Three years ago, I began thinking about starting a business. I was ready for a change. In fact, I wanted everything to change. I had spent the past few years studying and teaching writing, and also working part-time jobs to supplement my teaching income. It is difficult to remain solely committed to a career that does not reciprocate that commitment. I’m still teaching and would like to continue doing so for a while. Writing will always be a part of my life, and teaching will always be a way for me to give back.
I decided, though, that it was also important to continue to learn and grow in other ways. In my quest for change, I discovered surface pattern design. I wanted a new skill set that was both challenging and creative but could also lead me down the path of entrepreneurship. So in 2018, I took the summer off from teaching and my part-time job to devote my time to online courses in pattern design and Adobe Illustrator. It was slow going at first, but with support from the pattern design community, I was able to get past the travails of learning a new skill.
So here I am, finding my voice in this new creative space and beginning my journey as a surface pattern designer and artist. Designing isn’t that different from writing, though. Every pattern and every collection tells a story about a certain place or time in my life. I was taught to think of it that way, and I think that’s a brilliant approach to design, to put all of that good energy into a pattern, which then has the potential to adorn wallpaper, fabric and home décor.
Years ago, in my creative writing program, my professor asked us to share our earliest memory of writing. For me, writing became significant and transformative was when I was a teenager. It helped me to understand life from the outside in, and afforded me such great insight. Recently, I asked myself that same question about visual art. Since we learn how to express ourselves through arts and crafts long before we are taught how to use our words in a meaningful way, I realized that visual art found its way into my heart early on. In childhood, my imagination needed a way to vent, so I used found materials from home: colored pencils and markers, cardboard pencil boxes, pieces of felt, and old pillow cases with pretty designs. It made me happy to create something out of nothing.
In sixth grade, I took an art class that I fell in love with, which taught me the basic fundamentals of drawing. And then, there was nothing for a long time. The longer I refrained from drawing, even though the intention was always there, the more I convinced myself that I was no good at it. I thought about why the class had had such a lasting impact on me. In all art, we accumulate pieces of ourselves through the process of creation and the completion of a project. Our creation is a physical representation of what’s inside of us, something that we don’t often allow others to see. In writing, when your words are on the page, they signify what you believe, how you feel, and what you want. It’s the same with visual art.
A few years ago, I took an art class where the instructor, on the first day, threw his car keys on the table and said, “draw this.” When we were done, he could identify what kind of artists we were. In fact, we could all clearly see the differences in technique, style and perspective on such a simple object.
We all crave to show the world our differences. We want to be a voice in the myriad of voices, and with the current shift in mindset about race and inclusion, we’ll have the privilege of a richer and more diverse artistic community.
It feels good to be creating again, even now, with all these uncertainties ahead. I know that in any journey, it’s imperative to keep evolving and keep pushing through those inevitable waves of fear and doubt.