Today’s *shared stories* come from artists Jan Avellana of Hazelnut Cottage, from Hawaii, and Liv Lane and Bonnie Rose Kempenich in the US.


 Jan Avellana

 Jan Avellana

“Doing what you love” is so closely tied into my vocation. After two degrees, a career in graphic design and a stint as an elementary school teacher, I became a first time mother. Taking my maternity leave I was such a relief! I was beyond miserable—no career ever seemed to fit and I was wading through depression, desperately seeking answers to what was wrong with me.

Today, doing what I love means I spend late nights in the studio pursuing my growing passion for mixed-media art and then, even after just a few hours of sleep, looking forward to spending my day with my family and my art. I not only love my life, I love my work! It has taken me my entire adult life to get to this place of joy.

I think I realized way back in design school during college that I wanted to be an artist. However, it wasn’t until a decade later that I re-discovered my creative passions. I was so filled with dread at the thought of going back to my 9-5 job and having to leave my two babies in someone else’s care. One night, I happened to stumble upon Etsy and the indie artist community. It was then that I knew I had found my tribe! I started out in 2007 with a line of hand-stamped silver jewelry. It has taken me a long time to understand and accept that I am a mixed-media artist and that connecting deeply with others through my work is integral to my sanity; it is indeed my God-given purpose!

After realizing that I was an indie artist, I opened up an Etsy shop under the name of Hazelnut Cottage. I began blogging. And slowly, slowly, found myself digging up long-abandoned dreams of being a mixed-media artist and a writer. About six months ago, I began playing in the studio; painting, creating collage and tiny clay pieces in earnest. I am currently making the transition from jewelry designer to mixed-media artist and hope to begin introducing a new line of paintings I am working on, soon!

Along the way I have had to sacrifice sleep! I opened up my Etsy shop when my youngest son was just about three months old, so there have been many sleepless nights. Now that I am transitioning from making jewelry (my current day job) to offering my mixed-media works for sale, there has been less income from my jewelry line. My family and I have also made lots of financial sacrifices now that much of my energy and time is now devoted to developing a body of mixed-media work.

With hindsight, I wish I had known myself better, sooner. I wish I had discovered and embraced my artistic loves at a much younger age. If anything, my sometimes tortured experience now compels me to encourage other artists—especially emerging artists—with the kind of support I wish I had back then, and still need today.

Now I have so many big art dreams! First and foremost, I want to develop a strong artistic style and a body of work that feels uniquely my own. I’ve been exploring in the studio quite a bit, but I have yet to settle on any particular style or media. My focus right now is to faithfully show up in the studio and guard against discouragement by quieting my inner critic and allowing myself to have fun making lots and lots of art!

[Images courtesy of Jan Avellana]  Find out more about Jan over on her blog, or see her lovely creations in her Etsy shop, Hazlenut Cottage.


Liv Lane

Liv Lane[Photo credit: Amy Zellmer for Savvy.MN]

I have a brand new light. Not in my house, but in my spirit. When I write or speak about getting unstuck and finding your passion, I often share how I went from living in the dark – the result of postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – to learning how to shine again from the inside out. Our lights may flicker and dim at certain points in our lives, but I believe it’s always possible to feel illuminated again – even brighter than before. 

When my son was two, I took him to a music class. On the first day, we all sat in a circle – toddlers in their parents’ laps – and the teacher asked us to each share something we loved to do. As parents and kids shared their favorite pastimes, I started to panic. I couldn’t think of anything I enjoyed doing. My mind raced, my heart pounded. When it was our turn to share, my little boy blurted out, “play trucks!” And all I could utter was, “Me too. I like to play trucks, too.” That experience was a warning sign for me that something was wrong. You’d think it would have been the awareness that I’d pinpointed which bridges in town would be easiest to drive off or that I sobbed at the drop of a hat. But it was the realization that I no longer liked to do ANYTHING that caught my attention.

I know it sounds crazy, but it felt like I had joy amnesia. So, with help from my therapist, I began to discover the pastimes that made my heart skip a beat – some new, some old. I experimented with different activities, expanded my social circle, and gave myself permission to back out of the things that didn’t thrill me (sorry, neighborhood Bunco ladies!). Eventually, I began to notice the pastimes that illuminated true happiness within me: writing, broadcasting, taking photographs, antiquing, doodling, scrapbooking. Those were so much fun for me that I’d lose track of time.

Eventually, those hobbies not only brought joy back into my personal life, but some of them worked their way into my professional life. My corporate job no longer felt right; it stressed me out and didn’t fulfill me. So, my husband and I devised a plan that allowed me to leave the daily grind behind and work for myself – writing, blogging, picture-taking, speaking, and broadcasting about healing, happiness and the beauty in every day. I officially launched my one-woman company, Choosing Beauty, and threw an Independence Day party for myself on 7/7/07. I felt so free and energized!

My heart was so full that I never imagined there might be even more waiting for me around the bend. But now I have another twinkle in my eye: I’ve given birth to the artist within. Until 2010, I’d never been brave enough to call myself an artist. I loved making handmade treasures for loved ones and spent countless hours fawning over Etsy shops. But I never dreamed of creating my own. I was too worried that I wouldn’t measure up to professional artists or that people wouldn’t like my work.

Those fears flew out the window in the spring of 2010 when I discovered mixed media collage – a medium that lets me blend my writing, photography, and love of all things beautiful. On a whim, I signed up for Kelly Rae Roberts’ inaugural Flying Lessons e-course and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Through that class, I discovered an online community of amazing creative spirits and dream cheerleaders who rooted for me as I embraced my art. Suddenly, what others thought of my creations didn’t matter anymore. I felt too fulfilled and fired up to care.

Rise and shine[Image courtesy of Liv Lane]

I turned our dining room into my art studio (we call it the “dudio”) and I launched my Etsy shop in late August 2010.  My husband worried that opening a shop and making money from my art might diminish the joy I get out of creating it. But the opposite has been true. Knowing my artwork touches others while providing a source of income inspires me to create from the heart. It helps put food on the table and it feeds my soul.

You know how a room changes so dramatically when you add a new light fixture? The whole space shines in a new way. Today, each facet of the work I do adds new dimension to my life and illuminates my path. I feel so blessed. Those dark days, when I couldn’t think of a single passion, now seem light years away. I am doing what I love and allowing myself to shine from the inside out.

Liv Lane is an artist, writer, radio host, and speaker dedicated to illuminating the magic in each day. She is also the creator of The Feel Good Deal of the Day – a weekday email featuring discounts on uplifting, creative resources and products. Find Liv at her Choosing Beauty blog and on Twitter (@choosingbeauty).


Bonita Rose (Bonnie Rose) Kempenich

Bonita Rose

I am doing what I love every day and feel so so blessed with the life I am now living. I truly do. I’m a 49 year old mother of two beautiful young women, now living in Fargo with my husband, Greg and our dog Angel. My daughters live about 4 hours north of us up in Canada. I see them often in the school year and over holidays and breaks. Being a noncustodial parent, especially a mother can often be so hard. I find not many people can understand how I feel every day. And that’s okay. It takes a lot to walk a mile in my shoes, it really does.

And honestly, I’ve learned most are just too busy traveling on their own journeys in this life to figure out what they love. Each of our journeys is so so different. One thing I’ve learned is that art truly saves. It saves me every day. Every day.

The bird that soars the highest

Years ago, while living through the midst of an ugly divorce and custody battle, and having to deal with mediators and supervised visitation and all of that, I clung to my art, my crafting, my hobbies. It is what kept me alive during this time. It gave me hope for better days ahead. It sprinkled my days with joy when back then, joy was oh so very hard to come by.
Art has saved me over and over again.


There was a time when I thought to myself, why bother? Why me? So many people out there are making art, creating beautiful work, have gorgeous websites, why me? Why should I even try to do anything? It’s so easy to feel you aren’t valued. You aren’t worthy. You’re not good enough.

It’s a constant fight as a creative soul.
As a human being, I struggle daily with those thoughts.

Climb that mountain

One thing I’ve realized in my life – through the challenging times, and even now, during times of comfort, is that people that take the time to show you love and support are the people that truly matter. They help you get to the other side. They uplift you when you so so need it. They whisper in your ear, things you can barely believe about yourself. You want to believe these things. So slowly, with every passing day, you grow stronger. You start to believe again. You start to look in the mirror and finally, you see all the possibilities.

Doing what you love.
It’s so different for each of us.
It truly is.
We all bring different talents and passions and our life stories to the table. We all have something to contribute. To give. To make this world a better place. We all have a way to inspire others. Every single one of us.

Know what excites you

I chose the word COURAGEOUS as my word this year, and so far, it has steered me towards so many wonderful possibilities. So so many. I am currently developing my own website which will be unveiled at BonitaRose.com in the coming months – along with a shiny new blog and an Etsy shop makeover! I’m excited about the future, about what is to come!

Don’t get me wrong. All I really want to do is inspire. To share my creativity and my passions with all of you. I don’t look at blog statistics. I am not one to worry about how many comments I receive on my blog. I write, I share because it’s what I want to do. I want to inspire plain and simple. With lots of bold bold color! I’m doing what I love and right now, I feel so blessed to have a supportive tribe that loves me and supports me in my journey. Love to all of you that truly believe in me. People can make such a difference. 

If you can imagine it...[All images courtesy of Bonnie Rose Kempenich.] 

Find out more about Bonnie Rose on her blog, see her work in her Etsy shop or connect on Facebook or Twitter.  Bonnie Rose also runs a self-paced e-course, Color Your World 2.0.  The classroom opens on April 1st – you can register here.


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