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How I became an artist: Lynda Makara's story

Updated on February 4, 2015
moonlight farm
moonlight farm

The story of how I became an artist

Becoming an artist was the furthest thing from my mind when I was a teenager trying to figure out how to support myself after high school.

Sewing, drawing and cake decorating were things I enjoyed, but they were considered hobbies. I followed a more practical path for twenty years until a couple of epiphanies and some closed doors put me on the right path.

This is the story of how I became an artist.

All photos © 2012 Lynda Makara

Passion vs. practicality

I was 38 when I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. At 17 I didn't have a clue, but knew I had to do something after high school graduation. The whole thing gave me such anxiety I started having heart palpitations.

Nobody was able to give me any guidance. My mother tried. Throughout my childhood she kept telling me I should be a nun. By the time I was in my teens she'd given up on that one and suggested I become a secretary because she had been one. I rejected that idea because it was boring. Drawing and sewing were things I enjoyed doing, so naturally I became a...secretary! Yes, mom won that round. (Note to self: do not take career advice from your mother.)

Practicality wins...for a while

After graduating high school I went to secretarial college for a year. I worked for several years as a secretary and then as a word processor. I enjoyed typing and working on the computer and even doing a little programming. Thank God for computers! And to think I learned how to type on a manual typewriter. And then along came those new-fangled electric typewriters. But I digress.

Sunflowers by Lynda Makara

Passion for creativity builds

With the exception of a couple of classes, everything I learned about art came from reading books or from figuring things out on my own. In my spare time I worked on many creative and artistic projects. Generally I couldn't go very long without one or I'd start to feel restless. These are some of the things I did:

  • Lots of sewing. I made all my clothes for many years. I also made curtains, drapes, slipcovers, pillows.
  • Quilting. Didn't really like that much because it's too fussy, but I did finish one quilt.
  • Needlepoint. I found this much too tedious.
  • Silk ribbon embroidery. Loved that and made several projects. See the picture below for an example.
  • Battenburg and other types of needle lace. I used to make lace collars for my homemade dresses, as well as placemats, napkins and tablecloths.
  • Home decorating. I liked to paint the walls vibrant colors and accessorize.
  • Gardening. My yard was overflowing with several types of flowers that I grew from seeds. Pansies and petunias were my favorites. I also grew tomatoes.

Picture frame with silk ribbon embroidery on silk fabric

One of the many creative projects I made in my spare time

Epiphany

I had been married for several years (that nun thing was never meant to be) and had been trying to have kids. At the age of 38 I finally realized it wasn't going to happen. So I decided if I wasn't going to create life, I would create art. Time spent vegging in front the TV was now spent making things.

I started making potholders, of all things, and brought them in to work. And the most amazing thing happened--people bought them! So I brought more in every day. Soon my desk looked like a craft boutique. Every day my coworkers would come to my desk to "shop." I can't believe I didn't get in trouble for that, but I didn't. It was thrilling! People actually wanted to buy things I made!

Potholders were the gateway to becoming an artist

Epiphany II

One day I went to a local museum and saw a doll exhibit and fell in love. As a child I'd never much cared for dolls, so this surprised me. They were cloth dolls made in the 1930s, I believe, by a famous dollmaker whose name I can't remember. They were very intricate, from their delicate little faces to their elaborate costumes. I was fascinated that such dimension could be achieved with flat pieces of fabric. That's when I knew I would be a dollmaker.

I bought some doll patterns and got to work. I made sheep, crows and elves. My coworkers bought them and placed orders for more. A few months later my husband and I decided to move out of state and live in the country. The plan was for me to stay home, design my own line of dolls and start my craft business called Moonlight Farm. But that's not exactly what happened.

Renaissance Angel by Lynda Makara, my first doll design

Getting a wakeup call from the universe

I was put in the position of having to get another "real" job and found myself again working in an office. At night I designed dolls with the goal of quitting my job one day in the near future.

About a year later I was divorced. My dream of being a full-time artist was being postponed again. It just wasn't wise to quit my job and go out on my own. Six months later I got laid off. And there I was, all alone with no job and almost no money. It felt like the end of the world.

From unemployed to self-employed

I applied for work, again looking for office jobs. I also started contacting businesses to see if they would be interested in buying my dolls. My angel of a friend Jennifer, whom I worked with before moving, offered to take my dolls around to businesses there. And she was the one who found sales reps who offered to represent me.

I started selling my dolls wholesale to stores. My reps sent me orders and I stayed home and sewed. For a while I continued to seek office work. Then it dawned on me: I already had a job.

Not that things were easy because they weren't. Far from it. I worked long hours for very little money. I was the typical "starving" artist. Well not actually starving, but struggling, yes. I really learned how to stretch a dollar and to make do with things on hand. After a while it became almost fun. It was definitely satisfying coming up with creative ways to make things work.

My first doll collection

Evolving as an artist

Gradually things got better. I changed sales reps and started making more money. Eventually I got burnt out on sewing and wanted to do something different. So I started making noisemakers and boxes which involved painting and sculpting. It was also much more profitable.

I did this for a few years but I still had a dream that was not being fulfilled. I wanted to use all the skills I've learned over the years to create special, one-of-a-kind pieces of art. And I wanted to wake up in the morning, turn on my computer and find that I'd sold something.

So here I am now, creating unique works of art and working to establish an online presence through my new website.

Happiness by Lynda Makara

© 2012 Lynda Makara

Your comments and questions are welcome! I hope you've enjoyed my story of becoming an artist. Maybe it will inspire others to follow their dreams.

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    • FirstStepsFitness profile image

      FirstStepsFitness 3 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your inspiring story :)

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 3 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your inspiring story!

    • profile image

      moonlitta 4 years ago

      Great story, I am 38 now and almost the same's happening with me, so I symapthise a lot with it and you:)

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 4 years ago

      We all need to hear of success stories like yours. It will definitely inspire some of us to follow our own path.

    • profile image

      belinhafernandes 4 years ago

      You're very talented! You do awesome things in any material you put your hands on! Good that you forgot about TV! I loved your story!

    • iamraincrystal profile image

      Rosyel Sawali 4 years ago from Manila Philippines

      I love reading your story. It's inspiring! ^_^

    • MelloKnitty LM profile image

      MelloKnitty LM 4 years ago

      Lovely & inspiring story! Gives hope to those of us who also have a dream! :)

    • Lyra Kua profile image

      Lyra Kua 5 years ago

      That was a long journey you had. I am currently in the middle of soul-searching. I still don't know what I really wanted in life. But your story inspired me. Nothing is too late. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jo-Jackson profile image

      Jo-Jackson 5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your story. You are very lucky to be making a living from something you love. Much better than working in an office I think.

    • TheBLU26 profile image

      TheBLU26 5 years ago

      Wow! You sure are talented! I especially was blown away by your embroidered picture frame! Amazing!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      A very interesting and inspiring story, thanks for sharing your path to becoming an artist

    • lclchors profile image

      lclchors 5 years ago

      I love your work and your sense of humor and story telling

    • profile image

      smsr0100451 5 years ago

      Beautiful art work. Love it.

    • maryLuu profile image

      maryLuu 5 years ago

      Nice lens. I liked the way you shared your story!

    • LizardKing3 profile image

      LizardKing3 5 years ago

      Nice lens, enjoyed your story.

    • Lynda Makara profile image
      Author

      Lynda Makara 5 years ago from California

      @Scarlettohairy: Thanks! You're too kind.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      What a great story of your evolution! I'm so glad you like what you're doing. You are certainly VERY talented!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Ok, so you Mom told you to become a nun and instead you became an artist - that does angels? Hmmm. Cute story, well told. Blessed.

    • RichLeighHD profile image

      RichLeighHD 5 years ago

      Really interesting lens; I wish you much continued success for the future and hope that you continue to go from strength to strength both here and on Etsy. I'm glad your passion won through in the end!

    • judithmurphy profile image

      judithmurphy 5 years ago

      Your hard work and belief in yourself are impressive. I wish you every success. Thanks for sharing your story and inspiring us all.

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 5 years ago from USA

      We have a lot in common, my Squidoo friend. Beautiful lens and wonderful handwork.

    • Nanciajohnson profile image

      Nancy Johnson 5 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      I love dolls and I love your story. Very inspiring! Good for you on making that leap and fullfilling that dream of being a fulltime artist.

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Great "About Me" Lens; and a wonderful accomplishment; you're very inspiring and talented.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Very glad you are following your dreams! Great article. :)

    • biminibahamas profile image

      biminibahamas 5 years ago

      Love your art ... thank you for sharing a little bit about yourself!

    • IMKZRNU2 profile image

      IMKZRNU2 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Nice lens and continued success with your business....thanks for sharing!

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 5 years ago

      I *love* your story. It's always such a shame when "practicality" gets in the way of happiness. Congratulations on chasing down those slippery dreams!

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