Thanksgiving seems a good a time as any to reflect on gratitude for a livelihood that depends on capitalism.
But seriously-- a month ago I celebrated 5 years as a full-time self-employed badass artist and I could not be more grateful. I had a party on Halloween weekend and people came! I felt so affirmed-- someone also heckled me to tell everyone a little bit about my journey and I did, and people were like YEAH!!! So that was amazing.
And I was like cool I'll write a blog post about my awesome experience. ...And then I spent the next month hustling to get my Badass Women Calendar into 2 dozen stores across the country and ship out orders from my website and submit applications to craft fairs and shows and work pretty non-stop for my badass self-- and now here I am.
The reason this 5 year anniversary is so important to me is because in October 2012, I found myself living as an artist. I had just moved to Philadelphia a couple months after graduating from college and was enjoying unbelievably cheap rent, and even though I hadn't decided to be a "professional artist", it sure looked like that's what I was getting at. So I did make the decision-- and a wise friend of mine, who has a small business of 30+ years, told me "it takes 5 years to make a profit". That could've been scary (OK, it was in a way) but I ended up taking it as a gift-- I had 5 years. The first 5 years, I could work hard and make only as much as I spent and that is allowed; it is not failure, it is process.
So I said OK-- I'm gonna completely commit for 5 years and then check in with myself (and my bank account) and see if I want to keep going or maybe shift to something else. I worked hard. I made work constantly, and I wasn't happy with what I was making, but I knew I wouldn't get to where I wanted by just waiting for my work to look like what I wanted it to.
Since my two college senior thesis shows in Spring 2012, I've had approximately 14 solo shows, participated in approximately 15 group shows, and upwards of 50 craft fairs/vendor opportunities.
I made a little book called Belly-Belly.
About 3 months in I changed my art's name to Us & We Art.
I filled a sketchbook page for every day of my bike trip across the US.
I made a coloring book of genderless creatures.
I starting selling my cards in local stores.
I got my first private art studio.
I co-curated a show about climate stories.
I did a month-long residency in New Orleans.
I lost a bunch of work and stuff in a fire.
I created a body of work for the first show I was truly proud of (2016; 4 years in).
I was part of an intense creative collaborative performance experience called Going There.
I made a calendar of badass women (in 6 days).
I spent some more time in New Orleans.
I dropped my side gigs.
I took an artsy roadtrip with a friend across the Southwest US.
I made another calendar of badass women.
I made a profit.
It's November 2017, 5 years from my intentional commitment to DO THIS THING, and I have my work in over 25 stores across the country, I feel awesome about the new work I'm making, I've made connections with some incredible artists, I've learned a ton about owning a business. It's been awesome to look back at my blog and instagram and see my gradual development, and to remember how I felt at my very first solo show compared to my 5th compared to my 10th. And I'm excited to keep learning, growing, feeling grateful, connecting and kicking ass. I cannot imagine doing anything else.
I also discovered that in general I don't have a ton of energy, so the fact that I can make my own schedule and take breaks when I need to is an incredible gift that I don't take lightly. And I absolutely could not have done this without my badass support system (you know who you are).
I am SO grateful to my parents-- I know some parents in the world are unsupportive of creative entrepreneurs (I think from a place of worry and care..) and I can't thank my parents enough for always encouraging me, coming to so many of my shows, trusting me with small loans for big projects, and genuinely believing in my success.
To sum up, it feels AWESOME to be a badass artist, and I love working for myself. I can't wait to do more big things.