A year ago my business partner and I decided to close the doors of our small company. We had taken Dakota Martin from an idea to a clothing line that was carried in five hundred stores nationwide and internationally. Based on the economy and the financial forecast, closing was an easy decision. We were not alone and this was not personal. At the same time, we were putting an end to a product and a life that we had built with our own hands and hours of labor. From the printing on the business cards to the hem of each dress, we had wrestled with and strategized over each tiny decision. Each buyer’s order we received had been a personal accomplishment. Upon closing our business, I felt for the first time that my thoughts, efforts and passion were undirected. As I reflected and worried and attempted to create a new daily life, I realized how much I missed the ability to craft something from the bottom up, to decide on each detail, to put all of my energy in to seeing something through. I knew how important these things were to me, but how was I to choose a new path where these passions could be satisfied?
One day I read an article titled “How to Become The Person You Were Meant to Be,” By Anne Lamott. She says,
When I was a young writer, I was talking to an old painter one day about how he came to paint canvases. He said he never knew what the completed picture would look like, but he could usually see one quadrant. So he'd make a stab at capturing what he saw on the canvas of his mind and when it turned out not to be even remotely what he imagined, he'd paint it over with white. And each time he figured out what the painting wasn't, he would be one step closer to finding out what it was. You have to make the mistakes to find out who you aren't. You take the action and the insight follows: You don't think your way into becoming yourself… (O Magazine)
Something clicked in me when I read this. I had been agonizing over how to instantly paint a new life and career for myself that would be exciting and fulfilling, but I did not know how to make that happen. Here was my answer: Paint a quadrant. I realized that if what I chose did not work out, I would not lose precious time. I would learn what that quadrant of my life should not be, and begin again on my repainted white canvas.
This past June, after a year of attempts and repaints, I entered Summer Intensive Studies: Studio in Interior Design at Parsons, The New School for Design. Brush in hand, I explored one quadrant of a canvas I have always imagined possible: combining my love of creativity, art, space, color, and light in a practical application that contributes to individual and communal happiness and efficiency. For the four weeks of the program, I rarely left our little studio space on 13th Street. I worked on plans and sections until the janitors kicked me out at night. I sat at my dining room table cutting foam board and making models at three am. I looked forward to contributing to every critique and savored each lecture we were given. For a month, I barely saw the light of day, friends or family and I loved every second of it.
Here I am with a tiny corner of my canvas that I do not want to paint over. I am at peace with ninety-nine percent of it being white, because I am ready to expand on my one percent. My experience with Dakota Martin has taught me creative problem solving, self-motivation, how to navigate and work with different personalities and perspectives, and assertiveness. I have learned to believe in myself but accept criticism willingly, and that courage and hard labor are every bit as important as creativity and intelligence. With this knowledge and experience, the Master’s of Interior Architecture program at ... will be an important bridge in connecting my small business experience and creativity with a new world of design, function, history, and aesthetic that I have only yet skimmed the surface of.