My birthday is on Friday. It's a big one... At least for me. I'm turning 35. I've been telling friends that I have to be more serious now for more reasons than just my age. I remember quitting my job back in Chicago and moving to Cincinnati right before my 30th birthday. That was a huge mile marker for me because I had challenged myself to start a business by the time I turned 30. Now, looking back at five years of hard work (plus an extra for conceptual brainstorming) I am amazed at how far I've come, but I still have so far to go.
I've read so many similar stories of ambitious designers doing exactly what I did, struggling along the way, and I feel a strong kinship to them. It's painful to go through the highs and lows of being an independent designer alone. There aren't many mentors out there to help us along. I have a slogan that a very good friend said to me and it gets repeated in conversations often, along with a good laugh. Slow and steady wins the race!
When I was in my 20's, I didn't think living out in the country would be cool at all. I had worked in NYC for a year during college and loved the energy there. I didn't end up moving to New York City, but I still loved the idea of living in a big city, and so eventually I landed in Chicago. It had everything I wanted, except I hated the traffic and cost to live there was too much for a new entrepreneur when it came time to start the business. Once I moved back to Cincinnati, my lifestyle changed completely. I had little to no cash and all of a sudden, a more simple life looked very appealing, even cool (dare I say it). I decided I could give up all the shopping and travel I did in my previous life to have more control over my work and my output. I realized it was possible to use less, need less. Flipping through countless pages of Dwell magazine, I noticed other creative types had stepped out of big cities to move to smaller towns so that they could have the space they needed to imagine their dreams. So then I began to imagine my own "glass box" studio/home sitting atop an open field somewhere. The idea of building that ideal live/work situation where I could just roll out of bed and get to work in 2 seconds flat sounded wonderful me.
I started my business in a very small apartment where my studio took up every inch of a 10x15 foot bedroom. It was quite a challenge to be efficient in such a cramped space. Next, I moved into a 1,500 sq ft apartment where my business took up 70% of the space. A hallway became a closet at one point. I had an assistant come help me print twice a week and I sent out my sewing to local sewers. Then the big change came this summer when my fiance and I bought a house in Kentucky. My new studio is almost 1,500 sq ft (no shared living space...ha ha) and is a work in progress. (remember slow and steady...) It's not quite the modern glass box of our dreams, but it will do just fine for now.
This is what the studio space looked like when we moved in this summer. My new stainless steel sink is sitting on the right side of the frame.