The working artist

Could fabric design be part of your career path?

Could fabric design be part of your career path?

Have you heard of Lisa Congdon? A fine artist, commercial artist, teacher and author she has made a name for herself. Earlier in October she taught a two day class entitled "Become a Working Artist" via the Creative Live platform. You can watch on demand here.

The thing that impressed me most was her approach to building a financially viable career from art. It may have been true in the past that you had to choose between the branches of art. Being a fine artist and exhibiting in galleries might have been one choice. Finding commercial work or doing illustrations for licensed products might have been another option. These days the lines are blurred and it's much easier to explore any or all of these avenues.

You can find Lisa Congdon work in many unexpected places - on wallpaper, fabrics and in home decor. She also provides illustrations for magazines and books (editorial work). She talked about doing commercial installations, a mural in a public building for instance. Her prints are sold in her own Etsy shop. In short Lisa has created an empire with many sources of income. She stays motivated since her work is so varied. She works with different agents, clients and collaborators. It sounds fantastic and looks like fun. The addition of speaking engagements, teaching and writing 'how to ' books pads out her earnings. Take a look at her website. It's awesome. An inspiring career.

Molly Hatch is another artist who embraces every opportunity. She started as a studio potter but is so much more. Her ceramic plates have been included as huge art installations in galleries around the USA. She was asked to create a line for Anthropologie. You can see her illustrations on packaging, wallpaper and quilting fabric. It's another inspiring career.

Another artist I've always liked is Lotta Jansdotter. She too has explored many opportunities for her art. Just recently in an email from the place where I buy my kids' lunchboxes announced a new Lotta Jansdotter collection! There are photos on Lotta's fanpage.

So how do you go about finding these opportunities? According to Lisa Congdon the best place to start is to produce large amounts of work and continue to develop your own style. Then share it everywhere. Be a generous support to others in the industry. Be open to everything - even small exhibitions, markets. Develop a resilience and don't let rejection kill your dream. Try to focus on building a career that brings money in but still allows you to express yourself in the way that feels good for you. Ignore the naysayers who say you're 'selling out' - they will be the ones trapped in the 'starving artist' cycle forever.