Ok, I give. This is hard.

Confessions of an overachieving, tired, burnt out creative.

Today, the HVAC went out at the studio. It is currently hovering around 100 degrees outside here in North Carolina and by Noon the temp was well into the 80’s in the studio. No good. We had to close it down and just call it a day. Yeah, I know that most print shops do not have air conditioning but mine does and I have a pretty low heat tolerance so there it is.

I have 437 things to do for print jobs as well as two team build events this week. Plus design and illustration work, updating social media channels, putting marketing funnels into place, oh, and designing a long overdue new website for the studio as well as two targeted landing pages to help drive traffic to various services I offer. Also, other things.

Last week I had some of my lighting ballasts go out. Right before a workshop event. Yes, there are other lights in there and life moved on and the workshop went off perfectly as all my workshops and team-builds I have hosted have. But it was a small thing that chipped away at a small stone holding back a large boulder.

I am really good at what I do. Really good. I am not being cocky. I say this with no ego. I say it with confidence. I am proud that over 300 people have come in and trusted me to teach them a new skill, some of them launching their own businesses based off what I have taught them. What an amazing feeling, right?

As a designer and illustrator I feel as if I have never been better. I seem to be able to sit down and just get shit done and it looks good. It pushes me forward. Room to grow? Of course! Always getting better, always learning and enjoying all the resources and interactions that allow me to grow but right now I am so happy to be able to sit down and say “I want to make a cool thing.” and then I make a cool thing. I am getting to that point where sometimes the great idea comes to me and I can execute it in hours where it used to be days. I know a plateau or even a dip is coming but in this moment I making some cool shit.

“Go get em Lenny! Crush it! This is the journey! Keep pushing the rock!”

I am being bled dry. Emotionally, physically, mentally. financially. I have to finally say it out loud. I do so much talking, so much speaking on not living the highlight reel. Letting those around you know when things have hit the dirt. And guess what?

Things have hit the dirt.

In fact they haven’t hit the dirt they have been firmly planted in there trying to fan away the dust cloud that seems to never settle so you can get a clear look around you. It is just too much to sustain this idea (the studio) while also trying to sustain myself and my marriage.

My wife has been my biggest fan, my strongest advocate. But in my pursuit of trying to get this off the ground and sustain it and myself I have dragged her down into the dust cloud with me and no matter what anyone says about marriage and “being in this together” she didn’t ask for that nor does she deserve it. She works incredibly hard in an industry that undervalues, underpays and over-expects so much and overworks her and I should be able to provide some refuge from that for her as well as she has for me.

Now do not mistake that as me saying I feel emasculated or that I am supposed to be the one to take care of her. Yeah, fuck that shit. She is smarter than I could ever hope to be and I want nothing but her happiness above all else and in the professional working world I will never be her equal. She spent a long time and a lot of money to be who she is today and I am constantly blown away by her dedication, compassion, and stunning intelligence despite being part of an industry that has one of the highest mental health issue and suicide rates in the medical industry due to many of the factors I listed in the paragraph above.

She deserves better.
I deserve better.
I have to be better…

Yeah, I am kind of rambling but in the end what does this all mean? Am I closing up the studio? Am I walking away from it?

Not yet. But maybe.

It’s not that easy to just shut things down. In fact, it would be very expensive to do so and much less expensive to keep going but some changes have to happen regardless. So here I am asking you all for some help. If I have ever been an ear for you to bend, a shoulder to cry on, given some advice (that I probably should have listened to myself) then might I ask for the same from you over the next few months?

Sometimes just putting these thoughts into words and then setting the words free can be the catalyst.

But in absence of magic fixing everything, here is what I see needing to do. If you think you can help, I’ll take it. And believe me, I will pay it back too. That help can be as simple as that ear to bend. Maybe you are really good at something I need a little help with. Maybe a 30min call with you would push me forward weeks or months on an idea?


New Website

My friends, the Forefathers Group NAILED IT with their new website and the thinking behind it. Read all about it here… I have tried to rely on Dribbble or Instagram or Facechat and Snapbook and whatever the hell else is out there and I need to clean my own house and be in full control of my presence. Look for an all-new site, portfolio, packed with the right brand messaging to hopefully help clear up an confusion about what it is I do. Am I designer? Am I an illustrator? Am I a screen printer? Do I teach? Yes. But my messaging has been all over the map and getting a unified presence in place can only help. I know, this seems like a “duh” but it seems like so many people are forgetting about the good old-fashioned website.

My Messaging

In tune with my site is making sure my messaging there and everywhere is clear. When I started the studio I wanted it to be a studio from a Designer & Illustrator who can also provide small run, hand-pulled screen prints as a service to companies who appreciate that level of craft. Somewhere along the way I became a commercial screen printer and while I am thankful and grateful to all those clients whose jobs I have printed I have skills that go far beyond that that are frankly much more financially lucrative. I am a small hand-pulled print studio using water-based inks and higher end garments and paper so when people inevitably price shop I cannot and frankly do not want to compete to the bottom of the pricing barrel. Spreading that messaging everywhere from my new site to social media (yeah, still need it, still use it) is something I think I need help with as well.

Teaching

I am a great teacher. I love it. In fact, in terms of screen printing, if I never printed another commercial job again and just became a teaching studio I would be perfectly fine with that. Again, thankful and happy for those jobs that have come my way but the numbers dont add up for me there. What is coming? Increasing my offerings, varying the types of offerings from just screen printing to design and illustration, trying new avenues (Skillshare? Creative Live? My own educational site? YouTube?) I would LOVE to chat with some folks about this!

Children’s Book Illustration

I have been asked for YEARS to move on this. So I am. I am with a great Mastermind group of crazy talented people and have so many in my community ready to jump in and help me make it happen. I have to try.

And here comes the big one…
Anyone out there want to hire me?
Let’s talk…

Yes, We’re Hiring

I would love to find a remote design, illustration, branding, consulting, creative director, insert title here… position with a business who sets the bar high and is respected by their clients to deliver what is needed. I need some consistency in my life and would love to work with someone (or someones!) and just excite the shit out of each other with great ideas.

I would work out of my studio in Durham, North Carolina (by the way you would have access to a killer print studio as bonus when bringing me on board — think of the possibilities!) and am ready to go when you are.

“Wait… if we hire you and the studio starts to pick up are you going to just up and bail on us?

No!

I am looking to have some consistency in my life. But I still believe a studio like mine has a place. And if I can take off the pressure and stress of having to have the studio support itself and me then maybe it can grow beyond me and become it’s own creative monster. Something that can enrich my life and that of my community even further.

Let’s talk about it?

Hey, Thanks for Listening

This wasn’t easy to write but needed to be said out loud. So, did I fail? No. There have been failures. A lot of success as well. But it is a road well travelled and with that comes some potholes and speed bumps.

It’s just time for me to take a little detour…

“A bright sunset behind flowering blades of grass” by Rose Erkul on Unsplash