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What To Do…Thorsten Becker

Our What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do series continues today and tomorrow, and because I have about 4-6 more to post, I’m hoping that you’ll enjoy kicking back and reading them all over the next few days. I thought that with all the female input we’ve had in this series that I was being very inconsiderate of the male readers of this blog (I know you’re out there guys), so I decided to ask a man to sit down with us for a bit and discuss this whole idea of finding your calling and such. My guy of choice is my husband and since I’ve never introduced him to you before, I guess it’s time after over two years of blogging here daily.

Today I’d like you to meet my husband Thorsten Becker (silent H), he’s 35 years old, and spent the first 28 years of his life in Hannover, Germany where he was born and raised. Then he met me through an article I wrote online back in 1998 and he relocated to Boston in 2001 where we were married. I asked him (more or less) the same questions as the ladies who participated in this series so far and here’s what he has to say….

What do you do for a living?

I’m a Senior Data Architect by day (full-time) and a Photographer, Writer, Composer, and Freelance Voice-Over Talent (in German) by night and any hours in between.

How do you think a person can find their spot in the world of design — you know, your true calling?

Every single human being has certain talents, things we’re really good at. It’s always more than one talent so it’s good to keep an open mind to the multitude of abilities you have. The problem is though that external influences most often make us unaware of our potential. It usually starts in school where certain children are considered unfocused, easily distracted and generally disinterested. They are disciplined in various forms to make them ‘fit’ into the general populace of the classroom environment. This continues at home where parents are either oblivious to their child’s skills, talents and interests or are pushing in the wrong direction due to latent grudges for missed opportunities in their own life. Many children learn to go into suppression mode and do what they’re told is the right thing to do without ever finding out what they really would want to do. They than either end up going to college to study subjects they think are good to learn but ultimately have no affinity for or learning a trade that they were told is in high demand, again with no real personal connection. Often later in life suppressed personal skills, talents and ideals come back to the forefront when questions arise as to the meaning of one’s current career/life path/meaning.

How can one who has lost their direction find this path?

Contemplating on the statements above leads to learning to listen to your inner voice. The one person that knows you best is you (that doesn’t necessarily mean you know what is best for you though, at least not all the time). Listen to yourself, talk out loud what you think and feel, communicate with yourself, watch your own behavior, look at what you generally gravitate towards. Talents are things that come easy to you. Do you find yourself writing music/songs in your head? Do you like to re-arrange furniture, enjoy combining colors, are always drawing little figures when being on the phone, even watching certain shows on TV? Stop and ask yourself why. No better way to get started than asking why — why is this, why is that, why do I like it? There is always a reason, nothing just suddenly happens. You most likely find that you’ve been doing certain things since you were a child. These, “I always liked doing this!” moments are important, as well as the, “Well, it’s so easy everyone can do this, it’s nothing special” comments you make to yourself. Stop and think. Is it really just so easy for anyone to do or is it natural for you? If something comes natural it’s your talent, plain and simple. Everything you have to struggle with and for and make sense to understand is not your talent, it is unnatural for you and therefor out of character. You can still learn it and take something away from it but it’s not your talent, not your nature, not your calling. Pursuing it will make you struggle and feel unsatisfied.

Okay, so one needs to listen to themselves and get a hold on what it is that they enjoy doing and what their talents are. What next?

Once you start listening to yourself start trusting yourself. Not overly confidential, that leads to problems, but rationally. What you say makes sense. Now start digging deeper and connect the dots. You’ll find that the things you enjoy the most and the things you gravitate towards are connected. There is always a reason. Keep following this path of reason and it will lead you to the core, to the center of who you are, what makes you you (good and bad, warts and all). Embrace your core, cherish it, groom it and grow it. Stay open to suggestions from the outside but don’t let yourself be easily swayed to new opinions, especially not about yourself. Once you know who you are stay true to yourself. This will help you find a satisfying calling as well as have meaningful and rewarding relationships.

Do you feel balanced in your life as a professional engineer full-time while pursuing your creative passions part-time? How did you get there?

Yes, I do. The principal way how I found myself is described above. The practical way has been through many different jobs (from sales rep at book stores to IT Support to teaching to programming and beyond) as well as learning learning learning. I am always out to learn something new. I take things from the outside and make them part of my inside. I am not a fan of anything particular but rather am curious about things that are a close reflection of what I feel and see inside. I then take bits and pieces and add them to my world. This in turn inspires me to visualize my inner world, to go out and find environments and landscapes that resemble what I envision, photograph them and then work them into a piece of another world. While doing so I see stories unfold that I then add to the finished picture. Other times I hear music in my head, sit down and translate it into a composition and then feel inspired to write a story. I like to use the multitude of interests I have to create something that’s my own.

Add any other thoughts that you think may help others.

Take a personality test. Take many different ones, Myers Briggs, Right Brain vs Left Brain Test, etc. They are fun and often very interesting. You’ll most likely notice certain patterns emerging indicating that you are either left brained or right brained. Left brained means you are logical, analytical, objective. Right brained means you are intuitive, holistic, subjective. You may find each trait in you but usually one part dominates. If you are left brained you are more prone to go for technical and operational professions, if you are right brained you tend more towards creative, artistic professions. One will come natural while the other is much more forced, less satisfying. This will be a good starting point to do your own self analysis.

What about if you are both in equal parts?

You may find that you are equally brained or whole-brained. I am afflicted by this. I am referring to as an affliction as it has led to much confusion in the past for the people around me as to what I want from life. I find myself going in and out of interests, jumping between highly rational concepts of mathematics, astronomy and physics and more creative, conceptual interests like composing, drawing, sketching and art (with respect to careers, not just hobbies). The solution? I work mostly from home doing a highly technical job with a lot of creative freedom while being able to work on little personal projects in parallel. I can balance both sides at any given time making it easier for me to have a ‘normal’ job (left brained, as is favored and taught in school) while also paying heed to my right brain activities.

Thanks Thorsten for stopping in today, we appreciate having you here!

Posted in what to do on April 17, 2008

What To Do… Irene Hoofs {Bloesem}

Our What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do series continues today with a peek into the life of a fellow blogger, Irene Hoofs who runs both Bloesem and Bloesom Kids. Let’s see what the lovely Irene has to say about how she found her calling through blogging…

Irene when I first met you, you were a graphic designer and Bloseom was more of an extra project of yours. But things have changed. What is your current career?

Actually that is a very difficult question? but I like to think of myself as a professional blogger. I write about crafts, design, art and all other beautiful things in life. Previously I worked as a graphic and web designer. And in a ?former life? I was a banker.

How do you think someone can find their spot in the world of design — you know, their true calling?

Follow your heart. Just do what you like to do. That is easier said than done but don?t be afraid of what others might say or think. If you don?t know exactly what it is that you like or want to do perhaps start by looking at other people?s work, and discover the things that make you happy, smile or just give you a positive feeling. A notebook might help with that. Soon you will discover a pattern of things and or activities you are drawn to most. Chances are that this is what you should do yourself as well. If you have to follow a course to learn how to ?create? then go for it, if you just want to start practicing yourself then that is also fine. Trial and error worked for me and is great fun, although it can be frustrating at times. As long as you experience joy in what you do or create that?s the most important step, and people will notice. And they will start appreciating you and your work just because they will see you are doing something with passion.

Pro blogging can sometimes feel very alone, just you and your computer. Most of your readers you will never meet. What about those out there who do not want to work alone everyday?

Don?t be afraid to work ?alone?, I think that is what you have to do at first, it is difficult to create something together if it has to come from your own heart, your inner person and expresses your feelings. Once your ?creation? is finished you can start collaborating with somebody, perhaps sharing the business side of things, selling, marketing etc. But start by being just you and by yourself, put on some music, watch your favorite show or enjoy the silence. This worked for me.

Do you feel that you found your calling and if so, how did you get there?

I definitely feel that I found mine, finally. I started while living in NY with my husband. With no work permit I spent my days by exploring the city and discovering shops in NY (not much budget so only window-shopping). Initially I was so overwhelmed by all the inspiration that NYC had to offer I was not quite sure what to do, although I had in the back of my mind the idea of starting something for myself. So I bought a camera, took a huge amount of pictures of everything I found interesting, made a journal and after doing this for a couple of weeks I knew what I wanted to do (or at least thought I knew), I decided to create my own line of stationery.

Why wasn’t stationery design your calling?

It proved quite a struggle and the whole production process was very intense and time consuming. I just wanted to create things. The whole production side of things was just not me. So gradually I moved from stationery design to graphic design and learned how to design and build websites. I just wanted to become completely ?self-sustainable? I guess. Doing something with crafts and design was always on my mind, and I realized I was not quite there where I wanted to be .so the search continued. During the following years I did all sorts of freelance projects, even got a part-time job at a photography agency in Amsterdam.

How did you get into blogging?

After discovering some beautiful design blogs (including yours, Holly), it all seemed to come together. My love for design and crafts as well as my interest in graphic and web design, so I thought this could be it. I think blogging is what I was supposed to do all along, surrounded by art and design all day and with a window to the world to write about my passions and ideas. Doing the web design for my two blogs, and last but not least, some do-it-yourself projects once in a while.

Do you have any extra thoughts that may benefit decor8 readers today?
I believe someone once said, very appropriately actually, ?Go confidently in the direction of your dreams? live the life you?ve imagined?. Looking back, perhaps unconsciously, I took the plunge in NY and although it took a few years to find my direction, I can certainly recommend it!

(image top: altered by me, original photo by Ez at Creature Comforts.)

Posted in what to do on April 16, 2008

What To Do… Lisa Congdon

Lisa Congdon, a San Francisco-based artist, illustrator, and shop owner has a few words of wisdom to share with us for our What To Do… series.

How do you think a person can find their spot in the world of design — you know, your true calling?

* Do what makes you happy at least once a day. If you don?t have time, change how you live your life so you do have time.

* Share what you create or your creative aspirations with as many people as you can for feedback, for support and to combat isolation.

* Surround yourself with people who treat you with respect and support your efforts to find your calling.

* Work really, really hard.

Do you feel that you found your calling and if so, how did you get there?

I worked in a field completely unrelated to art and design for eighteen years. I have no formal training in art or design. I used to fantasize while I was at my 9-5 job about living the artist?s life, about owning a design store, about getting to do all the things I do now. I didn?t really ever think it would happen! I just kept working hard at making art and learning as much as I could about the latest in design. I believe that when you immerse yourself in what you love everyday, things fall into place. Before I knew it, I was showing and selling my work?enough so that I could go down to part time at my job. That?s how I met Rena, with whom I now own Rare Device San Francisco. She followed my artwork via my blog and asked me to do an installation at the original Rare Device in New York. We became instant friends. Seven months after meeting in person for the first time, we opened a Rare Device together in San Francisco. Recently, I left my 9-5 job. Now it?s art and design everyday (and a bit of bookkeeping and shipping)?and it?s just as amazing as I thought it might be.

(image top: altered by me, original photo by Ez at Creature Comforts.)

Posted in what to do on April 16, 2008

What To Do… Kerry Pitt-Hart of Lush Bella

It’s so nice to be back here with you today starting another week of decor8 together. I have about 7 more guests for our What To Do… series, all are ready to share their journey and how they found their calling as a creative type with you. I’ll post 1-2 of these inspirational reads daily this week in addition to plenty of art and decorating related finds that I come across. Prepare to have a lot of reading to do over the next 5 days so I hope you’re ready! :)

Today we’re meeting up with book author, artist, and jewelry designer Kerry Pitt-Hatt who is also a part-time museum educator. I thought it would be good to find a creative lady who also works a more traditional job in addition to her art because I think that for some, this is another great path to take — pursuing your creative side while keeping the career you’re in part-time. This is a long story and though I tried to edit it down I couldn’t bear to remove any part of her journey because it really is quite a story of growth and determination. Kerry, take it away!

Work by Kerry Pitt-Hart.

Kerry, how do you think a person can find their spot in the world of design?

Know who you are – take an inventory of your skills – be honest with yourself. Know your craft. Do it well, and if you don’t know how something is done, then learn how. Ask yourself:

* Do you like working with people?
* Or are you more of a solitary person?
* Have you considered spending time with someone who is already doing what you think you’d like to do? Spend a day or better yet, a week with them.
* What is their daily routine like?
* Can you see yourself doing this long term?

Most important, don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Do you feel that you found yours and if so, how did you get there?

I think I have found my calling, though I took a very roundabout path getting here. It all began when my parents decided the best thing for me was to get both a law degree and business degree and to enroll in a 3-3 program, whereby I could get both in six years instead of the normal seven. I clearly recall sitting through a lecture in Management Information Systems 101 and thinking, “What in the hell am I doing here?” After a very emotionally charged phone call to my parents, I forged on to eventually get a degree in Art History, which I am using today, and which informs my art and design.

What happened when you graduated?

I got sidetracked because when I graduated college I desperately needed a job. No one told me I would need at least a Master’s to work as a curator at a museum, so we decided to move to Seattle. If you keep reading this, you’ll know that I/we like to wander and explore. So we packed up our truck with what little we had, and on the way there, naturally, our transmission gave out. We finally did make it to our destination, and being very impractical people, we traded in the truck and somehow managed to buy a brand new one without a permanent residence and without a job. I needed to make that monthly car payment, so I fell into a job working at Microsoft. After working 70 hours week after week, I quickly burned out, and so what better time than to try something new, so we moved to New York. This would not be the last major move. There would be many more change of address forms to fill out and unrelated jobs.

Where did you live in New York and what did you do for work there?

We were in New York City for only 2 1/2 weeks! Yes, weeks! We moved there without a job and without a place to live, so we put our things in a storage unit in Brooklyn, and found a place to stay at the Vanderbilt YMCA on the Upper East Side. Long story, but I’ll never forget our last day there. It was a Sunday morning. I went down to the lobby to book another week, and to sign up for the Harlem Heritage tour. The tiny lobby was filled with what seemed like hundreds of desperate-looking people. Some were crying. Some were yelling. It took me forever to push my way through to get to the counter where I was told they had overbooked the week, and that we would have to check out that day. After recovering from the news, and trying to find another hotel that didn’t cost hundreds of dollars a night, we decided this wasn’t meant to be, and so we rented a moving truck, got our things out of storage, and got on the road that evening and drove West.

Oh my goodness, what a story! So what happened next?

After New York, we took some time to figure out our next move, and so we traveled and then ended up in Seattle. From there, we moved to Chicago, San Francisco, Ashland, Oregon, then ended up in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska, and finally Kansas City where we’ve lived for 2 years now. The jobs I held during this time were in different industries and had considerable responsibility, which prevented me from pursuing my creative interests. This is another reason why part-time works so well for me. I tend to over-commit and finding a balance between work, family, and personal interests can be challenging for me.

Do you think moving around helped you find your path?

I don’t regret any decisions I/we made, but this I do know…I could have gotten to where I am now much sooner if I hadn’t moved around and stayed in one place instead. My husband’s wanderlust will probably never be satisfied, but staying put has allowed me to do what I love and develop a network of caring, inspiring people, because you can’t get there without the support and love from others.

Any words of advice on how to avoid getting sidetracked?

I think I can safely say that if you cut out the distractions, and not let yourself get sidetracked, this will clear time and focus you, for nothing is more important than time. Time to figure it out, to truly know yourself, to get the ideas out of your head, to finish work, and get the word out to others to show them what you’re doing.

Now you’re an artist/designer and art museum educator — does your work as a teacher inspire you?

Yes! Working in a museum that is recognized internationally is incredibly inspiring. Working with kids is more of an outlet for me. I have found that I really enjoy the teaching aspect of it, and showing people what they can do with a little instruction, and then letting them create something of their very own is very rewarding to me.

Why do you do both part-time? Would you ever give up one to pursue the other full-time, or is the balance you currently have necessary and why?

I have too many interests to do one thing all day every day, and will never give up one to pursue the other full-time. If anything, I may also one day end up designing interiors, sourcing OOAK, handmade pieces from artisans around the world and offering them via mail-order, and/or getting a master’s degree in Decorative Arts.

You just self-published a book and you have a flourishing etsy store – do you have any additional plans in the works?

Definitely yes. Short term, I plan to… 1) Along with the prints themselves, I will offer the objects too. 2) Larger sizes. 110 x 16 and 16 x 20. 3) Start a blog. 4) Continue to explore other media. In fact, before I started working on the What To Do… series with you, I was working on plans for the design of a chandelier made of hanks of alabaster glass beads from the 40’s, and was emailing Grand Brass in New York for parts for this.

Do you have any fears?

My one fear is that I will not live as well as I know how. I continue to overcome this fear when it arises, and it does from time to time. Not every day will you have great ideas. Don’t let this stop you. Remain optimistic. Have faith in yourself. Expect great things.

Any additional advice that you’d like to share with us today?

Have a ritual. Get up early. Keep a journal. Get the thoughts and ideas you have in your head out on paper. Take a break midday. Take a walk. Clear your head. Small steps first. With each success, you’ll feel the motivation and determination to make one more. Enjoy every moment.

Thank you so much Kerry for sharing your story!

(image top: altered by me, original photo by Ez at Creature Comforts, bottom image from lush bella)

Posted in what to do on April 14, 2008


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