Because Everyone Loves an Origin Story

Graphic Design Origin Story Small Business Work Life Balance

In the early 00's, there was a day(several days, actually) in high school that you either loved or hated-standardized testing day. I happened to be in the minority that loved to be tested. Something about whizzing through the questions, knowing I knew the answer, and getting a good score were really rewarding for me. The "brain food" snacks were an added bonus, my favorite being peanut butter on graham crackers. There was one test, though, that I distinctly remember taking, and being confused and annoyed with the result to the point that the whole ordeal stands out clearly in my memory from all the other testing days in my high school career.

It was called an "aptitude test". Engineered to identify the professional job that someone would be most suited for based on their personality, interests, and strengths. I remember the questions were odd, and there was no "correct" answers, since it was all personal preference type responses. That bothered me, and it bothered me even more that I had to slow down and actually think through each question. I was excited when the results came, because I really had no idea what I wanted to "be". As a child I wanted to be an archaeologist/paleontologist and dig up old things. I still have a habit of pocketing rocks from just about everywhere I go. When I got older and the idea that a job needed to be steady, I thought maybe a teacher, as I enjoyed school. So when the test came back with the result of "graphic designer", I was so annoyed that firstly-I didn't know what that was and secondly-whatever it was I knew it was a creative type of job and it was a certainty that I could not make a career out of it in Ada, Oklahoma. And that, was that-I crumpled the results page and considered the whole thing pointless.

I chose a college, and settled on the major of Social Work. It was a helping profession, lots of different places to work, job security. I loved it from the moment I set foot into Social Work 101 and now hold clinical licensure many years later. It was only after my college classes were finished and I was close to sitting for my lisencure exam that I began to have "free time". No more text books or internships, no homework. I was trying to start my family and falling into a rhythm with my career, having scarcely survived the initial shock that I literally meddle in people's lives for a living. I needed a way to quiet my mind, and that had always been scribbling. 

Scribbling in the still quiet moments became painting artwork for my nursery, dabbling in custom orders and etsy selling. Soon I had found a way to share my art online, on my secret art instagram account, and stumbled into a world I clearly was meant for but never knew existed-handlettering. With revealing my secret page to a few friends, I began to network, and soon was making regular sales via my etsy shop and started a sign making business. The sign making catapulted my creative skills to a whole new level as a friend reached out and we began a DIY sign making workshop business which paid for my family vacations and Christmases for several years. I prided myself in doing things by hand, and had to stifle the urge to squeal when asked "what font is that", "what kind of vinyl do you use", "where can I buy that stencil". I booked local art gigs, painting windows, signage, and doing large chalk art. A friend of mine purchased a local screen printing shop and soon we were collaborating on tee shirts. We attempted at one point to start an online brand but there were just too many moving parts and it fizzled. 

At that time, I was working full time and my husband was self employed, doing some work for our family rental business and doing some taxidermy. We talked one night about how if our friend ever wanted to sell the shirt business how wonderful it might be to run something like that together, and be able to really have the shop I'd always wanted, full of my designs on different things like tee shirts, bags, mugs, etc. It was all a dream though, because I never saw a future in me being able to support us by doing anything other than punch a time clock for 40 hours per week somewhere.

Here we are though. Just a few short years from that conversation. Able to work half time doing a job that I love, and the other half running my portion of our family business. My husband keeping our son instead of sending him to daycare and self employed by our own business. I won't pretend that it is easy. It literally took a global pandemic and economic and society collapse to force me into accepting the change to workweek, finance, and family role expectations. But, it's beautiful here. We have been richer, but we have a lot of time together, we have what we need plus some, and we are getting to make our own way. 

It's funny because without all the things that happened between those high school testing days and now, I would not be able to live out what I am apparently best suited for. I had to crumple the whole idea up and forge a different path, only to end up right where I was supposed to be anyways. I would like to think it's because I was supposed to be a social worker, too. I do love people. Sometimes though, I just need to scribble. How blessed I am, to get to do both.


Leave a comment