Why did you quit daycare? Why aren’t you a teacher? Why don’t you apply for gallery jobs? Why don’t you charge more? Why don’t you make more realistic art?
These are just a few of the questions that I get everyday from friends, family, and total strangers so I wanted to help you all understand why I have made the choices that I do career wise and beyond.
I want to start with telling you all a little bit about my background.
I was born and raised in Drummond Island, Michigan. It’s beautiful, wholesome, and all around a great place to say that you grew up. No matter how far I go I still feel like that is one of my biggest senses of community. I was raised to work hard and be able to do things on my own from the time I was young. I babysat a little boy named Noah when I was 11, got a job dishwashing at the Drummond Island Bakery at 12, started waiting tables there when I was 14, babysat, babysat, and babysat some more until it was time for me to make the choice that all of us have to make at 18, stay or go.
I chose to go and as a person who never does anything half way I decided to scare my family (they still check on me daily to make sure the city hasn’t gobbled me up) and go further than most like to wander to the great city of Chicago. This wasn’t logical and it started the why’s...Why do you have to go that far from home? Why did you choose such an expensive school? And after a little bit of time...Why don’t you move closer to home?
Well I will tell you...if I hadn’t done any of those things I would have so many unanswered questions of my own like...Is there a bigger life out there waiting for me? Will I ever get to learn more about fashion and art? Why do I have to drive an hour away for an education? There is nothing wrong with that life, but as a person who has a hard time standing still, had I stayed I know I would have been full of wonder. So I made it a couple of years into school at the Illinois Institute of Art and decided fashion design wasn’t for me, but at least I gave it a shot...my change of heart got more why’s going when I decided to drop out of school...shocker for everyone who only knew me to work hard, finish what I started, and come home with bags of garments that I sewed and sewed well, so how could I be unhappy? How could I quit when I found something I was good at? It’s because at 18 I had no idea what else the world could offer me, I didn’t know that when I got homesick I would gravitate back to my fine art roots and start painting anything that would remind me of home from textures to objects. I didn’t know that happiness for me would not be found in a pair of high heels and some nice fabric.
So I took a few months to sit and ponder what I really wanted. I had enough with school but societal pressure got to me so I finally made a compromise with my mom. I would only be applying to one school at the end of that summer and if I got in I would go back but if not I would just work until I found what I loved...I applied to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago which was ranked number 2 in the country at the time so I thought I was safe. Then, to my surprise what should arrive in the mail but the acceptance letter...Eeek! Now it’s real and I have to go because that’s the deal I made, so I went and surprise surprise, I didn’t fit in.
Now looking back I realize that people didn’t necessarily understand who I was or what my art was about and at the time I didn't care much for letting people in to know more. The criticism made me push people away rather than explain my goals...it’s safe to say that I probably didn’t make connections in college like I should have but you live and you learn.
Well, I stuck it out anyway and I graduated in December of 2014 and walked the walk the following Spring which always leads to the big question...Now what will you do with your life?
While society is always asking this, I feel like it’s safe to say at 22 it’s okay if you don’t know what to do next. I started nannying and babysitting even more than I already was. I quit all of my waitressing jobs and started picking up small art classes to teach, but my inability to say no was taking over and I had accumulated 17 families to babysit for. Yikes, that was too much but I thought that if that many people wanted me to take care of their children, that must be my calling so a few years later I opened up a teeny tiny home daycare.
Finally, everyone thinks I am doing great. When you are from where I am from, getting a stable income has moved you up in the world...but then a couple of years went by. I went through a terrible breakup, I moved and with that, daycare moved with me. I was unraveling and finding that maybe I only loved parts of my life because it seemed to make everyone around me happy.
While daycare can can be satisfying, you should know that it is way more work than any other job I have ever had. It’s physically and mentally demanding, the hours are terrible, and other people may not treat you or your home in the most respectful manner (like the time my Christmas tree was pulled down and I watched as all of my grandma’s ornaments shattered to the ground). It was hard work, it was paper work, it was loud. While I loved the kids and doing art projects with them, I don’t know if someone could ever get me to take a job like that again.
So I gave everyone a months notice and here I sit, a few months in to being a full time artist and the why’s are always following me around.
It started with the question, why don’t you look for gallery jobs?
When people outside of the art world think about my life, I know it’s hard to understand but galleries are not the only option for artists. If I put any of my time into a job working for another company, than that will only take attention away from the real goal of building my own brand and creating my own success.
Why would I go through all of the trouble just to have my own brand you might ask?
Because it’s not so much about the brand but what I want to be able to do and who I want to be able to reach. Many of you don’t know this but for me, as an artist my ultimate goal is to make fine art and handmade items accessible to people of all incomes and backgrounds. Right now art has a stigma where I feel like a lot of people don’t even want to look at it for the fear of the price tag. I want to be able to change this, so I make art as quickly as possible and I try to keep material costs low so I can have the ability to sell to a little kid that wants to use their allowance or to someone who works really hard but just wants something bright and colorful that might give them hope. My art isn’t always about the content, it’s more about being able to make something that gives someone out there hope that they can buy something that wasn’t always accessible or that they can chase a dream like I am doing. My art is about economy and it’s about living how I want to live. It‘s about not being tied down and being able to give hope to another kid that’s growing up painting on the windows. So I get it if you don’t understand my style or my price point, but for me making items that are accessible to all and lifting another person up is the ultimate goal And I am finally at a place in my life where I can say I LOVE what I do.
Hope you can all do something that you love today!