The first ten years

Ten years ago today I began my career as a graphic designer.

I’d been working at Sam’s Club at the time, hating every second of it after enduring it for two years. I was good friends with Michelle at the time, and she had been interning for a couple weeks at this new design company in Nashville called Creative Access. They were looking for another intern and she asked me if I was interested. At first I declined, because for some reason I didn’t think I could work in Nashville and continue taking classes. I was an idiot. Luckily for me, she persisted and eventually drove me in for an interview. Lee hired me on the spot.

I hardly knew anything. I’d been one of the weird ones in school who hadn’t learned to design on a computer, and instead pretty much learned to manipulate a color copier to do the things I wanted. Looking back, that was pretty amazing that I was able to get by using a copier as a computer, but then again it gave my work a unique feel. And it also showed that a computer can’t design for you. So I kind of stretched the truth about my actual knowledge of programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, and the Mac in general, all staples of the design world. But Lee was very gracious and patient with me as I learned on the job. He was paying a couple interns six bucks an hour to make him a bunch of money, and we were getting amazing, real-world experience that none of our other friends were getting. From the beginning he let us be part of every piece of the puzzle, which was rare in the biz, especially for a beginning designer.

I worked at Creative Access, alongside Michelle, for the next six years, and although they are no longer in business, I still keep in touch with nearly everyone I ever worked with at the company.

In the summer of 2004, Michelle and I were sitting in the church we’d been attending for two years, and she saw a program insert that she immediately shoved under my nose. They were looking to hire a full-time graphic designer. Just like back in 1998 when she first told me about Creative Access, my immediate first thought was, “Well that’s nice, but i can’t do that, I have a job.” See a pattern? She insisted I drop my portfolio off at the church, and I did. After a couple meetings, they hired me, and that’s where I’ve been for the past four years.

In 2006, the unthinkable happened. Our very beloved lead pastor, in a weekend that will go down in infamy, was fired by the elders. It was absolutely insane. People were furious, More than half the members left, and for the first time, I was really wondering what I would do if I woke up one day without a job, especially since we were relying completely on my income. I had already been doing a little freelance here and there, but this led me to think about freelance as a permanent supplement to my income. And so that’s when I really started doing more. We bought a new computer and set everything up at home to start designing, and for some reason, work just started coming my way. I’ve never really had to pursue it, I’ve just opened myself up to it. I am hoping this will continue to happen as I am transitioning over to a full-time freelancer.

I always thought I would eventually work for myself. I honestly didn’t think it would take ten years, but here I am, nearly to the exact day ten years later, and Tinymusicbox Art & Design is on the cusp of being my main gig. Over the course of the past ten years, Michelle and I have won over ten Addys between us and have had work in Print magazine. Photography had been a surprising and accidental addition to my resume, and it accounts for probably 7-10% of my business. And I think that, instead of trying to build up more design clients, I am going to invest more time in the painting side of my life, and pursue new venues outside of Nashville.

A decade ago I couldn’t have imagined I’d be walking out on faith like this with a mountain of debt, a wife, and a 3 month old baby. But over the years I have seen the undeniable role God has played in our lives, through career challenges and changes. It won’t necessarily be easy, but things always have a way of working out.

I really can’t predict what the next ten years will involve. I hope they will include watching our son grow into an amazing little man, watching our marriage grow stronger and closer than ever, painting more and showing around the country, maybe getting a book or two published, and moving into the home of our dreams.

  • Kevin said:

    Hey don't forget about the River Gallery in Chattanooga, very cool place. They have a link for submissions online! http://www.river-gallery.com

    You and Michelle both continue to be an inspiration to me!

  • mk burt said:

    Awesome dude! You have the right attitude, & between that & faith that good things will happen, you cannot fail. Period. You cannot fail. You will not fail.
    I check this site as often as possible, & it's unreal how the messages 'fit' to each one's individual situation.
    www.greatday.com

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