Hey creative friends,

Early in April I had the privilege to write a guest post for Peggy Dean of The Pigeon Letters, sharing my creative journey from an IT specialist to a self-taught surface pattern designer. Peggy is an artist I highly admire, well known for her intricately elegant calligraphy, botanical line drawing, naturally flowing watercolors and the list goes on. Oh, and of course, she is an award-winning Skillshare instructor with a bunch of creative and highly inspiring classes – check her amazing class on botanical line drawing here and highly useful and inspiring class for every aspiring surface pattern designer on finding your creative style here.

Head over to the article to read the whole post and check out Peggy’s blog or read my article below.

Today, I’m a surface pattern designer, creating quirky patterns and teaching on Skillshare. But I’ve started out my professional career as something completely different: having a BSc in Computer Science and Telecom and an MSc in Computer Security, I worked as a Network and Product Verification Engineer. Very techy, I know! And I was good at it! Until one day I quit my job to start a crafting business and sell handmade decor. Courageous, if I can say so myself! Well, that didn’t go as well as I expected and I found myself at a crossing: going back to my previous job or try again to find something that I’m both good at and that will bring me satisfaction and joy. I chose the latter and started learning graphic design, Photoshop and Illustrator. Soon, I’ve managed to narrow down what I truly enjoyed and what attracted me the most, and for the last 2 years I’m exclusively designing surface patterns!
If you’re finding yourself at a crossing, I’d love to share my ups and downs, my dos and don’ts, what worked for me and what didn’t and hopefully inspire you in some way!

First of all, if something isn’t working, make a change. If a creative endeavor is something you want to pursue, the right time is not tomorrow, next year or when the children grow up. It’s today! Go out there and try the thing you’ve always wanted to do. There will always be an excuse, there will always be other things to do and other priorities. So if you’re putting it off, chances are you’re putting it off for good. Find the courage and motivation within yourself to start! There’s a saying here in Romania: you won’t win the lottery if you don’ buy a ticket!

When creating art, be it in the shape of surface patterns, calligraphy, watercolors, mixed arts etc, do what feels right for you! Don’t try to please anybody else but yourself. You’ll never be able to please everybody so please the most important person: YOU! Follow the trends that seem right to you, chose themes that you are passionate about, don’t blindly follow others. Create a surface pattern design, illustration, graphic because it feels right to you and put it out there. The people that will enjoy your particular art or craft will find their way to you!

When I design a pattern collection or experiment with something new, I often ask for my husband’s (good man Mihai!) opinion. Well, the pattern I like the most, he doesn’t, and the one I hate, well, that’s the one he likes. I didn’t stop asking for his advice or opinion, on the contrary, I find it refreshing to see what he feels and thinks about my art, but I don’t let his opinion put me down or change my mind. In the end, I go with the design that I feel is strongest and more representative of MYSELF.

This is the advice you’ll get from everyone to help you grow in any business, hobby or skill! And that is because it’s so true and important. Especially if you’re trying something new: a new endeavor, career or business. Practice your chosen art everyday. Draw, paint, design on a daily basis! For me, practicing everyday and putting in at least a couple of hours in my business every single day helps me as such: it keeps me motivated and connected to my business, I grow professionally and develop new skills and it helps me find my true voice and style. So practice, practice, practice! Keep a sketchbook, join challenges like 10 days of patterns, 100 days of lettering, whatever suits, but commit on a daily basis.

When you’re trying something new, it’s obvious you’re super excited and optimistic. And you should be! But, also try to be grounded and realistic. Success takes time, getting noticed takes time, being important in your chosen art takes time. When I started my Etsy business, I imagined that I would become a millionaire, earn a steady income and retire with a big fat bank account. Well, that didn’t happen. So you probably won’t hit it big the day you open your business, but don’t let this get you discouraged. Take it a day at a time, invest time into planning and setting realistic and measurable goals for yourself. Celebrate every success you have, no matter how small and learn from your mistakes or shortcomings.

This is one of the most important thing to consider when starting out an artistic endeavor: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Perhaps your new endeavor is a side hustle, perhaps you’re planning to make it a full time job. Either way, when talking about income, try to find multiple sources and don’t rely on only one thing. Do some research and find what is suitable for your needs like licensing your designs, opening shops on POD websites and so on and diversify your income sources. I sell some of my designs on Spoonflower, I have a shop on Etsy selling digital goods (some of my earlier work), I teach on Skillshare and share with others my knowledge and what I’ve learned and experienced so far and I have recently started adding my designs on Society6. Oh, and finding multiple income sources will also help you with exposure, so that’s great too!

“Do something you love!” Honestly, I’ve heard this so many times, it sounds like a cliche to me. To make it a real advice, I would add something to it: do something you love, but start from something you know or are good at. When I quit my job in IT to start a handmade business, I went for something that was completely new to me. I loved the products I was making, but I knew nothing about selling them or owning a craft business. Doing it all on my own, learning all aspects of owning a business (making the products, buying the supplies, shipping, photographing, marketing, taxes, going to fairs etc.) was overwhelming, slow and it became more frustrating than enjoyable. When I shifted careers for graphic design and surface pattern design, I didn’t start completely fresh. I was already a creative person and I had a very solid technical background. I had friends in the field that would help me with an advice, piece of software, etc. I combined something I already knew with something new, challenging and exciting!

And this combo works for me and hopefully it will for you!

PS: My post was featured on The Pigeon Letters a month ago, but I was so absorbed by my “upcoming” change of role from woman to mother, that I didn’t even see it.

PS2: If you’re new to Society6, use my link to get $10 off your first purchase – get discount!

Friends, share your thoughts and your creative journey! What would you do differently regarding your creative career, what is holding you back, what motivates you to move forward?

Daniela ⚘