I moved to Chicago in the fall of 2009 after spending most of the summer applying for jobs (The recession was wonderful, wasn't it?). By the time I arrived, I had arranged five interviews, one for each day of my first week in the big city. Fortunately, I was offered a few positions and the opportunity to make a choice. I did what any optimistic, naive recent-grad would do; I picked the only unpaid gig.
While I was excited about that position, the job search didn't end as I still needed to make ends meet. Thankfully, I picked up additional work as game-day staff with the Chicago Wolves.
I spent each of my five Chicago winters with the Wolves.
Three short years into my freelance business, I still answer my phone when an unknown number rings. Most of the time, it's a bot or a cold call, but I still hold out hope that it's a direct referral from another client (yes, if you're trying to hand me new business, feel free to give out my number). Last Thanksgiving, that direct referral popped up in my inbox.
"I'm a restaurateur based in Chicago. I'm working on a new opening in the west loop and was looking for a little bit of help on the graphic design front."
In our current landscape, where our medium for communicating with potential patrons seems to change daily, it's really no surprise how little of what we practiced in school years ago directly applies. (Don't get me wrong -- I'm glad my education was based in print design. I really enjoy working directly with printers to make sure our final product is all that it can be.) I was just as surprised as the next 2009 grad when I had the opportunity to create a proper black and white newspaper ad series last year.
I had a 2016 To Do. I made it in about 5 minutes, it lived in one of my sketchbooks, and I'm pretty sure I glanced at it all of 4 times last year. When I got curious at the end of December, it took me 20 minutes to figure out which sketchbook it was in. Once I found it, I was surprised to see that I'd actually knocked out a couple things on the list. Cool. More importantly, I was bummed to see that I'd totally failed at a few "gimme" items on the list. New year, new list, new tools.
The first mixed-medium collage I made inside a shadow box was a custom birthday gift that featured a pineapple. When that fruity-goodness was delivered, I was commissioned to make another -- word of mouth at its finest. The second piece would be a Christmas gift featuring a parachuter.
Wonder Woman herself, Kristen Keane, recently proposed a lovely personal work for her sister's big birthday gift this year. She wanted a relatively small piece that would work hanging or sitting on a desk. Something lively, but not overly flashy. Something featuring a pineapple. *Figure out how to insert cute emoji here.*
Have you read The Oatmeal’s post about breathing and creativity? In short, he compares creating to breathing. We need dedicated periods of off time and on time (breathing in and out). I really identify with this comparison. I was happy another creative had put words to my feelings, but I didn’t take the time to evaluate my current projects and where my time was going. My initial dumping of client work wasn’t because of that piece. Honestly, the plate-clearing was a bit of a tantrum. I’m not particularly dramatic, but sometimes it just feels right. (Have you ever flipped a Monopoly board covered in hotels? So right.) Once I had that space, I realized I hadn't been alternating breathing in and out, but holding my breath.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of celebrating the union of two of the most adorable people I know, Kelly and Chris. As they were incredibly busy being totally lovely, they asked me to help with table numbers and guest place cards for their reception. They wanted custom table numbers (essentially mini-posters) that marked milestones in their relationship and their favorite things. The couple provided a list which included all things Nashville, music, country, and Star Trek. How wonderful.
Each year, I put together a calendar featuring work I created that year. Each month's feature is made entirely of found objects (my trash). In order to make up for slacking January to August this year, I created each of 2017's features in September. Yep. Knocked out 12 originals in less than four weeks, which means I'll never have an excuse not to complete this project again. In the words of Emeril, BAM.
There's a lyric from The Bravery's Time Won't Let Me Go that strikes me every time I hear it: I am so homesick now for someone that I never knew. I am so homesick for someplace I will never be.
Obviously, these lyrics mean something different to me now than they did to my 21-year-old self when the song was first released in 2007. Although they're pretty melodramatic, they're easy to identify with, both personally and professionally. The bigger my dreams about running my own business, the more out of reach those dreams seem to be.
Every now and then, I'm reminded that sometimes it's best just to put things out into the universe. There are different reasons for this: You need to express yourself. You can't know for sure if you don't ask. You're looking for your tribe. You need to be held accountable. Today, the day I'm supposed to start working on my 2017 TrashCal, I need to be held accountable.
I love Fridays. Fridays are reserved for small projects and studio work; I stay away from my inbox and work on my favorite things. As far as small projects go, it's been all wedding invitations lately. Although I enjoy the design process, it's the mailing that I really love. Today's the day I get to send out Michelle and Matt's invitations.
Since I moved from Chicago to Columbus, I've had to work much harder to stay plugged into the local art scene. If I'm being honest, I still haven't been that successful in Columbus. In the meantime, I've been taking advantage of Instagram's Discovery tab. The artists below are doing beautiful work with intense and considerate color.
I met Katie Crain while interning at Invisible Records in the fall of 2009. I had just graduated, and she was my first supervisor in the big city. I credit her with nearly everything I know about small business processes and organization. She's all about efficiency and clear communication. Katie currently works both in operations for small businesses and as an adjunct teaching undergrads about the music business. A little over a year ago, we started discussing ideas for a fresh set of personal business cards.
With the commonality and popularity of computers and smartphones, handwriting seems to be a skill that's disappearing. Outside of a post it or the occasional thank-you note, how often do you practice your handwriting? I remember just missing a 4.0 in middle school because of my handwriting grade. My handwriting grade. These days, they aren't even teaching cursive in school. Thankfully, there are a lot of Instagram accounts out there reminding us exactly how cool some proper handwriting can be.
One thing I've learned about brides is that they are all very very different. Even ladies I've been friends with my entire life can surprise me on and leading up to their big day. I'm not saying that I was surprised at how organized Lauren was at our first meeting, but man, was she organized. She had answers to almost every one of my questions. This is not common.
You guys. Remember my post about why I strive to work in art full time? A big push to write that post came from a new contact, Michael Kavanaugh. We were e-introduced by a mutual friend because Michael was looking for full time creatives to interview, specifically searching for some kind of common denominator that makes folks take big risks to do what they love. I'm not a coffee drinker, but the conversation sounded worthwhile so I agreed to a morning at Starbucks.
In the fall of 2009, I started collaging one-of-a-kind postcards using nothing but my everyday garbage. I would take the junk mail from my P.O. box, glue more stuff to it, and drop it back in the mail. Sometimes, the postcards would survive USPS, arriving exactly as I'd sent them. Sometimes, they'd show up missing pieces (I never marked them as hand-sort. The machines didn't really like my work.) Sometimes, they straight up disappeared.
As the last weeks of 2015 zoomed by, I was still hopeful I could make the time to get my 2016 TrashCal done and voiced so much anytime I was asked. This was a mistake in that I had to tell all those folks no when they followed up. Talk about salt in the wound. In the closing days of December, my friend Krissy started joking that I should make and ship each month one at a time. Fun, but not super efficient. This conversation came to mind on Easter morning when I was thinking of flipping the page on my non-trash substitute calendar. What if I could send a fresh calendar page each month without making new physicals?