An Uncharacteristically Wordy Post

I received the following email a couple days ago. We get asked variations of this question often enough that I wanted to share.

Hi Jo of Dylan & Jo,
First let me say I LOVE your creature creations. I follow your Blog and have you as a friend on Facebook, your artist page too "Cart Before The Horse."

I was recently given a sign ***let's say*** that it's time to kick start my artist life into full gear (by way of a lay-off) but I've been unhappy for some time just too afraid to make the leap. I'm a commercial interior designer by trade but an artist all my life. I must say you really inspire me and I hope I'm not being too forward -- I'd love to ask a question ???

How long did it take you and Dylan to really start seeing that this would be a way for you to have all the fun you're having and "make a living" ? I know it's different for different people.
Thank you for your time!

This is what I replied:

First of all, thank you! I'm thrilled to be of inspiration :)

This is a tricky question! I'll can only share our experiences with "making the leap". 
We moved to Oregon from Florida in 2003 with nothing but our stuff. No jobs lined up, no real plan, just the need to make a change. Dylan had always dreamed of making a living from home, but I wanted a steady paycheck, thinking it offered some sort of security. (As anybody who has been laid off can attest, this just isn't true.) I quickly got a couple of jobs, while Dylan stayed at home with the kids. I started making little paintings in my spare time and Dylan figured out how to sell them on ebay. It was a nice little added amount of money, but not significant enough to quit working full time. He chugged away at learning internet stuff and doing his share of helping with the art, while I felt the pressure of being the bread-winner (something he had done for the first ten years of our kids' lives).

Slowly but surely we were finding a niche for ourselves artistically speaking. Chug, chug, chug. . . Fast forward to three years later. . . The arty stuff had evolved and we started to get a following. I was making almost as much with the art as I was working, and work got less and less satisfying on account of I always wanted to be making art instead. It was Dylan who pushed me to quit my day job and pursue art full time. Seriously, he had been working on me for more than a year before I finally caved. It was really scary! But we did it, and continue to make a living doing what we love 5 years later.

The "living" we make isn't particularly grand, and there are always money concerns, but it was like that we were were gainfully employed too. Most of the year we live week-to-week. There is no 401k plan or health insurance. No fancy car or house on the hill. The thing is, it's not so hard being a little poor when you love what you do. I know plenty of miserable rich people. And I wouldn't trade the time I've been able to spend with my kids for anything. Any. Thing. We try to live within our means, recognize the difference between WANTS and NEEDS, and take comfort in the fact that in a couple of years our kids will be grown and we can live like paupers so we can manage to save up some money :)

Dylan recently did an interview for some magazine that really fits this conversation, so I'll just quote him:
He was asked, "What suggestions or words of encouragement do you have for people who want to support themselves with their art or any creative endeavor for that matter?" 

And he said, "It's worth it. Even if you never make a lot of money, even if it only provides a supplemental income, it's worth it. Using your talents is rewarding in itself. Suggestions? Work like the devil's chasing you. Work like it's sink or swim. Work, work, work! It doesn't take a certain amount of time to reach your goals, it takes a certain amount of work. Then it's time to set your goals higher and work some more. But if you're doing what you love, it won't feel like work. . .at least most of the time. It's a very rewarding life to see your ideas become reality." 

Dylan's good with words. Which, if you knew him, you would find funny on account of he's a really quiet guy.

I hope this helps at all. Best of luck! 


  1. Thanks for sharing this - it re-affirms what I did last year when I left an unsatisfying (albeit part-time) job to pursue my art full-time. It's been pretty good, although something of a roller-coaster ride at times! I love what I'm doing and get up each day filled with enthusiasm and anticipation. And Dylan is so right.......it IS the amount of work you do, not the length of time spent that determines success.
    Oops....there's the devil - I'm getting back to work RIGHT NOW!

  2. Anonymous10/19/2011

    I enjoyed reading your story! I totally agree about the amount of work...create, create, create...it requires perseverance and passion to be successful!

  3. This was wonderful to read, thank you for sharing. It's insightful to hear other folks creative experiences, and I agree I'd take living week to week happily over rich and miserable any day!

  4. Thank you so very much for sharing this. Amazing how answers to questions we have magically appear in blogland.
    Ya'll are truly an inspiration and I adore your creations.
    xx, shell and the bunnies

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this. I think, sometimes, we talk ourselves into thinking that we need so many things, when really what we need is very simple. Life is short, I love that you are enjoying it so. :) xo

  6. Thank you for posting this. It's very honest. And I need to get up from here, where I'm just blog-hopping, and go and do some work.

  7. thanks jO :):):)
    dyLan is right on.
    i needed the reminder.
    xOx, sUz :)

  8. Has it been that long?...I remember when you quit your job! I am surprised that Dylan is quiet...he is an amazing writer and wordsmith so I assumed he was a chatterbox. Funny. Our business {Construction...HE finishes drywall and I paint houses) has all but dried up these past three years and we (our kiddos are all grown up now) turned our house into an antique store and a showcase for my art and we tear down barns and build funky furniture and we are beyond broke all of the time but keep on keepin'on! We have been self employed for years now and we Work work work but the freedom is worth it.

  9. Thank you for sharing this, it took me back to a year ago when I quite a job that made me gray to earn money and made a decision and took that leap into art and the life I'm leading now...yes, leading this kind of life is not always easy,but when I look back, I know it's worth it, for I have never felt so alive as when I'm amerced between pencils and wood shavings, watching my sprouts of ideas growing into their own realities.

  10. Thanks for sharing. I've admired your work for a while. Dave and I just moved to another artsy town (like Lincoln City) and soon I will have more time to create, especially since there is little construction work in the winter. Plus, I miss the pool!

  11. Truth is, lil' Jo, the world is ALWAYS a better place when people like you & Dylan follow your artistic dreams. I have VERY little $$ - also no health insurance - (the reason I've never BOUGHT anything from you regardless of how much I've wanted to) but it's so wonderful to be witness to your creations. I've dreamed of not just working, but actually living at an artists commune. Seriously. You know how much I love & admire you & Dylan, and reading this post just quadrupled the love and admiration!

  12. I think I might need to do something official-like with those words of Dylan's. Laminate and stick 'em on a wall would be an excellent start.

  13. Very well said about making a living pursuing your art! Every word you say is TRUE. It takes alot of hard WORK and dedication and to accept being without money and living week-to-week. There are no paid vacations, paid holidays. paid sick days, no 401K retirement accounts, no healthcare benefits, no paychecks at the end of the week....but at least I am the boss of my own life and make my own decisions ;)

  14. This is a very inspirational post, thank you for sharing! I often play with the idea in my head of abandoning my day job to carve out a career in sewing/quilting/etc....but other than day dreams, have always really been afraid of trying it. Your post is reminding me that I need to try harder. My dreams won't become a reality if I don't do something different. Thanks, this is a very encouraging post. Angela AccidentallyAngela.com

  15. Love your work, thanks for the encouragement. We do work all the time. When I'm not at my "day job" though, I LOVE THE WORK.

  16. thank you so much for this post!
    i`m a graduated fashion designer and started dollmaking about a year ago, and i really love it!
    it`s my favourite thing to do, and i love trying out new techniques, and work hard on it.
    just now i'm at a point where i don't have as much time for it due to my job, as i'd like to have, and this is so frustrating.
    i'd love to live from my arts , and working on it, but it's a long way and sometimes it's hard to stick to it, and to convince yourself that you're doing right.
    but your post really gave me new power to get trough this, and to
    keep on working on my dolls.
    this is true:
    if you work hard and love what you do, you find so much happiness in this !!!

    so many happy greetings, verena

  17. p.s.: i really love your dolls and stuff!
    they're special, heart-warming,and always a joy to discover and look at!
    more greetings, verena

  18. You & Dylan are inspiring, Jo & this blog post is as well. I like Dylan's quote. I think I read the line, "Work like the devil's chasing you." in an interview you guys did for Etsy. Sometimes I repeat that to myself when I'm being particularly lazy, because that really is the jist of it.

    When you work for yourself the successes, the failures, the headaches, the delights are all your own. I hope you know just how much your artwork AND your work ethic delights the folks around you.

  19. Thanks for sharing your story.It inspired me,deeply...As i see from the comments below,everybody has a story like this. I think all we have a chance to do what we want but not the courage to make it rel. Thanks again,i must turn back to working :)



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