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Think You’re Too Old To Reinvent Yourself? Think Again.

February 2024 | Quilting
by Marilyn Heywood Paige

Painter Builds Successful New Career at 65–and Is Having The Time Of Her Life.

If you’ve ever dreamed of a new career or creating deeper meaning and purpose in your life, you’re going to love Irene Roderick. Irene–who is leading a quilting retreat at the Estelle Center in April–reinvented herself at 65. Now, at 73, she is enjoying more fun and success than ever before. Her story is inspiring because of the age at which she took a leap, but also because she is an artist making a living from her art. 

Irene Roderick Painter Turned Quilter

How Irene Roderick Reinvented Herself at 65

Irene began painting at 10 and painted for pleasure and income for decades before earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at 46. No doubt, her classmates were all over 20 plus years her junior, but she continued undaunted.

Five years later, at 51, she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts in California. Many 50-year-olds would shy away from earning a degree, but Irene didn’t. She put in long hours in class and in the art studio to hone her craft. She made some income through selling her original canvases and painting commercial murals, but she also held an administrative position at the University of Texas for 15 years to earn a steady paycheck.

In 2015, just before retiring from the University, Irene was looking for a bed covering and searched contemporary quilts online. She fell in love with the amazing modern quilts she saw and took a quilting class. One class, at 65-years-old, and she was hooked. She put her paints away and channeled all her creativity and artistic know-how into fabric. 

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Painter Turned Quilter

Modern quilting opened a new, exciting artistic realm for Irene. Just as she had done when she was a painter, she spent hours and hours playing, experimenting, and learning. She delved into fabric, stitches, and techniques. Irene took her years of painting expertise and made quilts her new canvases. 
Roderick’s quilts offered a fresh take and a vibrancy that stood out from other quilters. In 2017, she entered her first juried quilt show. In 2019, she won the best emerging artist award at Quilt Con’s national juried quilt show. She has since won many awards for her modern quilts.

Irene Roderick Quilt

Social Media Opened New Doors

While Irene made a name for herself at the juried shows, it was social media that opened up more opportunities for her. During the pandemic in 2020, Irene put her quilts on Instagram and announced she was teaching a quilting class. Within an hour, she had 120 students booked. “Instagram made my career. It has become a cornerstone of the quilting world.” Today, she has a following on Instagram (@hixsonir) of over 8,700 enthusiasts. (For context, Quilter’s World magazine has just 5,600 followers.) 
Irene’s quilts and techniques are so unique that Krause Craft published her first book, Improv Quilting, in 2022. It is a handbook for quilters to make unique, personal expressions instead of following traditional quilt methods. (She’ll teach this improvisational method here in April at the Estelle Center. Her retreat is sold out but you can get on the waitlist by emailing our Executive Director Sunshine Caulfield at .moc.straevitaercelletse%40eciffo If enough people join the waitlist, we will let Irene know she has to come back!)

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Let Irene’s Reinvention Inspire Yours

Today, Irene criss-crosses the globe teaching quilting and exhibiting her quilts. She says she is having more fun at this time in her life than ever before. If you think your 2024 can’t be what you hoped for, think of Irene Roderick developing a new passion at 65 that led to the most fulfilling career in her life.
Who knows, maybe you’ll come to a class at the Estelle Center and find a whole new passion that reinvigorates you.