Becoming an Artist After 60

by Carolyn Edlund

Creativity and a passion for art are ageless, and starting a business later in life can be especially fulfilling. At the age of 60+, these entrepreneurs are pursuing their dreams. How did they do it, and what advice do they have for others?

 

Jewelry designer Nina Forrest. See her story at www.ArtsyShark.com

Jewelry designer Nina Forrest creates wearable art for a mature but fashionable clientele.

 

Nina Forrest

Her story: I’ve been a crafter all my life, but discovering the world of gemstone beads after my husband and I retired to New Mexico made me realize how soul stirring the creative process was for me. And I learned how much appreciation others had for my work. Although I don’t have a formal business background, I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit; a willingness to do the work of creating and running a business. And I had the support of my family.

Challenges: Having to learn about about all things digital, especially the role of social media. Getting help from people who know the jewelry biz. I got a lot of general advice, but was not able to move ahead until I found solutions to the specific issues that applied to my business. Recognizing what I could do alone, and what I needed to outsource.

Results: Fashionable women buy and love my work. Some of these women have large jewelry collections, and yet they tell me they often choose to wear my pieces over others they have. I’ve been accepted into juried venues, and high-end boutiques and galleries.

Advice: Research to find out what niche you can fill that others are not filling. Do not underprice your work. Find the market that will pay what your work is worth. Be prepared for delayed gratification, since it takes a while for a business to become viable.

 

Artist Darryl Hines. See him featured at www.ArtsyShark.com

Following a long career as an attorney, Darryl Hines (left) pursued his passion for painting and drawing. Appreciative fans include celebrities like Cedric the Entertainer (right).

 

Darryl Hines

His story: My path to my art practice began about a month after I turned 60, when my sons approached me about starting a tee shirt business. While searching for designs and graphic materials, I decided that I could create my own.

Challenges: Mainly marketing and understanding the power of social media, while learning the various nuances associated with multiple platforms.

Results: Definitely! The most positive feedback is selling my artwork or being commissioned to produce a unique work of art, such as one I created for a Grammy award-winning singer.

Advice: Don’t be afraid and go boldly where you think you don’t belong.

 

Artists Rob and Julie Stockler. See their story at www.ArtsyShark.com

Husband and wife team Rob Herion and Julie Stockler run Dead Horse Bay Arts Company, selling functional handcrafted work in wood and cloth.

 

Rob Herion and Julie Stockler

Their story: As we considered how we wanted to live our lives at this point, the decision just seemed to fit in naturally. We did not consider whether we would be successful. We considered how we would feel if we never tried. And honestly, we were going to be making what we make anyway!

Challenges: Since Rob is a digital printer, technology was never a challenge. Social media, however, remains a constant challenge, particularly since neither of us chooses to participate publicly in any of those venues. We do maintain some Pinterest boards, and our daughter keeps our products on Instagram, but that’s about it. We’re focusing on craft shows, with online presence as a back up. Perhaps younger, more vigorous social media users do this the other way around.

Results: We like how we spend our days now. Nothing is more motivating than that.

Advice: View it as an experiment. If it works, you can keep on the path, one foot in front of the other. If it doesn’t, just do what the GPS says: “recalculate!” Also, we have always avoided the financial traps that may increase the risk of the venture and will not rely on income from this venture for our core living expenses. That keeps the fear factor down.

 

Fiber artist Valentine Bachmann. See her story at www.ArtsyShark.com

Canadian fiber artist Valentine Bachmann started with rug hooking, and moved into designing whole collections as she built her market.

 

Valentine Bachmann

Her story: I need to use my talents creating things that don’t just accumulate, otherwise I will wither, like grapes on the vine in my garden, wrinkles and all! And, I need more income than my pension provides. Success will depend on my goals and effort, measurable but flexible goals nowadays. Time is probably my adversary now, but I think I can manage to keep my options open.

Challenges: In this high-tech age, it is “keep up” or a constant effort to “catch up.” Six years ago, I was relatively tech-literate. The second time I “retired,” I decided then to do without a smartphone and gave away our video camera. But now the use of such devices has expanded into all human endeavors, not just the tech sector. The software I knew has morphed into miniature apps that even children can use.

Results: Feedback has been positive when I show and tell about my products and my business. People don’t realize how old I am, and look doubtful if I tell them. So artful enthusiasm and confident presentation can overcome the standard opinions voiced in business. Just don’t wobble when you walk!

Advice: By the age of 60, you know quite a bit about a lot of things. So listen and evaluate what people are saying to you about your plans, and then consider why they have those opinions. Ask them and don’t be surprised if they reveal that they have a preconceived bias and are not the experts they claim to be.

 

Photographer Karen Shulman. Read about her at www.ArtsyShark.com

Dedicated photographer Karen Shulman has found success after 60 with her innovative body of work.

 

Karen Shulman

Her story: I knew retirement was right around the corner for me, and I knew I’d finally have time to dedicate to learning more about my  passion, photography. This was a way to reinvent myself. I wanted to  keep learning and achieving  and staying in the corporate rat race was not an option. This was a way to revitalize myself and live my life in technicolor rather than in black and white. Seeing the world through my  lens allowed me to freeze the emotion in  time, and capture the soul of the moment. Success was undefined. I never imagined I’d achieve this much so quickly. Selling my work helped fund my photo travel and connect with other photographers.

Results: People love my creative images and tell me I bring another view to their world. Some people say I create fantasy from the ordinary. I’m lucky to have the energy and freedom to venture in any direction. The interior designers that place my work tell me to just let it go and don’t be restrained by what you think people want – create!

Advice: Seek advice from others, be open-minded and don’t become frustrated. Keep it fun and don’t let it become “work.” You have nothing to lose. If you are still working, dedicate enough time to your new art venture. If you’re retired, look at this as a new investment. At this point you’re done sending your kids through college. Invest some money in yourself!

 

 

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Comments

  1. Interesting to hear about how they started, their challenges, and results. Especially their advice is enlightening for me!

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