February 25, 2018

Ask the Artists: Following Your Passion

At this point, you’ve heard me talk a lot about following your creative passion. It's not easy, and it’s not right for everyone, but it can be totally worth it if you put in the time and planning. With that said, there is no one set approach. What works for your idea and your talents may not fit someone else. As such, I’d like to share stories of other artists and makers to help you see your path. I asked a handful of local creative entrepreneurs how they’ve turned their passions into careers. As one of them pointed out, this is a loaded question. For some, this is still a long term goal, and they have valuable advice to share about being a work in progress. Others seem to have known all along that this is what they were meant to do. So what’s right for you?

Debbie Carroll 

"I am still working on making my passion full time, luckily for me I love all things design and have been able to freelance here and there doing interior design and display when funds are tight. Gradually I've ramped up my level of participation in shows, gallery space and retail locations. It is a real ebb and flow, and I have found and the path is definitely not a straight one! My best advice to others would be to network, do your research, plan as best as you can, take it slow, but don't be afraid to take some risks. and most importantly, do the work! For me a To-Do list is a must!"

Elly Fleegal

"I began making homemade soap because I was tired of my eczema and the countless products I was referred to that never helped. I made simple cold process soaps for personal use. Not only did my skin clear up, but my friends and family were really enjoying them too.  I began to explore new ingredients always sticking to essential oils for scent and natural colorants.  I didn't want another eczema flair up! At the time I was full time raising my husbands four kids and working part time. Before long I was daydreaming about soap at work and knew I wanted to try to sell it.  I started to do local craft shows and farmers markets and I'd sell out!  I began applying to art shows all over Texas and out of state as well as selling my work online and wholesale.  It was and still is a tremendous amount of work, but it suits my passion for creating and my need of functionality perfectly. I never really feel like I'm done,  just looking for the next direction to follow.  I make my personal values an important part of my business decisions.  Over the years my formula has changed to exclude palm oil and include rainwater. I use biodegradable and recyclable packaging and shipping supplies. The best two things about Fleegal Farms, is it reflects who I am and allows me to provide for my family while doing what I love."

Western Whims

"I started sewing 10 years ago as a hobby, and since then, I got a B.S. in Textiles and Apparel Design, owned and operated an alterations and custom clothing business, taught sewing and design classes for a private school and two businesses in town, and worked as a patternmaker and sample maker for two other local companies. Now, I own and operate my clothing line Western Whims full-time. I followed my passion for apparel design as it's been the most fulfilling thing I have ever done."

Becca Borrelli

"There are a lot of moving parts transitioning a passion to an income. The aspect that has been most important in my journey was waiting as long as possible to monetize my art. I think a lot of people are in a hurry to make money doing what they love. The challenge of course is that if you use your passion to pay bills you'll quickly kill the passion. The passion turns into a job before it gets off the ground. The best thing I did for my business was to work full time in another industry while I slowly built my passion project on the side. No one sets out to be a full time coloring book artist, and I truly believe I found this amazing work because another job paid my bills while I was building it. I could say "no" to people who weren't a good fit, and say "no" to jobs that didn't feed my spirit. Eventually, Austin Coloring became my full time job because I was too busy. Yet sometimes I still miss the freedom I had when another gig paid my bills. Wait as long as you can to turn your passion into a career. The more time you wait, the more time you will have to build your passion on your terms. That way, it will stay a passion."

Ann Alva

"I just realized that life is too short to sit in commuter traffic. I seriously examined my life and realized that taking photos and making art gave me the greatest joy. So I started setting goals, pursuing Professional Development workshops, taking photography classes and applying to internships. There are so many resources in Austin ad so much creative energy available, you just have to tap into it!  I used all the energy that I used to give to others in my art education career and I put it towards myself. And now it's paying off! Yes, you can wake up one day and change the course of you life, but it doesn't happen overnight."

Sprayed Expressions
"I was raised by an entrepreneur single mother (her mother, my grandmother was also an entrepreneur, owning her own craft store). I was a taco stand kid, then the restaurant kid, then a side of the road selling furniture kid, and finally the furniture store kid. My mom had many successful businesses while I was growing up but I saw her work long hours all of the time. I was adamant that I would never be my own boss as I didn't like that she was always working and that it was never a guaranteed or set income. But as I have found, the entrepreneurial blood runs through my veins.  My husband and I collectively started our business, Sprayed Expressions, on Etsy in January 2012 as way to share our passion for spray paint art and recycling/repurposing with others. We maintained full time, corporate jobs and managed Sprayed Expressions on the side. Our business was an outlet to hone in on our creative side and because we shared the experience together, it brought us closer. In 2016 I became a Stay at Home Mom and during nap times (and bedtime), I began to focus on the business. The deeper I dug, the louder the calling became, and the passion ignited. There is a level of nirvana that you reach being your own boss that you can get nowhere else. So now, as an adult, an entrepreneur, and a mother, I understand the happiness and fulfillment that my own mother felt. Turning a passion into a career takes patience, persistence, and grit. There is an illusive freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur, and yet entrepreneurs live and breathe their business. As Oprah Winfrey once said, 'when you make the process your goal...your big dream will follow.'" 

Squid Friends

"Sacrifice. If you truly love creating art, then you have to love it more than anything else. My friends know it's a rare night when I will go out with them. Sometimes I don't get a full night's sleep. I wish I had more time to read, or play video games, but I have to be in front of that sewing machine or that easel or that drafting table if the work is to get done. Somedays it's just straight up work instead of passion, but you have to push through. Learn the phrase 'delayed gratification' and embrace it."

Dalton Designs

"From the time I was a little girl,I have always loved making jewelry. I was either making my own or getting into my mother's jewelry box to play with her's. I am blessed to have a mother that always encouraged me to do what I love. Following her advice, I decided to do just that. I received my formal education in metalsmithing and jewelry design at Austin Community College and still continue to learn on a daily basis. I am so happy to be successfully doing what I love. It is definitely not easy being your own boss and running a successful business. You don't always love everything you have to do, but it's the most rewarding job!"

Rick Van Dyke

"One of the best ways is to keep it a hobby, not a career.  If you don't have to totally depend on your passion for basic food and survival you can keep it as frosting on the cake. A second possibility is do your passion part-time. The best way to avoid going down the road to burnout is to start small, like planting a seed, and grow it carefully. One of the best things I have found is to do what you love in collaboration and in community.  You can feed and sustain each other.  On the other hand, going into business together is a great way to ruin a relationship! I have had a lifetime of doing what I love.  I loved teaching for 28 years.  I quit when I couldn't do it any more.  I did art on the side as much as possible.  I rented in a pottery studio for 12 of those years.  When I quit teaching I bought the business and now rent to more than 25 other potters.  I love it and can barely wait to get to the studio every day."