Becoming an artist at 34: five things I have learned so far

creative biz

Allie Padgett is a textile artist in San Diego.

I know 34 isn’t “old,” but when you’re starting something new, it can sure feel like it!

A little over a year ago, I decided to finally pursue my creative passions. I have loved art and design my whole life, but never allowed myself to take it seriously — partly because I didn’t think I was good enough, and also because I thought I needed a “real” job.

So I went to college and studied something else (that degree in International Relations has come in real handy 🤷🏼‍♀️), and then spent the last decade working in the labor movement (#unionproud).

All of that was great, but I could never shake the feeling that I wanted to create art. I wanted to surround myself with colors and textures. I wanted to make stuff with my hands. And I wanted to teach my children to follow their own dreams without fear.

I don’t know if it was those crazy post-partum hormones, but last year I decided to finally Make 👏 It 👏 Happen 👏.

I started by talking to my friends who had creative businesses and asking for advice. I took sewing lessons. And then I got to work, crafting late into the night after my sons went to bed.

I explored several different ideas and crafts, but quickly fell in love with textile art. Inspired by vintage chenille bedspreads, I started creating crazy and colorful wall hangings using punchneedle, latch hook, and embroidery.

I’ve worked really hard over the past year, and created some art that I’m really proud of. And this year, when I sold my first piece of art, I realized that I am, in fact, an artist — something I never thought I would be able to say.

Everyone has their own journey and finds their own way, but I learned a few things over the past year that I wanted to share with other aspiring artists.

A shaggy green wall hanging by textile artist Allie Padgett

Your work is going to suck at first (and that’s okay)

Everything takes practice, especially art. And if you’re like me, it may have been a *really* long time since you exercised your creative muscles.

Don’t be discouraged when your first projects don’t turn out perfect or exactly as planned. It gets better! You may even surprise yourself by falling in love with some of your first projects that once made you cringe (this shaggy green one tho!).

Learning something new is really, really hard

Over the past year, I have had screaming matches with my sewing machine, my camera, and several tangled skeins of yarn. My husband has asked me “Are you sure this is a hobby?” on more than one occasion.

I have also experienced a whole lotta mom guilt and exhaustion. I would ask myself things like, "Shouldn’t I be spending this time with my kids instead of 'crafting'?" -- in addition to just breaking down in tears because there simply weren't enough hours in the day. 

There are SO many challenges to overcome when starting a creative business. Be kind to yourself, and keep pushing through.

It doesn’t matter if someone is already doing it.

One of the things my friend Morgan Battista told me when I was getting started was “Everything has been done before, but it hasn’t been done by you” (which is maybe a famous quote from someone else?? I dunno!).

Anyway, that really stuck with me because when I started I had zero confidence in my art, and I wasn’t sure I could add anything that was new and unique.

But it turns out I had A LOT of ideas and creativity to share. To this day, one of the nicest compliments people have given me about my work is that it is unique.

PLEASE share yourself and your work with the world! You have a unique perspective and talent, and we wanna see it.

You don’t need thousands of followers to be successful

People offered to buy my art before I even had 50 followers. As I'm writing this post, I still don’t have 1,000 followers and yet people and actual real companies are reaching out to me regarding partnerships that I never dreamed were possible.

This is not to say you don't need to have a legit online presence. Your social accounts, website, photography, and branding are going to draw people to your work, so make it good! But if you have these things in order, and if you're creating cool stuff, people will be drawn to your work quicker than you might think.

Put yourself out there, and amazing opportunities *will* start coming your way.

A punchneedle wall hanging with shapes by textile artist Allie Padgett

Just go for it.

I repeat: Put yourself out there, and amazing opportunities *will* come your way.

You have nothing to lose by pursuing your passion, and everything to gain.

I started slowly and made it my goal to do just one thing a day to further my art. Some days the “one thing” was as simple as ordering yarn on Amazon (Prime, baby!!). But all of these small steps kept me chugging along and working towards my ultimate goal -- even when it was taking a bit longer that I had hoped.

I’m still very much at the beginning of my creative journey, and have a long way to go. It’s been fun, frustrating, amazing, and exhausting all at once.

I hope some of the ideas I have shared inspire you — whether it’s art or another passion that’s been gnawing at you over the years, JUST GO FOR IT!

Are you a new or aspiring artist? What have been some of the challenges you have faced along the way? Comment below!

And don't forget to follow me on Instagram: @alliechenille. I would love to chat and meet you!


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