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How I became an artist: Lynda Makara's story
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
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
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