Erica Cruz: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist

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Treat your business like it’s your child.

When you personify your business like it’s your child, the way you love and treat it will change drastically. I started to develop a relationship with my business that’s rooted in nurturing it and creating an environment for myself, as the CEO and employee, to thrive. In the same way, I love my creations, I’ve learned to love my business with unconditional love. I learned not to overwork it and give it room to evolve and grow. I’ve learned to have compassion for my business the same way I’d have compassion for my child. I’ve learned to be patient with my business and know that good things take time. And most importantly I’ve learned to have fun with my business. If I love my business like it’s my child, there will be no limit to the possibilities of what it can grow into!

As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Erica Cruz.

Erica Cruz is a Los Angeles-based Filipina artist guided by curiosity and joy while remaining anchored with gratitude and Grace. Cruz’s artistry has captured hearts and imaginations, with her ceramics collections and captivating abstract paintings gaining widespread recognition. Renowned as “an artist with many seasons,” she fearlessly explores new styles and mediums, all while staying true to her essence and artistic vision.

In every brush stroke and molded piece of clay, Erica’s core mission shines through — to express her authentic self and share her breathtaking creations with the world. Embodying a unique blend of cultural heritage and contemporary flair, her art speaks volumes, leaving an indelible mark on anyone fortunate enough to experience it.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up/ your backstory?

Growing up in Northern New Jersey, I was blessed to be part of a large, close-knit and loving Filipino family. Among them, my mom stood as my #1 supporter. From my early days in stage crew during middle school plays to my time on the varsity volleyball team in my senior year, she celebrated each achievement, no matter how big or small, as long as it brought me joy.

While I tried my best in various sports, it was in my art classes where I truly discovered my passion and potential. I owe a debt of gratitude to my high school art teachers, who equipped me with the tools to unlock my creativity. I danced around the idea of applying to fine art schools, a moment I remember my mom encouraging me to follow my dreams. But during the process, it didn’t feel it was the right path at the time.

In college, I barely picked up my paintbrush, but fortunately studying advertising and art history, I found new ways of using my creative skills with Photoshop and design. However, fate brought my love for art back to life when the pandemic hit. With ample free time and a rediscovered watercolor palette and sketchbook, I began painting again just for the sheer joy of it. The response from friends when I shared my sketches on Instagram was overwhelming, and thus, Cruz Creations was born.

Around the same time, I had an epiphany — an “if not now, when?” moment. I expressed my desire to move to California to my mom, and as always, she wholeheartedly supported my decision. So, in March 2021, I packed my bags, hopped in my Prius, and drove across the country to LA. My art hobby blossomed into a side hustle, and soon, it became my second job.

California became my canvas, and I watered it with love and dedication. Over time, I witnessed myself fully embrace the artist within me. The support and community I found here were invaluable, and I’m eternally grateful for the friends who stood by me. But above all, my loving family, especially my mom, holds a special place in my heart. Despite being on the opposite coast, their encouragement and unwavering support have been the driving force behind my journey.

As I continue to flourish as an artist here in California, I cherish the growth I’ve experienced, both personally and artistically. The grass is greener where you water it, and I’m overflowing with gratitude for the life I’ve cultivated and the art I’ve created.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

A week before Thanksgiving 2022, I found myself unexpectedly laid off from my corporate job. Instead of feeling devastated, I repositioned how I viewed this moment and it wasn’t a tragedy that happened TO me, but more so an opportunity that happened FOR me.

For months leading up to the layoff, a deep yearning had been brewing inside me — a strong desire to become a full-time artist. This calling was relentless, and I knew with every fiber of my being that it was the path I needed to pursue. Throughout the fall, I juggled commissions, and spent precious time at the pottery studio, all while keeping up with my 9–5 job. Yet, the moment the workday ended, I eagerly dove into my Art To-Do List, pouring my heart and soul into my passion.

When the layoff notification hit, my reaction was instinctual — I immediately FaceTimed my two best friends, and together, we celebrated the life-altering moment. I couldn’t shake the belief that I had somehow manifested this opportunity for myself. It was as though the universe had conspired to push me toward my dreams, igniting the fire in my soul and urging me to take a leap of faith in myself.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Back in February, an incredible opportunity came my way — Toyota’s Holi Celebration event commission for 50 mugs. This was a defining moment in my ceramics journey, as it marked my first major project since fully committing to art. The pressure was immense, not only from within but also from everyone around me, all hoping for my success.

Throughout the process, I encountered new challenges at every turn, ones I had never faced before. But nothing could have prepared me for the devastating obstacle that arose a mere week before the commission deadline. I had to redo all 50 mugs due to issues with the clay and glaze in the kiln of my new studio. It felt like I had hit rock bottom, questioning if I had the time and resources to overcome this setback.

In that defining moment, I asked myself critical questions: “Do I have what it takes to turn this around? Can I find the resources I need?” Surprisingly, within that one-week span, I found the strength and resources I needed to rise above the challenge. The project’s scale and client faded into the background — what truly mattered was producing the best work that represented me as an artist. Fear and failure were not going to stand in my way.

With determination and sheer willpower, I managed to deliver the 50 mugs just in time, and the response was overwhelming. They absolutely loved it! The journey tested me in every way imaginable, pushing me to the brink of stress, doubt, and defeat. However, from this experience, I gleaned invaluable lessons that have equipped me for future projects.

This commission was a turning point in my career, teaching me the resilience required to navigate the challenges of being a full-time artist. Despite the hurdles, I emerged stronger, wiser, and more prepared for what lies ahead. As I look back on this transformative experience, I’m grateful for the growth it brought and eager to embrace future projects with newfound confidence and determination.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Oh boy! I think I just entered my Sculpture Era! Having finally started handbuilding in the studio, I feel this pure childlike joy surging through me with every sculpture I’ve made so far! About 10 months ago in September 2022, I took my first wheelthrowing pottery class and I’ve loved every minute of throwing on the wheel. However, in the last month or so, I started to move off the wheel and now create these freeform pieces I like to call my “wonky sculptures.” They possess a captivating abstract quality, each boasting unique textures and fluid movements reminiscent of my large-scale paint pour abstract paintings. When I’m on the wheel, the creative flow allows me to craft 10–15 bowls or mugs in a single day, while handbuilding demands my full attention for an entire day to shape a single sculpture. As mentioned above, I am an artist with many seasons, and currently, I find myself irresistibly drawn to handbuilding freeform sculptures.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

In my pottery studio, I have the pleasure of connecting with a ton of diverse people spanning various ages, backgrounds, and skill levels. Some find solace in pottery as a beloved hobby, while others, like myself, have committed to it full-time. It’s a space that welcomes diversity, where each person brings unique talents and styles, united by our shared love for that ball of clay.

Most recently, I had a wholesome encounter with a fellow artist in my studio. When the pieces come out of the kiln, they’re put on shelves for everyone to see and for members to sort through and collect their creations. Among the impressive pieces fresh out of the kiln, I couldn’t help but be drawn to these beautiful molded hand sculptures that catch my eye every time. For so long, I wanted to tell the artist behind the piece that I admired his/her work. The other day, I finally saw the artist, Sean, collect his pieces from the shelf and immediately introduced myself to him! To my delight, Sean reciprocated the appreciation, sharing that he, too, had been admiring my wheelwork. He recalled when I had tenaciously re-done the 50 mugs a few months back, leaving a lasting impression on him.

This exchange of mutual admiration and respect for each other’s craft created a beautiful bond between us. It’s incredible how in a shared space, artists can inspire and uplift one another, forging connections that transcend words. In that special moment, we found ourselves celebrating not only the magic of art but also the power of fostering genuine connections within a community of passionate creators. Such a special moment!

Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?

My inspiration stems from the meaningful connections in my life and whatever piques my interest in that current moment. Among my favorite collections are the painted vinyl records, inspired by my profound love for music. Music has always been a big part of my life and what I believe is one of the strongest connections we have with each other.

There are memories and feelings attached to specific songs and music albums that define different chapters of our lives. My inspiration for this collection is taking the color palette of my favorite albums and making an abstract paint pour on a vinyl record. I wanted to bring the same feeling I had for these albums to life with my art! Receiving painted vinyl commissions, especially when some of them are actually made as presents for someone else in their life, this brings me the most joy. The gift of music and art is unmatched.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As an artist, I’ve utilized my success to motivate and inspire others, proving that achieving your dreams is entirely possible. Whether you yearn to explore new avenues, take a leap of faith in yourself, or ignite that inner fire in your soul, remember this: staying true to yourself and taking that courageous step, even if it feels daunting, opens the door to boundless possibilities awaiting on the other side. Embrace the journey, embrace the unknown, and discover the incredible potential within you.

By documenting every project, creation, and experience, I’ve been able to show the pockets of discomfort and stress, the glimmers of joy and the depths of gratitude. I’ve learned that it’s important to share my gifts and curiosity because someone may be watching my journey and it may inspire them to go after their dreams too.

Receiving messages from strangers or old friends saying, “Thanks for sharing your journey! You’ve inspired me to take a new career path” or “Meeting you at the flea market made me start selling my art too!” is one of the most fulfilling feelings. Inspiring others to create and explore new paths is priceless. Sharing my art with the world is a gift, but the added bonus is the impact it has on others’ lives.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?

1 . Create from love, not fear.

No matter what I make, people will gravitate toward the creations that I pour my whole heart into. Having had moments during this journey led with fear, I was scared I wasn’t going to sell a collection or I didn’t have enough time or make enough money. At that time, I found myself creating pieces with the hope of selling instead of just for the joy of it. The moment I started creating for the joy of it and loved my creations unconditionally, was when I was reminded of the reason why I pursued art in the first place.

2 . Invest in yourself and your craft.

I once received valuable advice: “To be the best, learn from the best.” The key to growth is recognizing that there are no limits to self-improvement in both yourself and your craft. Time is precious, so investing in your skills and knowledge is vital. As I transitioned into a full-time artist, I made three strategic investments: 1) Switching to a pottery studio with 24-hour access and unlimited monthly firings. 2) Enrolling in a one-month ceramics dinnerware course to enhance my abilities in creating larger, identical bowls, and dinnerware sets. 3) Acquiring a new iPhone for higher quality media to share my work. These investments have elevated my artistry and broadened my skill set significantly. The path to success lies in continuous improvement and embracing opportunities to evolve as an artist.

3 . Rest is still progress.

There was an urge within me that I needed to work on my business or create something at all times, and any time I spent away from my art, I felt guilty. Unfortunately, this has led to feeling burnout a few times. But I’ve learned that rest and recharge is the best medicine to calm my nervous system and time focusing my energy on other parts of my life helps me recharge so I can put my whole heart into whatever project or creation I make next. Especially when operating 100 MPH, my body will find the path of least resistance to rest. I’m still unlearning that over-productivity can be harmful, but doing my best to be present and check in with myself and business and ask, “What do you need?” Most of the time it’s rest and sometimes rest is one of the most productive things you can do for your body.

4 . When you give yourself grace and practice gratitude, the abundance will flow.

Still to this day, I’m learning how to be kinder to myself and be intentional with the present moment. At the end of the day, everything is “figure-out-able” and failure is not trying so why be so hard on yourself? Once I let go of the fear that was holding me down and released anything I didn’t have control over and operated from a place of pure love, that’s when the abundance flowed. I’ve learned at times it’s easy to get lost in the “what’s next?” so being present in each moment and celebrating every small win is the best way to practice gratitude. Giving yourself grace and gratitude has taught me that abundance is a feeling, rather than a physical aspect, like money. It’s looking at your life and feeling whole with what you already have. So be grateful in the present that you can create and share with the world your gifts. Success has already happened!

5 . Treat your business like it’s your child.

When you personify your business like it’s your child, the way you love and treat it will change drastically. I started to develop a relationship with my business that’s rooted in nurturing it and creating an environment for myself, as the CEO and employee, to thrive. In the same way, I love my creations, I’ve learned to love my business with unconditional love. I learned not to overwork it and give it room to evolve and grow. I’ve learned to have compassion for my business the same way I’d have compassion for my child. I’ve learned to be patient with my business and know that good things take time. And most importantly I’ve learned to have fun with my business. If I love my business like it’s my child, there will be no limit to the possibilities of what it can grow into!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As an artist, I’d inspire the movement of rediscovering childlike joy. The simple pleasures of doing things for the first time when you were a kid sometimes get lost in our adult lives. Rediscovering childlike joy awakens a part of your soul linked to curiosity and simplicity. I believe the older we get, the more we try to find that, but it’s really just buried within us. The feeling of swinging on the playground, riding bikes with friends, and playing hopscotch during recess. These simple moments were sprinkled in our everyday lives as kids and they helped us evolve. Can you imagine if we had those in our everyday lives as adults? What magic would come from it?

We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.

Seth Rogen. I’d love to find a good burger joint and grab dessert with this man. Seth Rogen is my main inspiration for taking my first pottery class. I follow him on social media and when I saw his Gloopy Ashtray Collection for the first time I thought to myself “If Seth Rogen can change up his career and try something different, so can I!” Like myself, he’s also “an artist with many seasons.” He’s not just an actor, but also a talented ceramicist and I’d be honored to share a meal with him and hear how his first ball of clay changed his life too.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Readers can follow me @ArtByCruzCreations on Instagram, TikTok, Threads, and Etsy. You can also visit my website to shop the collections, commission an art piece and collab on projects together!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Erica Cruz: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.