Before pursuing a career in surface design, Elizabeth Olwen was working full-time as a graphic designer. While it was great training, Elizabeth “really felt like something was missing, my work wasn’t very fulfilling. I had this burning in my belly like I wasn’t living up to my potential.

I took a creative sabbatical abroad, with the goal of waking up everyday allowing myself to be free to explore whatever it was I wanted to work on. I kept gravitating towards patterns. I realized I had a huge portfolio of patterns and needed to do something with them, which was when I discovered that surface design could be a career. I didn’t even know it was something I could do!”

Elizabeth hit the ground running, sending out her portfolio and signing up for a tradeshow in NYC to start licensing her patterns. Even though her new career took off quickly, when Elizabeth thought about teaching on Skillshare, she remembers, “being totally daunted and scared. Who made me the authority on this kind of thing? My career grew so quickly and was so new, I wasn’t sure I was capable of teaching a solid class. But I had been trying to embrace the philosophy of, if something scares you, you should do it. Who says you can’t?”

We’re certainly glad she did! Her first Pattern Design class launched in November 2014 and has since enrolled over 15,000 students.

“I was blown away. I couldn’t believe how many people started signing up. I would open by inbox every day and get these super positive messages that would be day brighteners. Plus, I honestly didn’t realize what a great source of income it could be”.

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There have been a few students that have written to me personally telling me that this class has changed the course of my life. One students is now fully licensing her artwork after taking my classes.  I was the same, I was unfulfilled at my job and I didn’t know patterns were a thing you could do. If I hadn’t taught this class she wouldn’t have gone on this path. It’s so rewarding to give that creative inspiration to new people.”

For Elizabeth,reaching over 17,000 students online has even increased her exposure offline. When she arrived at the tradeshow where she had gotten her career off the ground just a few years before, she saw people’s eyes widen as she stepped onto the floor. “Elizabeth I took your Skillshare class! I was wandering down the aisles and people were shouting out Skillshare! It was surreal.”

Learn more about teaching at www.skillshare.com/teach.

Written by:

Nicole Kamra