Jul 20, 2009

Working for one's self is very mysterious.

I'm sitting here at my temp job thinking about what my life could be like. Dress up nice every day, walk or bike to work at 7:30 in the morning, sit in an office sipping coffee and doing menial tasks all day, answer the phone, read a book... It doesn't seem so bad. Yet every time I've been in this position (and it has been many times) it never fails that I end up hating my life in less than a month. Instead, I choose to drive for almost 45 minutes in rush hour traffic to hunch over a sewing machine all day, or be on my feet cutting fabric for hours at a time. After almost 5 months as a seamstress, I still don't hate my life, in fact I still enjoy going to work and even get...dare I say, EXCITED about going in from time to time! It makes me think back to my days of screen printing at Living Planet. I didn't even realize I was happy until my mother mentioned to me that it was the first time I'd had a job that I didn't complain about, not even once. Apparently I preferred to bus in the rain at 7 a.m. and partake in grueling physical labour, leaving my body aching and sometimes injured. The real mystery here is that when I work at an office, I can usually make from 30% to 50% more than what I make as a screen printer or seamstress, yet I still run from the office like I'd run from the plague, or a musical *shudder*. That means I'd rather do work that is physically exhausting and live under the poverty line than relax in some office and make enough money to buy shoes, live, and save for a house all at the same time. What the hell, me? What's my problem?

An even greater mystery still is why I'd rather work to find work, and then work even harder to complete that work (as opposed to having an office job, where the work is always handed to you in a neat little package and you are trained on how to complete it) Now, I'm gearing up to spend a lot of money that I don't have on setting up a studio. This may be the biggest mystery yet: I'm willing to pay money and go into debt to do work that I have to bust my ass to find, pays less (at first anyway), and is more physically demanding than all my office jobs put together.

I don't have any answers to these mysterious mysteries, except that I hate working, I hate schedules, and I HATE HATE HATE being bored (which is what office work is, boring with a capital "lame".) I've got my sketch book with me today and tomorrow, (I'm temping again tomorrow) and hopefully relaxing at this desk will turn into 2 days of being creative. I hope to be writing, drawing, and maybe taking a little reading break when my fingers start bleeding from all the typing and drawing. I'll leave you with a link (don't know how to embed) to one of my all time favorite songs. Rap and Opera?? Scandelous!! It can't be!! Yes it can, and it's amazing. Check it out :)


Jul 7, 2009

How to keep the blade of creativity as sharp as a katana.

I love blank paper. I lose bladder control in the exercise book aisle of Business Depot. I feel weak in the knees when presented with a new sketchbook. My skin itches when I get to the end of a notebook, because I know it means I'll be able to go and pick out a brand spanking new one. And I know I'm not the only one (I'm serious, I've had entire conversations with some of my artsy friends about how thrilling a new pack of card stock is). I think this is because a blank page, for an artist, is more than a blank page; it's potential. It's a work of art that hasn't been made yet, or a story that's yet to be written. A whole book of blank pages, for us, is a bound collection of possibilities without rules or judgment. You can see why this would be exciting, yes? Sometimes, however, a blank page is not hopeful or exciting at all. It can be stress inducing and life RUINING if: you've run out of ideas.

One of the reasons it took me so long to even consider starting a blog was that I was sure I'd run out of things to say. I figured I'd write a dozen posts, then get bored and never do it again. But then I remembered something I learned in art school: ideas beget ideas. That means the more you have, the more you have! (Why can't cookies reproduce like ideas do? Or pizzas for that matter?) It never failed. We would be assigned a project in drawing class, and I would feel like the well had run dry. Then I'd think of something, any stupid little idea, and I'd write it down. Magically, after I put down that first idea, there would be another one. And then another, even better than the first two! This would keep happening until I would have to actively cut myself off, and just pick one idea to complete before I ran out of time. I'm telling you, it's like the theory of relativity for art.

Now, let's put two and two together. (Or one and one, or seven and fifteen, whatever you want to add). You have no ideas. Or perhaps your ideas are really crappy (it happens). The cure is to carry around one of those mystical objects, full of hope and potential, free from the opinions and influences of others: a blank book. As soon as you have one idea, no matter how crappy it is, put it in the book. You will have another, which might be crappy as well. Put it in anyways. Eventually you will have a book filled from cover to cover with ideas, and at least one of them has to be inspiring to you. Not only to ideas multiply, they also get better with time. This is why the comics you wrote when you were 9 aren't nearly as funny or interesting (or good) as the comics you write now that you're in your 20's. The great thing about blank books is that you can take them where ever you go, and be creative at any point in time. I can't remember all the ideas I have in the run of a day. So when I have one that I know is a good one (or I'm deluded into thinking is a good one, it happens) I always have some paper or a book and a pen to record it, and come back to it later. Whether you're on the bus, bored at work, or waiting for a friend to meet you for coffee, all your spare minutes can be turned into valuable creativity time.

Lastly, here's a photo of me holding my favorite book, a hand made sketchbook with a silver sea horse on the cover that my best friend/cousin Jackie made for me. Thanks Jackie!

Jul 5, 2009

Starting a business can be complicated business!

I have to say, I am really excited about having a small business, even if it doesn't do anything yet. When someone asks me what I do for a living, I hate saying "I work at a temp agency" or "I'm a receptionist" (which is what I was doing up until a few months ago). I do actually enjoy reception, dealing with people, etc. but I hate feeling like I'm not in control of my own life. Owning my own business is a chance for me to sit in the driver's seat and decide EVERYTHING!! It's not a power trip, it's peace of mind.

I'm finding that the best way for me personally is to slide into this whole thing slowly, and believe me, it has been S L O W. I actually started writing my first business plan in October of 2007. I had a personal business adviser and everything (courtesy of the Govt. of Quebec, thanks Quebec!) With that endeavor, which was supposed to be a screen printing company, I had everything from the business plan, potential clients, equipment quotes, to my ad in the yellow pages (more on this later). So I proudly walked to the bank, business plan in tow, and the bank said unto me: " Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further". I had no savings. I had no collateral. I was young (still am). The best the bank could do for me was a $1,500 Visa and a $3,500 credit line. Really? Start a business on $5,000? That didn't cover 1/8 of my expenses. So I gave up (for a while).

Fast forward to 2 months ago. I work for a wonderful woman who owns a company called Around the Hounds ( http://aroundthehounds.com ). She decides that she wants some new fabric designed for collars. She wants some designs for jewelery pendants (you should see her work, it's gorgeous!) And she wants t-shirt designs (which I used to do in Newfoundland back in the day). So, this was it! I decided to get my butt in gear and try again with my business, only this time focus on illustration as well as screen printing. So, my awesomely supportive man and I scoot down the the city office, only to find out that you're not allowed to do production from your home (a bylaw where we live). Hmmm... dilemma. So I say fine, I'll just do illustration and research from home and do the screen printing some other way, now please give me my business permit. Then they still tell me no. No, I'm not allowed to do an ink sketch and watercolor it from home. That's against the law. WHAT? For 3 weeks, I email back and forth with this clerk who keeps telling me no. I am persistent. I am annoying. But also, I am RIGHT. He gets fed up, can't answer my questions (like, if one can be an architect from home, why can't one be an illustrator, since it's the same process??) and he passes me off onto his supervisor. The supervisor tells me I am correct, and to come update my business application. I go back to the city, fill out the application (again) and voila. I am authorized to draw from home without breaking the law!

So, this is where I am now. I am setting up my studio (in our spare bedroom), my amazing friend is doing a website for me ( here's his wicked photoblog: lowercasestudio.com), soon I will be looking for clients. I feel so professional! But, a word of advice. Don't get ahead of yourself when setting everything up! Back in the winter of 2008, I thought that I had it in the bag, I went ahead and registered my business name ( Le Studio Elephant) and I put up an add in the Yellowpages. To this day, I still get telephone calls from potential clients asking if this is the Elephant Studio. I have to awkwardly say "umm, sorry, the Elephant Studio doesn't exist..uh, maybe next year. thanks for your call". What a terrible first impression to make! Those are all clients that will never call me again :( So, until you're absolutely ready to go with all your supplies and everything, you're sitting by the phone just waiting for that first order, don't take out an ad.

Ok, wrap this post up. My little creative studio will soon be ready to take on freelance illustration contracts, and I'll be able to make and sell a line of accessories (I'm a seamstress extrordinaire heh). At some point I'd like to be doing line drawings for graphic designers who can't draw. Need a drawing of a fish turning into waves? No problem. Need a drawing of a moose wearing headphones? I got it. It's quick, it's fun, and it's easy. Unlike getting a business permit.

Intro. Hello!

After months of thinking about starting a blog, the time has finally come for me to spring into action. I'll start by telling everyone who I am. My name is Jillian, I'm originally from St. John's, Newfoundland, but currently live in Ottawa, Ontario. I work as a freelance illustrator and seamstress, and as of July 1st of this year, I am also a (very) small business owner! *yay me*

This blog is going to be about art, my business Le Studio Elephant, and anything else I think of that might be interesting to all you creative types out there. So if you hate art and don't want to see my illustrations, and you are completely bored by anything having to do with business and don't want to know anything about my little company, this is probably not the blog for you. If, however, any of the aforementioned subjects entice and titillate you, please keep coming back! I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to leave lots of comments (and even an email if you feel like it!) Thanks :)