Lisa Congdon is the poster GAL for DIY success. At 53, she’s seemingly at the top of her game — with gigs ranging from Comme des Garçons to Target and Crate & Barrel. But like all great “art-up” stories, her ascent to the top of the accessible art and design world didn’t happen overnight.
You’ve likely heard the legend of how Lisa Congdon ignited her creative career at the ripe age of 40 (!), but we want to share it again — and again. In true “just begin” mentality, Lisa originally had no intention of becoming a professional artist.
A rocky breakup in her 30s led her to see a therapist to unravel her “sense of unworthiness and emptiness,” she says in a 2019 Glitter Guide interview. That and she dove into art classes and consuming books about art and design. She fell in love with making, and in 2007, she left her job to pursue a creative career full time. “It was rocky at first. I was broke,” she explains in GG. “No one knew who I was. But steadily, mostly through social media and blogging, I began sharing my work and eventually, I began to build a career.”
Lisa’s DIY success story comes full circle with her latest book, You Will Leave a Trail of Stars: Words of Inspiration for Blazing Your Own Path. As she writes in the beginning, Trail of Stars is an accumulation of all the best, most important things she’s learned in her life. Let’s take a look at how her “begin anyhow — even if you’re not ready” philosophy plays out in a selection of pages from her gorgeous book.
Born in Niskayuna, New York, Lisa Congdon now lives in Portland, Oregon, with her partner, Clay Walsh. Lisa is a fine artist, illustrator, and author known for her delightful and always-colorful drawings and hand lettering with uplifting messages.
Lisa is the prolific author of nine books, including Find Your Artistic Voice: The Essential Guide to Working Your Creative Magic, and she teaches in the Applied Craft & Design MFA program at Pacific Northwest College of Art.
One of our favorite Congdon books is A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives (Chronicle Books, 2017). In it, she explores the power of women over 40 who are thriving and living life on their own terms. She features interviews and profiles of Vera Wang, Julia Child, Cheryl Strayed, and many more women who’ve found creative fulfillment and accomplished great things in the second half of their lives.
Here’s a slice of You Will Leave a Trail of Stars that I needed to hear — er, read — right about now:
As human beings, we like to control things. It’s in our nature. But having to control everything all the time ultimately zaps our energy and causes anxiety, because it’s simply not possible all of the time. So much of our stress is caused by wanting everything to go a certain way. That can be exhausting! Since the opposite of control is allowing, it can be helpful to consciously allow at least one thing every day. For example, allowing your day to unfold in a way you didn’t expect (which might also mean not finishing everything on your to-do list). Or allowing someone to have feelings or reactions you wish they didn’t have without having to fix them. Or allowing yourself to have painful feelings without burying them. Allowing requires surrender and a certain trust that everything will work out, which is tough. But when we consciously allow in moments where we feel a tight hold, peace settles in.
Find Your Artistic Voice: The Essential Guide to Working Your Creative Magic (Art Book for Artists, Creative Self-Help Book)
Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist
Amy Cuevas Schroeder is the founder and CEO of Jumble & Flow, the new lifestyle brand that empowers women to thrive in midlife. By day, she works as the director of educational content for Unusual Ventures. She started her first business, Venus Zine, in her dorm room at Michigan State University, and later sold the company. She now lives in the Chicago area, and is raising twin girls with her husband, Martin, a social worker. Between Venus and Jumble & Flow, she’s worked as a content leader for Etsy, Minted, and Abstract, and has written for NYLON, Pitchfork, The Startup, West Elm, and more.
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