WS4: Warsaw – 28 Oct 2014

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Context: Zaradnik organised by AIR Laboratory CCA Ujazdowski Castle and the Polish National Centre for Culture
Where: AIR Laboratory, Warsaw, Poland
When: 28.10.2014
Participants: 8


Transition from university to work – creating a fertile ground for your practice

What are the obstacles you are encountering in setting up or continuing your practice?

Images: Bartosz Gorka

Obstacles that have been articulated
• not earning enough money compared to the cost of life;
• no balance between making creative work and making a living;
• no energy to make own work after an 8 hour working day;
• not finding clients or finding only “exhausting” clients;
• doubts about when and how to start own business;
• not earning enough money with own projects and not knowing if one can hang in there until one makes enough;
• growing isolation (as an artist) when you’re not making work;
• being afraid of starting own practice or own project after graduation;
• Losing your own aims and just drifting;
• Missing a clear goal;
• Feeling that I’m still on the way somewhere but not knowing where;
• Difficulty in keeping up the pace with everyone else;
• Cv and portfolio apparently not good enough;
• Pressure to fit into the trend;
• Paralyzing routine;
• Lack of contacts in art and lack of guidance/tutor figure;
• Fearing or actually having a disadvantage in educational background;
• Lacking skills to develop own practice (all sorts of skills);
• Dealing with health issue, such as repetitive strain injury;

Elaborating tactics to deal with some of these obstacles – in four working groups

Balancing work and making a living
• try to find work that helps progress your ideas and interests – both within and outside the creative industries;
• don’t be afraid of taking actions and taking up opportunities;
• when you are blocked, try to take small steps and building blocks to ensure they are in place when you will need them;
• think of your practice as a process set along a timeline > by creating a realistic and also somewhat flexible timeline for yourself you know what you are working towards and you can take small steps to get there and you can check if things are going as you want them to; record ideas and small steps;
• stop thinking, start doing;
• make a commitment > by telling others, maybe in a peer-to-peer discussion or tutorial group, what you want to do, you are committing yourself to it and it is more likely you will actually make time and space for making this happen;

Starting your own practice
• find out what you want > for example, organize a workshop with friends to help you define what you want: make maps, drawings, models, etc. and discuss them together;
• try out different possibilities > try out different things and keep track about what you like and dislike about them; don’t be too precious about doing things, even from something that fails you will still learn a lot and it will move your thinking to a different place;
• tutors and collaborations > connect to people who can mentor you in regards of your post-university choices and/or find people with whom to explore collaborative work;
• opportunities/short term > keep your eyes and ears open for what is being organized and offered around you; others might be organizing activities that fit your needs and desires;
• feedback > keep track of what you want to do, of what you’re actually doing and how you feel and think about the way things are developing; adjust what your doing so that your not just drifting along;

Working towards your own architectural practice
• working for others > try to find a studio/office that produces work or treats issues that are in line with what you want to do; this way you avoid this work becoming a nerve-wrecking money job that is also a dead-end;
• choosing the studio/office > just sending your portfolio to lots of studios might proof ineffective, so tailor your application to the place you apply to; could you visit the studio/office beforehand to find out more about it? If people don’t have work for you but you really like what they do, can you ask them to do a work place shadowing (i.e. to be at their studio to observe how they work for 1/2/3 days?) – this allows you to see how they work, what programs they use, you might be able to speak to people currently working there, etc.;
• gain your own voice > can you have an online space where to show your work or where to blog about what you are interested in?
• self-organize seminars and workshops > can you start to organize public activities around your interests? Rather than pursuing your interests alone, can you think of ways to open them up for others?
• Small-scale interventions > it might be years before you can realize your architectural dream, but you might be starting to make small interventions in public space or other places you see fit;
• Get a part-time job > can you find a way to work only part-time? Maybe by sharing a full-time job with someone else? This could give you enough money and time to keep on developing your own practice.
• Take part in competitions > competitions often take up a lot of work and contribute to a super competitive environment, which is actually contributing to the precariousness of designers, artists, architects, etc.; so ponder if it is worth your time and energy and if it is actually contributing to what you want to achieve;

Getting the right skills and contacts
• paying for courses > be strategic with where to spend your money to develop extra skills and get additional education; remember that in neoliberal society, it is common to constantly think that you are not good enough or don’t have the right skills, etc. – at times it might be best to just start doing things and develop more skills as you go along rather than being stuck in a continuous loop of feeling under-skilled and under-educated; in collaboration with others, you can also organize your own skills sharing and development courses;
• start working in teams > collaborating with people with similar interests and goals can be very empowering as you can create your own space to express your approach to the world and it can be a great way to develop more skills while actually making things happen;
• interpersonal skills > connecting with others is important and much of the work of designers, artists, architects, etc. develops from discussions with others; this is not about becoming a sleek networker or an incredibly outgoing person, but about building connections with the people that matter to you and to whom you (become to) matter;
• being active > again, connecting with others can make it easier to not get stuck in some dark place where everything seems negative and impossible;
• applying for residencies > taking up residencies can be an interesting way to develop your skills, though they are often hard to get into and this might be quite discouraging; could you think of starting your own micro-residency? Bringing people to you rather than you going elsewhere?
• Take up postgraduate studies > when taking up post-graduate studies it becomes ever more important to not become indebted through them (high tuition fees and/or high expenses for living) as this will make life much more difficult afterwards and another degree is not a guarantee for a well-paid job; so, if you can, take your time to find grants, bursaries, fellowships and other support;
Download outcomes as pdf.