... but I am legit a spectacular teacher and communicator. I had no idea about myself that way until After I made that crazy leap of faith from the factory life.
It took a while to get my finances cleaned up. I made such a mess of them that first year as a full-time creative. And then.... 2020. Oh man. I panicked like everyone else. I immediately thought I ought to get a fulltime job to weather through the pandemic. But that small voice inside said, Stay the course.
And so, I did.
I ended up selling more art in 2020 than in 2019.
I stabilized my financials.
I began to shift from a mindset of being an artist to a mindset of being An Art Seller. BIG DIFFERENCE!
My business sense and intuitiveness began to flourish and grow as did my confidence. My workshops began to attract more students and I was selling art on the steady.
Last year I made the decision to hop into Portland Saturday Market as an art vendor. PSM is the oldest outdoor market of it's kind in the United States and is a top destination for tourists in Portland. Many thousands of people visit it every year. In my first season there I sold so much art and grew my patronage by miles and miles. Of course there were quiet days of low sales when I doubted my self and my choices, but then there were also high days of four-figure sales. To sell in the markets is to have the Long Game mentality.
More than learning to sell art better, by joining PSM and other art fairs and festivals, I discovered My People, the makers and artists like me who love creating and selling and earning their livelihood by their own hands. It is a way of life, a way of Being. My friend and mentor Dave Bartholet especially taught me to Keep Showing Up with the intention to attract success and I surely will... and he is right! I have grown more in the last year than the previous three combined. FOR REALZ !!!!!!!!!
Many people have this perception of me as a super busy woman. I get that a lot. Here's the thing : the way I live and work is not like work. It is Life. It is my life centered on creativity, community and also connecting with nature. Being self-employed means I get to decide when to go outside and play rather than wait for a certain day of the week to be off. I get to decide all the things. Sometimes I paint at midnight, sometimes I write and work on internet stuff all day. Sometimes I make calls and network. Sometimes I lay in bed late than get up and go to the woods. I love this kind of freedom.
The way I live now is a Lifestyle of creative energy and creative entrepreneurship. A typical day for me is Not Typical. My version of busyness Enlivens me.
I have so much vision with short-term as well as long-term goals. I am growing, my audience and my reach continues to expand, and all my bills are paid. (Some months are leaner than others, but I've never missed a meal! :) )
I appreciate so much the years I spent working at the factory. I was doing a lot of art production for summer events last year. I set-up a mini assembly line in my studio to make the process as efficient as possible and it made me think about how I used to work at the factory.
Everything that happens shapes us if we allow it to.
This is my experience and observation.
I made a video about a year ago called Crushed to Life: How a factory job showed me the way. You can view it on Youtube if my story intrigues you to know more :
This weekend I will be teaching a workshop I'm calling
WHO'D A THUNK ?!?!?!?!?
I am so fucking proud of me.
And I am only just getting started.
(I will tell the story another day of how a ginormous bag of cocoa powder blew up in my face which is why I look like a coal miner in this photo!)
I know this is a long post for social media so if you read all of this I thank you. Before I was an artist I was a writer and I am currently working on new writing projects so my wordiness is extra word-full these days. I am crazy excited to unveil them when they are ready.
Do I sleep ?
Do I play?
Hex yeah, every chance I get.
Do I ever feel burnt out?
When you do what you love, you'll never work again.