There are perks to being self-employed (ok, not full time yet, but getting there) especially in the creative field. Since I’m do sales and marketing, I essentially go shopping, often making money and buying stuff in the same trip. May of this year was good. We went up to Seattle to peddle John’s cards. Atomic Boys in West Seattle bought a batch of cards. And I found a tre’ cool locally made belt (see photo) at Click!, also in West Seattle. And part of the trip is a tax write-off. How cool is that? About a week later I checked out a couple shops in Portland, and bought a Queen Bee bag (also seen in said photo) at their studio on N. Williams, and minutes later, walked into Broadway Books and they too bought a batch of cards.
I’ve been exploring different careers most of my adult life. After avoiding the creative track for the last couple of years in hopes my Master in Public Administration would land me a nice position in the Government Accountability Office – and I actually scored high enough to make a first cut – I am looking to the creative field again. I married an artist – a very talented scratchboard artist who wants to be a commercial illustrator full time. I was going to be the administrative office whatsit crunching numbers and pushing paper and eventually developing economic development policy, and he would be at home doing illustration work. Countless applications and job interviews later, the outcome is not what we expected.
Award-winning fine art degree husband has worked at Goodwill for almost seven years now. He was recently moved to the book department, which was a welcome change. Currently I work in marketing and sales for a janitorial company. Sure, not my dream industry, but the work is relevant to what I do for Walch Art Group. And my boss and owner is very supportive of my venture, and he himself is creative, being a video and communications professional on the side. His input has been valuable. His company is very family oriented and not corporate, which is what I want Walch Art Group to be once it gets going.
Networking has been a big hurdle for me personally until I started this enterprise. I could not really express to anyone what I wanted to do specifically because those ideas were nebulous, especially in the public sector. “It’s not what you know but who you know” works when you know what you want to do. That’s been a gray area for me even through my Master’s program. The program I completed didn’t specifically offer community economic development. Government does not create jobs (that’s debatable I suppose), private sector does. Government is not about creativity, it is more about code enforcement. I’m not anti-government, I just realize I don’t fit in the public sector.
Reflecting now, my constant interest theme has been employment, gainful employment, meaningful employment, the right career fit, some semblance of demand for your skills so you have more than a few paid gigs a year, and just compensation for your work. I suppose that’s occupational psychology, but does that degree help the degree holder help people achieve their professional goals? It might, but this course of study was not offered at schools in the Portland area that I know of. Real life is the best teacher anyway.
So what do I want to do? Help people who are not nurse-, finance-, or tech-, material find work. A term I use is displaced professional: those of us who have excellent skills, knowledge, earnestly motivated, yet cannot find steady employment. Temp agencies can help, and some of them can be true advocates, but those of us with shotgun resumes or skills that are out of date are lucky to get much work at all. Artists often fall into this category, since what they do best is not covered by 99.9% of the employment agencies out there. That’s why you hear about so many artists, especially in Portland, who have a menial dead-end day job to pay the bills, and work on their artwork in their spare time.
So, my professional title is artist agent. I’m comfortable with cold calling anyone because I believe in the talent I’m promoting. Curious that, someone else’s ambition gives me a reason to get up in the morning. Finding steady work for fine artists might be tricky. Most industries want more computer savvy artists, and some of the fine artists I represent are more analogue. I’m hoping that pairing analogue artists with the more computer savvy artists will be a workable combination.
In addition to the agency aspect, I’m also hoping for a product line. One artist came up with a toy idea that I think is worth perusing. I’m also looking into stationary as well. That could be a tough market, but cards and note pads are still being bought. I’d like to see the artists work about 20 hours a week doing something for our clients on a regular basis, and the rest of their week is for their independent projects of which I the agent can promote.
It is the Oregon market that does not inspire me, given it’s dysfunctional economic non-strategies (this will be whole other blog). My ambition is to develop clientele outside Oregon as well. However, in consultation with a former Portland-based artist agent recently, she said she got most of her work locally and with mid-sized companies. So, I’m not sure where Walch Art Group will take us and how far it will go. At this time I make cold calls and send samples and see what happens. The talent is strong and speaks for itself.