Women in the Workplace Interview
Hey friends, today I'm sharing a recent interview I had with Sumer, a fashion communications student at Ryerson University. She's working on a capstone project, a magazine and website for "the working woman". It's a rather lengthy interview, and I thought I'd share it with you today, as it has some valuable stories and tips for entrepreneurs and artists! Enjoy.
What was your very first job?
I babysat and delivered papers.
What do you call yourself now?
Visual Artist + Art Educator
Tell me a bit about how you became a full time artist/art instructor?
Art has always been the one thing I was indescribably drawn to. There was never a particular moment I decided to be an artist – I just always was. I searched for every opportunity to create, learn or be surrounded by art. I especially loved to travel and visit art galleries. I’d take a sketchbook out and journal and draw everything I experienced. After high-school I headed straight into art school. The next 4 years I spent studying, creating and learning the trial-and-errors of being an artist. It was hard, but worth it. I loved to experiment with art and began selling paintings at community markets and local shops. I took on custom orders, and eventually had larger works available downtown Calgary. My entrepreneurial side really kicked-off and I embraced the small-business lifestyle.
My dad is a teacher, which early on gave me the opportunity to begin teaching art in the schools I grew up in. I worked hard to develop and run my own classes, and soon discovered I loved to prepare and deliver content, while being social and resourceful to students! I learned along the way, asked lots of questions, and always reached out for possible opportunities. The truly defining moment for me as an artist and art instructor was after I finished my BFA and spent time studying art and art history in Italy. I fell in love with retreat-style workshops, and knew I wanted to share my love of art with others in an intimate, educational and fun way!
I swear by “fake it til you make it”, because it couldn’t be truer. Every little thing I treat like a BIG deal, and I shared it. Ran a workshop – share it! Sold an artwork – share it! It builds momentum and tells your story. People don’t see the sales you don’t make, the workshops that don’t fill, or the rejection letters you get. Things don’t happen hard and fast, you put the work in, until one day more people start to notice who you are, and what you are offering. For me it developed into showing at large-scale events, applying and attending artist residencies across the country, and teaching a variety of art workshops for all ages. From private parties, community classes, schools, art guilds, local businesses, art centres! I do it all.
It has resulted in nearly a decade of art-marking and welcoming a diversity of teaching opportunities as I’ve lived across Canada. I’ve always had a part-time or full-time job to cover the bills, and all my extra time has been spent growing my business. I love to learn just as much as I love to teach - so I continue learning new skills, attending workshops, listening to podcasts and reading books. The journey doesn’t stop here!
What was the most challenging part of getting to where you are today?
The uncertainty. The rejections. The financials. I am grateful to be where I am today, but honestly it all comes and goes in waves – that tends to be the hardest part. I can’t look at my schedule in a year and know exactly what’s going to happen or where I’m going to be. That’s life, right? I have started to really embrace the “fly by the seat of your pants” lifestyle (I’m also a military spouse, so that adds fuel to the fire) and my “going with the flow” attitude has made it easier on my expectations, and ability to embrace the unknown.
Your travels play a huge role in your work, where are you looking to travel next or where is your dream destination as of right now?
Yes they do! I’ve always used my travel photos, drawings and experiences as inspiration for my artwork. Italy is my favourite! It’s intoxicating – art, art history, travel, wine and good food all blend together and it’s heaven on earth. My best example of blending art and travel has been my work over the past 2 years: ART FOR THE OCEAN, which is a direct response to my recent time travelling, scuba diving and researching coral reefs.
We are also looking to mix things up (not a diving focused trip, what!) and go to Morocco. It’s been on my bucket list for ages.
My next big dream trip? Great Barrier Reef!
Tell me a bit about what creating and art mean to you.
It means freedom to play, experiment, learn and make mistakes. It’s self discovery, understanding, and incredible growth in artistic skills, and personal and professional development. I use it as a tool to research and connect with issues, themes and experiences I care about. It’s an opportunity to create a connection point.
What does success mean to you?
Success for me has meant creating and sharing what I love, while making an impact. It’s maintaining a full work schedule full of opportunities to attend events, connect communities together through creativity, develop and teach workshops, create artwork, help the environment, and build a business, while generating an income that can sustain my expenses, and further my ongoing education. If I can carve out regular workouts, self-care, keep my house clean, and volunteer then I’m really winning!
How do you manage stress?
I do my best to schedule in workouts, date nights, friend gatherings, and reserve days off for doing nothing work-related at all! My partner I love to scuba-dive, kayak, hike and bike – I love to get outside in nature - It is really the best way to manage self. As for work, my best stress management tip (which has changed my life) has been to only check my emails at scheduled times. Key tip: turn off all notifications!! No email or social media notifications ever – only when I intentionally log on.
What are you most proud of?
The moments when something I’ve built truly resonates with someone, or when I’ve been able to make a difference to a student, client or the environment.
The intention behind my current body of work, ART FOR THE OCEAN, is to share the intricate beauty of the ocean, and educate communities on ocean conservation, while bringing awareness to opportunities to support our changing oceans. A portion of the proceeds are going to the Mission Blue project, and other groups making a direct and positive impact on coral reefs. The past 2 years this has been rewarding and exciting project to put together. It launches later this year at www.daniellefolkerts.com.
What’s the worst advice you wish people would stop giving?
To just quit your day job and pursue your passion. Our passions don’t always provide us with a liveable source of income – or at least initially.
I personally recommend pursuing your side-business or creative goals on top of managing your full-time gig. If you find you need more time, and the opportunities are there – move to part-time work, or better yet a part-time job in your field! I always welcome that guaranteed monthly pay-cheque, it takes the stress away from wondering if you can pay your bills or not. If you are absolutely killing it, go for it – pursue it full-time! There are advantages starting full-time, but you better be ready to put the work in. Do what feels right for you. Trust your instincts.
Do you have any advice for young women pursuing their dream career?
Find the thing you love - the thing(s) you would do with or without acknowledgment or money. When you find your interest/passion – drown yourself in it. Surround yourself with like-minded people in the field, find your local hot-spots, reach out to your community, put yourself out there, and invest in your education: formal or self taught. Utilize all the easiest accessible resources out there – podcasts, books, magazines, blogs. Never before has this much valuable information been this available, and so much of it is FREE!! It’s the golden age for taking things into your own hands and carving out the life you desire. Research your butt off, put the time in, and make a game-plan/business plan. Become an expert in your field and use your voice. There are no excuses when you can type “how to start…” in google.
Do you think the media portrays working women realistically?
I think in the last 2 years I’ve seen more women than ever really kicking ass and taking names. It’s a complicated question because: Yes, the media is finally starting to catch a drift, and beginning to acknowledge and celebrate powerful, talented, and successful women. The “Me too” movement, women’s march, and international women’s day are great examples of how the media is focusing on all things FEMALE! And, Hello, with ladies like Oprah, Rachel Brathen, Aleksandra Zee, Jenna Kutcher, Lupita Nyong’o, Jaclyn Johnson, and millions more are rocking the world. We have no shortage of inspiration and female leaders!
But also, the media isn't there yet. Women still have to stand up and ask for equal pay, and suffer from sexual harassment and abuses in the workplace. Just last year, for the first time ever - I had to leave a job due to the completely inappropriate and uncomfortable comments and daily harassment from a manager - it was 2017 people. Plus, the fact that women still need to have conversations about “not having kids” over having a fulfilling career, or better yet – their “looks” or “fashion” overshadowing their incredible personalities, goals and accomplishments? There is still a lot more work to be done but are definitely making waves each and every day.
Whats the best/most rewarding part of your job?
Using creativity as a tool to create, cultivate, and fuel relationships and conversations.
How does social media play a role in your job?
Social Media has been an essential tool in building my brand and sharing my story. I have recently divided my platforms into @travellingartisanworkshops – focusing on workshops and art education, and @thetravellingartisan – focusing on art, travel and exciting projects on the go. These pages have given be the opportunity to connect and reach my audience, while driving business to my main website, registration and online shop. They are also planforms to offer daily support, inspiration and education.
My biggest lesson learned is that things change fast (regarding algorithms, trends etc) so you need to stay on top of things. Be flexible, adapt to the changes, and revaluate your strategies, while making sure to check-in with yourself time to time. Be clear on what, how and why you do things.
Remember that you don’t own your followers, so don’t get to hung up on your social media. This past year I’ve stepped back significantly with how much I post. I try to post less, but with better quality, and real intention. I’ve been steering my focus more on my local community and email list = direct reach!! My biggest advice (and I'm currently work on it) is to not let social media suck you in, or give you anxiety. If it is then take a break. Don’t forget to have fun!
- Danielle Folkerts
Photography by: @andrewmdarling