As a young girl, all I wanted to do was to work and travel and make money for cute clothes. Check. Those jobs started rolling in around 14. Babysitting money, really. It was awesome.
As I matured and my skills grew, so did my professional dreams and income. I went from grocery store bagger, to t-shirt inspector, retail cashier, showroom assistant and on & on. Entry level was exciting in my teens and 20’s. Commutes, professional attire, and plenty of time to make things (and lots of mistakes!) happen. Check out this blast from the past... here I am, in NYC... the early 90’s with my dress for success attire, on my way to working an entry level job for Erwin Pearl jewelry. I had a part-time job at night to supplement my income.
Finally, I hit the pinnacle of what all of those visual art journals had helped me to see for my own dream future ... my own fashion line in my own boutique on the west coast with lots of sunshine and a garden outside. Add in a hubby and a child. These were lofty dreams for my late 30-something self. Many thought that my time had run out. Checkity check check.
It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops, fyi. Some months I was rolling in dough, other months were tougher. Being in a cyclical retail business, I often found my moods matched the flux of the business. But it was all mine. I created it, customers appreciated it, my time and schedule were my own, and it felt good. Like most things, though... it was time to shift and mix things up for myself. And closing the store for a bit of reinvention was in order. And that I did.
And here we are. A couple of years after closing my store, I have had time to evaluate what my next dreams are, and to work towards them. Figuring out these dreams also involves trying new things out. And one thing that I’ve wanted to try out was surface design / pattern design. It’s the one part of fashion and retail that is a bit foreign to me, and it holds a bit of mystique to me. It combines art with fashion, two of my favorite things. And as a fashion designer, I often felt out of options for pretty fabric that looked great with my original clothing designs. This new (to me) surface / print design industry has started to intrigue me. I even signed up for some online classes in the field and am learning the ins & outs of how it all works. Better yet, living in London, there are opportunities to explore this niche of the fashion business. So I went for it recently. I put together my resume, or CV as they say here in the U.K., and I put myself out there. LinkedIn became my new friend. I connected with a talented designer through Instagram and got an interview for a sales job.
Interview day... the commute. I dropped off my daughter at school and was on my way. An overground train and a bus ride, about an hour in total. Except the bus ride entailed a male sitting across the aisle from me who thought it was a good idea to publicly touch himself while giving me the side eye. I double checked. Sure enough, his hand was still moving on the crotch of his pants. Yuck. Down the double decker bus I went and sat downstairs. I made sure the creep got off the bus a few stops before me.. and then I chilled out a a local coffee shop, pretended to sage myself and made it to the interview. It went just fine.
A week later, they called me back in for a second interview. I took another route to the job and the reality of rush hour hit me. Tube trains full of people and the probability of spending almost 2 hours a day traveling to and from work in the company of strangers hit me. I arrived at the office, except the interview was now a job offer. The problem was that it was entry level for the industry and I did the math. I’d miss the opportunity to drop my daughter off and pick her up from school and her fun activities. I’d miss the opportunity to develop my own art. The cost of missing out on building the new aspect of my business was far more than the price of learning a new creative field with little initial financial gain and even less time with my family. Most importantly, I’d miss the opportunity to start on my own path of art and surface design that I have been working on, allowing myself to simply figure it out on my own. I wondered why I wasn’t giving myself any credit for that. I’ve been doing that for many, many years. I politely declined the offer and took a deep breath.
And that’s what I’m doing. Just like I’ve been doing since 2000, when I first launched ME & Blue. Except I’m not selling clothing or attending trade shows or developing a new dress style, at least for now. At this point, I’m starting at the bottom of a new hill and creating one painting, one art series, one surface pattern design, one photo shoot, one blog post, and one networking opportunity at a time. Entering a new arena, sure. But no way entry level. I turn 50 at the end of the year. Top of the next tall mountain is where I’m headed, baby.