Imagine reaching the pinnacle of your publishing career as the creative director of a major fashion magazine, where you design the overall look of each issue, direct photo shoots with celebs like Beyoncé and travel the world on a dime. Then imagine leaving it all behind to pursue your passion as an artist. Lisa Hunt, the former creative director of Essence, did just that, and she hasn’t looked back since.
In this week’s installment of our How to Quit Your Day Job series, we sat down with Lisa to discuss her background as an creative director, her entrepreneurial endeavors and what inspired her to leave her career in publishing to design home decor. Since childhood, Lisa has been an #iamcreative poster child, and that creativity is what fueled her to pursue her dream of launching a home decor line, Lisa Hunt Creative. If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a maker and creating beautiful pieces that are useful within the home, then Lisa is here to share her advice with you.
THE HOME DECOR DESIGNER PRO: LISA HUNT
Lisa began her career in design as a graphic designer, first at New York Magazine, and then at Studio W, a design firm that provided art direction to BET Networks and other magazines. After gaining immense knowledge in art direction, Lisa went on to accept an creative director position at Heart & Soul magazine, before moving on to Latina, SpaFinder and eventually Essence.
While traveling the world to direct Essence photo shoots, Lisa’s passion for home decor and interior design was ignited. Lisa found herself daydreaming about interior design, and she began helping the prop stylist design the set for each shoot. Over time, she realized she missed using her hands to create art, and she needed a more creative outlet. Lisa walked away from her lucrative career to pursue home decor, launching Lisa Hunt Creative. Her debut art print collection, “Alchemy,” was featured on Simply Framed before catching the attention of One Kings Lane and Lonny Magazine. Lisa is already gearing up to develop more products, and we’re excited to see what she comes up with.
Venture Outside Your Comfort Zone: While on photo shoots with celebrities, Lisa’s passion to use her hands and create home goods was constantly on her mind. Lisa took a huge risk leaving a solid career in publishing to pursue her dreams as a designer, but it totally paid off.
Identify Your Gateway Product: Lisa encourages you to experiment with your art before you decide on your go-to product. She initially tried to sell greeting cards before deciding it wasn’t the right way to enter the home decor market. Lisa then found a textile printer in Brooklyn and began to develop textiles. Although her work was beautiful, the textiles became too expensive to produce, and she found herself at a standstill. In search of inspiration, Lisa joined her husband in his Brooklyn studio, where she noticed he was using gold leaf in his art. She decided to incorporate the gold leaf in the screen prints of her patterns, and the results were amazing: She had found her gateway to the home decor market.
Listen to Your Creative Urges: Lisa tells us that maintaining your own distinct style and voice is important in developing your work. “As an artist, it is easy to be easily influenced by other people’s designs,” Lisa says. “It is important to be unique and let your creativity be your guide. Careers last when they are based on your uniqueness.”
Create a Professional Website: By creating a website, you are able to give a voice to your brand and provide an e-commerce platform for your product to be sold. Lisa told us this was the hardest part of the process, and she relied on her contacts as an creative director to direct her own photo shoot for the site and create the design layout.
It’s Okay to Go Part-Time to Pay the Bills: Starting a business can be costly, and maintaining a steady flow of income can offset your investments in your business. Although she is a full-time artist, Lisa also works as a freelance consultant, sharing her skills with Cosmopolitan and various other Hearst Corporation magazines to support her craft and pay the bills.
Be Bold. Talk to Everyone: Once she had products and a website, Lisa was ready to enter the market, but she needed to get the word out. While attending one of Apartment Therapy’s Maker Talks, she heard the owner of Simply Framed speak. Lisa approached the owner about her art prints, and after their conversation, the owner offered to partner with her and featured her art prints on their blog. Within a few weeks of the blog post, One Kings Lane requested to sell her work, and Lonny Magazine featured her in their product designer series, “Six Faces to Watch.” If Lisa hadn’t been bold and approached the owner of Simply Framed, getting coverage would have been much more difficult.
Network: By attending industry events, conferences and meetups, you can meet potential business partners, as Lisa did with Simply Framed. With each encounter, you could come away with more knowledge and tools to grow your business.
Read Entrepreneurial Books: By reading books on owning a small business, you can gain insights from others who have gone before you. In just a few hours, you can come away with tools on how to run a successful and profitable business.
Create What You Love + Never Stop: Even if it is just a hobby and not your full-time gig, dedicate time to your passion and work on perfecting it. Lisa encourages everyone to make sure whatever you’re pursuing is something you love, because it will take all your time. Since launching her collection, Lisa finds herself working seven days a week — she tells us if she didn’t love it, she would find it hard to stay motivated and continue.
Perfect Your Skills
Learn the Basics: When Lisa left her job, she had no idea how to enter the home decor market. Lisa decided to take art classes and experiment to discover which medium spoke to her. Lisa took classes in letterpress, etching, textiles, print making, screen printing and batiking. She discovered that she loved creating patterns and applying each design to different mediums. Find ways to try out different skills by picking up a book that fuels your creativity. ($18 for a copy of Homemakers)
Take Art Classes: Lisa advises readers to take as many art classes (even right from home — check out our e-classes!) as possible to discover what speaks to you. As an undergrad, Lisa took drawing, painting, 3D sculpture, ceramics and screen printing classes to find what she was passionate about. After leaving Essence, Lisa retook these classes to discover her medium. Classes like Justina Blakeney’s “Interior Styling: Style Your Space like a Pro” are a great introduction to design basics and can help you develop your skills. ($96 for annual Skillshare subscription to view all classes)
Challenge Your Creativity: Lisa’s parting advice is to challenge yourself and take risks. She tells us, “Always follow your passion, stay open to different things and don’t be afraid to take chances by walking away from things that no longer feed your creativity.” Even if you’re not ready to quit your job, regularly challenging your brain with things like IDEO’s Method Cards will keep you polished for when you’re ready to make the big jump. ($50 for the full deck)
We hope this column and Lisa’s advice brings you the inspiration and skills to go forth and create a life you’re stoked about. We’re going to be dreaming of gold foil projects and double tapping Lisa’s Instagram photos for even more inspiration.
What passion would you like to see covered in your Live Your Love Series? Let us know in the comments!