Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Story of Me

OK this is seriously long. 
But it takes a long time to tell why I am the way I am, haha.
If I had thought 10 years ago about where I would be today and what I would be doing, it would definitely not have had the words “design” or “artist” anywhere in the mix.  When I was little, I went through phases of what I wanted to be- I have them written down each year in a “Through the School Years” scrapbook my mom had bought.  I had quite a range of aspirations, which included dance teacher, author, tornado chaser (I kid you not, I really loved the movie Twister), ghost hunter (yes, I was weird I guess).  In high school, I loved math and science, and by my senior year I had decided I wanted to be an engineer.  I loved space, so I decided I wanted to work at NASA and the best way to do that was to become an Aerospace Engineer (AKA rocket scientist!!).  So I left Albany, GA for the big city of Atlanta and Georgia Tech.  Side rant: Which, by the way, is the Georgia Institute of Technology, just like MIT, not a technical college, which apparently some people think when they hear Georgia Tech.  It is ranked #35 in the country in universities, #7 among public schools, and #4 for engineering.  Apparently some people think it is a school for remedial technical majors.  Ok rant done.  
My friend Holly and I (I'm on the left) before a football game.

                So, I got to college, pledged a sorority (Zeta Tau Alpha), became a cheerleader, started hanging out at fraternities & partying, started dating my now-husband, and didn’t put going to class at the top of my priority list.  I went from having a 4.2 GPA and being in the top 10 in my class in high school to a 1.95 GPA after my first year of college.  I got a D in my Intro to Aerospace class, and had decided about halfway through the semester that I wanted to switch majors – everything we were learning about was airplanes, and while it interested me a little, after finding out you only take one class in 4 years even related to space shuttles, I decided rocket science was not for me.
                I started looking through the GT Course Catalog for something that interested me, and there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from after you decide you don’t want to be an engineer.  I read the description for Industrial Design, and decided it sounded exciting.  This is what the course catalog says now, so it was probably pretty similar at the time: “Industrial design is the professional practice of creating products that enhance the function, usability, value, and appearance of products with the goal of benefiting the user, manufacturer, community, and the environment. Also known as product design, industrial design education prepares students to design systems and tangible artifacts including, consumer and recreational products, business and industrial products, medical and computer equipment, and transportation and environments. Both generalist and specialist, industrial designers tend to be part artist, part entrepreneur and engineer.”
                Now, just so we have this straight, I never considered myself “artsy” – I was an intellectual, not a creative.  I had gotten through school with flying colors on the basis of my ability to cram information in my head then spit it back out at test time.  I was on the Math Team, for crying out loud!  So I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to go into a field that was all about design, but I think I had always had a secret part of me that wanted to be artistic.  When I was in 5th grade, every night I drew pictures of horses.  I seriously had an entire wall covered with drawings of horses.  They were not particularly good, but I don’t think they were too terrible, either.  I think I was obsessed with the book Misty of Chincoteague.  I took one art class in high school, but I was a senior in there with a bunch of freshman because I needed one more elective, and I think the teacher pretty much let me leave everyday because I was taking college classes.
So anyway, to Industrial Design I went.  It was in the College of Architecture, so all the majors take 1st year “Common Studio”, where you dabble a little in Architecture, Industrial Design, and Building Construction.  You do a lot of drafting, some model building out of chipboard, some drawing and basic art classes, and at the end you decide which major you want to be in.    What you don’t realize is so different than “regular school” is that you are literally pulling all-nighters for weeks at a time to get project after project done.  It’s not “hard”, per se, it’s just So.Much.Work.  It’s completely different than anything I had ever been exposed to.  There were no tests, there were critiques.  Critiques where you hadn’t slept in 3 days and you have to get up in front of the class and outside reviewers who have no idea how hard you worked on something and try to defend why your paper model interpretation of the word “hallucination” is the awesomest thing ever.  After 4 years of it, it breaks you down.  You start to think everyone else’s ideas are better than yours… and maybe they are, but the point is you were trained to design things and you have more skills than anyone else once it comes to finding jobs, but since you felt inferior to everyone in your class, it expands to life once you graduate.
Industrial Design Georgia Tech Project Airplane Beverage Cart
This is a hanging beverage cart for airplanes that I designed along with Lauren Duke.  We built the entire interior of the plane and the cart out of PVC and cardboard.

OK almost done, I promise.  Fast forward to graduation, when luckily I had put resumes on a million job sites 6 months before graduation, had gotten a personal assistant job and was going to do that for a bit while job hunting, and a chemical sales company needed a graphic designer to do all their marketing materials, and called me out of the blue.  Three weeks after graduation I started my “big girl job”, and I’ve been there ever since.   I proofread product info sheets and MSDS’s all day, sometimes get to make a brochure or a promotion, but I definitely needed a creative outlet in my life. Oh, and I got married somewhere in between all that!
Noelle Fitzgerald Conor O'Reilly Wedding Magnolia Hall Piedmont Park 2009
My husband Conor and I on our wedding day!

So, while trying to find ways to be creative, my friend Rachel and I would get together to make things on the weekends, painting or making jewelry, and we painted a few things one weekend and I decided to put them on  I started out with like 5 paintings in my shop, and I think it took about 3 months before I even sold one thing, and when I got like 10 views in a day I would be so excited.  While browsing around etsy, I found a lot of shops that sold digital art, artwork that they would make using illustrator or photoshop and sell prints.  I started drawing and coming up with ideas, and on the weekends I would work on my artwork.  I finally put some prints in the shop, and started building up my portfolio of artwork.  I asked the printing company that I work with at my day job if he could print my work as it sold, and I would go pick them up a couple times a week at lunch.  As I started getting more sales, I was having to go pick up prints almost every day, and it was becoming too much, and I had actually started making a little bit of a profit, so I finally bought a printer! That’s when I really felt like I had a business.  I finally had a home studio where I could work, and I had my little stacks of envelopes and chipboard backers and thank you cards, and I would print things out and go to the post office a couple times a week.
Fast forward to now, and I am starting to hope that I can really make my business a Business, and I hope if you read this story all the way to the end that I didn’t bore you too badly!

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