By Clementene Coates, Jan 18 2015 01:35PM
I very recently launched my new business, Clementene Coates, selling hand painted antique and vintage furniture. If you’ve read ‘My Very First Blog’ you’ll know that this is a complete change of career for me.
Up until a year ago I was a solicitor working in a large law firm in the city. Over the years I’d become disillusioned by the law and I desperately craved a change of direction. The last 10 years had flown by; I was in my early 30s and that infamous Mark Twain quote “Life is short…” felt all the more pertinent!
For a number of years I’ve been passionate about interior design and particularly restoring furniture, but I never believed back then that I could build a career out of it. It wasn’t until people wanted to buy my pieces that I realised the idea of me turning my love for painting furniture into a full time career may not just be a pipe dream.
Excluding the time I spend with my loved ones (especially my fiancé Pete and our two gorgeous greyhounds), I’m at my happiest and most content when I have a paint brush in my hand and a piece of furniture before me, ready to be transformed into something completely new and beautiful.
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to draw, paint and be creative. Both of my parents are artistic; my sister’s a clothes designer and my brother’s a writer. So, I suppose you could say I inherited a creative gene or two.
I get such a sense of satisfaction if I can save an old, tired looking piece of furniture from ending up on the scrap heap. This, combined with my love for painting, is wonderfully cathartic. But could I really make this my livelihood?
Although I had the support and encouragement of my family and friends (to whom I will forever be grateful), I was still reluctant to take that big step and leave the law behind me. After all, I would be ending a career which I had studied many, many years for and worked so very hard at. And I was rather good at it!
Embarking on a completely new career was a very daunting thought and one which took up most of the space in my head for some time. I began to draw up a list of the pros and cons of leaving:
- If I remain a solicitor I’ll be financially secure and I won’t have to worry about where the next pay cheque comes from.
- Starting a new business is a huge risk and there’s no guarantee it will be a success.
- If I fail, I’ll feel terrible. What will I do then?
- If I remain a solicitor I’ll be miserable and in years to come I’ll look back at my life and think what a waste.
- I want to start a family. What kind of example will I be setting to my children doing something that doesn’t make me happy?
- What will make me happy is to be able to wake up every morning looking forward to what lies ahead, rather than dreading it.
Whilst I became convinced that I needed to leave the law, I was still searching for some other source of inspiration (and courage!) to give me that final push to go in the direction I so greatly wanted to go in.
As if it was a sign, one weekend, I came across a series of videos on YouTube posted by the endearing and very talented Christen Bensten. Christen runs an interior design business in the U.S. called ‘Blue Egg, Brown Nest’ in which she sells her own hand painted furniture.
I watched Christen’s videos with great interest and I immediately fell in love with her passion for painting furniture. Like me, she started out painting furniture to fill her home; buying pieces on a budget and using her creativity and skills to transform them into beautiful works of art. Eventually people started to buy her furniture and so her hobby turned into a business.
What was most exciting about finding Christen was that she came across as such a positive, genuine and down to earth person with a great sense of humour. She talked so fondly about her children and husband and I could tell that she loved what she was doing as it translated into her beautiful furniture.
The next few hours flew by as I studied her wonderful website, which showcases her stunning home and the pieces she has painted over the years, as well as reading her blog, which I later discovered is one of the most popular interior design blogs in the U.S.
It was as if a switch had turned on in my head. The more I read about Christen and her journey, the more I felt inspired. Suffice to say, that following week I handed in my notice and I left the law to embark on a new career painting furniture. I’m delighted to say that I haven’t looked back – not even once!
Although my business is still in its very early days (6 weeks since it launched!), I’ve already sold some of my furniture and received commission work too. And, whilst I’m sure that I would’ve eventually left the law to pursue my dream, it may have taken me a while longer to make the jump. Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t waste any more time, as time is such a precious thing. I now wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and a spring in my step!
So, to the point of this tale. Too often people aren’t recognised for the difference they make in people’s lives, when all it can take is a simple ‘thank you’. I’d just like to say thank you to Christen, from the bottom of my heart, for inspiring me and giving me the courage to realise my dream. I’ll never forget the contribution you made to my decision to change my life for the better (even if it was an unconscious one!).
As Christen did for me, I hope that my story can inspire at least one person to have the courage to do what they really want to do in their life, whether that be a painter, a cook, a writer or even a golf ball diver (yes, that last profession really does exist!!!).