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Empowering Women: Lydia Smith Schrader

When I first met Lydia, she had just moved to CT for her job at an interior design firm in Greenwich and was also volunteering for FOCUS (the non-profit I now work for). I immediately wanted to be friends with her! She has that kind of warm and genuine sense about her that you just don’t come by everyday. Upon first seeing one of her illustrations, I was so impressed at what a talented artist she was. I was so thrilled to hear that she decided to turn her talent into a full-time career when she moved to Philadelphia with her husband.  She recently started her own company, Lydia Marie Elizabeth, and now you can enjoy her art in so many different forms, whether you need a commissioned piece, beautiful stationary, a bright calendar, or an eye-catching print. For most of my friends who majored in art or have a passion for it, making it full-time would be a dream come true. Here’s to a girl who made that dream a reality! Read on and then promise me you’ll head over to her site and gaze at the beautiful online gallery of her creations (I could click through forever!).

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When did you first become interested in art and illustration?

I have been scribbling and drawing ever since I can remember. I was always drawing girls with dogs and cats and horses when I was little. As I got older, my parents put me in art classes.  By the time I was having my portfolio considered for college, a professor suggested I go into illustration.  I didn’t have the vision for how that could work practically in my life, so I went to school for Interior Design. It seemed like a more practical way to channel my love for art. When I was designing though, I always thought about spaces like a canvas and layering paint and texture.  I’m glad I did go to school and work in Interior Design, I think it’s ultimately informed my work and given me a niche that I wasn’t able to see when I was younger.

Where do find inspiration for your artwork? 

I was trained in Interior Design and worked in the field for about four years, so before I started my business the spaces that were inspiring my work for clients during the day began to fill up my sketchbooks at night.  Now, I stay up with trends in a similar way that I did while I was working, and I took out subscriptions to magazines like Architectural Digest.

Who is your favorite artist?

This is actually a really long list. I love the impressionist movement most of all.  But, even before I knew the names of artists and studied art and design, I’ve also always been fascinated with Edward Hopper’s work.  He used architecture as a narrative within his art and I always found that so deeply engaging and provocative.

Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve created?

Hmm… I did a piece in attempt to bring awareness to PTSD related to the War on Terror.  Its title is derived from a passage from Homer describing the men who returned from war who had a “thousand yard stare.”  My painting juxtaposes scenes from war with classical-revival architecture.

What has been your biggest challenge since starting your art and illustration business?

There have been many, and I think there probably will be many more to come. I think for me, having to wrap my mind around business plans and fiscal planning has been the hardest. I have no experience or background with start-ups. But I have always loved learning and challenges, and I think that’s one reason I think I’m well suited for this.

What has been the biggest thing you’ve learned since starting your business?

I think that trusting in the Lord has been something I have really wanted to let this business push me to do.  I only want to do this if this is how He wants to work through me.  He has given me many blessings since beginning.

What’s one piece of advice that you would give to other women who are hoping to one day pursue art full-time?

Trust in the Lord’s timing and plan for you as a unique person. I always am wishing there was a guide book to something like this, but there isn’t.  Building an art career takes time, and that’s still something I’m trying to do myself.

So tell me a little bit about what you are wearing today:
I’m wearing a wool dress my mother got me from Theory before I moved up to Greenwich. My boots are J.Crew that I got while I was in College. The bracelets I’m wearing are from my father.  They are lapis from Afghanistan, he brought them back from when he was on tour there. He always had this lapis ring he wore when I was little, so lapis always reminds me of him.

If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?

For real? I think I would be totally happy in a navy, a-line dress just above the knee, with nude, pointed-toe high heels (approximately 3”).  If I had the luxury of a second outfit, It would probably be dark wash jeans (AG or 7s), a white, long sleeve t-shirt, and Jack Rogers. Pearls with both outfits.

What women have inspired you? 

I come from a long line of strong independent women, and I think at one level or another my mother and her sisters, and grandmothers on both sides have always been inspiration to me.  And I think it’s also been really inspiring to see how supportive the men in all of these women’s lives have been in various ways.  I also find the passages about biblical women very inspiring.  These were women who had no worth in their society, and God used them in really big ways.  And of course, I love the story about Lydia in Acts.

What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

I want to go to Africa before I die.

What are the 3 things that you absolutely, positively, cannot live without? 

Drawing materials, French bread, and moisturizer.

Favorite indulgence? 

Pearls and lattes.

What makes you smile the most?

My husband. He helps me put everything in perspective and always keeps me upbeat.

If you could go back, what’s one piece of advice that you wish you had heard 5 years ago? 

I’m a pretty indecisive person, and I’ve really had to be cautious of it recently, because it just winds up wasting a ton of time. So, I think I had this advice, I just never listened. “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ ” (Matt. 5:37)

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