Meet Quest Maker Theresa Jussila
Quest Makers are women in their 40s and beyond who've declared
"now it's my time," and then set off on their own journeys to realize their dreams. Every month a Quest Maker is featured in the FREE e-newsletter, Your Next Quest Chronicles. Click here to enjoy archived issues.
Quest Maker Theresa Jussila
From a stress producing job
to an art-centered life
Theresa Jussila of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, toiled for 15 years in a stressful job. While it paid a good salary and supported her family, it drained her spirit. Two health scares made Theresa realize she needed to make some changes. So she set her intention to manifest her dream: by the time she was 50, she would be doing art again. Theresa didn't stop there; she declared her intention to friends and family alike and let her subconscious guide her path, step by step.
At 48, she asked herself, "What am I waiting for?" That question led her to apply and be accepted at a renowned juried art show and then give her two-week notice to make art the focal point in her life.
Tell me about your quest.
My quest really is to have my art be my life, what I get up in the morning and do. That creating my art is what actually puts food on the table.
How did you get to where you are now?
In 1989, I got divorced. As a single mom with two kids, I needed to feed my family, so I became a mortgage lender. That was the job that came up. There were times I was OK with it, but the last 10-15 years I was very unhappy. I was doing the job because I made a good income and it provided for my family.
When I hit my mid-40's, though, I started having health issues. Mortgage lending was a demanding business and the job was very stressful. It seemed to have gotten worse over the years and where I worked evolved into not a happy place to be. I think my health issues stemmed from the stress over the years.
I had lost my dad when he was very young. He had his first heart attack at 38 and he died when he was 48. That has always weighed on me in the back of my mind. I was seeing a cardiologist for a condition I was dealing with and I also had a lump removed from my breast, which thankfully was benign. It hit me that you only have today; you just have no idea when your time is up.
Right about that time, I started verbalizing to people that by the time I was 50, there was going to be a change and I was going to be doing my art somehow. I did this having no idea what it was going to look like, or when or why it would happen. I declared my intention to my friends and family. I really do believe that we can manifest a lot in our lives by being very powerful about how we speak.
How did your quest manifest itself?
I decided to do something about my life and even though I hadn't put it into total perspective, my subconscious took over. I did start slowly moving toward doing my art. I hadn't painted in years and because I knew that was a huge loss, I started slowly getting a little art space together in the house and I started to paint more and more. I looked into what shows I could do.
Two years ago, I participated in Art on the Green. This huge, local juried art event is held on the grounds of North Idaho College. I had wanted to participate in this event since I first attended it in 1991.
This event got started by the Citizens Council for the Arts 42 years ago and since then it has grown in to three events happening simultaneously all through the downtown area. The other two events are Taste of the Coeur d’Alene's, sponsored by the Idaho Panhandle Kiwanis Club and The Downtown Street Fair, organized by Coeur d'Alene's Downtown Association. Attnedees can walk through all three or take a free shuttle bus between the venues. Approximately 40,000 to 50,000 people attend these events.
Finally I asked myself, "What am I waiting for?" Then everything seemed to fall into place. The Art on the Green booth cost was expensive. A girlfriend of mine decided to share the cost with me and we submitted our applications on the deadline date, which by some miracle had been extended that year. We both got juried in, thank God. At the show, I got a great order from a doctor who wanted to commission me to do a big piece.
It was after a wonderful weekend at Art on the Green that I went back to work and was treated once again by my co-worker in an unacceptable way. Even my superiors agreed that what had happened was unacceptable, but they had never done anything about it. Because of that incident, the way it was handled and everything that had led up to that day, two days later in August 2009, I gave my two-weeks notice. I had no idea what I was going to do.
I spent about the first 10 days recouping. My daughter even noticed this huge change in me after being away from that environment for just a few weeks.
I had been doing some framing on the side for friends and acquaintances, something I had been doing for myself because it was expensive to frame my own work. The framing had blossomed into this little side thing and that summer I just started getting frame orders. My sweetie and I talked about it and decided that I should pursue what I love. I had a lot of support from him and my daughter and I went for it. Special Memories Custom Framing and Fine Art is the name of my business.
The business name stems from something I have specialized in for a long time. People come to me with a need for a portrait because they may have lost family members and don't have any decent photos. One customer had lost a house in a fire and after salvaging a smoke damaged picture of her son, she had me paint a portrait of him.
What's one thing you wish you had known as you set off on your journey?
I wish I had known how much simpler this would have been if I had financially prepared ahead of time for the change by downsizing and simplifying my life right from the start. If I had already put that in place, it would have made the road smoother and what I was trying to do a little easier because I am the main breadwinner in the house.
What is the one essential quality that you'd tell women to pack for their own path?
Unwavering faith. I think that the more “I let go and let God,” the more opportunities seem to come to me. Letting go of all the fretting of "what about tomorrow?" Things show up if I let the path take its course.
You have to be in action. A fretful mindset doesn't help; it just doesn't create anything. The more I can just let go, and just let things be, the more beneficial things show up. You showed up and asked me to do this interview. People show up. Things happen. Orders come in that I didn't expect. I have an unwavering faith that I am where I am supposed to be at this time. This is what I am supposed to be doing. It feels right.
Can you describe how you dealt with any obstacles on your adventure?
I took my eyes off the ball in July. I kept thinking I was making money but not enough. My savings were dwindling. "OK, I need to do something to supplement my income." I got my insurance license. But the short period of time I took my eyes off the business affected the amount of business I had. In hindsight, what showed up for me was that pursuing insurance took so much of my time and produced nothing. It didn't make sense; I was better off just focusing on the business because I was still getting plenty of orders.
I think one of other things I had planned to do was participate in 4-5 more shows. I had picked the shows I wanted because they would put me out in front of more people. However, I didn't anticipate that the shows would have more vendors trying to get in than there were spaces. One show allowed 225 vendors yet got more than 600 applicants for those spots. As a result, I only got into the Taste of the Coeur D'Alenes, which is at the same time as Art on the Green. That's the only one I did and I am really glad I did. I liked the setting better. It was tough not getting into the shows I had planned on. I had to think about something else. I ended getting into a local farmers market which was an OK venue for me, although not the best. I also did a lot of networking. I had to find ways to get the word out on a shoe string budget. My friends are amazed that I’ve done as well as I have with the little I've had to work with.
What changes has this brought to your life?
The biggest change has just been having more clarity on what I really want for my life. How ready I am to simplify. The house is for sale right now. I have this huge house and I don't need it. You get so attached to the material things. I am so looking forward to that simplification, to having less and downsizing substantially. I would love to find a small place in the country.
I have always focused on taking care of my family, which is good. Now I feel like it's my time. When you have always been doing for others, you kind of lose sight of what it is that you want. I don't think I really knew who I was or what I wanted until I did this.
I've also learned a lot about running a business!
How did you make time for your dream?
With the framing business, it can be tough at times making time for my art. It depends on how many orders I have at one time. I have learned it's really hard to work at home. You have to discipline yourself to say "No, I'm not doing the dishes, I'm working." It has been hard at times. I really have to schedule time to paint, yet as an artist, it's hard to schedule creativity.
It's working out. It helps that I do have portrait orders because that keeps me involved with my art. Right now, though, I am working on two pieces that have no special place to go. I love that.
|Theresa with her paintings at the coffee shop|
Having five pieces hanging at a coffee shop for the month of December motivated me to start doing more. The people who see my art have so validated me and appreciated what I do that it makes me want to do and more. I am a very diverse artist. I can pretty much do anything people ask of me and sometimes I surprise myself.
The order I received at Art on the Green was for a large floral which I had never done before, but once I did the first one of sunflowers, I was inspired to do more and I painted the roses and the pansies. But what I really love is creating a story. I love doing artwork especially of people or animals that seems to tell a story or conveys an emotion with it. I have a whole catalogue in my head of hundreds of pieces I would love to do.
|"Splendid Bouquet "|
What helped you stay on your quest’s path?
Every time that I feel like, "OK, maybe this isn't working," I keep quiet about it and see what happens. Usually an order turns up.
I have discovered I have a wealth of supportive friends. They always find ways to help. They have referred me to strangers and bring me their own business. When I feel that I need a boost I usually will do a blurb on Facebook or do a mass email. "Hey, it's me." A lot of them relate because they would love to have the courage to do what I did. I may not be as well off financially as I was before I quit my job, but I have never felt healthier, happier or more at peace in my whole life. That's worth it.
What goals have you reached?
I think there are a lot of things that if I had been working full time I wouldn't have done. I have entered contests, participated in two shows and several other small events. I have a better understanding of the direction to go in and where to reach for help.
What's been the secret to reaching your goals?
I don’t feel I have really met any of my goals yet, but I know that having a plan and writing it down is very important. I feel you have to know what your intentions are. Every business no matter how small should have a written mission statement and vision statement and they should be read regularly to stay on target and revised if a new direction needs to be taken.
Would you share those with us?
The mission of Special Memories Custom Framing and Fine Art will be threefold:
- To provide portraits from a photograph the fill a void for the customer, whether that be the need for a portrait of a lost loved one or to create a portrait from a not so perfect photograph or whatever the need – creating pleasure and joy for the recipient.
- To provide quality framing for a reasonable price.
- To create art that comes from my inspiration and creates a visual story.
My vision statement: to become a nationally renowned artist deriving inspiration, joy and financial freedom from my artistic pursuits with ease.
What's the best advice for your quest that you've ever received?
Don't give up. That came from my 17-year old daughter Kristen. She is a great young lady, who keeps reminding me that most successful people failed many times before they succeeded and she just encourages me to not give up.
Is there a particular quote, a movie, a book or a person that has sustained you?
The quote I fall back on a lot, especially when I begin to fret, is: "Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God."
What has sustained me is my strong faith in God and the support of my friends and family. They are there for me to bounce ideas off, give me suggestions, be cheerleaders. I didn't realize I had so many friends till I did this.
Do you have a new quest around the corner?
Community service has always been important to me and I am very active with non profits. I am on the board of the Lake City Playhouse and Soroptimist International of Coeur d’Alene. We always struggle to find different ways to raise money other than the standard dinner and auction, which is worn out.
By next fall I'd like to organize an event that will showcase artisans and crafters selling their work and have the non-profits benefit from the event. I think I can pull off a really neat event for Coeur d'Alene. I have done a lot of groundwork already and in January I will start work on securing a site. It will have a Christmas theme because that's the time we will be doing it and it's the most important time for the vendors. I'll bring in the Playhouse for singing and performances and other local musical groups. The women's group I am a part of is always looking for ways to raise money. They could be the support crew and get paid to be there.
Once I realize my dream, I would also like to pay it forward. I'd like to establish an organization to help folks who want to do something else but who are just stuck financially or courage-wise. I would like to help them to find their passion so they are not living just to get by, not stuck in a humdrum rut as I was.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell me that we haven’t covered?
How long I've wanted to do this. I was in my mid-40s when it hit me that I needed to pursue it. It has been my dream since the time I was young. I never took courses in art, except one class in college. I wasn't encouraged to pursue art because everyone said you can't make any money doing that.
I think that is what motivates me. It is probably five years out before I can help others follow their dreams but that's where it comes from. I don't thing we are meant to live in the ruts we get into. How easily we are put off from what we really want to do.
My ex-husband was a pilot. I will never forget how excited he was that somebody would actually pay him to fly. I think everybody should be paid to work at their passion, to do the thing that makes them happy and glad to get up every morning. Something that makes them jump out of bed raring to go.