Back to Work. No, the Other Work.

Photo Jul 28, 11 41 24 AM

For the last two months, I’ve had the luxury of being a budding creative entrepreneur. I woke around 7am, had breakfast and coffee, took a walk with my mom, and then got to work in my home sewing studio. I’ve made great progress developing designs, drafting patterns, finding and testing materials, and meeting kindred spirits. It has made me incredibly happy.

Then, a couple weeks ago, an interesting thing happened: I went back to work. You know, a J-O-B. Back to full-time, salaried, benefits-imparting, work. It was my plan all along to get such a job; my full-time creative entrepreneurship was really a lucky opportunity presented when I relocated to North Carolina from NYC without a job. I’ve been searching for a standard paying gig all along, because a) the whole money not growing on trees thing and Sunday Shift being waaaay off from providing me with a living wage and b) I actually enjoy the intellectual challenge and social interaction that comes with an office job.

And I’m really quite excited about this job, which, it so happens, has essentially nothing to do with sewing, fashion, sustainability, or entrepreneurship. What I’m less excited about is the double life of an office job professional and an evenings-and-weekends creative. So far, that’s how my adult life has worked. I’ve set as my heroes individuals like William Carlos Williams, who was both an incredible poet and a full-time physician for forty years.

Thus far, the main drawback has been the lack of decent daylight during my at-home hours to take photos for this blog. I’m off on my morning commute just as the sun’s morning rays reach through the windows. By the time I’m home, I’m too hungry and tired to remember to get out my camera and catch what I can before the sun sets.

There is no light—
Only a honey-thick stain
That drips from leaf to leaf
And limb to limb
Spoiling the colours
Of the whole world.

(From “A Love Song,” by Williams Carlos Williams)

But I’m working on it.

 

The Dream: Starting My Own Sustainable, Ethical Clothing Line

For a long time, I’ve dreamed of starting my own small business designing and selling clothing and accessories. In the age of Etsy, this is by no means a rare idea or an inconceivable ambition. But I can tell you, dreaming up something and actually trying to make it happen are two different things. It’s scary. Terrifying, even. I know nothing about running a small business and have no formal education in fashion. I wouldn’t even consider myself an expert seamstress; far from it. But I really, really want to do this.

Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

My idea is a business called Sunday Shift (the name came long before any solid idea of what I’d be making and selling), and the concept is to create handmade clothes that are simple, classic, and sustainable. Last year I took a workshop at NYC’s Fashion Institute of Technology called Ethical Fashion Design that expanded my knowledge of how to create sustainable and ethical fashion design business. Our final project for the class was to create a mission statement for our own business, which you can see in this Prezi.

That was June of last year, and in the ensuing months I managed to fine time in addition to my full-time job and 2.5 hours of daily commuting time to make my first small collection of fiber-based jewelry, which I sold at the 2013 Holiday Sale at Massachusetts College of Art and Design (my MFA alma mater).

A few of my first items for Sunday Shift, sold at the MassArt Made 2013 Holiday Sale in Boston, MA. 

Then I got busy with many other things, and in the next several months I made little progress.

A few weeks ago I relocated to North Carolina from NYC, and found myself with a nice chunk of free time while I’m in between jobs. I decided it was the perfect opportunity to yank my proverbial bootstraps and get Sunday Shift going.

I’ve been working on it for the last week, and yesterday I finished my first prototype dress: a simple, A-line shift dress with front patch pockets. I’ve ordered fabric samples from two sources—Organic Cotton Plus and Hemp Traders—and hope to make select one or two to use for production soon.

I have much to do: tweak the pattern, grade the pattern into different sizes, decide on colors, test dyes and printing inks, develop patterns for a couple other items to complete my line, make fabric labels, get business cards, plus the whole process of incorporating and doing other things to make my business legit. I don’t have a specific time frame yet (add that to the to-do list), but I’d like to launch Sunday Shift on Etsy in September.

I intend to use this blog as a way to report on my experiences starting a craft business. This is in itself scary. What if I fail, and the whole blogosphere gets to watch? What if someone steals my ideas? What if people point out my mistakes? Well, that’s a risk I’ve decided to take. I hope that showing the less-than-perfect tales of an utterly clueless entrepreneur will be interesting and helpful to other people. And of course, if you have thoughts or ideas about what I write, please leave then in the comments.