The Uncensored Truth About Being an Artist
As my first blog post I want to share the honest reality about how I started my business as well as give a brief background about myself and what led me to become the woman writing this post today. I felt compelled to share my story for anyone out there struggling with their business, themselves, or for those who constantly question what the heck they're doing with their life. Social media is a facade which makes it appear like everyone has their s**t together. Personally, I believe in transparency and authenticity. As an artist, I want to use my voice for truth and to let others know they are not alone in their struggles. At a glance people often compliment me on my website or Instagram and the work that I do, but its been quite a journey to get to this point and I feel like I am just getting started.
"You'll never succeed as an artist"
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that, I would be retired on a yacht in Ibiza by now sipping champagne with my besties dancing to the Vengaboys. It wasn't like I woke up one day and decided to choose one of the hardest career paths out there. Being an artist never felt like much of a choice to me, it was always naturally a part of who I am for as long as I can remember.
As a child growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, my mom was always very crafty, working on a quilt for my bed or crocheting clothes for my Barbies, making Christmas ornaments, things like that. Additionally I was a kid with an overactive imagination. I loved to paint, I would dress my brother and I up in costumes and perform plays in our living room, I would record commercials or documentaries on my camcorder for fun. In all honesty I was and still am a bit bizarre.
When the time came to attend college I couldn't pick one field of art to study so I decided on pursuing an education in film production as I didn't have to choose and could experiment with cameras, writing, fashion, sound and whatever else I felt inclined to do. This multi-passionate lust for creativity both haunts and blesses me to this day. I say haunts because sometimes being into everything creative can be overwhelming and has led to many unfinished projects as I often abandoned them in pursuit of another.
After spending four years in a two year program learning everything about film rather than specializing in one particular area, I dropped out and ended up working freelance in the industry for several years. Although I wore several hats in the industry, I specialized in art department which includes things like props and set design. For a time things were looking up, I was getting consistent work, meeting awesome people, getting paid to work in amazing locations.
And then a dark cloud of despair rolled in and I was bombarded with tragedy after tragedy. My father passed away unexpectedly. I got into an abusive relationship with someone I worked with in film. I found out I was pregnant with his baby and had an abortion. One of my dearest friends and colleagues also passed away unexpectedly. In attempt to cut ties from the toxicity that had formed in my life I decided to move away with my family to San Diego, California and start over with a clean slate.
Everything had the potential to get better but there was still so much lingering pain and trauma within myself that I hadn't healed and wasn't really aware I needed to address. Although this was nearly a decade ago I feel like at the time things like "glow ups" and "self care" weren't as prominent as they are now and of course this was also prior to the "Me Too" movement...there were so many things both socially and internally I didn't realize were so completely out of alignment for me.
Being in my early twenties at the time, I did what many lost twenty somethings do, I turned to partying and drinking. I've always been very social and love a good drink but during that time my drinking started to get really bad and within six months of moving to San Diego I was arrested for a DUI. I had to live in a halfway house for six months and met all sorts of unsavory folks there which led to me entering yet another abusive relationship. A few years went by where I had almost completely abandoned art. I've never been one of those artists who channels their pain creatively, I prefer to create when I'm happy. I traded my film career for a minimum wage retail job and for years was living as a shell of my former artistic self.
Thankfully I was able to leave that abusive relationship (though I'll admit it wasn't easy). Shortly after that my best friend since childhood committed suicide. For about five or so years I had really lost my hope and motivation. I felt like the universe just wouldn't cut me a break. I realize now that I was co-creating much of my dark reality though at the time I essentially felt defeated and helpless in every way possible.
Then by the grace of God my life slowly started to get better. I couldn't attribute the shift to anything other than divine intervention because I personally hadn't done much to change my situation. I started going to therapy and during that time started a Turkish guy named Ceyhun who was completely different than anyone I'd ever been in a relationship with before.
"If you can't love yourself how the hell you gonna love someone else?"
Ah that classic saying made popular by Ru Paul. I knew it well, yet never seemed to have the patience to focus on myself above someone else. What can I say? I'm a Libra and romantic AF and simply love being in love. I never spent much time in my life being single. When I first started dating Ceyhun I poured myself into the relationship. I learned as much as I could about Turkish culture and as an early romantic gesture I made him a tray of baklava, a classic middle eastern dessert. We all know the way to a man's heart is through his stomach and boy is it true. Five months after we started dating he proposed and I said yes without any hesitation. Two months later we were married and thus a whole new chapter of my life emerged.
From an outside perspective I can see how this was all wrong, to rush into something so serious while I still hadn't done much to emotionally and mentally overcome the "bad stuff" from my past. It all kind of had a recipe for disaster and in the beginning it felt like it was going that way at times, mainly due to the fact that we just didn't know each other very well before we married. We fought a lot in the beginning. I guess I felt that being married would fill the hole all the pain in my life had caused and I realized that nothing outside of myself could heal me.
Thankfully we both had the patience and empathy to work through our initial turbulence. It would've been easy to get divorced but that still wouldn't have solved all the internal conflicts I had yet to deal with. Looking back now I am so thankful we never gave up on each other and as time goes on our relationship continues to improve for the better. Ceyhun though he's been hard on me at times, has always wanted me to push myself and has seen potential in me that I had stopped seeing for several years. At the time, he was in working on his master's degree and it made me start to think about my own career and what I wanted for my future.
At the beginning of 2019 I started to think about my creativity and art again, in particular how I could channel it into a business that I could financially support myself with. Back in 2009 I lived in an art gallery for a year and had a brief stint trying to sell art but I didn't have much business know how and was also in college so while it was a great learning experience, it was in the end a failed attempt at an art career. My lack of success made me believe that I didn't have what it takes to "make it".
Around this time I read the book 'Think and Grow Rich' by Napoleon Hill which my mom had gifted to me. I highly recommend this book to everyone and reading it inspired me to start taking action toward building something, I wasn't sure what I wanted to build but I trusted that if I just kept pushing myself I would figure it out. I also started making healthier choices, drinking less, quit smoking cigarettes, eating healthier. Bit by bit life slowly got better and I started to become closer to the person I always wanted to be.
"Start before you're ready."
I decided to give my creativity another chance. I brainstormed ideas like crazy, once again feeling the overwhelm of loving so many creative things and not knowing what to do. My mom and brother we're doing weekly mastermind meetings where they would discuss their business goals and progress and invited me to join. Although I hadn't a clue what I was doing, I decided I had nothing to lose so I joined in.
At first I was pretty lost. I thought about flipping furniture for awhile. I got really into using my planner and for some reason thought making cute paperclips was a good idea. Then I had the thought of making money on Instagram. The data mining elves must've heard me. A sponsored post for business coach and stylist Hilary Rushford's 'Instagram with Intention' course popped into my feed and something clicked. I before I knew it I was watching a free webinar and getting sucked into the world of online courses. I ended up taking her paid course for Instagram and learned a lot about using social media for business rather than just for sharing pics of your food. I learned about addressing an audience and how to share something of value. I changed how I started presenting content on Instagram, revamped my page and decided that I would use my Instagram primarily for my art and creations with just bits of personal content thrown in.
Following Hilary Rushford led me to find Marie Forleo, a business coach with a popular program called B-School which essentially gives you all the basic info you need to start a business and market it. Between B-School and tons of my own personal research, I figured out how to make a website. My original intention was to find cool products to sell via dropshipping which allowed me to sell products without ever having them on hand. It didn't require much investment as I would only need to pay for a product after a customer had placed an order for it. I spent about six month scouring the internet finding the coolest products I could find and differentiating myself by writing unique product descriptions that painted a picture of the life I wanted to live.
In August 2019 I launched this website and Everyday Avant Garde was officially online. My husband had bought me the URL to the website for my birthday the year before and at the time we both had no clue what it would become. Sales were slow as I was only marketing through my social media accounts and wasn't running ads. Ceyhun helped me run an ad campaign in the spring of 2020 and for a brief time I was getting decent sales and people seemed to enjoy the products. I probably could have continued like that but some things still didn't feel quite in alignment with me. While I adored the products I was selling, shipping times were taking quite awhile and I didn't like that I wasn't able to add my own personal touches in the packaging or be able to ensure the quality of the products were up to my standards.
I pulled all the drop ship products off my website and decided that I would only sell things that were handmade or had my personal creative touch on in some way. There was only one problem, I had been so caught up in learning how to start a business that I still wasn't making art...I had basically nothing to sell except a few handmade crochet bags (which are still currently for sale).
Things stayed like that for awhile. The stress of the pandemic combined with my anxiety and overwhelm about what to do next kept me sort of stuck for nearly a year.
"We manifest what we do, not what we think."
At the time, one of the bonuses of B-School was being part of a Facebook group of B-School alumni meant for networking, support, etc. Through that group I met a manifestation coach, Morgana McCabe Allan. She invited me to her Facebook group called Aligned AF Purposeful Entrepreneurs who Manifest and Get Sh*t Done. Manifestation is always something I've been into but much like my art had been a sort of back burner thing I hadn't been focusing on nearly enough. I really love her content and that her niche is specifically for entrepreneurs who are into manifesting (though you don't need to be an entrepreneur to get value from her content). Initially I wanted to invest in her program it felt intimidating to me after already pouring so much money into the Instagram course, B-School, and the start up costs for my website.
I had been part of her group for about a year and gotten to know her better through her online community. In July 2020 she re-launched her program 'Manifesting Masters'. It was sort of right place, right time, stars align type situation where I finally felt ready to invest in another course but this time I would be working on myself rather than just my business. I felt like I had hit a road block with my business, I'd been laid off from my comedy club waitress job due to the pandemic shut downs and had all this extra time and stimulus money and felt like I was at a point where I really couldn't afford not to do something new to shift things up.
So while my business lay dormant for months, I took time to focus on myself really for the first time ever in my life. I learned so many incredible things about manifesting, I got to know and understand myself better, I regained confidence which had been beaten to all hell from the crap in my past. My anxiety went away and I stopped having panic attacks. When I started a business I had no clue that it would be the first steps toward overcoming my traumas and reclaiming myself both personally and as an artist.
I am nearing the end of her program as I write this and while I still feel some overwhelm and confusion about what the heck I am doing with this business, I've released my anxiety and doubts about it. Morgana taught me that we manifest what we do, not what we think. Which is why simply thinking happy thought won't manifest your desires, you have to take action and show up for your highest self through consistent aligned action. Sometimes its hard to show up for my highest self every day as I can still hear the toxic patterns from my past whispering words I now realize aren't really me and I am slowly releasing them day by day.
"Everything is happening at exactly the right time."
As both an artist and entrepreneur I hear a lot of opinions and commentary about what I "should" be doing or what people think will sell etc. I think that was why I often felt so conflicted about what to make or do. Those voices kept me from taking action. I am learning how to return to my artistic roots and follow the beat of my own drum.
I've let go of the pressure I put on myself to define exactly what it is I do or make. I've decided that I will make whatever I feel called to at a certain moment, share it with the world, and in some cases list it for sale on my website. I am over trying to force it and feeling inclined to let it naturally develop and grow with what feels most in alignment for me. I trust in the divine timing of the universe to use me as a vessel of creativity and let it flow and pour out without resistance or doubt. No matter what I make, the intention behind it is always the same, intentions of lifting the vibrations of myself and others through blessings like color, joy, humor, novelty, and love. To put it simply, manifesting delight with aesthetics.
I am Joelle, an artist. I can be all of the things I want to be or call myself. I am a painter, a jewelry maker, a producer, a designer, a photographer, a film maker, a writer, a sculptor, a stylist, a sewer, a builder, a creator, a lover, a dreamer, a champion of outcasts and underdogs, an enthusiast of all creative forms of expression and I am here to tell you you can be whatever the heck you wanna be too...its up to you and nobody else.
The truth about being and artist is its not easy, but it can be if you simply surrender to the universe and just create what feels right to you.