Lesley Riley, a great creative coach

Het heeft heel lang geduurd voordat ik creativiteit een rol gaf in mijn leven. In mijn wereld werden dingen werden gemaakt voor het nut en niet voor het mooi. Musea bezoeken deden we niet in onze familie. Nou dat is niet helemaal waar oorlogsmusea heb ik genoeg gezien, maar kunst? Nee.

Daarbij komt dat ik snel enthousiast kan zijn, maar dat kan ook zo weer over gaan. En iets maken omdat de leraar het zegt, dat is moeilijk voor zo’n eigenwijs typ als ik ben. En blijkbaar is er geen persoon in mijn verleden geweest die mij geïnspireerd heeft om voor creativiteit te gaan. Kunst was letterlijk en figuurlijk ver weg voor mij.

It took a long time before creativity became a big part of my life. In my world things were made for the benefit and not for the good. Museums we did not visit in our family. Well that’s not entirely true, war museums I’ve seen enough, but art? No.

In addition, I can be enthusiastic fast, but it can also pass it again. And to make something because the teacher says, it is difficult for such a pigheaded type as I am. And apparently there has been no person in my past who has inspired me to go for creativity. Art was literally and figuratively far away for me.



 Terugkijkend is behalve mijn drang om altijd collages te maken en plaatjes te zoeken, vooral belangrijk geweest dat mijn zus mij tijdens mijn eerste zwangerschap heeft leren borduren. Kruissteekjes. En ik werd daar fanatiek in. Op foto’s uit die tijd zie je vaak ergens een borduurwerk liggen. Ik werkte natuurlijk van een patroon, maar al snel vond ik de traditionele patronen die je hier in Nederland kon krijgen veel te tuttig en saai.

Looking back there was always  my desire to make collages and to look for beautiful pictures. My sister taught me embroidery, cross stitches, during my first pregnancy.  And I became fanatical about it. In photographs from that time you often see somewhere embroidery liying around.  I worked with a commercial pattern, but soon I found the traditional patterns that you could get here in the Netherlands too fussy and boring.

Maar steeds vaker ging ik maken, proberen, kijken, voelen, onderzoeken. Ik merkte dat ik er blij van werd. Ik wilde meer, ik durfde meer. Toch heeft het mij nog 20 jaar gekost tot ik zover was dat ik kunst en creativiteit als mijn belangrijkste drijfveer beschouw.

But increasingly I was going to create, try, look, feel, investigate. I noticed that I became while doing this. I wanted more, I dared more. Still, it took me another 20 years until I was sure that art and creativity were my main motive for living.

O de twijfels die ik onderweg tegenkom. Ik ben te oud, te dom, niet getalenteerd     . Ik kan dit toch niet. Ik heb geen tijd. Is dit wel mooi? Ik moet nog eerst dit of dat doen. Ik kan toch niet zo veel tijd en geld hier aan besteden? Niemand zit hier op te wachten, dus waarom doe je het? Anderen zijn beter, knapper, creatiever. Echt, onzekerheid, is ook ‘my middle name’ zoals dat heet.

O the doubts that I encounter along the way. I’m too old, too stupid, not talented. I cannot do this. I do not have any time. Is this really beautiful? I have first have to do this or that. I cannot spend so much time and money here. Nobody is waiting for this, so why bother? Others are better, smarter, more creative. Really, uncertainty is also “my middle name,”.


Maar ja, ik heb ‘De Drang’! Dus ga ik door.

But I have ‘The Urge’! So I continue.

En op een dag kwam ik bij Lesley Riley terecht. En ik las haar verhaal, en vond er her- en erkenning. Wat een verademing. Hier is een vrouw die ook pas later in haar creatieve leven gestapt is, en die daar succesvol en gelukkig in is. En denk niet dat Lesley niets te doen had, als er iemand een vol leven heeft is zij het wel. Wat ik zo heerlijk aan Lesley vind is dat ze zo benaderbaar is. Uitnodigend en openhartig. Leuk zijn de interviews die ze met heel veel kunstenaars heeft gemaakt als podcasts.

And one day I found the site of Lesley Riley.  I read her story and found recognition. What a relief. Here is a woman who also stepped later into her creative life, and who is successful and happy with it.  And do not think that Lesley had nothing to do, if anyone has a full life, it’s her. She is so approachable, that is what I love about Lesley. She is inviting and open-hearted. Inspiring are the interviews she has made with many artists and post them as podcasts.


Ze heeft zo veel kennis op gedaan over het creatieve proces. En ze wil dit met ons delen, als creatief coach inspireert ze en moedigt ons aan. En bij ons, bedoel ik ons vrouwen met al onze andere taken en onzekerheden. Kijk eens naar haar filmpje ‘Wake up call for artists’ en zeg dat je daar niets in herkent. Coaching met humor!

She has gained so much knowledge about the creative process. And she wants to share this with us. As creative coach she inspires and encourages us. And by us, I mean we women with all of our other tasks and our uncertainties. Look at her movie ‘Wake up call for artists’ and say that you do not recognize anything in it. Coaching with humor!

Daarnaast geeft ze les en organiseert ze artist retreats. Retraites waar je ondergedompeld wordt in een warm bad van gezelligheid en creativiteit. Dit jaar heeft ze er ook één in Nederland gehouden.

Furthermore, she teaches and organizes artist retreats. Retreats where you are immersed in a bath of warm sociability and creativity. This year she also held A Red Thread in the Netherlands.

 Van zo’n vrouw wil je toch meer weten? Tijd dus om Lesley wat vragen te stellen.

Of course you want to know more of such a woman. Time to ask Lesley some questions.


Question part:

  1. You became an artist later in life. All those years you lived your life without art were not that bad I guess. Maybe you even could continue without art. What triggered you to chance your path into the creative life?

I never considered myself an artist. I wanted to be one all my life but didn’t have drawing skills so I thought I could not be one. So I turned to crafts – decorative painting, macramé, basketweaving and quilting. Quilting was the one that stuck but I longed to be an art quilter … if only I could be an artist. So I set all that aside to raise a family and grow a business with my husband.

Years passed and even though I had six healthy, wonderful children, a great husband and lived in a wonderful home and community, I felt something was missing in my life. At the age of 47, I sat on the side of my bed and thought long and hard about what was missing in my life. I realized that I was not doing or creating anything for myself. I gathered the three things I loved: fabric, quotes and vintage photos, and on January 4, 1999 I began to create small fabric collages, purely for my own pleasure. They were so fun to create, so me. Each one I finished made me dance. I had found my creative voice. I had created something from my heart. I was an artist! I called them Fragments because there were made from fragments of fabric in fragments of time.

  1. You have developed yourself into a well-known creative coach for women artists. What is making you so involved with women? Do you think women need more encouragment being an artist or is it harder for women to be an artist?

I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a caretaker, a daughter, a worker and an artist. I understand women who want to be “more” or are having trouble pursuing their passion. The struggles that I went through, that most women go through, to find the time, courage, confidence and self-permission to express themselves has been an interest of mine for four decades. At the age of 50 I completed an undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies. Historically women have had a much more difficult time fulfilling their creative longings.

Women do need more encouragement because society still expects women to place themselves last after fulfilling everyone else’s needs. Support and role-models (and don’t forget time!) have been hard to find. Fortunately, it is getting better now because many of us have become role-models for our daughters and grand-daughters. The way to be more creative is to DO IT. Taking action on our dreams and passions is the only solution.


  1. Can you tell us something about the coaching possibilities you offer?

I offer three levels of coaching. All focus on

  • clarifying what you really want
  • breaking through the fears that holds you back
  • living a more meaningful life
  • troubleshooting an ongoing personal or business problem
  1. One-on-one coaching is done via weekly telephone or Skype calls over the period of one or more months, depending on the client’s needs and requirements.
  1. A self-directed online class that covers the steps one needs to take to become a successful creative – the Artist Success Action Program or ASAP. An optional one-on-one coaching call can also be added to the course.
  1. Free coaching and support can be obtained by subscribing to my newsletter, where I offer practical insight, inspiration and motivation for the creative spirit. Sign up at www.LesleyRiley.com.
  1. This year you gave a Red Thread retreat in the Netherlands. Do you experience some difference between the Dutch women and say, the American of Australian women?

Before the retreat began, I did think that culturally, the Dutch women would be more reserved than their US or AU counterparts, but I did not find that to be true – at least in the retreat setting. In any group, there are going to be people that are reserved or apprehensive and people that are easy-going and up for anything. Most people fall somewhere in the middle.

It is important to me to meet people where they are and create a safe environment for them to express themselves, whether that be through art or words. I use a variety of exercises, solo and with partners, to allow the attendees to get comfortable with the group and each other. Inevitably, the magic of the Red Thread happens.


  1. One of the hardest obstacles to create is a lack of time. How did you overcome this problem yourself? Besides a coach, you are also a partner, a mother of six, an artist, a teacher and a writer. Only writing this down makes me stressed. 😉

In the winter of 1995 my 6th (and final!) child was 4 months old. As part of my journey to become an artist, I was taking an evening class called Unlocking Creativity. The homework assignment was to turn a negative into a positive. The negative was obvious – NO TIME for art. But how could I turn that into something positive? I knew I was going to have to find time, perhaps even make time. Could I really create time? And how could I do it in a tangible way to complete my assignment. The solution was not to make time, but to make use of the time that was already present in my day.

That week (and to this day) every five or ten minutes of free time I had I did something art related. I decided to see how much art time I could actually create in a week. In order to have something tangible to show to the class, I recorded those minutes on blocks of wood left over from the ongoing renovation of our house – visible blocks of time!  At the next class I presented the teacher with a box full of my blocks of time. In 5 or 6 days I had accumulated over eight hours of art time. Those little blocks of time really added up.

The secret is the piecing together of seemingly disparate blocks of your time to create a wondrous whole – like in making a quilt or collage. The key is to be ready to create art on a moment’s notice and to do the kind of art that lends itself to spontaneity. 


  1. I would love to know if you have any ideas about promoting our group of female middle aged artists. I have noticed on various shows, workshops and learning programs that the main group of participants consists of women above 45. We all know this group is considered not sexy and therefore not interesting. This shows also at the exhibitions. We visit each other but where are the men and the younger people? Do we stay in our niche of the art world or can we break through these barriers?

This is a great question and one I ponder as well, Marjan. When I first began quilting in my 20s (back in the 70s!) a group of older women – women the age I am now – took me under their wings. I was the youngest and only young one in the group by far. That tells me that this situation is not something new.

Now, like you, I see a lack of younger women (45 and below) and men everywhere I teach and at all the guilds and shows. One of the main reasons is that, at our age, we have more free time to pursue our passions.

But that said, all the younger women now are extremely involved and gather online to share and celebrate what is new to them. What we called stuffed animals they call “stuffies”, their quilts are part of the Modern Quilt Movement, similar to the quilting renaissance the US experienced in the 70s. Their passion for handmade and craft echoes what our generation embraced in the 60s. Everything old is new again.

What all this tells me is that this gathering of like-minded souls is a cyclical and a generational thing. Sadly, the younger generations do not see us, or understand that, while they are not yet us, we are still them. We carry all of our ages inside of us and can relate to them more than they can understand us at this point in their lives. As my 36 year old daughter likes to say, “Things are different now, Mom.”

Different but the same, yes?

The solution? If they won’t come to us, we go to them. Get on social media, share your talents, your patterns and techniques. Go to their gatherings and share in their enthusiasm. It’s like the division between craft and art – it will not change unless we take action to bring them together.

And remember that we can be sexy, juicy, women, at any age. It’s called joie de vivre. We need to get our wisdom out into the world. Individually and together we can change the world. In 2009 the Dali Lama said, “The world will be saved by the Western woman. That’s us, ladies.


  1. 2016 is almost in sight. What are your plans for the coming year?

While I have books and new products to promote and love to teach, I have set aside 2016 to write the book that has been simmering inside for decades. The time is now right and I am ready. Not a craft book this time, it will be a book on living, aging, creating and becoming whole. It is never to late to live the life you desire and deserve. There will be on online class component based on what I am writing and researching.

In the meantime, you can join me in the journey and stay connected through my newsletter, where I share insight, inspiration and motivation. Sign up at my site.

Thank you for this opportunity, Marjan.

Your welcom, dear Lesley. Wish you all the best for 2016.

Lesley heeft een overzicht staan op haar Printerest met alle podcast interviews. Linkje hier.

A overview of Lesley’s podcasts is at her Printerest: link here.