Friday, January 15, 2016

A Little History, aka Where I've Been the Last Five Years

To follow up on my last post about my refusal to make any New Year's Resolutions other than "Be Kind to Yourself", I thought I should mention some of my goals.



First, some history. I worked on my first feature film, The Tailor, in 2005. I was smitten, and moved to LA to pursue film. (Side note: in 2010, an unscrupulous production company picked it up for a song, re-edited it, named it Gunfight at Yuma which has nothing to do with the storyline, and is apparently making money on it; but for a variety of reasons, primarily with regards to their lack of scruples, none of us who worked on it originally are making any money on this. But the costumes are AWESOME.)

My most well-known project was a Star Wars fan fic film called Forced Alliance, which can be seen here or here. I did extras costuming and also costumed the bartender and waitresses characters. I also did not get paid for this film, but the crew and actors were among the best I ever worked with.

After some ups and downs in the film industry, I sustained a serious back injury while on location for a really bad movie that I was costume designing. I was unable to walk more than two or three steps at a time for about three weeks. I had no health insurance and no savings, and the inability to walk made getting another job difficult.

Shortly after that, the awesome house I was renting in Echo Park went into foreclosure, unbeknownst to me and my roommates. The landlord disappeared with all of the rent money that she'd been collecting from us for the preceding year, and we were all given eviction notices by the mortgage company.

My best friend at the time (now my wife) was there for me through all of this turmoil. I was out of places to go, decided to move in with her for a while to get back on my feet, BECAUSE I LITERALLY COULDN'T WALK.

When I finally healed enough, I took a job in a call center to try to make some money while I figured out what to do next. I liked the people and the product, and I worked my way up in the company, eventually ending up in the Merchandising department.

I really, really loved my job in the Merchandising department. I was good at it, I was challenged, I loved the people I worked with, and I had the best boss ever.

Things changed, as they always do. My boss moved to Baltimore and her replacement was a bitter, angry, backstabbing, jealous, miserable human being who made my life sheer hell until finally I quit. I think that if I was less passionate, more able to deflect her pettiness, less impacted by being given decreasingly less responsibility, and better able to play the game, I might have stayed. But I've never been good at hiding my emotions, and it was a roller coaster until I finally quit.



In the middle of all of that, The Girl and I got married legally in California, and shortly after that, DOMA was overturned, making it easier for us to take care of each other, and overall making us feel more supported and secure as a couple.

Another side note: Marriage is AWESOME. There's a whole post about how amazing it felt to finally be married after having been engaged for three years and constantly worrying about our legal rights as a couple. And then there's another post about how terrific it is to be married to your best friend. And then there's another post about how much you and your spouse can annoy each other at times.






ANYWAY. I found a job in the merchandising department at another company, but it wasn't the same. I was doing work that required little creativity, was prohibited from making changes or improvements even in MY OWN DAMN WORKFLOW, and I was raked over the coals for every mistake, no matter how large or small. I was completely miserable and stressed out. At the same time, my wife was promoted, with more responsibility, a little bit more money, and a lot more stress in her job.

After long discussions and multiple attempts to make things work at my place of employment, my wife urged me to quit and find a way to do what I'd always wanted to do - as soon as I figured out what that was. She was making enough money to cover the bills, and we were almost completely out of debt (excepting student loans which, I believe, go on forever.)

So, in May of 2015, I quit again. For a while I was doing some writing for an SEO company that paid per word. It was fun, but for a perfectionist like me, not exactly lucrative. I'm also working on a novel, because goddess forbid I focus on one thing at a time.

I relaunched my etsy shop in the fall, and thanks to the lovely and amazing Katrina Walker, who uses one of my hams in some of her Craftsy classes, I've had a lot of interest in my hand-made pressing hams and seam rolls, and so I'm trying to focus on that. (BTW, she is an AMAZING educator and you should absolutely take one or all of her classes, either online or, if you're really lucky, in-person! You'll even see one of my hams used in her classes on Craftsy, because I am the luckiest person in the world)

So that's where I am now. I've had a lot of interest and I've had some good weeks on etsy, but I'm nowhere near being able to pay bills or do much more than buy groceries with the money I am making. My biggest challenge is the enormous amount of time it takes to make a single ham, contrasted with the amount of money I think people are willing to pay for one. I am working on ways to streamline the process while coming up with new ideas that I hope will be appealing to people.

Now it's a new year, and it's been over six months since I quit my day job. I thought I would have things figured out by now! I've been doing more sewing, more knitting, and more cooking and baking, but haven't made any of that profitable yet. It's s little frustrating, and I'm starting to really miss having a paycheck, but I'm still hoping to find the intersection of art and commerce that satisfies me.

Next post: my plans for the coming year. Probably. Unless I get sidetracked by something else which is always a possibility.



Friday, January 08, 2016

Happy New Year!

I know a lot of people make resolutions this time of year, and I swore to myself that I wouldn't make resolutions. They're always the same, and I never seem to make them realistic or specific enough to accomplish them.

Instead, I'm making one resolution this year: to be kind to myself.

In theory, being kind to myself could be construed to cover all of the other resolutions I might make. You could say that, to be kind to myself, I would lose weight to improve my health and comfort. You could say that cleaning the kitchen daily would make me feel better about my home. You could say that having a consistent yoga practice would be kind to my body, and watching less TV would be kind to my creativity. You could say all of that, and you would be right, for the most part. But really, I beat up on myself too much, so I don't want to make resolutions that I'm just going to berate myself for not keeping.

I'm just going to be kind to myself.

I'm still going to make some goals. Simple things, like knitting something for myself, experimenting on my new loom, and learning how to use a DSLR.

I'm going to make some business goals, too, like getting a certain amount of things listed on etsy, getting a resellers license in CA, and refreshing my branding.

But if I don't get all of that accomplished, or if I don't accomplish it in quite the way I imagined, or with the perfection I demand from myself, I'm going to try to remind myself that my only resolution this year is to be kind to myself. And instead of berating myself for not accomplishing a "resolution", maybe I'll go get some ice cream. Or go for a walk. Or call someone who makes me feel good about myself. Or eat a bowl of cereal and binge-watch The Gilmore Girls.

That's it. That's all. Just be kind to myself.

Be kind to yourself, too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Talk to Girls


Today, as I surreptitiously searched the internet for pictures of what the Obama women were wearing, I felt a little uncomfortable. I was at work, and couldn't watch the inauguration, so I was listening to it on NPR and I was just DYING to see Michelle's new bangs. Michelle Obama is so much more than the gown she wore to the inauguration (Jason Wu!) and yet that's one of the first things I wanted to see.

I rarely give a damn about what the men are wearing, and it's not just because I prefer women. Men's clothing hasn't changed much in the last 50 or so years. Sure, the lapels get wider, the ties get skinnier, and sometimes there's a different color shirt, but really - who cares?  Once in a while you'll see something outrageous on the runway - a MAN wearing a DRESS (SHOCKER) for example. But that rarely has a trickle-down effect.

Women's clothing is infinitely variable, and driven, I would wager, almost entirely by the garment industry. (Here I'm drawing almost entirely on the Costume History class that I took almost 20 years ago and didn't exactly ace) But fashion used to be driven primarily by function - so, especially in peasant or servant classes, the clothing changed very little over hundreds of years.

But despite my own interest in fashion - and it's that of a witness, certainly not as a participant - I'm really not comfortable with how quickly and easily it reduces women to how they look. And where I find this especially disturbing is in the effect it has on little girls.


I happened upon this interesting article on HuffPost today - it was written almost two years ago - and it neatly sums up that challenge.

I find myself doing this - talking to little girls about how they look. She's right, it's the standard icebreaker. Little girls, for the most part, think a lot about what they are wearing. I've seen this manifest in absolutely awesome ways - one of my nieces went out wearing jeans, a tutu, a t-shirt, sparkly shoes, and a mismatched cardigan a few years ago. I was jealous! She so clearly put on what she felt like wearing, and I found myself wishing I could do the same. But at some point, that unself-conscious dressing for oneself becomes dressing for other people.

And that's where it all breaks down for me. I know I'm about to sound like a RAVING liberal (hide your children! You don't want them thinking!) but when we reduce conversations with women and girls to what they are wearing, not only do we diminish them, we also miss out on the opportunity to talk to them about what they're thinking.

I'm thinking about this even more because I have nieces who are nearing those dangerous ages - ages when they become all-consumed with their bodies and their looks. I have one niece especially who is really struggling right now - whether she realizes it or not. She's dangerously consumed with appearing sexy. And I can't help but wonder how things could have been different for her. Are the messages of the media so pervasive that no amount of parenting can prevent a child from this kind of self-hate?

I got a review the other day from a woman who was very upset that the writing on something she ordered was hot pink instead of red, as she thought it would be. She said she wouldn't give it to her sons because it had pink writing on it. I've read other reviews from people upset that a heart-shaped charm on a new baby ornament was PINK on a BOY ornament. It made me wonder - do boys really naturally not like pink? Do girls really naturally like pink? Or, when a girl sees pink and wants pink, do we ooh and ahh and encourage her with pink feathers and tiaras and tutus and bedspreads and socks and sequins? And when a boy sees pink and wants pink, do we tell him "pink is for girls" and hand him a red and yellow truck?

I could get really off-topic here, and start talking about the psychology of color, but I'll save that for another post. For now, I'll continue to wonder if my obsession with Project Runway enables a society in which women will continue to be judged on their looks, and men will continue to be judged on their ideas.