Throughout the Classic Stories project we’ve been exposed to many different types of creative people and the projects that engage their time. One of the most refreshing parts of this project is to see that there are many approaches to pursue creativity; from long hours of blind determination on one end of the spectrum to brief moments of inspiration on the other. But, there’s always room for other perspectives. Our next interviewee, Kate Proulx, helped remind us of a crucial point-of-view that may have been implicit in much of what other people told us, but was never vocalized – have fun.
By day, Kate is a graphic designer, plying her trade in New York’s creative agency world. By night (and weekends), she creates handmade leather pieces for her company, Showpony Brand. “I see my full-time job as a means to pursue that what I want to do outside of the office,” she told us during our visit to her home/workspace/gallery in Williamsburg. “To turn on the creativity, I often make things by hand, off of the computer.” It started small, “a side hustle,” as she called it, practicing leatherwork to get the creative juices flowing after draining days of work. She collects American west and Cowgirl inspired pieces in vintage stores and started to ask herself, “How did they do that?” As she walked through each step of the design process (sometimes 2-3 times on each step before it was just right), she became an expert at leather craft and artisanship. Each piece she made — wallets, leather tote bags, and more — she stitched a bit of herself. “I use everything that I’ve made. When I love using it, that’s when I know it’s ready for other people.” Eventually the clamor of friends demanding custom pieces was too much and started to take the fun out of it — she decided to step back make Showpony Brand a place for her to design the things she wanted to buy and be more selective in what she makes. “You have to have balance and make sure you can pull back in all that you do,” she said. “Start slow and take it day by day. It’s kind of the opposite of what most small business people might say.” It may be the opposite of what most small business owners might say, but it seems to ring true for most artists. Kate saw the trap and how it would lead to a brand and lifestyle she didn’t want, so she sidestepped and kept the fun and creativity in what she does today.
It’s easy to see how “fun” can slowly bleed from adult life. So much so, that by the time we retire, we’ve forgotten the whimsy and creativity that made our childhoods so magical and cherished. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Like Kate, there’s a side hustle out there for everyone that can return the fun that a creative pursuit brings to life. Each person reading this will have a different response, a different idea of what is fun and creative, but each response is equally important to that person and the community at large. What’s your Showpony Brand? Find it.