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'I was searching for something completely different'

Nadine Wojakovski meets four women who made a creative career change in midlife

    Shelly Simons, Flower arranger

    My friend Shelly dropped in a lovely rose arrangement in a rustic stone vase, a thank-you for the lunch to which we’d invited her family.

    “It’s beautiful,” I said.

    “D’you really think so,” she asked sheepishly. It turned out she had actually created it on a whim, inspired by her love of flowers. It was her very first arrangement.

    A week or so later, I asked her if she would be interested in making something similar for a dinner to which I’d been invited. She was nervous, but agreed. The result was a stunning display of orange roses. I suggested she let the world know by posting the picture on Facebook. More than 100 likes and 54 congratulatory comments later, her business was more or less born. An instant hit, she has been besieged by requests and, just four weeks in, she received her first commission to organise flowers for a Friday-night batmitzvah.

    The colourful world of peonies and petunias, marigolds and mimosas, is a far cry from the her former role as a management consultant who was also finding time to fit in an MBA. Following a 15-year career gap, four kids, and with more time on her hands, she’d started wondering how she could re-enter the business world.

    “In the days of management consultancy, I was travelling abroad non-stop, on a plane nearly every Monday and back Thursday.

    Not only do I not want that lifestyle any more, but with a family I simply can’t do it anymore.”

    It was her mother’s illness that propelled her to enrol on a floristry course. “When my mum was very ill I thought the course would be a way to take my mind off things. 

    “Flowers have always made me happy. It was meant to be a hobby, but it sparked the seeds of a passion.” Unfortunately, her mother passed away earlier this year. Shelly started the floristry business shortly afterwards, finding it “incredibly cathartic”. 

    Like the most successful entrepreneurs, she appears to have found and filled a gap in the market — somewhere between the standard bouquet and the expensive arrangement. Priced from £25, each arrangement is unique and comes with a vase.

    Working from home means low overheads and has enabled her to turn a profit from day one. The commercial challenge is making sure she does not over-order on her weekly Thursday morning shop to the flower market. So far, that’s not been a problem — in fact, she often returns to the market the next day for more flowers.

    “It hasn’t been an easy year,” she admits. “But creating something that brings a smile to someone else’s face is gratifying.”

    Shelly@triggerhub.com

    Eva Edery, glass artist  

    In 2008, management consultant Eva Edery was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. Following six months of intensive treatment, she found herself suffering from chronic fatigue, which gave her plenty of time to ponder what she wanted in life. She returned to work briefly but, although the job had been adapted to meet her needs, it was no longer fulfilling.

    “I needed to find something really exciting after coming out of my cancer treatment,” she says. “I was always passionate about art. I was searching for something completely different, that would bring my strengths and passions together and then I discovered glass.”

    Eva, who was born in Morocco to Spanish parents, went to a glass-making evening class at the University of Hertfordshire for a few months. She then rented the kiln from the university for six months and started creating her own pieces. As the commissions started rolling in, she realised there was a demand for her work. “My husband saw how passionate I was. He said to me: ‘I will be your backer. Go for it!’”

    Thanks also to a generous redundancy package, Eva was able to move quickly. She set up a studio at the bottom of her garden, installed a huge kiln, costing £6,000 and opened up shop in 2012.

    “Glass-making is an expensive business and most comes from abroad. It was a big risk but I believed I was on to something and I was very passionate about it.”

    The mother of three started with bowls and platters, but saw quickly that this narrow specialisation limited her creative potential; and she also found that tableware wasn’t a big seller. She switched to creating customised glass wall art (priced from £105). A few months in, she approached the director of the Radlett Centre about showcasing a single piece of glass art. He offered her the whole floor. She had just four months to create 24 unique pieces. The show was a reasonable success for a new entrant but more importantly, it put her on the map, and she started receiving many commissions, including from abroad.
    Jewish weddings have given her a new opportunity. She transforms the glass stamped on by the groom into bespoke mezuzot, challah plates and wall art, particularly into her signature pieces of the “Tree of Life”. 

    “I had a strategic plan and knew where I was going. If I didn’t make money I would have stopped. 

    “I needed to have pleasure and profitability.” 

    www.evaedery.com and www.crescendo-art.co.uk

    Pearl Lopian, EFT Advanced Practitioner and qualified Counsellor

    After helping a sportsman at the Maccabiah Games in Israel overcome performance anxiety through EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), Pearl Lopian feels privileged to have made a difference through her work.  

    She gets the body into “free-flow” through the art of EFT, commonly known as “tapping”. She has done this for the past decade, helping people deal with issues such as anxiety, trauma, fear, weight-loss and relationships.

    It’s a far cry from her first career in finance, first promoting traded endowment policies, followed by stockmarket options. Pearl says she has found her calling. Her four children had grown up and she had a passionate desire to work in a caring capacity.

    “I wanted to spread compassion in the world. I heard about EFT and made it my business to learn. I absolutely love it.”

    Originally from London, Pearl, 57, and her family lived in Manchester for 38 years. This year she made aliyah and has settled in Jerusalem with her husband. Luckily, she can do the job anywhere, and works with clients either in person, through Skype or over the phone.

    “What I’m mainly doing is seeing what there is in the subconscious that is blocking one from behaving how one would like to feel in the here-and-now,” she explains. 

    She taps on acupressure points on the side of her hand, on parts of her face, on her collarbone — and her client copies the gesture. All this time, Pearl is asking creative questions about the issues that the client has brought to her. While her client’s mind is fully alert, his or her body goes into a deeper trance state.

    In the case of the sportsman, she transported him to “a picture” in his mind of an experience as a young child, where he was made to feel insecure, a memory buried so deep that he wasn’t consciously aware of it. That feeling, or “mini-trauma,” turned into a lifelong belief. “If that experience hasn’t been cleared up, anything that matches that experience is going to bring up similar feelings,” says Pearl. “My job is to go back into the memory and revalidate it, so that the emotion that was in the memory can leave the body, and the person can then operate in the here-and-now.”

    Pearl also helps clients achieve their own day-to-day symptom management. 

    “I can teach people what to do for the small stuff. I’m here for the big stuff.”

    plopian@gmail.com

    Beth Feingold, Artist

    Work by Beth Feingold
    Work by Beth Feingold

     As a local authority social worker, working on the front-line in child protection, the emotional strains and high case-loads became too much to bear for Beth Feingold.

     After 20 years, she handed in her notice. There was, however, one aspect of her work that she very much wanted to reconnect with. 
    “I had truly loved and was using art as a medium, creating life story books for children being placed for adoption. The satisfaction it gave the children was truly rewarding to me as an artist.”

    Beth, 49, who comes from Newcastle and lives in Manchester with her husband and two teenage sons, had studied art after leaving school. She enjoyed painting murals in homes and restaurants, as well as creating set design pieces for trade shows, before embarking on her social work career. 

    A year ago, she decided to set up an art business, developing affordable canvases for interiors (from £200), specialising in homes, restaurants and hotels worldwide. 

    Her business, which comes predominantly from her website, has generated a lot of interest. 

    “I have been working on a range of paintings inspired by the famous Klimt Kiss, which comes with optional integral LED lighting that enhances the multi coloured works. 

    “Painting them has been so therapeutic and enjoyable.”

    www.bethfeingold.com

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