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A letter to my 22-year-old self: one day you will leave your corporate job behind to become an artist, and you'll never look back

One of Lyon's sculptures.

Shona Lyon sold her successful businesses and left the corporate world behind and pursue a career in the creative arts by becoming a bronze sculptor at 44-years-old. When no one in New Zealand could teach her the art form, she journeyed further abroad to be privately taught by Martine Vaugel, a master sculptor in France. Here, she writes a letter to her younger self about this career pivot – but also emphasises it's never too late to pursue a creative passion. 

Dear Shona,

When you are 44, a friend will invite you to a two-week university course in France. It will change your life forever. You will leave behind your career as a top corporate marketer with your own business, which makes you wealthy and respected, but puts you under constant pressure.

By then, your son will be eight. He will bring you more joy that you could have imagined, but his existence will trigger a conflict between parenthood and your business world. You will be reluctant to take a fortnight away from him, but something about France will beckon.

Here’s something to look forward to: in Chartres Cathedral, you’ll turn and look at the sculptures clustered around you, and be hit with a feeling so strong it almost has a physical form. You must be a sculptor.

You’ll wonder if you’re going crazy – can you even become an artist at age 44? You will flash back to the awful memory of being turned down for School C art as a teenager, the teacher who said, “Your work isn’t good enough.”

Have faith, because art will become your healer. You will sell your businesses and get to work learning to sculpt in clay, and from that bronzes, like Rodin. When you find no one in New Zealand can teach you, you will enter the private tutelage of Martine Vaugel, a Master Sculptor and two-time Rodin award winner who lives in the Loire Valley.

Back and forth you will go from New Zealand to Italy and France, learning and basking in the work of the masters. You won’t be able to stay away from business, though! – people will ask where you get your tools and sculpture materials, so you’ll set up Sculpture & Moulding Supplies Limited and begin teaching workshops. This time around, you’ll be smart, and once the business starts taking up your sculpture time, you’ll hand over the reins and get back to your passion.

You will find that your art engages people’s hearts first. You will draw on myths, the stories of the past, to reflect the light and the dark in all of us. Your art helps and heals: you will have friends who fight cancer, and your art will show that cracks and scars are merely the openings to true beauty. You will give proceeds of your art to people who fight for threatened species. You will be reminded every day that art is life.

Love, Shona​


Shona Lyon is an Auckland-based professional sculptor specialising in figurative and portraits bronze sculptures. Her sculptures are based on the principles of sacred geometry and the classical sculptural techniques introduced to her by her mentor, International Master Sculptor Martine Vaugel. She provides group workshops on sculpting and offers private one-on-one tuition Her latest exhibition, Mythos, runs until 29 June (Tue-Fri 2pm to 6pm, Sat-Sun 10am to 4pm) at 10/16 Taylors Road, St Lukes, Auckland.

Beyond Mythos, watch this space: Lyon has long-term goals to establish an art foundation and a dedicated school of sculpture, which does not yet exist in New Zealand.

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