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Conversations with the Inspiring Nicole Pellegrini

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Pellegrini.

Nicole, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My journey as a creative began at such a young age, I can’t even say when it was.

I grew up in upstate New York. I was always a creative individual who enjoyed the arts. I began writing and drawing when I was a little kid and was fortunate enough to have the support of my parents to pursue my passions. I’ve wanted to be many things in life, but creativity has always played a major role in choosing my path. From dance to music to fashion design to writing, I couldn’t imagine a life without art.

In high school, I got really into designing prom dresses and band t-shirts which led me to enroll in a fashion design program for college. I spent a year at Cazenovia College in western New York before dropping the program to move to LA. I always get asked why I moved to California, and my answer is simply I really had no reason. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to live in California. As a kid, I would dream about moving out here with friends. Then, halfway through my freshman year at college, I decided it was time to make the move. So, I withdrew from school and the following summer, I packed up and headed out to Simi Valley to live with some family.

I took a semester at Moorpark college to get my associate’s degree since I had no interest at the time to be in school. Then a few months later, I decided to re-enroll. Typical me. A year later, I moved to North Hollywood and I decided to go back to school to finish my fashion degree. I enrolled in the fashion program at the Art Institute of California. While I was in school, I dabbled in jewelry design as a hobby and a way to make some passive income. It was also there that I came up with the name Candy Revolver.

Candy Revolver was the name of a clothing line I designed for a school project. The juxtaposition of the two words together appealed to me. While the project didn’t live up to the name, I held on to it. Now, years later, it is the title of my blog and personal website. I sort of consider it my artist name since I also use it as a hashtag for people to find all the art that I post on Instagram.

For several years after college, I pursued multiple passions while working odd jobs. My first fashion industry job turned me off, so I started a small business making chalk bags. I worked in bars, delivered pizza, and was a coffee shop barista while trying to get the business take off. When that fell through due to a bad partnership that ended in a lawsuit, I got my first real job in the industry as a handbag designer and developer. That job also turned me off. I worked there for three years and was laid off a few months ago, which I believe was a blessing in disguise.

That pretty much leads me to now. Currently, I am a freelance designer while pursuing multiple artistic passions including jewelry making, general art, design, photography, and writing. I’ve recently started a blog as well as a new project I’m currently calling Crew-Create. It’s basically like a book club but without the books. I see it as an opportunity to give people a space to create when they need it while connecting and networking with others.

For me, right now, if I have the opportunity to be creative, I’ll do it. And if I have the opportunity to help people, I’ll do it. All of the things I’m currently doing have helped me so much in life, that I feel compelled to share them with others. The way I see it is if one thing I do can help one person, then I feel like I’ve fulfilled my purpose, and if I can do that within the art world, then even better!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
My journey as a creative professional has had many ups and downs, unexpected occurrences, life lessons, and incredible rewards. I will say, that while it hasn’t been a smooth road, it’s a road that’s been worth every step.

I think that most of my struggles as a creative professional could have been avoided if I had done things like trusted my gut in shady situations, stood up for myself more, or had simply known the things that I know now. I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way, but sometimes, that’s the best way to learn. I could see my misfortunes as just that, but I choose to look at them as the stepping stones that got me to where I am today.

The struggles I’ve faced along the way cover a pretty large spectrum of obstacles. I’ve dealt with money issues, whether it had to do with not making enough, not charging enough for my products, or straight up not getting paid by clients. I’ve dealt with business-related issues such as going into partnerships with untrustworthy partners and even having one of those partnerships end in a lawsuit. I actually tell the story about getting sued on my blog.

I’ve had to learn how to stand up for myself and stand my ground against business bullies, how to deal with sociopaths and manipulative bosses, and how to protect myself. If I could lend any advice to women, especially young women who are just starting their journey, that last bit would be most important: protect yourself.

Protect your energy. Protect your work. As creatives, we are often so eager to get our work into the world that we forget about ourselves. Protecting yourself in business is such an important move that I missed early on in my career because I didn’t always know how and I was too trustworthy. If you’re ever offering services to a client, no matter how big or small the project, draft up a contract and get everything in writing. Know what you’re getting yourself into before you start. And more than anything, learn to trust yourself.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
Currently, I feel like I’m a little all over the place, but I like it. I’m figuring it out as I go. I like being in this space where I have a world of possibilities at my fingertips and the time to figure out what it is I want to “specialize” in. As a multipotentialite, a Jill-of-all-Trades, specializing in multiple things is just a part of who I am. I am a creative person who is exploring the ways in which to turn those creative passions into a career without over committing and burning myself out. It’s a tough balance.

It’s interesting to me that I’m doing this interview at a time where I feel like I’m nothing and everything rolled into one, curiously and creatively charged person. Three months ago, I was at a job that I hated, but it was still a job that made me financially secure. Now, I’m working toward creating a job that I love which will hopefully lead to my financial security once again.

One of my most recent endeavors is blogging. At my last job, I was having a heart-to-heart one day with my coworker when she stopped and said, “Do you ever think about starting a blog? You should start a blog.” And hearing those words resonated with me on such a high level and pulled me out of a year-long creative block. And that is how my blog, Candy Revolver was born. I talk about life, personal anecdotes, career advice, and my travel adventures as well as share my outdoor and travel photography. My writing has always been personal and therapeutic. It still is, so returning to writing is a huge deal for me. And now, I’m at a point in life where I feel ready to share that part of me with anyone who is willing to listen.

In addition to my blog, I’m exploring the world and my photography. I pick up random photography gigs here and there, but I love outdoor photography the most. I love traveling and photographing the places I see in hopes to capture the moment and share that with others.

I’m focusing on my jewelry design and crystal work, which I sell in an Etsy shop. My life-long love for crystals and passion for designing accessories has melded into a small business where I make wire-wrapped jewelry. I also have a few crystal-oriented projects and collaborations in the works that I’m very excited about.

Lastly, I’m freelancing as a graphic and accessory designer. I’m helping run a non-profit dodgeball league. I offer creative services at private events, and I’m working on building a community of creatives through a book club sort of deal called “Crew-Create.” The purpose is to give people a space to create, network, and bond with other creatives over our shared interest of being creatives.

So, what am I known for? I suppose it depends on how you know me. I believe I am the epitome of a multipotentialite: a person with many creative interests and pursuits, someone with no “one true calling” and I that is the space in which I thrive.

I was raised, as I’m sure many of you were, to believe that I have a purpose, a destiny to fulfill. I still feel that way, but I am beginning to learn that my purpose or destiny may not be limited to just ONE thing. And for me, as a person, and as a brand, that is what I’m most proud of. My professional career has been exciting and I’ve done a lot of great work as a professional, but at the end of the day I’m most proud of the personal work and personal growth that’s come with it, because my personal growth as a professional has been more difficult and more rewarding than any creative challenge I’ve ever been given.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
I feel that the biggest barriers to female leadership today, are both real and in our own minds. Let me elaborate on that second part: I think that generations of gender-specific roles in the workplace, and in society in general, make it difficult for some women, myself included, to overcome our personal fears and get out of our own way. We sometimes doubt our abilities for no reason and suffer from impostor syndrome more than our male counterparts. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held myself back from something because I didn’t feel like I had the skills or confidence to move forward when I did. Or how many times I’ve done well in a job only to feel like it was a fluke.

On the “real”: From my personal experience, as a small and kind female, I sometimes feel I have to try harder than men to be heard or noticed. More recently, I’ve begun to take notice of moments when I back down in conversations due to feeling unheard instead of continuing to hold my stance out of exhaustion. I’ve been in leadership positions in many of my jobs, but have been literally treated like I don’t even exist while my male counterparts are handed a microphone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been in scenarios with male professionals who have acknowledged my capabilities and have supported me, but they are few and far between.

I’ll admit, I’ve been fortunate in several of my professional endeavors to climb ladders and get promotions rather quickly, but the ladder is short and I always hit a roadblock. It’s like at my previous job, I was given all the responsibilities of a CEO without any of the power or pay that comes with it. It’s situations like this, giving females false power without real equality in decision making or pay, that contribute to some of the biggest barriers I’ve faced in female leadership positions. So, continue to empower each other, ladies (gents too)! It’s important to acknowledge our successes as women and that we’ve made strides, but we still have work to do.

Pricing:

  • Wire Wrapped Jewelry on Etsy: $20-$30
  • Freelance Graphic & Accessory Design: Project Rate Varies
  • Freelance copywriting and editing: Project Rate Varies
  • Crew-Create: Free!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Seth Dobie

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