So I have decided to do a little ongoing series about being a visual artist. A peek into the world of creating displays, teetering on ladders, dressing mannequins all the while fueled on coffee and hummus. This first part is an introduction to me via my work and education background... and the plan is to give a little glimpse into the creative and crazy things we do. I'll hopefully post photos of projects, share inspiration and try and share a bit of the process with you!
(My office, at work. No, I didn't paint it orange! And that mannequin just showed up one day, no explanation. This in a nutshell is my life.
I have an interesting job and education background. Interesting in the fact that as I child, I wanted to be a ballerina/waitress/artist/gypsy. My first job was delivering papers with my brother on freebie day (he totally payed me $2 for helping… I knew then what I know now… it was a SCAM.) I did a stint with babysitting. I hung out with a couple middle school aged kids and made crafts with them while their mom’s planned homeschool stuff or something (I don’t know- but I was getting paid to make crafts- as a homeschool kid myself, that was neat.) I taught piano for a bit.
Then I turned sixteen and wanted to go on an international trip with my church youth group. My first non-entrepreneurial job was at a small pizza joint within walking distance of my home. As far as food service, it wasn’t hateful, I was friends with everyone and got plenty of free food. I raised all the dollars needed for my trip… and quit when I was offered a job at the teeny, tiny library even closer to my home. (Literally, around the corner.) My job there was 8-10 hours a week, shelving books. But it was such a tiny location and the head librarian there hated to get rid of books, so mostly I just had to creatively shift things around on my cart and hover til people checked out books so I would have space to put things. I did a lot of reading hidden in the stacks. But I loved it. The schedule worked well with the college classes I was taking and I love books.
My parents were pretty insistent that I attend college. I had no desire for it, no idea what I wanted to do. They wanted me to have security and options (neither of them finished college.) and the only degrees I was interested in were of the fine arts variety. Theater, set design, art etc… not exactly conducive to a job after college. We finally settled on Interior Design and I attended a local community college with highly rated arts program. At this point, I was promoted at my library job to a front desk worker! Yay. More hours, more pay and a spot at the front desk. Win.
Fast forward and I graduated with an Associates Degree in Interior Design, helped design and layout the new location for the library and started to fall in love with photography. My brother and now sister-in-law asked me to be the photographer for their wedding and from there, I started a nice little photography side business, through word of mouth. I shot a LOT of weddings; my then church was a hotbed of people gettin’ married, and this was before everyone and their mom was a photographer. I continued to work at the library as it was full-time and came with benefits. Plus I loved my co-workers.
Photography evolved over the years- I personally stepped back from shooting weddings as they were a lot of work for one person with a full-time job. Through the internet I had networked with a lovely and talented lady who was given a book deal and she asked me to be her photographer/stylist. That was super cool. Then she was asked to do another book and I was asked back as the photographer and stylist.
During this time my best friend and I started a little side business styling weddings and events, as well as a fun Dinner Party Club for us and our friends. My love for styling was born and I started to feel like I was figuring things out. Except I was still working at the library. It's hard to find full-time work as a creative. Especially in the midwest. And when you don’t really know what it is you want to do. Through this I started to dip my toes into the idea of visual merchandising. You know, the people at stores that make things look cool? Displays, mannequins and that precarious pile of glassware sitting on a high shelf in Anthropologie? It sounded cool. Getting paid to make things pretty. I started applying places, sending out resumes, very hopeful.
Let’s just say, no one bit. Real talk? Because I had zero retail experience. So, because I hadn’t worked a register at Pac Sun when I was 17, no one looked at my application. (Retailers? That’s dumb, just FYI. If a 16 year old can do it, I assure you, a 20 something with twelve years job experience in customer service and a degree can figure it out.) Career-wise, it was a tough time. I did my best to create creativity at the library- over-the-top displays and bulletin boards, freelancing anything when I could. But I was stuck. And the economy was pretty awful. So… I left the country and went overseas with a missions organization to do photography. Yeah. Drastic times call for drastic measures. (That’s a whole ‘nother story, you can read about here.)
I came back,fresh faced and dreaming, with hope and expectations that now was my time. My summer consisted of living in my old room at my parents, applying for any and every job that sounded at all creative, sitting in Starbucks, slowly losing any and all drive for life. And binge-watching Netflix while alternately crying and feeling numb. Being unemployed is no joke.
During October I stumbled upon a listing for a “seasonal, part-time” visual position at a department store. I knew I needed full-time work (I needed to get an apartment and live my own life again- love my parents, but when you grow up there’s a shift in things and you generally shouldn’t live together. For everyone’s sanity.) I was also in a limbo position for another company at this time. A company whom I would have love to work with visually, but was being considered for a sales position.I went to my interview at the department store with a sort of “why bother” attitude. I knew it was probably silly, and I shouldn’t really even consider it- but I immediately clicked with the visual manager- we basically had a fun chat and she called me later that day to offer me the position.
Duh, duh, duh. Stay tuned for part II.