When the fall came this year, I couldn’t have been happier to not be heading back to school. After 13 years of the American education system and an undergraduate degree, I was finally ready to see what I’m made of. Which is two part time jobs—one at a surf shop in DUMBO, Brooklyn 3 days a week, and the other at an art studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn 2 days a week. I work 55+ hours a week and I love every minute of it. But I still have 2 free days each week to work, explore, and connect. Compared to the paths many of my fellow peers have taken, mine may seem rather insane. Which is fine, because I’ve always been on the outside of what people would consider a good decision—from moving to New York from Hawaii, to getting an art education. But no matter, the decision I came to stems from my never ending need for freedom and adventure.
This may not seem like an unusual character trait for an artist, however I majored in one of the most commercial degrees Pratt has to offer, communications design with an emphasis in advertising/art direction. I should be working for a multi-million dollar agency pitching campaign concepts to multi-billion dollar clients. But at the thought of waking up 5 days a week to work 9 AM – Forever PM, I didn’t see myself being happy. At the end of the day, the greatest happiness I would acquire would be from straying from the “right” path once again and creating my own way.
Just weeks before graduation, while I should have been looking for a job in my field, I paddled out to the lineup and realized that surfing and the ocean were sources of happiness I could work for. So I called all of the surf shops in New York City, which isn’t many, and asked if they were hiring. I got a job at Aegir Boardworks and quickly applied my education and skills to the operations of the shop. I’ve designed window displays and logos, custom engraved skateboard decks, and made final decisions on women’s apparel. My latest project at the shop is up cycling used skateboard decks into hand paddles for bodyboarding and creating a monthly zine about beach culture on the East Coast. I get to talk to fellow surfers and skaters all day while providing them with the same happiness I choose to pursue. And I get to surf all the time!
Not wanting to become a total “surf bum”, I made sure to spend the rest of my week in touch with the art world. I got a design position at an art studio of a painter who also runs a nonprofit giving inner city schools art supplies. While working for him, I’ve met famous members of the art community, fashion designers, and gallery owners. I’ve volunteered at art fairs and collaborated with artist collectives. My work is printed, distributed and displayed all across the city. Our latest venture has extended me to the inner circle of the Van der Plas Gallery in the Lower East Side as a design consultant and PR manager. All have been wonderful experiences.
So I write this entry to share with you, future graduates, that a non-traditional route is possible if you take the time to be completely honest with yourself. It’s possible to have an apartment, a gym membership, maintain a well-balanced diet and book a plane ticket abroad every once in a while, if you take the skills you’re taught at Pratt with you.
Check back in with me next time for more on the job market and managing freelance clients!
Aloha and a hui hou!
Sayaka was born in Japan, raised in Hawai’i and currently lives in New York City. She graduated in May of 2015 from the Communications Design department with an emphasis in Art Direction and a minor in Media Studies. With a positive and conscientious attitude, she keeps herself busy with design work and various artistic ventures. When she’s not by her computer, you can find her out in the lineup, surfing.