We had the good fortune of connecting with Hannah Jelstrom and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hannah, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
For most of my life I’ve been pretty risk-averse. I felt afraid to try something if I wasn’t sure I’d be good at it or if I couldn’t control the outcome. And while I knew there was a difference between “risk” and “danger,” I usually made decisions based on what was “safest” rather than making choices that might get me closer to a life I authentically wanted. As you can imagine, that didn’t lead me to a very fulfilling lifestyle.
My perspective really changed a lot when it came to selling my art.
It took me a very long time to launch my art business (even though I knew there were many people interested in buying) because I was terrified that if I risked pricing my art at what I thought it was worth instead of what felt “safe” I would be rejected and would fail.
At that time, someone close to me gave me the best advice I’d ever heard.
They said, “You just have to be willing to risk finding out what will happen if you try.”
And that really rocked my world.
Those words helped me recognize that can’t we ever fully control the outcome of anything we set out to do. We can prepare and put our best foot forward, but we always have to find out what will happen, no matter how monumental or small of a risk we take.
You have to try, see what happens, and then decide if you want to try again differently or not.
And taking the risk with my art business ended up working out pretty well for me!
Now I try to approach risk—and life—with that mindset.
Want to invest in that stock? Find out what happens if you try.
Want to travel the world alone? Find out what happens if you try.
Want to see if you can handle that ghost chili salsa? Just find out what happens if you try.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The subject of my art is mainly succulents. I fell in love with them years ago when I was newly married and my husband and I were really struggling to get by financially. We had no money for anything extra, but I’d told him about how a new plant can grow from just a single leaf of a succulent. Late one night, he took me to a little market that had an outdoor succulent garden, and we snuck in and carefully plucked a few leaves so I could grow a few plants of my own. Those baby plants was a bright spot in a very difficult time in my life and a reminder of his creativity in loving me.
When I was able to start buying fancy rare succulents from overseas, I gained a whole new appreciation for them. These flower-like desert plants are incredibly resilient to harsh environments. They actually get more beautifully colored under the right kinds of “stressful” conditions. And that aspect of them has become a sort of challenge and encouragement to me to see how resilient I can be when my circumstances are difficult or painful. Can I flourish in some way as a result of going through this?
When the pandemic hit, I needed a hobby, so I picked up painting again for the first time since high school. I almost gave up with the first few paintings because I couldn’t capture my plants the way I envisioned, but I kept trying. I started sharing my paintings with my succulent community on Instagram, and they were overwhelmingly supportive. The more I painted, the more I realized I actually had a passion for something for the first time in my life.
Now I paint these plants with the hope that I can bring that same resilient encouragement and peace to others that my plants bring to me.
It wasn’t easy getting to where I am today. I wish it was as simple as just painting and people magically knowing it exists and buying it, but as every creative entrepreneur/professional artist finds out, you have to put so much time into the “business” of being a professional creative. Yet I’ve found a special kind of joy in the work of creating content. I love getting to make a peaceful corner for others in the chaos that is social media. And the fact that people actually seem to be impacted by my stories of emotional healing and resilience along with my artwork really fuels me to keep going.
It feels like such a privilege to get to do this and connect with so many beautiful people who appreciate the colors I put on paper. I’m excited for the day when I can go full time into this work and wherever that will take me next!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I think most of my itinerary would be around being outdoors. Hiking in Red Rock national park lots and probably taking a trail or two near the Colorado River. Visiting the arts district downtown for some drinks at the Velvateen Rabbit and food at Cornish Pasty. A Cirque du Soleil show for sure. And while I avoid the Vegas strip at all costs, I think the chandelier bar in the Cosmo is worth seeing.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh gosh, can I shout out multiple?
First, my friend Marie. Ever since we met in early high-school, she has supported all my endeavors. And by support, I mean she was the friend that not only encouraged me with her words but literally always paid full price (or more) for whatever I was dipping my toe into as a side hustle.
Having someone believe in me tangibly and consistently meant the world to me so many times over and really helped me keep trying over the years.
Second, my OG instagram plant community.
Most of my paintings center around succulents, and the whole reason I started painting them in the first place was because I collect rare and beautiful ones. I was sharing my plant collection on IG for several years before painting them, and that community gave (and still do give) me so much love, encouragement and support. I never would have gotten to where I am now without them.
Other: TikTok @hellosucculent