I’ve owned a graphic design business for almost 20 years, during which time I’ve had the excitement and pleasure of working across all industries, and with all sizes of company ranging from solopreneurs to outsourced work from the Fortune 500. I built a company that peaked (pre-9/11) at 16 employees, and our work has spanned from launching start-ups to helping more established companies keep their name in front of their customers in creative ways.
I got very involved with the Graphic Artists Guild as soon as I started my business, initially within the New York Chapter and eventually on a national level. As part of my work there, I have sat on the curriculum boards for city art schools and done a lot of mentoring of art students and new graphic artists who are going out on their own. I speak frequently to high school and college students about entrepreneurism and starting their own graphic design businesses, and I love being able to share what I’ve learned and know that it will help someone else succeed.
In my own business it didn’t take long for my design work to become more about pleasing clients (need to get paid) than about pure design. I also chose, very early on, to hire a lead creative and focus primarily on business development, operations, and project management, rather than to be the lead creative and hire someone else to run my business. As such, my opportunities to design what *I* liked best, to do “art for art’s sake”, were quickly limited to personal projects such as wedding invitations, CD covers for mixed CDs I would make for myself or friends (I’m dating myself here), or the occasional artistic gift.
I never was good at drawing, so collage was often my medium of choice. Initially by hand, and then later on the computer. Page layout programs let me create art without having to draw, by using found objects that I would find at the picture library and scan in (dating myself again here).
When I was introduced to Ashok in the spring and he outlined his idea for the Cartwheel project it struck a huge chord with me on many levels. Firstly, the opportunity to work with kids, which I love. Secondly, the opportunity to teach, which I also love (I was going to be a teacher when I grew up…until I learned what graphic design was). Thirdly, the opportunity to do something good in the world, to make a difference, even if to just a relative few.
Fourthly, the opportunity to travel somewhere fascinating (I’ve always wanted to go to Sri Lanka) and experience a culture and lifestyle vastly different from my own. Fifthly (is there such a word?), the opportunity to do something 180 degrees different from my day-to-day life of very scheduled meetings, endless conference calls, and rapid response to 100+ e-mails per day.
And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to do art for art’s sake. To reconnect with collage and use it as an expressive medium to create something that is not intended as a gift…but only for me.
Underlying all of this was the timing of the trip…right around my 40th birthday. It felt like a wake-up call, to re-remember who I really am, how kids and art and travel are all very important to me, and to re-realize how much they’ve been pushed to the background of my current busy life as a constantly-on-the-go NYC business owner.
The timing is perfect to get back in touch with various earlier versions of me, to celebrate life through art, both for the kids, and also for myself. And to create art for art’s sake once again.