I was never one of those people that said, “Since age 8, I knew I wanted to be a designer.” First of all, I grew up in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cornfields. Urbana is a great Midwestern town, but there wasn’t exactly a gigantic design influence in the contemporary sense. Second, I was too concerned about the now: four square at recess; soccer practice in the evening; that times table test is coming up next week and I had to get all of them right (missing one was not an option).
As time went on, I found myself a jack-of-all-trades but a master-of-none. I loved reading and writing but I enjoyed chemistry, too. I got straight As in math and calculus, but the art room was my safe haven. The cavernous room, led by a teacher that forever changed the way I thought, designed, and existed, was a place I could go and be whoever I wanted to be. Or maybe I was trying to become the person I already was. Maybe that should have been enough of a sign to push me in the creative/design direction but it wasn’t.
I graduated high school at the top of my class, and everyone oohed and aahed at me majoring in Mechanical Engineering, wanting to design roller coasters. Everything seemed to be lining up just how it should; I would be smart and successful. What else would I need? Despite studying all day and night and getting good grades in engineering, I felt like something was missing. I found myself staying in on Saturday nights to make collages, art projects, or just simply draw. I eventually had a come-to-Jesus moment and decided to make a change.
I needed creativity. I needed something that could challenge me differently. Engineering was challenging, don’t get me wrong, but once you arrived at an answer, that was it. I learned the process to arrive at an answer, and once I got there, I felt unfulfilled. I wanted something that kept pushing me and challenging me past conventional answers. After crying to my parents and others, and talking to several high school teachers and mentors, I made the decision to enter DAAP as an Interior Design major.
It was not easy. Nothing about design school is easy. It was often painfully difficult, especially with the lack of sleep. But it was challenging. And if that’s what I wanted, I got it. Throughout design school, I questioned if I was in the right place. I hadn’t really loved any of my internships, and I was questioning what it would be like in the real world. I graduated, without any job offers in my field, and then was thrust into the real world.
For the next couple years, I continued to question what I was doing and where I was going. I knew what I enjoyed—branding, graphics, furniture, antiques and vintage finds—and I knew what I didn’t—being a slave to the computer, exhausted ideas.
One day last fall, my mom brought me several (okay, a lot) of boxes from my childhood. Boxes filled with old sports trophies, drawings from elementary school, and all my old journals. I eventually came across my box from “E.L.” Short for “Exceptional Learners,” EL was a cherished part of every week, where a small group of us had a day outside of our traditional classroom and had learning modules based upon Bloom’s Taxonomy. At the beginning of each year, we had to fill out a “Personality Profile” asking us questions like, “The title of a book a bout me would be..” or “If I could be any age, I would like to be __ because..”
I eventually came across my profile from when I was in 6th grade, age 11. It had an interesting question with a more interesting answer. Question: “In 20 years, I…” My answer: “In 20 years, I will be designing clothes or buildings.”
There were many emotions in that moment. The first, astonishment. I did not at all remember that question nor that answer. My 11 year old self knew who I was and what I wanted, but it sure took me a long time to listen to her. In that moment, I realized that I was right where I needed to be.
Shortly after, I started digging through my old journals, also known as a whirlwind of teenage emotions. I did many collages in these journals, and I came across one, a passage from “Tuesdays with Morrie,” one of my favorite books we read in high school: “You have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own.” The timing could not have been more perfect.
It’s definitely been a non-linear path to get here, but I could not be more excited to start this new endeavor. FOUNDRYno.201 is built on passion for design of all types and creativity. For my jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none personality, it’s a perfect fit. As they say, do it with passion or not at all. Here’s to a new beginning...cheers!
Ps.. stayed tuned for part II with Brittany!