“...the revelation that the dream was teaching the dreamers how to live." -Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
This month marks two full years since I quit my day job to run Studio Herron full time. Two full years since I rustled up my nerve to walk away from a life that wasn't right for me to pursue a life that is. I stopped waiting for things to happen to me and created my own opportunities, accepting responsibility for my own life and dreams. In the weeks and months that have gone by, there have been high-highs and low-lows. I've learned patience, trust, accountability and most of all vulnerability.
When I was 24 years old, I decided to pick up and move to Italy. I had never been there, or anywhere for that matter. I'd never seen anything and I craved adventure and magic. So I got a passport, packed a suitcase and left 3 months later with $300 to my name and an intention to live forever as an American ex-pat among the Italians. Yeah, it was a crazy thing to do, I didn't speak Italian, I didn't know anything about the culture, my student loan bills were starting to come in, but I knew the adventures wouldn't come to me, I had to manifest them. When I got there, I was scared. Scared to open my mouth and speak, scared not to open my mouth and speak, scared to look American, scared not to look American, scared to try new things, scared to make new friends. Everything was new and different and amazing-- I felt small and lonely and homesick. I spent my days teaching English and my evenings walking the city seeing, watching, listening, trying to find a connection among those narrow streets
I learned to follow my curiosity, open my heart and be vulnerable.
Just like the time I picked up and moved to Italy, when I first started out on this journey with Studio Herron, I was scared. Would I make enough money to make ends meet? How could I do the things that I had not been taught? And also, me? Really--you want...me?
I received a call in January of 2014, a buyer had seen my work through a friend and wanted to know if I could design and produce a large quantity of handwoven, stylized pillows and one-of-a-kind wall hangings for a new boutique hotel in Chicago. Ever the people pleaser, I said "Sure! I can do it." Not knowing at all yet how I was going to pull it off. At the same time, I also received an email from a major retailer they had seen my work also through a friend and asked could I design and produce a line of exclusive limited edition hand woven pillows for 14 of their stores. Is this a sign? I thought. "Sure! I can do it." I said again. Meanwhile, fretting over how to calculate material quantities, cost, labor and wholesale prices, suddenly I found myself in business and learning how to manage it on the job. I knew how to make the things I was being asked to do, I'd been weaving for 14 years at that point. I knew the materials and their properties, techniques and processes, what I didn't know was how to make hundreds of them, efficiently and cost effectively. That was my challenge. I didn't know how to present my design ideas in boardrooms and New York City skyscrapers. So I decided to do what I know and what I do best; I sketched my designs on paper, I refined them in gouache, I made samples on my hand loom.
I decided to own what I did know and resolved to learn what I didn't.
I walked into meetings with design teams and brand directors with my hand made ideas, scared and sweating they'd find out I didn't know what I was doing. As it turned out, the things I was most afraid of and embarrassed about were the things they most loved and I knew more than I gave myself credit for.
This was the point from which I jumped. I couldn't work my 80-hour-a-week full time job and complete these two very big commissions. Something had to be cut. I had saved some money for a cushion, had deposits in the bank for the new work and so I leaped head first into being an artist and business owner full time. One of the major hurdles for me on a personal level has been wrangling and owning my self confidence and learning to not make mountains out of mole hills. In that first year, like in my first few weeks in Italy, I felt exhilarated but lonely and very new at everything. I was navigating uncharted territory as a solo explorer. The mix of fear and unknown security pushed me out of my comfort zone and translated in my work. Looking back, I think that mix is essential for moving forward. I have been open to trying new things and taking risks. I can see that this vulnerability, while daunting, is essential to the creative process and growth.
Moving into my third year as a creative entrepreneur, my challenge is in learning how to delegate tasks more effectively and find balance between being an artist and a small manufacturer. My life and studio have become immersed in one another and I am interested in investigating a lifestyle that more seamlessly cultivates balance between life, art and business. Working with brands and corporations is one way in which I am able to engage new audiences, work with new people and imagine a wider scope for my work. As a solo-preneur, it also creates some financial security where I can make space to experiment with new ideas in my individual studio practice. I am constantly working on combining an artistic process to production. The conversation between my one-of-a-kind work and my production work both with brands and for my own label is one that I develop on a daily basis. I am interested in how they inform and catalyze each other. When I first began this journey, I hid behind the work. I did not want to be seen and I wanted to be recognized as a brand not as a person. What I have now come to realize is that the work and myself are synonomous and being seen doesn't have to be scary, it can be opening and connecting. Slowly, I've been showing myself more within and around the work I put into the world, giving both a platform. I've come to see that the connections and opportunities I have been looking for all along, are more real and valuable when I am me, and I let it show through in my work.
I am looking forward to all that is to come and grateful for all that has been. I have some exciting things planned; new collaborations with other brands and artists, workshops both in the US and abroad, a symposium think-tank this Fall co-curated with Andrea Zittel and Christy Matson. My work is taking me to places I have dreamed of; residencies on Islands in foreign lands, and my first solo exhibition next Spring in New York. And, the continuation and growth of my new blanket collection, released earlier this year, with the help of my new business partner/investor. I hope to find a pathway both financially and creatively to hire a studio manager and a studio assistant in the not-so-distant future. I feel more confident than I ever have, and I am ready for the adventure, magic, and challenges that lay up ahead.