My Five Year Plan (B)
It’s barely 3:34 am and I’m already awake. I’ve had an infection in my gums these past several days from an ill-fitting crown, and so I’ve been prescribed an antibiotic that I’ve had to take every eight hours. I’ve been setting my alarm to wake up in the middle of the night to take it, but sometimes it’s hard to go back to sleep.
and so now I’m awake.
I’ve been intending on writing a five year plan for sometime now… more accurately to rewrite my existing one that I wrote a couple of years before my sabbatical, which ended this past September. Much of what I wrote was devoted to lifting my fashion and sewing practice to a level that would sustain itself by generating income. At the time I was making custom cut and sew T shirts, taking night and weekend classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York City, to learn about sewing, draping, and pattern-making, as well as interning with a few fashion designers in hopes of incorporating my love of fashion into my illustration practice somehow. Although I enjoyed the process and felt it was creatively (and spiritually) nourishing, I soon realized that it would be tough to maintain because of lack of time and money. I wasn’t making a profit because the production costs were too high, which meant that if I decided to continue to produce them in the manner that I wanted to, then I would have to either hire people to help me make them, or spend more time making them myself, which would have meant taking time away from illustration (my main source of income)...
not a viable option.
So, over the past year I’ve been slowly letting it go of this project because continuing to work on it would have felt like a kind of financial blood-letting that would have clearly forced me to seek out other ways to fund it, or move back to Toronto to live with my parents.
...again, not a viable option.
When I initially wrote my five year plan I never believed that I would check off everything on the list. It was essentially the skeletal structure outlining the direction that I wanted to move towards within my career, plotting goals along the way, but understanding I could still adjust or pivot my direction. Life can feel so busy at times that I forget about my goals completely, and then only remember them months later during some quiet moment. In Paulo Coehlo’s “The Alchemist” the main character, Santiago, who is a shepherd, goes on a journey in search of treasure has that appeared in his dream. In one instance he’s robbed by a thief and is left penniless, but somehow finds his way into a crystal shop where he’s taken in and employed by the shop owner, and ends up staying there for much longer than he had intended to, almost forgetting about his original mission. By the time Santiago has come to, he has earned enough money to be on his way, but then has a moment where he wonders if he should even continue his journey at all because his life working in the crystal shop afforded him a comfortable life. I’ve been in similar situations in the past where I’ve stopped questioning why I was doing the things that I was doing, and just continued to do them because it felt easy and safe, but after a while I would arrive to point where I would begin to wonder about the things that I used to want to do before I went into autopilot. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful because easy and safe aren't bad things, but as a good friend once said to me, “It’s just part of my personality” to feel creatively restless. And so, I try to remember (and to stay on top of) the things that I want to accomplish from time to time, and if I switch into autopilot, then it's fine because it's probably what my body (and mind) needs at the moment, to seek respite from hyper-focusing on the goals I have set. I've chosen to writing them down instead of letting them linger inside of my head because my plans feel more concrete that way. One of my fears is to become Santiago stuck safely within the crystal shop; I'm not suggesting that this won't ever happen, but I do think that I'd like to preclude that particular scenario from happening in my life for as long as possible. I didn't move to New York and I didn't choose to pursue art and design for any other reason than because it nourishes my soul. Of course, I wanted to make a living at it, but I was convinced that before transferring to art college that I would instead pursue a degree in Business in order to work in a more stable profession after I graduated. And I did study business in University (only a couple classes with the intent on majoring in it the following year, but I soon dropped out). It didn't take long for me to realize how wrong that decision was for me, to pursue a profession I didn't connect with purely because I thought I would have a better chance of getting a job. Although I saw the value in doing so, I would have regretted my decision had I stayed in University instead of enrolling at the Ontario College of Art and Design, where I studied Illustration. Coming full circle, it’s clearer that my choice to pursue fashion design in a more serious way alongside illustration will not be happening, but I have no regrets having spent time and money trying. Sometimes the values, lessons, and rewards that I glean from a particular experience don't show up until later on.
And so now it’s time to change direction and move from Plan A to Plan B (I’m sure there's a Plan C and D and E and F in the horizon…)
I’ll continue to pursue fashion, but in a way that is much more aligned with my illustration practice. I will expand my designing of prints and textiles and will seek out ways to connect with specific designers in the industry who’s work I revere. I will approach larger fashion companies, as well as companies that exemplify strong connections to all types of surface design. Assuming that finances will allow for it, I’ll participate in trade shows such as Surtex, Primere Vision, and Print Source, which will lead to other sales and licensing opportunities for my work. I will also participate in some kind of paid collaboration (print + textile + illustration) with at least one well-known designer on his/her/their collection. As a short term task I will have created a portfolio of prints (at least 100 designs) for purchase and/or licensing that will continue to grow larger. In order to grow this, I will have hired (in perhaps in 3-5 years) individuals to create prints for me, whether inside of my studio, or on a freelance basis. I’m realizing that I can’t do everything on my own, and although I may start all of this on my own, if I want to continue to grow this component of my business and studio practice, then I need others to help support the functioning of it.
In reference to my own personal fashion related projects, these will continue; however, on a much smaller scale with an even more limited quantity. Making things is what I love to do, and so I will continue this pursuit more out of love, but being much more mindful of the finances that I allocate towards this part of my craft than in the past. Having said that, I will consider purchasing basic items such as T shirts and will print on them instead of having to cut and sew the T shirts from scratch. Doing so would reduce production costs by roughly half.
Moving alongside my fashion related pursuits, I will have created a new body of personal work. I'm not sure about the intention of it, whether it will be for gallery exhibition or on display somehow; however, one thing I have not done so far, and have always wanted to do, was to create a series of artwork that expressed a clear point of view, or was connected somehow by a theme or concept, similar to what some of my students might do within an Undergraduate or Graduate Illustration program. I also will illustrate 3 more books, one of which I will be written and illustrated myself. A few years ago I stumbled into book illustration, and although I never really saw it as a platform for my artwork, I grew to enjoy the process and the collaboration with my editors. Still, the advances for many artists and authors can be quite low; however, at this stage in my career I will be paid an advance amount that will allow for me to devote most of my time towards my book projects without having to stress-out about money. And lastly, my next goal will probably happen in about 5 - 7 years; I will have a book, monograph style, with my work in it. Although I would prefer to work with a publisher on it, I'm not averse to self-publishing.
I included this in my former 5 year plan... it’s a poem by Dorothy Parker. I still think it’s fitting… life’s short and fleeting, man. Peace. (5:45am)
Drink and dance and laugh and lie,
Love, the reeling midnight through,
For tomorrow we shall die!
(But, alas, we never do.)