So how is it going? I have no idea, honestly. Am I doing well? Badly? Not badly, I think, but it’s strange not to be graded anymore, not to have any feedback or critiques to relate to. In a way, it’s liberating, since you can do whatever you want. Unfortunately, there’s also something really scary about doing whatever you want.
I’ve got a feeling that this year is going to demand a lot of choices. That means freedom, sure, a lot of directions to go in, things you could do. Fun – but every step you take is a little intimidating. Because every step is the first one. The first commission, the first collaboration, the first presentation, and so on.
Last month I had to give a Pecha Kucha presentation about my work, for a competition called Beeldmakers by Het Parool newspaper. Wow, that’s scary, a presentation like that. My first Pecha Kucha. No idea if it went well; as I was talking, it felt sometimes like the rest of my consciousness was absent. But I’m proud of myself for doing it. Unfortunately, I did not win, but I was happy with the conversations I had and the number of people who showed interest in my work.
There are all these hurdles to take. I think some people might already take them while they’re still studying. But I was so focused on school itself that all this networking and e-mailing is all new to me, now! I don’t think it’s a bad thing, more like a personal choice. In school, you’re not a business yet. I’m glad I used that time to experiment, let go, try everything. I really did that: not a single workshop went unused, and if I could give one piece of advice to Academy students, it would be to walk into an unfamiliar workshop once in a while. Try to use that wood workshop, the 3D printer, the etching press, a screen printing frame or a Risograph. At least once, print some absurd wallpaper or something at a ridiculously large scale. Drop into all the animation studios at least once and do something crazy in front of a greenscreen. Take a look at the theater department and borrow a musical instrument to record a bad song. You don’t need to be successful. It’s an experiment. The Academy gives you the opportunity to do that: take it!
I often dream of all the projects I’ll hopefully be commissioned one day, where I get the chance to use that experimental knowledge. I really think there is work in the creative sector, if you really want to find it. The best advice I got was that commissions don’t come to you. You will really have to look for them. So far, almost all the things I’ve worked on are things that I’ve had to pursue myself. Fortunately, I had people to help me with that. Friends who sent me links, my mom who took on what basically amounts to a second job sending me e-mails with opportunities, and sometimes I even get tips from old acquaintances I barely talk to anymore, but who are still looking out for me. I’m very aware that having such a kind and supportive group of people around you is a real privilege that not everybody has. That’s why I am so grateful for it!
And, I’m just going to say it, the first year after graduation consists of throwing lots of little rocks at windows, hoping for a response. And sometimes you do get a response that isn’t all that positive in the end. There are always a few people who are not invested in seeing you succeed. I work really hard, I know that about myself and see it as one of my positive qualities, and still I recently had a phone conversation where I was told that I was ungrateful and not entrepreneurial enough. That was unpleasant to hear, but it also made clear that this was a collaboration I did not want to pursue further. Fortunately, I’m confident enough not to get disheartened by something like that. I’m totally entrepreneurial. I think this person was just disappointed they couldn’t use me (and especially my Risograph, since that’s what it was all about) for their own purposes. I’m starting to notice you have to deal with certain prejudices that people have. I’m not some naive and insecure girl, despite my age and appearance. Standing up for yourself and setting boundaries is important in this profession. Something like what happened is just as much an opportunity for learning as all the positive things that happen to me. Not everything in this process is always an upward trajectory and that is perfectly all right!
Translation by: Witold van Ratingen