Leap of Faith

My life has always included strong internal directives.  I’ve “jumped and the net has appeared” several times; this includes taking long trips overseas, moving to San Francisco with only an apartment lined up, and then years later, leaving my 9 to 5 corporate job to pursue a creative life that was not clearly defined at the time. I’ve played in the safe pool many times, gone the conventional route, but it was never me and I would eventually get bored and restless. My years have taught me that I like to live on edge a bit.  It keeps me on my toes and keeps me stimulated. There are many ways to live. And I want to live inspired even if it’s not always the easiest path.

In mid-2009, the economy was in the crapper and I was unemployed (I had worked as an interior designer for an architecture firm for the past two years prior).  I took that time as a welcomed break to take several long-term trips overseas, while keeping my apartment in the city. When I returned, I took up a new hobby at my kitchen table inspired by my photographs and finding unique ways to recreate them. I had a ton of photos and my iPhone was a huge source of photo inspiration at my fingertips. I started doing photo transfers over wallpaper collages--and I was hooked! I actually couldn’t sit at the kitchen table for a meal for six months because it was covered in my art projects. Next, I took a silk screening class and became immediately addicted, although it took many years to dial in the technique. Silk screening is fickle! There’s a lot to go wrong but the class gave me a taste for it and I knew I wanted to explore it further. 

In 2011, I made the decision to go back to the daily grind, I went to work for a large multinational company in FIDI (San Francisco’s financial district). It was a bit of a sweatshop and this girl was not happy.  I did meet very fun and nice people, but the work itself was not inspiring. So, my art became even more of my focus. Art was my happy place.  

2013 was a tough year. I was miserable in my job and one of my best friends was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer. He was 41, and up until that time, healthy, athletic and happy. It was devastating news. My friend passed nine months after he was diagnosed. It was a wakeup call for me. I made the decision to turn up the volume in my life and take control of my destiny. I had gotten the message that each day is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed.    

In May 2013, I left my corporate job and dedicated myself to around 8 months of a regular art practice, focusing on technique. To help with expenses, I took a very part time sales position. At the time, I had no idea if I could make a living as an artist but knew I wanted to do something creative. I was just focusing on what I liked to do and not thinking about how to make anything specific happen. I took a leap of faith and figured things would unfold as they should. 

After 8 months of art making, I had a ton of inventory. I had idea to do my first ever art event, the Treasure Island Flea. I split a booth with a friend as I had zero displays at that time. I actually used an old futon frame that had been in my basement for years as a means to hang the art. It was makeshift to say the least.  But OMG, people bought my art! By the end of the weekend, I had almost sold out of product.  I could not believe it!  

And that’s how I started my business. It took a lot a hard work, tons of hustle, creativity and a belief that if I kept pushing forward things would work out.

After the initial show, I made a lot more art, applied to additional events, and moved my business from my kitchen table into a studio (!). Since that time, I’ve started a wholesale line and my art prints are sold in stores throughout SF, including SFO, worked on numerous commissions, including one with AIASF creating the image for their month-long architecture festival, and worked on a collaboration with Rickshaw Bagworks and my art is featured on a collection of their tote bags sold in stores such as Wholefoods, Sports basement, DFS in SFO, etc.  

This August 2018, I celebrate four years of 100 percent self-employment from my creative endeavors. It’s a dream come true.  I work harder now than I ever did, but it’s a labor of love. I don’t feel like I am working when I am working, it’s just something I like to do.   

It’s a path of faith and embracing uncertainty. And, I have no idea what the future has in store. But I am fairly certain, as long as I am following my joy, I will continue to find my way.  

Stay tuned for my next blog post March 1 as I reveal the second country in my Bon Voyage series. 

February 13, 2018 — Jennifer Clifford