I Do Windows

Learn a Craft!

Posted in Fashion 49 by Arcadia on February 14, 2010

If there is one piece of advice I would give to those wanting to get into this field, it would be learn a trade or craft!  I am a licensed General Contractor who specializes in Design/Build, new construction and remodels.  I am constantly being asked how in the heck did such a “girly girl” get into construction!!!  My response, “It was my career in fashion that led me to construction.”

I was working for a department store in San Francisco as a trimmer, a term also used to describe display people.  I was the lead stylist in charge of dressing all the mannequins and helping with set design as needed.  We had a carpenter on our team who could build whatever idea we came up with as far as backdrops or props.  He was amazing!  I use to watch him work and one day asked him, where and how did he learn to build stuff?  He told me he started out as a carpenter apprentice and slowly worked his way up from there.

This intrigued me, as I always had lots of ideas but not the skills to execute them.  I asked him if that was something a girl could do?  That was a serious question, as I had NEVER seen a girl in construction! He laughed at me (of course) and said yes.  He gave me some tips on how to get into construction and the rest is history.  Once I got into “the trades”, as it is often referred to, I thought I would immediately go back into visual display work after six months of doing hard labor.  I just wanted to learn how to build so all my designs could come to life.  Construction ended up surprising me, so once I got in I stayed!

I went through a four-year carpenter apprenticeship training and school, journeyed out (another trade term), and immediately acquired my general contractor – B class, license.  I can design it and build it!  Today when people ask me what can I build, I say what can’t I build!  This is not to brag, but to show that in order for me to continue doing what I love and progress in my career, I had to add more “skills” to my resumé.

Students – I can’t urge you enough to learn a skill, craft, or trade.  It will serve you well and you will go a lot further than the person who can only dress a bust form!  Other skills that I have acquired through the years that I have put into use:

  • Tile-setting
  • Flower arranging
  • Sewing
  • Faux Finishing (on furniture and walls)
  • Welding (more for fun than work)
  • Light electrical
  • Some plumbing (for installing water features)
  • Decoupage
  • Various arts and crafts:  candle-making, soap-making, knitting, mosaics, wood-working, etc…..

I also want you to study the principles of interior design.  You will hear me say over and over.: If you can decorate a room, you can decorate a store or window.  Many of the people in our field do cross-over into different fields.  What’s to stop a window dresser from set decorating on a movie?  Can you organize the placements of the tables, fixtures, artwork, and displays for a showroom floor; well then I think you could do the same for special occasion event as well?  If you can style a mannequin for a window in a chic, well put together outfit, then you can style a model for a photo shoot.

Johnathan Adler is one of my favorite examples of this.  He is a potter/ceramic designer who does amazing interiors as well!

Don’t be limited into thinking you can ONLY do one thing.  Remember you are only as limited as your imagination will take you!  Our job requires us to step back and see the big picture, I want you to do that with your life as well!

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