A CAREER CHOICE IN THE ARTS

“I feel like such a dinosaur getting up and telling the girls at a prominent Girls’ High School recently about art as my career choice. So much has changed in the way we conduct our business as an artist that it is at times for me so unbearably overwhelming that I want to just burst at the seams.

“Sure it’s exciting, challenging, never a dull moment … but you must all remember that I was born in the 60’s! Our family never had a television until I was way into primary school and then I would climb over the fence to watch the test pattern through my neighbour’s window. Art was something hippies did. Typically in long dresses with flowers in her hair. There was no internet to answer my questions, or show me a way. No accessible people who posted images of what was possible. Fortunately I was born with a natural curiosity and creative lust .. I just needed to go out there and make my way.

“I love that I am able to contribute towards making a small difference to other artist’s lives.”

“In my eyes entrepreneurship was something folk with accounting and business degrees did.. My need for constant change and challenge in the work place in my twenties saw me morph from makeup artist and continuity girl in low budget movies to newspaper advertising executive. I recall one interview for a prospective job with an advertising agency that was setting up a media room to make training videos. I was the perfect candidate. But when I walked away with the interviewers notes labelling me “somewhat of a career butterfly” I was mortified!!

“In today’s world career butterflies are encouraged and appreciated for the creativity and experience they bring to the workplace… and thankfully business has rapidly moved into very much an artistic arena. Business executives are taught to “think out the box”, “find creative solutions” and “blur the lines”. No longer are accountants dull grey men in suits. The workplace too has changed from claustrophobic closed boxes and rigid commutes to flexible work hours and open creative spaces, often with chill out zones and proper coffee. Free-range mobile technology means we can conduct our business from anywhere on the planet with the greatest of ease. Earning a living and making a career of your skills as an artist has become just as fast paced. Technology has without a doubt changed us. No longer is an artist someone who locks themselves away in a romantic studio creating wonderful works of pure beauty.

“No… We have 3D printers, high-definition laser printers and modern day technology that can do incredible things.. Meaning that the way artists ‘create’ art has changed rapidly. Artists themselves have been forced into their own PR agency, scurrying to download apps that will help them market their work and themselves across worldwide platforms. Images of fresh work is easily downloaded onto social networks and often sold whilst the paint dries or the ‘fresh from the kiln’ pottery cools. Artists themselves have become marketable tools, branding themselves to strangers who gain insight into their creative inspirations, processes and tools of the trade.  Sharing of information has become the norm, as artists grapple to find ‘their own signature’ in this cross pollination and multi influence world in which we operate.

“My career started somewhat sedately back in the late 80’s and is almost a far cry from how an artist would start out today. So I have learnt fast, become extremely flexible, tried not hurt anyone along the way and most importantly to me… stayed true to myself. Those four things are in my opinion the ingredients I live by. All this has to come with chunks of self motivation.  I had the pleasure of spending time with South African football great, Marks Mapunjane who said to me of all the things he learnt “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up” .

“My experience has taught me that no one is going to pick you up, show you the way or put your brokenness back together and that everyone has their own ‘stumbling’ going on. Only YOU know what drives, motivates and inspires you. As an artist you need to tap into these things.. This is what will set you apart from the pack and give you your own signature.

“This fast paced, global sharing, openness constantly changes the way we market our businesses too.  My first gallery opened over a decade ago. I had a hint of who my customer was and who I was producing for with my ever-expanding ceramic studio. But nothing prepared me for how fast things changed.

“Suddenly, with the advances in internet sales and access to market, we were thrown into a much more competitive arena and like most business’s found that competition with just an immediate neighbour opened up to competing with the unknown world.  It opened doors for many small companies but likewise shut down many once thriving small enterprises. I couldn’t be one of the casualties… so had to make some drastic and heart wrenching decisions along the way.

“Sometimes change happens just when you least expect it to. It’s a lot like getting the rhythm to your dance when the DJ suddenly changes the tune.  But in honesty I think it is easier for girls of this generation. I have a sense that growing up in this fast paced world, they have better coping skills.

“Women’s role in the workplace has evolved onto more of an even platform. As artists we are taken more seriously.  My early days working with clay was seen by many as a ‘hobby’ and I had to fight to educate friends and family how serious I was of making this a career  for not only myself, but  for those I employed along the way.

“The joy of making a small difference to someone’s life is something not to be underestimated and something that I personally find rewarding in my career choice. It’s questionable for me whether I could have achieved this in another country. Returning to my home in South Africa after a few years of living and travelling abroad was a decision that has moulded me.

“Celebrating South Africa’s wealth of talented artists, our colourful culture and eclectic style is reflected in our ZULU LULU ART HOUSE.  Like anything it is not without its challenges and struggles. It forces us to dig deep into why and how to do things. I love that my work makes me feel alive and connected.

“I love that I am able to contribute towards making a small difference to other artist’s lives. I even, at times like that I feel like a dinosaur walking in a modern world. I hope that you all choose to follow your heart and passion in the arts, wherever that road takes you. One thing’s for sure, you won’t die boring and you are guaranteed to have a whole lot of fun along the way.” – Trayci Tompkins, October 2016

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