Last Thursday, I jumped out of a plane. It remains to be seen whether or not the parachute is going to catch my ass before I hit the ground, but the view is lovely from up here and the sun is shining and I’m trying to enjoy the journey.
This is a metaphor of course. I like being alive way too much to jump off anything higher than a diving board. The plane I am talking about is called “stable career” and the free fall is called “being an entrepreneur”.
So yeah. I quit my day job.
Some of you may know that up until very recently, I was a commercial interior designer. I went back to school in my mid-20s after floundering around after university trying to find my way. I’ve always been a creative, visual soul and I thought learning a trade that let me exercise my left and right brain equally would be a wise move instead of pursuing post-graduate studies. For the majority of the last 6 years, I loved my chosen path. I was getting to design restaurants, cafes, stores, offices, and my firm’s specialty, shopping centres. The most exciting days were those when a project finally opened and I got to see months or years of labour translated into an actual physical space.
And then I re-discovered sewing. And as I did, I started to really unpack my consumerist habits, my shopping addiction, my credit card debt. My relationship with fashion and style became more personal, more conscious, more meaningful and hands-on. As I learned about the fast fashion industry, garment factory working conditions and the environmental repercussions of our desire for the cheap and disposable, my day job began to lose its lustre.
Around this time I was working on a luxury shopping centre in the Middle East. Normally we work within pretty tight budgetary parameters, but this time I was told not to worry about cost. Why? The mall was being built using third world labour; people were shipped in, made to live in hovels, paid almost nothing, and then expected to work in horrible, unsafe building conditions. Hard hats? HA!
You can imagine how hard it was to reconcile my new perspective on the fashion industry with the fact that I was helping to build a church of consumerism using borderline slave labour. Yes, I designed a beautiful space, but the cost for me, for the people building it, for the environment, were high. I told myself that everyone has to make compromises in their careers, but it started getting harder and harder with each new shopping centre I worked on. The irony was hard to live with; I hated being in malls, filled with all their chemical smelling sweatshop goods, yet I designed them for a living. I love my boss and my coworkers, along with many of my clients. I am not disparaging the industry; it is what it is. But I realized that in order to build the life I wanted, I probably had to find a way to direct all this creative energy I have into something that makes me feel good, and that maybe in some small, tiny way, makes other people feel good too.
When I released the Bombshell, I wasn’t planning on doing another pattern. But the response told me that maybe my ideas had a trajectory more meaningful than designing a food court that will just be torn down and remade in ten years anyway. I released Nettie as an experiment to see if this zygote of a plan had legs; it became clear to me that it did.
So this year I started making plans to transition this experiment into a viable full time career option. I’ve been incredibly lucky to work in a technical, demanding field for the last long while, and I think it’s primed me for the organization and attention to detail required for pattern making. I’ve never felt more fulfilled or worked harder in my life than this past year; seeing how you tweak, hack and make Closet Case patterns your own is like an alternative energy source.
I’m terrified, of course. I’m an incredibly practical, dogmatic person, and walking away from a stable, well paid, mostly enjoyable career with a great boss and coworkers was not a decision I made lightly. I’m going to have to adjust to a substantially reduced income, and I’m prepared to get creative about diverse streams of revenue. I’m going to start teaching sewing workshops in addition to releasing patterns. I’ll be blogging far more frequently (I have so many post ideas right now!) along with pursuing some blog advertising. I’m resigned to having to take the occasional catering shift, and in all likelihood I will continue to freelance for my old firm part-time for the foreseeable future. I still love interior design. Just not as much as I love sewing.
But I’m free. I’m free to build the life and career I want, and I get to do it by hopefully coming up with ideas that you will want to wear. I’ve been hard at work designing the next Closet Case pattern, and it has been one of the most brain-busting, challenging projects I’ve ever undertaken. But I’m so excited about it. And I hope you will be too.
So that’s what’s going on with me. Thanks for being here, for reading. Please know that I would have never made this change without knowing that I am working my tail off for the awesomest humans on the internet: you guys.
Head down, needle up. Sew forever.