Well. I promise I’m still alive, I’ve just been under a pile of projects and I have been exhausted in the best type of way. I’ve been in New Orleans doing interior design for an upscale boutique. It was so much fun being able to really get my hands dirty and do everything I love at once: paint, design, photograph and eat. And boy did I eat. I won’t even start on that subject, because I won’t be able to stop gushing about the things you can consume in Nola.
The woman that owns the store graciously allowed me to stay in her guest home- a small cottage hidden behind her beautiful victorian home. It was previously a carriage house back in 1822 with all of it’s original wood and flooring. I was over the moon about it with it’s simple white washed walls and worn in bones that held 200 years of history.
Something I love about Nola is it’s sense of community. The stores open later in the morning and everyone walks to cafes with their close friends and dogs. Every morning, the sunlight would pour into the carriage house- waking me up without an alarm clock at 7am, and by 7:30, Dianna and I were walking to a local breakfast stop, with her french bulldog Poppy in tow, for coffee by the gallon and a pastry. People would come up and talk to me like I was a long lost friend- asking about my life and giving me advice about my upcoming trip to Europe. This was so refreshing (and a bit shocking, honestly) compared to the typical awkward smiles from strangers followed by them avoiding eye contact by scanning their instagram feed. On the first day, I thought we might have just happened to stumble upon a few friendly people by chance, but as the days went on, it really was that the majority of people were asking “how are you” without wanting to hear an unauthentic “great!!” in return.
Dianna requested that I create a holiday display for the store that wasn’t your typical Christmas decorations. So I decided to make the entrance of the store into a wintery snow land that embraced the season while still bringing the focus to the furniture. I really wanted the customers to have an interactive element to get engaged into the display and leave with a positive emotional tie to the store. So I decided to make a “wishing tree” where costumers could write down something they wish for or want to do before they die and hang it on the tree.
I painted a huge branch (quite a bit more messy and used far more paint that I expected) and suspended it from the ceiling so that the stories would hang over you as you shopped. Within a few days, the tree was full of beautiful wishes from one wishing that she would write a novel about her humorous dating relationships to someone wishing that they might live without abandon this year. As a lover of stories, I would check it over and over to see if there were new ornaments to read.
On one of the last days I was there, Clint was released a week early from his rig due to bad weather and was driven to New Orleans to fly out from the airport there. So he was able to come surprise me and see the store, grab some local food and stay in the carriage house with me for the night before flying out the next day. I thought it was so fun that we both happened to be there at the same time and were able to meet up.
Other nights, Dianna showed me the dangerous addiction that is Nola food, go to an art gallery show and meet some new amazing faces. I couldn’t have asked for a better week.
And honestly, I am still in complete awe that I have been given the opportunity to get paid to use my passion for design. I remember a few years ago being so reluctant to completely submerge myself in the creative world. I hoped business school would stomp it right out of me and I could have a career in something “normal” or made people “proud”. And honestly, I was pretty scared. Putting your art out to the world is so extremely vulnerable and exposes a part of your soul. What if people think it’s weird or I flop right on my face and into a big fat puddle of acrylic paint? What if people don’t get what I do? (Spoiler: they don’t.) As the years passed, I found the only things that made me feel truly alive were those design projects that I would do in the safe secrecy of my own home.
And then I dropped the bomb. “Oh hi parents. You know all those business classes I’ve been taking for the last couple of years? Soooo.. funny thing is… I think I want to be an artist. Oh. And move to Austin. Oh…and one more tiny detail..funny I almost forgot..I’m get married.” And of course, in my subtle and mature manner, this was sent in a text message. “GOIN TO B AN ARTIST! LUV U LOTZ!”
So then there were those years in between where I struggled to find out what being a designer even means and where I fit into that equation. And then those art classes that made me feel like a failure as [TRUE STORY] my teacher picked up my art work and threw it on the ground saying “if I wanted something cute, I would have gone to F*&#KING HALLMARK”. Well tell me how you really feel.
And then that time I was hired as an office assistant as, what I’m sure was, a pity hire because I was newly married with both Clint and I in college in a brand new city and didn’t have 2 dimes to rub together. And then she happened to see something I was designing on my computer and asked if I wanted to apply for the position of a graphic designer for the firm. Of course! The only minor problem was, I didn’t know a thing about graphic design. Like- I didn’t even own photoshop. I used the free version on the school computers. So, I faked it until I made it. I would go home and spend hours teaching myself design from youtube videos and books. I studied every designer I could find and tore out pages of magazines to try and reduplicate them myself. Then I would go to work and design. And then I would go home and work on it for hours without pay to make sure it was perfect. And I found out that I liked graphic design. A whole lot. And the clients kept coming back. And we got paid and got to use the heater! BOO YA. And so began design. Finally I had found my place. I wasn’t an artist I was a designer. And you can imagine my relief. I can’t hardly draw a stick figure and was in art classes with teachers who were surely quite fearful for my creative future. But DESIGN?! I could actually do this. And love it.
From that time on, I found my place in interior design and graphic design as my happy and alive place. And I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams by people who took a chance on me and allowed me to try and make their companies more beautiful. Since then, I have had the pleasure of working with people ranging from small homegrown companies all the way to designing for Free People/Anthropologie. And most of those opportunities came from really putting myself out there in an uncomfortable way, hoping that I might have something to offer them.
And yes, I still have the people who think “I don’t have a job” *palm to forehead* or don’t understand what I do, but I am now doing exactly what I feel God wired me to do. And there are still those days I wish I didn’t have this unquenchable desire to completely redesign everything or have to resist the urge to reposition the furniture in someone’s home, but I am so completely happy and fulfilled by what I’m doing and all the projects I am taking on.
And through my crazy and sometimes awful (my resume being all the grey hairs on Clint’s head he’s sprouted during the last 3 years) journey, I have learned that you have to make the leap. You HAVE to. And people are going to think you’re weird and you’re going to feel insecure and want to leap back to the safe monotonous side of life, but it’s so worth it. Because the world has a way of embracing and changing for a person who is brave enough to grow up to be themselves. So leap! And then write me a letter and tell me all about it.