Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Old jobs and new jobs and getting a Work / Life Balance

I've had a quiet Winter work-wise. Part of the problem with being self-employed, and more specifically working in the entertainment industry is that you can get so absorbed with working towards projects and deadlines that you completely forget about your own body's needs. So I'd work long hours, with high stress, low sleep and rubbish diet, and then crash afterwards. That's OK when you're in your teens and twenties, but now I'm a bit older my body doesn't take as kindly to that sort of behaviour.

Even more than the physical needs, I've come to a rather startling conclusion: I like spending quality time with my long-suffering husband, curling up with him and my cat on the couch of an evening; I like seeing my friends; I like having hobbies and spare time and learning how to dance; I like reading books and watching films and going to the theatre; redecorating my house and gardening and cooking healthy meals from scratch. My whole life I've imagined myself as a rebellious artistic type and now it turns out I'm rather boringly domesticated.

And I like sewing for myself. Sewing for a job means that last thing you want to do is come home and sew for fun. I have friends who seem to think I could imagine nothing more exciting that sewing clothes for them for free in my spare time. But for most of the last 10 or so years I've been lucky if I can pluck up the energy to re-sew on that button that fell off my coat. (You'd be amazed how many professional costumiers have clothes held together with safety pins because they can't be bothered to spend five minutes on themselves).

Call it a mid-life crisis, call it my biological clock even (although I still don't want kids), or maybe just call it getting older. But I rather like having a life outside of work.

So after working flat out making (many, many) Wenlock mascot costumes for the Olympic Games, then designing for two films pretty much in a row, I took a much needed rest. Lucky for me I have a very understanding husband who earns enough money to support me. I don't for a moment pretend I could do this on my own. But it's been good for him too. After he took on more responsibility and hours at work around Christmas we have found that we've got on better than we have for years with me being at home to pick up the pieces and make sure he has food to eat and clean clothes to wear. Yep, I'm not ashamed to admit that I became a bit of a Housewife. And while it was hard for the first few months retraining my body how not to survive on sheer adrenaline, I've actually quite enjoyed it. (Even more surprisingly, when I've confessed as much to friends, a lot of my career orientated feminist London peers have been verging on jealousy). After years of being a chronic workaholic, I've worked a few odd days, but mostly I've been learning how to enjoy the quiet time.

Until now.

Over the past few weeks I've taken up two new jobs. One is costume designing a feature film teaser (basically a trailer so you have something to show potential investors) with a producer that I've worked with several times before, which is great because I have a fair idea of how things are going to work from the outset. It's less than a week of filming, and even though it's set over a few days, it's contemporary and fairly straight forward (as much as any of these things ever are).

But I'm much more excited about the second job. I'm going to be doing freelance dressmaking tutoring for teenagers and adults. Ever since I started teaching my 4-8 year old nieces a few years ago, I've been flirting with the idea in the back of my mind that I really love helping others learn how to sew: to unleash their own creativity and a passion for making clothes. While studying I lived and worked in a girls boarding school as a junior resident mistress, and apart from the red tape and politics, I loved it. Now, with almost faultless timing, an opportunity has come up. Basically I have an agent who finds the work and worries about all that side of the business, and I get to see if this is something I potentially want to spend more time doing, but under the safety of someone elses umbrella and without the annoyance of organisational red tape.

I'm not giving up on costuming completely - I doubt I could even if I wanted to - but I'm going to be a lot more picky about the projects I take on. I'm going to choose a smaller number of projects that I really want to do, rather than just anything that comes my way. It's possible that if I was permanently employed in a costume house or workroom on a hourly rate I could have a more sensible life, but I enjoy being self employed, I enjoy the variety in the work and I go mad when I have no creative outlet and get stuck in a rut. Lets face it, if I enjoyed the regularity (sorry did you say monotony?) of a 9-5 desk job, I would have made a much more lucrative career choice.

I'm really excited about the idea of following a career path that goes some way towards getting a work/life balance. Where I can have work variety and flexibility and still follow my passion. But even better I now have a job where part of my self-promotion will be wearing beautiful clothes that I have made myself, so I might finally get the motivation to begin properly sewing for myself again.   

1 comment:

  1. I'm so pleased to have found your blog (via a trail past Phryne Fisher and Dancing on the Edge). If I had my life to live again, I would have hounded my mom to teach me all she knew about sewing and I would have combined those skills with my love of history. As it is, I've had a pretty good life - but I've just enrolled in a dressmaking class. I'll find out if 57 is too old to learn new tricks. I'm going away now to add you to my blog list!