Finding Focus in the Vastness

In my first blog post I wrote about some difficult challenges I have faced while on the job. However things have really gotten much better for me since I’ve worked through these challenges. In August, after having worked full time at a coffee shop for many months trying to make rent, I finally quit and took a month off. During this time, I tried to focus on getting back in touch with my creative ambitions and set some long-term goals that would put me on a path of the arts related career I wanted to be on.

While I have always been a creative person, I have had trouble focusing my energy on one creative endeavor or choosing one medium to work with. I have never felt like I’ve had the “vision” of an artist—and by this I mean the persistence or desire, to promote my work. I have always spread myself really thin overall—exploring music, writing and many forms of visual art.

Coming from Pratt with one of the more loosely designed majors—BFA Art History, I was able to have half of my classes be studio electives and explore many areas, which at the time was exactly what I wanted to do. However, this left me pretty ill-prepared for the creative job market in New York once I graduated. I was pretty focused on things other than how to get a high paying job, and just figured I’d work things out as I went once I was out of school.

“While work is work—‘so bad they have to pay you to do it’—it is good to be able to derive satisfaction from it and know yourself well enough to choose the right job.”

Looking back, my go with the flow attitude led to frustration that I hadn’t planned for. Especially with the pressure of making rent each month, which is a challenge of it’s own in New York. I had to scramble and work in coffee shops to make quick money, as many young people do.

Towards the end of my time at Pratt I had begun to focus more and more on Ceramics, which was a medium I’ve worked with, on and off for much of my life. I participated in two group shows hosted by the Ceramics department and traveled to Utica with my advanced ceramics class to fire gas and a salt kiln. By the time I had graduated I had a  minor in Ceramics and knew that I wanted to continue pursue working in this field.

Since then, I haven’t been able to afford a studio space of my own so I sought jobs in teaching and assisting artists. Finally I landed a great job where I currently work, a place called Artshack, a ceramics studio for children in Clinton Hill. Here, I teach kids basic throwing and hand building techniques in our after school program. Additionally, I travel out to Union City, New Jersey a few days a week where I assist another potter.

The work that I do is intensely physical, and requires me to get my hands dirty, which is something that I enjoy in a place of work. Occasionally when I’m on the train in my clay stained jeans I wonder what it would be like putting on nice clothes and going to work in an office somewhere in Manhattan. Then I get to the studio and am reminded why I’m not sitting at a desk—because I would go crazy if I was. When choosing a job, I must be aware of the part of myself that has a hard time sitting still. While work is work—‘so bad they have to pay you to do it’—it is good to be able to derive satisfaction from it and know yourself well enough to choose the right job.

I feel as if I got lucky with my jobs working in Ceramics, as the jobs I obtained through random connections I had made working at coffee shops and job postings I found on NYFA’s Classified’s section and craigslist. It is therefore hard for me to give advice in this area.

It can be exhausting to just sit inside and peruse the internet for jobs– while I did check sites as often as I could, I’m glad I did not rely on this solely, because I did not hear back from most jobs I applied to at all. I have learned that it is good to have a variety of methods for job searching. The best you can do is work with what you have already. If you need to, do not be afraid or ashamed to pick up a job in food service. Get the ball rolling. Make some neighborhood friends. Tell them about your interests. Collaborate. Luckily in Brooklyn there are many business owners and young professionals who frequent coffee shops, bars and all sorts of places. You may be eating a taco next to your future boss. Or best friend. Who knows.

If you feel stuck, let my story inspire you to become un-stuck. Encourage yourself. I am in a place where I finally feel like my skills have real value and am respected by my employers, but this did not come easily. It took a lot of focus, and persistance which is something that I’ve always struggled with.

In order to balance, you must pick a point in the distance and stare at it. This is your goal; your visualization of yourself. Comparing yourself to everyone else around you will only cause you to lose your footing. Your goal may change in the future, but try to stick with it for now, and you will find things will start to fall into place.


EmmaKayeEmma Kaye
Instagram, Website

Emma was born in Brooklyn, raised in Connecticut and has been living in NYC since 2012. At Pratt, she graduated in fall of 2014 with a BFA in Art History. While at Pratt she explored many areas artistically and intellectually, and ended up focusing heavily on Ceramics in her last two years. Since graduating, she has focused on music, songwriting, and collecting winter jackets.