A roundabout thank you to a career I never wanted

What feels like many years ago, I was living in New York City and working in retail. Retail was never something I specifically chose for a career, but the fact that I was going to an expensive private art school in Brooklyn, the need for money won out over my need to hold out for the “cool” job.

I think the biggest difference between going to college for an academic major, and going to college for an art major is the cost.  And please excuse my short soapbox, but art students are not given the respect they are so deserving of. Their cost to get such a specific education is a challenge, due to the fact that not only are there limited options in state schools with a strong art program, but so often if you have a specific focus you are looking for, you are limited to private colleges. Then their is the cost of the semester above and beyond the standard tuition, room and board. Where most academic majors I will acknowledge have an extremely big financial hit at the beginning of every semester when they purchase their books for classes, the difference is that contrary to popular belief, art school is not an excuse to just color, or major in basket weaving 101.  Art majors are in fact required to take academic classes as well. And therefore must also buy some (quite expensive) books, but in addition, supplies are needed to participate in the studio classes for their major. The biggest difference is that for the academic, once the books are purchased 95% of the financial strain is over. In art school the financial strain is ongoing. I may be dating myself considerably, but when I was in school, the “graphic design” focus was just really hitting it’s peak, I believe Quark was only on version 3 or 4 (do they even number the versions anymore?), and computer labs were a luxury not a given, and probably only 1 in 5 dorm rooms had a computer.  When I took a graphic design class, it was not held in a computer lab. Technique was discussed, as was design, color and layout. Assignments were handed out, and off we were sent to complete our assignment. The instructions were to come back with a graphic print out the following week for critique.  Those print outs cost anywhere from $30.00 – $70.00 on average. If those were a one time cost for the project, it would have been a much more doable thing, but every assignment took at least 3 critiques before they were final. Do the math – an average of $90.00 – $210.00 per assignment and there were approximately 8 assignments per class. Multiply that by an average of 5 classes per semester, because even though I wasn’t doing print outs for every class, when I took classes like my book design class, each week had an assignment with new supplies needed.  So yes, I needed a job, and I didn’t care how fashionable the job was (though I drew the line at fast food). As long as it paid, I was going to do it. Though I did think I would work retail for a few years and then I would move on to working for a music label or something just as “glamorous”.

With all of that said, through a job I had in high school, I was generously offered to transfer to a store in New York, and then back to Pennsylvania during breaks. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to not have to go through the stress of constantly looking for new work every semester. The manager I had in the store I worked at in Pennsylvania ended up being recruited to another retailer, and he brought me to the company with him. It was there that I learned more about management, budgeting and sales then I had before or have since.  When my time with that retailer was approaching an end, I knew I wanted to work in an environment where I could be creative and possibly utilize what I had learned in school. I desperately wanted out of retail. The hours were exhausting and I was tired of sacrificing my holidays and social life for a store. I needed a balance.

Enter a company that I had been a consumer of for years, and had always loved shopping at, and they did custom printing, which I thought would be a great department to manage. The hours were better and I could have a better balance in my life. Over the next few years, I learned about various printing methods, local printers, and so much about an industry I had never even considered. It was a fascinating industry to be a part of. You get to be a part of peoples lives for so many various occasions. I had clients that came to me for personal stationery and holiday cards, went on to get engaged (did the save the dates) married (did the invitations, ceremony and reception printed products), thank you notes, first holiday cards as a married couple, and then birth announcements. It is a wonderful industry, and I have missed being a part of it.

After moving to Rhode Island, I have been looking for an ability to get back into the industry.  I thought for sure the way I would get back into the industry would be to find a printer that I could partner with for my printing needs, I would probably go with engraving etc… But then the more I thought about it, the less excited I was for engraving, letterpress, or even offset. I’m not sure if it is because I have been surrounded by it for so long, or if I am just tiring of the “norm”,I needed something that was possible for me to do on a small scale and within my home, something that was new to me at least , so after much thought and consideration, I will be taking a screenprinting class next weekend and will hopefully be launching holiday cards and personal stationery in the next month or so, and cross your fingers, but maybe for spring, I will be launching some event printing and maybe even a book for local retailers to be able to sell from.

It is a very exciting time right now, and ultimately, I have a career in retail to thank. Even if it was a career I never really wanted, it has ended up doing more for me in ways then I ever thought a career could


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